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Menopause and the workplace – How to stay cool

20 April, 2015
menopause at work

Do you talk about perimenopause and menopause in the workplace?

Perhaps is it considered a taboo topic?

Consider this. The average age of menopause is 51 years, with perimenopause starting sometimes up to 10 years earlier than that.

With a steady increase (over the last three decades) in the number of working women after the average age of menopause, it follows on that there are a lot of women going though the transition while sitting at their desks.

According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, between 1996 and 2006 the largest participation rate increases were for women aged 50-64 years. Specifically the stats show for:

  • Women aged 50-54 years, the employment rate increased from 60% in 1996 to 73% in 2006; 
  • Those aged 55-59, it increased from 40% to 57%; and
  • Those aged 60-64, it increased from 17% to 34%.

That’s a lot of women concealing their symptoms and trying to find a balance between workplace responsibilities and the effects of menopause.

And it’s difficult!

As embarrassing as it may be, it’s part of the life cycle for women, so let’s deal with these symptoms in the workplace head-on.

Menopausal symptoms and how to deal with them at work

Hot flushes

  • Wear lighter, more comfortable clothing. Include layers that can be easily removed;
  • Place a small fan on your desk;
  • Find a room where you can take a break;
  • Open a window or take a short walk in fresh air; and
  • Get acupuncture; some women swear that acupuncture helps with hot flushes, but studies remain unproven.

Changes in memory or concentration

  • Work out which times of the day are more productive for you and schedule your workload around it;
  • Carry a notepad and pen with you; jot down anything you think you might forget; and
  • To-do lists are perfect for keeping on top of priorities.

Tiredness due to sleep disturbance

  • Work from home (if your workplace allows it);
  • Work out the times of the day you feel less tired and schedule your more important tasks then;
  • Schedule meetings in your down time; and
  • Eat a balanced diet; choose fruits and vegetables over junk food quick-fixes.

Headaches

  • Take paracetamol (as directed by your doctor);
  • Drink plenty of water;
  • Give your eyes a break and change your focus (short or long view) at regular intervals;
  • Avoid junk food; instead, reach for fruits and vegetables, eggs, soy, seeds or hummus - all of these foods will help boost your hormone levels; and
  • If you can, open a window and breathe fresh air.

Sweating

  • Keep a spare shirt/top at work;
  • Keep cool with a desk fan;
  • Keep nappy wipes and deodorant in your desk drawer; you can freshen up in the ladies bathroom with the nappy wipes and reapply deodorant; and
  • Drink cold water.

Menopause and employers

There has been a cultural shift to employers becoming more responsive to menopausal symptoms in the workplace. However for the majority of women, many managers are not aware of the issue and women are left to deal with it unsupported.

If you are having issues with menopausal symptoms at work, it might be time to confide in your manager. Even if you are one of those women who wouldn’t dream about sharing such personal information, have a think about it. It might just work in your favour.

Make them aware of the personal battle you are fighting, and how it is affecting your productivity. You can’t leave menopause at home. Together you can work out appropriate solutions and you will feel more supported and less stressed.

report written by The TUC, the UK's peak union council, outlines new guidance on how employers and union representatives can work together to support women through the menopause at work.   This report is also supported by OHS Reps @ Work Australia.

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