In Australia approximately 25%* or the workforce, or nearly 3 million women, are estimated to be currently undergoing perimenopause or menopause. So how to manage menopause at work is a hot topic!
One of the biggest challenges faced by women undergoing “the change” is how to cope at work. While I have the luxury of working from home, and either jumping into a cold shower or stripping off as many clothes as possible when the hot flushes get to be too much, I know this isn’t an option for most women.
Managing menopause at work can be a big challenge, as the symptoms don't only appear on weekends!Click To Tweet
We all know that hot flushes, brain fogginess, mood swings, fatigue and anxiety don’t just appear when we are in the comfort of our home or on weekends. For many women, they show themselves ALL THE TIME. And often at the most inopportune times. Such as in that important meeting, when we are serving a customer, giving a presentation, giving a beauty treatment, having a serious conversation with a patient. The list is endless.
So how can you make it easier for yourself?
Tips to manage your menopause at work
- Dress in layers and wear natural, breathable fibres such as cotton or linen. Now I know this isn’t possible for everyone, especially if you have to wear a uniform, but for those of us with clothing flexibility, aim for layers that can easily be added or removed.
- Have a strategy to deal with the stress and anxiety. Even taking some slow and deep breaths at your desk can help. Try “paced breathing”, which is slow, deep, diaphragmatic breathing. According to the Mayo Clinic, we normally take 12 to 14 breaths a minute. With paced breathing you take only 5 to 7 breaths a minute, and they are slow, smooth and deep enough to move your diaphragm as you take deeper breaths. This will help you feel more relaxed, as paced breathing reduces the stress chemicals produced by your brain.
- Ask for help – talk to your manager or your HR representative to see whether there are programs in place to support women going through menopause. If you don’t feel you have a supportive workplace, and believe this information could be held against you, then speak to a trusted colleague or friends outside your place of work – and yes, I hate that I had to write that some employers might use your menopause against you.
- Drink enough water and stay hydrated, especially if you are sweating a lot due to hot flushes.
- Keep cool – I’m laughing at myself as I write this sitting at an outdoor cafe in a Brisbane summer. If you can control the temperature of your work environment then open a window or set the air con to an appropriate temperature. If not, then keep a little fan on your desk – either hand held or electronic. There are little battery charged fans on the market, or small fans that plug into a usb connection on your computer.
- Try and stay organised – if you have brain fog, then write everything down. Manage your diary with the tasks you have to do. There are some great apps to help you stay organised, such as Trello.
- Watch what you eat – yes, it can be tempting to eat sugary treats at morning tea – and in the last office I worked in, we seemed to have cake-laden morning teas every week, and then there were the jars of sweets and the fundraising chocolates – it was a minefield! However, try and resist, because food and drinks with sugar, caffeine, alcohol and chilli can make your menopause symptoms worse.
- Cut back on alcohol as research has shown women who consume alcohol at risky levels (i.e. more than two standard drinks a day) have a greater likelihood of having hot flushes and night sweats
- Try and get a good night’s sleep – yes, this can be difficult as sleep deprivation is a hallmark of menopause. Try and squeeze in a power nap during the day if you need one – some organisations (including Google, Salesforce, the Australian Institute of Sport, PWC and some subsiduaries of BHP) now provide nap pods for their staff.
- If you’re still a smoker, then quit. Yeah, I know, easier said than done. However women who smoke are likely to have menopause symptoms at a younger age, and have more frequent and more severe hot flushes.
- Try and fit in some exercise during your work day – even if it’s only a short walk at lunchtime, exercise will give you some happy endorphins that will improve your mood. If you can walk outside and in the sun, it will improve your mood even more.
If you’re reading this and you have female employees who are of menopause age, please talk to them about how you can help make their lives easier at work. Trust me when I say they will be extremely grateful, and if they have work conditions that help them manage their menopause symptoms, then productivity should improve. But more on this in another post!
What’s your workplace like? Is it sympathetic to your menopause symptoms? Do you feel comfortable talking to your manager about it? Or do you feel you would be discriminated against? I’m really curious to learn more, and if you don’t want to share publicly, please email me firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll keep your story confidential.
* This figure includes women in the workforce aged between 35 and 59 years and is based on the November 2016 ABS employment figures.