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Simple steps to a menopause-friendly workplace

menopause and the workplace

Author: BeingEve

New government guidelines highlight the topic of menopause and the workplace and are calling for a sea change in the way employers face up to a growing menopausal workforce.

It could well be the last big taboo – the one thing women remain too embarrassed to talk about among their friends, never mind their work colleagues.

But now a new government report which builds on a previous report from the Chief Medical Officer published in 2015, is calling on greater awareness around menopause and the workplace, and for employers to wise up to the needs of female employees going through this key life transition.

The fact is that a booming number of women are working longer than ever – the biggest rise in employment rates since the 1990s has been among women aged 50 and above. And with the average age of menopause being 51, and many women tackling peri-menopause through their 40s, experts are saying bosses need to take steps to accommodate the needs of this key demographic.

A study from the Universities of Bristol and Leicester, funded by the Government’s Equalities Office, notes: “The evidence suggests significant numbers of working women experience problems at work as a result of individual symptoms.

“Some aspects of work can make symptoms worse – especially hot or poorly ventilated environments, formal meetings and stressful deadlines . The evidence also paints a consistent picture of women in transition feeling those around them at work are unsympathetic or treat them badly, because of gendered ageism.”
Hot flushes, sleep disturbances and mood swings are among the symptoms that can most affect women’s participation in the workplace.

The study – titled ‘Menopause transition: effects on women’s economic participation’ – estimates that one in 10 women in their early 50s suffer “severe symptoms”. And the absence of these 174,200 women is calculated to cost the economy at least £7.3 million in “absence-related” costs.
But it also concludes that simple but effective measures can create a more menopause-friendly workplace. They include:

• Provision of desk fans, as well as good ventilation including opening windows and drawing blinds on sunny days to help women cope with hot flushes
• Where uniforms are worn, an option for lighter, non-synthetic fabrics that are cooler to wear
• Giving staff the ability to control the temperature of their office heating or air conditioning
• Keeping toilet facilities clean and well equipped – and considering provision of female-only showers
• Providing cold drinking water
• Creating quiet zones for rest during working hours
• Allowing women to move from small and confined work stations
• Giving access to natural light
• Reducing noise exposure to reduce fatigue.

Professor Mary Ann Lumsden, Professor of Gynaecology and Medical Education at Glasgow University and president of the International Menopause Society, told BeingEve.net: “We’re having more discussion now about the impact of menopause on women in the workplace, recognising it’s a natural stage in people’s lives and trying to bring it into the public eye

“Some women sail through it, while for others it’s a difficult time, and yet often the problems can be eased – for example, using fans on the desk or opening a window if it is possible. If these things can be facilitated it makes people’s lives easier.

“If more people are aware then it also becomes less embarrassing. Stress is another one of the big triggers and there are ways of mitigating that.”

Read the full report see here.

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