The M word – and how to tackle talk of hot flushes in the workplace

Monday 3 June 2019

When it comes to subjects to shy away from in the office or workplace – the menopause will more than likely be at the top of the list for many.

Conversations about hot flushes, sleep deprivation and anxiety attacks, some of the symptoms associated with the condition, are difficult and embarrassing; and as such makes the menopause a taboo subject between women and their colleagues and/or employer.

However, more and more women are joining the UK workforce every year, and women over 50 are the fast-growing segment of that workforce.

According to a UK survey conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) the menopause has a negative impact on 59 per cent of women in the workplace – both in terms of personal wellbeing and professional performance.

While respected TV presenters Kirsty Wark and Mariella Frostup, and more recently BBC Breakfast’s Louise Minchin, have talked openly about their own experiences with the menopause, recruitment firm Anne Corder Recruitment in Peterborough recognises that many professional working women continue to suffer in silence.

Anne Corder said: “For many women in the workplace impacted by the effects and symptoms of the menopause, it can be a lonely and embarrassing time in their life. Not everyone wants to share their feelings of anxiety over meeting a new client or talk about the hot flushes while presenting to members of the company board.

“However, these can be real scenarios which many women find it difficult to talk about, for fear of being ridiculed or not taken seriously.

“While every workplace has to recognise and act upon the legal rights of women in pregnancy, the menopause is a seldom-discussed workplace matter, and yet it’s something that affects hundreds of thousands of women every year.”

Research has also shown that lack of sleep and other symptoms can also lead to sickness and absenteeism, impacting not only on the individual, but the company as a whole.

“Bosses can take steps to ensure that women going through the menopause continue to feel valued and supported,” said Anne. “After all, many of these members of staff may have been with the company for many years. We would really encourage line managers to keep the lines of communication open and empathise with what is effectively a health condition.”

According to NHS Employers:
• There are 3.5 million women over 50 in the workplace
• In the UK, the average age for a woman to go through menopause is 51
• Around one in a 100 women experience menopause before age 40
• Three out of four women experience symptoms, one in four could experience serious symptoms.

Meanwhile, The Faculty of Occupational Medicine's (FOM) suggests that nearly eight out of 10 menopausal women are in work, and have this advice:
• Review control of workplace temperature and ventilation and see how they might be adapted to meet the needs of individuals
• Have a desktop fan in an office or locating a workstation near an opening window or away from a heat source.
• Consider flexible working hours or shift changes. If sleep is disturbed, later start times might be helpful
• Provide access to cold drinking water in all work situations, including off site venues.

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