This usually happens between 45 to 55 years old and whilst some women breeze through it, others find themselves living with symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats, lack of energy, mood swings, vaginal dryness and brain fog.
Menopause can affect every aspect of your life-from relationships to socialising-and even your career. According to CIPD 3 out of 5 working women who are experiencing menopause symptoms say that this has negatively impacted their job and two thirds found it more difficult to concentrate at work. This is not only due to symptoms impacting their daily life but also not feeling supported in explaining their condition to employers- for those who took sick leave with menopause symptoms, only a quarter were confident to tell their manager the real reason.
Meera Bhogal who runs menopause programme Don’t Pause for Menopause experienced this herself when suddenly experiencing menopause symptoms as she turned 40. “My hair was falling out, my skin was changing, my periods were debilitating and erratic, my joints ached and I just lacked energy. I didn’t recognize myself at all! I was always super active, busy, living life to the fullest, but I was losing my confidence.” she explains.
After realising she was going through the menopause, Meera turned to whole foods and exercise and began learning about the science of how hormonal changes were causing her symptoms. She was so empowered that she developed a holistic program to support other women through the menopause. Meera says many struggle juggling this time of their life and employers should do more to support them.
Awareness of the menopause is key and employers should be able to put steps in place to support their employees going through this. Flexible working hours is a big part of this.
“I have seen this in my own workplace where women have needed support with extreme exhaustion and fatigue due to lack of sleep and night sweats. WE have provided flexible working where possible and working from home. Brain fog has an impact on concentration and productivity. We have found balancing between working from home can help. “ explains Meera.
Other simple steps can support employee wellbeing. “During perimenopause (the stage leading up to menopause) periods can be heavy and erratic so team members need to be able to feel comfortable going to the bathroom frequently. We have also provided a wellness basket in the bathroom filled with pads, tampons, spare underwear, deodorant and lovely sprays. We make fresh fruit available and we also ensure team members get a free nutritious lunch.” she adds.
Meera thinks that HR should also be aware of menopause to support colleagues.
“I have delivered training for my HR team and managers so that they are aware when working directly with the team. Menopause can also affect sickness levels as well as mental health and as such we have a team member who has taken on some CPD on mental health.” adds Meera
Alongside this, it’s important to approach HR or a line manager to speak to them about the support you need. It’s best to do this privately in a closed meeting room and explain what you’re going through and what kind of support you need; emphasising that this will make you more productive not less. If hot flashes are an issue, asking HR for a fan or change of office space might be an idea. If you feel comfortable, share your experience with close colleagues. “I spoke to my colleagues about what I was going through so that they understood if I was having a really difficult time,” explains Meera Bhogal.
As well as speaking to your employer, there’s a few things that you can do to help manage menopause symptoms whilst at work. Firstly, dress with layers so you can easily take off a cardigan whilst hot or throw it on when cold. If you’re still having periods, keeping a kit (with things like spare underwear and extra pads) in your office drawer can be helpful. Switching your morning coffee to herbal teas-such as Meera’s Menopause Flash Dance Herbal Tea can be helpful and Meera advises tucking into things like homemade soups and salads whilst avoiding high sugar foods. Make sure you stick to a lunch break away from your desk to allow you to eat a nutritious meal and go for an afternoon walk.
Menopause isn’t easy but women should be supported to thrive in their careers whilst undergoing this transition in their lives. With better awareness and tangible steps put in place by employers to support women, there’s no reason that you can’t still do the job you love whilst going through the menopause.
Meera Bhogal set up Meera’s Made from Scratch after realising much of the gluten and dairy-free food she needed to eat was much too high in sugar. Her passion for cooking resulted in delicious recipe and product creations, which are now sold online at www.meerasmadefromscratch.co.uk, and at Farmers’ markets across London. Meera Bhogal also runs a successful 8 weeks guided menopause programme, full info on which can be found here.