Why I chose to tell my work I was going through menopause
When I entered peri-menopause I couldn’t concentrate at work, couldn’t carry out my normal everyday tasks, couldn’t interact with my colleagues as I once had, and I could barely stay seated for more than an hour! My hot flushes would have me running into the stairwells in a fiery panic. I was thinking to myself; how does any woman deal with menopause and hold down a job?
My mental health soon started to deteriorate as I was being constantly put down for forgetting simple things. I visited my doctor and they wrote me off work for month and put it down to depression. However, a week went by, and I spoke to many friends; hearing a few of them were in similar situations. I decided enough is enough; I won’t bullied out of my job just for being a woman and just for experiencing menopause symptoms.
After a large glass of wine, I decided to talk to my manager; be open with my colleagues and let them know I was struggling with menopause! The self-righteous me burst out and I set a date for a meeting. Immediately after, I was admittedly terrified, and wondering ‘will I be fired for saying menopause is affecting my work? Will my male manager even care about menopause and understand what I am going through?’ However, I stuck with it! I armed myself with all the information I needed! All the information I wanted to share! And all the potential things that could be implemented to help my situation!
I am happy to report the meeting went fantastically, and many of my suggestions were seen through. my office now talk openly about the subject and we even share a few jokes!
Lots of our lovely Hot Flush ladies have met with their work and had the ‘menopause talk.’ Drawing upon all of our ladies’ experiences, we have put together some tips and suggestions on how to approach your work, manager and colleagues to talk about menopause and what they can do to support you. We really hope you have the same success!
Menopause at work
There are currently 3.5 million women over 50 and employed in the UK, half of these women will be experiencing peri-menopause or menopause symptoms which can last up to 10 years. These symptoms can and certainly do have a detrimental effect on women’s work life. There has been a lot of press lately and moves in the right direction to get employers to come to terms with the impacts of menopause. However, there is still a time (until legislation and further systems are put into place), when women will have to approach their superiors or colleagues and have ‘the menopause talk.’ Hence addressing this situation and helping you through this potentially daunting conversation.
How can menopause affect my work?
There are many menopause symptoms that may be obstructing your full potential in the workplace, some include:
One of the most common symptoms to affect work is fatigue. Having no energy and trying to complete a full day of work and be on top form is a near impossible task! For some women fatigue may come and go in menopause but many are left completely drained 24/7 and even simple tasks may be a serious struggle.
This is a particularly debilitating symptom, particularly if your job requires a lot of attention to detail, heavy concentration and memory. One of our ladies is a university lecturer and could not remember anything about the lecture subject she was teaching and had to send her students home. This situation, and those alike can be embarrassing, confusing and frustrating.
This was one of my main concerns, my colleagues thought I was going crazy running away from my desk multiple times a day. Having them made me feel very self-conscious and anxious which then in turn would make the hot flushes worse! Having a hot flush in the workplace is highly uncomfortable and can also leave you sweaty which can show through clothes causing more embarrassment, anxiety and stress. All of these ailments cause much disruption in your day, affect concentration and can even affect relationships in the office when you are unwilling (embarrassed) to divulge what is happening.
Menopausal pain can come from many sources including; migraines, joints, cramps etc. All of which can impact your everyday tasks and cause you further distress such as fatigue, emotional stress and problems concentrating.
Bladder control issues
There is nothing worse than an innocent cough ending up down your leg! This is such a concern for so many women as there are more surface and physical worries. Not to mention this is one of the most embarrassing symptoms if others become aware. One of our ladies in the US was compared to a child as a ‘joke’ in front of a group of colleagues and never set foot in that office again. Continually, as we age, our bladders become weaker and we have to urinate more frequently, we may become anxious is we are not close to a bathroom or are travelling.
Intense heavy periods
Sometimes, without warning, the flood gates open! We can be 8 months clear of periods, thinking hallelujah, and boom, 8 come at once! This can cause lots of anxiety, lots of embarrassment, and fear.
Loss of confidence
During menopause we may feel lost; we are becoming a new woman; our confidence may be trailing behind us. This, plus all the above symptoms that can be looming over us means we may not be the strong and feel empowered to stand up in a meeting, or present to a new client, or even serve a customer. It takes time to build yourself back up and employers need to know you just need a little time or an adjustment to be your best self.
Should I even tell my work I’m menopausal?
Telling your manager or colleagues will depend on your symptoms, of course you don’t have to tell anybody if you do not think your menopause journey is impacting your work in any way. However, many women may wish to make others aware so that they are understood better, feel more comfortable and are able to enjoy their workplace again.
Who should you talk to?
First and foremost, decide who you are comfortable talking to. Most of our ladies chose to approach the HR department and firstly engage with a female to ease into the situation. It can be very daunting and difficult to talk about menopause; you may wish to bring along a friend who works with you.
Determine if any solutions can be offered and put into place with HR and decide what needs to go further to direct or higher management. Be aware that managers are professionals who are increasingly aware of the impact of menopause, and this talk should be respected and highly confidential. If concerns are that this will not be the case, be sure to bring along a friend, a member of the HR department or a union member.
What can you ask of your company?
Your company should have all the basic requirements that can help you through your menopausal work day.
- You can request from HR that you need easy access to water continuously through the day
- you may wish to request extended breaks so you can take them if necessary if this eases the anxiety of visiting the bathroom frequently.
- You can also ask to move desks, if you are in an office so that you are placed in a cooler area or nearer to a bathroom.
- You may wish to ask for a personalised fan, or ask if you can bring in your own.
Many of our ladies have requested to work from home (if this is possible in your job) or perhaps flexible hours; start a little later/earlier and visa-versa to accommodate your needs. You can also ask for specialised equipment such as comfortable chairs with more back support/padding and supports for your desk when using a mouse or keyboard to support your joints.
In order for these to take effect and to be taken seriously, we suggest keeping a diary of all the symptoms you experience day to day and how they affect you; use this to relate these to the suggestions you make to HR/management.
The step by step guide to the menopause talk
1.Prepare your symptom diary and write a list of how these affect your work directly and any suggestion you have that you think may help
2. Decide who you wish to talk to
3. Book a time and place – Do not rush into a manager’s office in a hot flush, unprepared on impulse.
4. Prepare for the meeting, mentally rehearse what you want to say, perhaps go over this with friends or family
5. In the meeting explain, explain, explain! Talk about your struggles and make sure you relate each struggle and how this is affecting you. For example, insomnia and night sweats making it impossible to sleep, leading to tiredness and completing tasks slowly. Other examples being, difficulty concentrating or a general drop in productivity. Continually, lack of communication or contribution may be due to your hot flushes which leave you embarrassed, sweating and physically shy (wet clothes).
6. Offer solutions and suggestions! Perhaps the temperature in your workplace can be altered, subsequently reducing the severity and frequency of your hot flushes. Requesting to sit near a window or an are with more air could be beneficial. The more options you offer the more likely thins will be implemented as your manager will feel they have an option that also sites them as well as accommodates you.
7. Agree to meet again or get a time scale of when things can be improved/begin to be improved for your new needs.
GOOD LUCK <3 x
How you can help yourself at work during menopause
- Stay hydrated
- Wear layers
- Get enough rest
- Kegel exercises
- Exercise regularly (reduces symptoms)
- Eat a healthy diet (particularly at breakfast)
- Avoid caffeine and smoking
Although brain fog just has to run its course during menopause there are some tips to improve cognition which may also help.
We hope this was useful and hopefully lots of you will be no longer be suffering in silence and speaking out at work. It really can change your menopausal work life!
If you would like to contact us for any additional help or support, please feel free! Or if you would like to share any stories about menopause at work then do get in contact!
Book that menopause talk ladies! 💕🌿 x