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Menopause in the workplace
Lyssa test – Culture Amp writer

Lyssa Test

Writer, Culture Amp

Women between the ages of 45 and 54 make up approximately 20% of the U.S. workforce. And yet, at a time when these women are at the peak of their careers, many are suffering in silence as menopause symptoms affect both their work and personal lives.

Luckily, businesses are starting to take notice of this underserved employee demographic. In 2022, only 4% of large organizations offered or planned to offer a specialized menopause benefit, but that number encouragingly rose to 15% in 2023. Still, these numbers are far too low. Offering menopause benefits – like flexible working hours, workplace accommodations, and mental health resources – not only sets your business apart as an employer but also supports your female employees as they navigate a new chapter in their lives.

To help your business better understand menopause in the workplace, we've put together a brief look into how menopause can adversely affect women. Plus, we share tips on how your business can reduce the stigma associated with this natural life transition and make a positive impact on your female employees' lives.

What is menopause?

Menopause is when a woman’s body stops menstruating, marking the end of her reproductive years. During menopause, the hormones in a woman's body change, which can contribute to a wide range of physical and mental symptoms. These symptoms may begin in the years leading up to menopause, known as perimenopause, and continue in the years after menopause, known as postmenopause. While menopause typically lasts around seven years, it can actually affect women for as long as 14 years including peri/postmenopause.

Everyone experiences menopause differently. Some women might have mild to no symptoms, while others may find themselves struggling with the changes. As an employer, you have the unique opportunity to raise menopause awareness and understanding, while taking action to alleviate the physical and emotional toll on your female employees.

Common menopause symptoms

Hormonal changes during this life period cause between 80 to 90% of menopausal women to develop symptoms like:

  • Hot flashes
  • Low energy levels
  • Mood changes
  • Weight gain
  • Anxiety
  • Impaired memory and concentration
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Headaches

The severity of these symptoms varies based on the individual. One survey found that four out of 10 women experience menopause symptoms that interfere with their work performance or productivity on a weekly basis. For those with more severe symptoms, 17% say they quit or considered quitting a job due to menopause symptoms. If businesses want to retain older women in the workplace, they need to challenge the stigma of menopause and offer programs and initiatives to help affected employees.

How menopause affects women at work

Women between the ages of 45 and 54 are typically at the height of their careers. Many lead successful teams, act as mentors to their peers, and function as irreplaceable resources for their organization. And yet, at a time when these women have so much to offer in the workplace, the physical and emotional challenges of menopause can hold them back professionally.

Even worse, many keep their struggle to themselves. Over 87% of women between ages 50 and 65 say they’ve never spoken to an employer or manager about their menopause symptoms. Why keep it under wraps? Many cite shame, a fear of discrimination, and not wanting to be seen as weak or making excuses for their work.

As an employer, you can help remove the taboo around talking about menopause at work and empower women who are going through it. Too often, companies build benefits aimed at younger employees while overlooking older women and menopause. To show women of all ages that you care about their health, consider introducing internal training programs, offering physical accommodations, and creating more inclusive policies around menopause. Demonstrating your commitment to your female employees can foster a more inclusive and understanding workplace environment, ultimately enhancing job satisfaction, productivity, and overall wellbeing.

Creating a menopause-friendly workplace

Interested in creating a workplace in which older women feel supported and valued? Here are a few ways your business can address menopause in the workplace with empathy:

1. Education and awareness programs

Menopause education programs can make it easier for employees to have open and honest conversations on the topic. Familiarizing your workforce with the impacts of menopause helps all employees better understand what their colleagues – and other women in their lives – are experiencing. These programs may also help women feel more comfortable sharing their experiences and asking for support.

2. Flexible work arrangements

For many women, working a traditional 9 to 5 during menopause is challenging. By offering flexible scheduling, your business can empower female employees to establish their own working hours based on their evolving physical and mental needs. If they’re plagued by insomnia, they can start their work day later than usual. Or, if they find brain fog sets in every afternoon, they can work around it. Giving women the power to set their working hours can improve both their physical and emotional wellbeing.

3. Physical accommodations

Your business can also offer physical accommodations to tailor the work environment to female employees’ individual needs. For example, providing desk fans or redirecting air conditioning vents can help ease hot flashes. Offering quiet rooms can give employees time during the day to collect themselves. And allowing modifications to the dress code, such as more breathable uniforms, can help prevent employees from overheating. Of course, your business can also allow women the option to work from home on days when their symptoms are particularly bad, so they feel more comfortable and can easily attend medical appointments.

4. Access to mental health resources and support

Menopause doesn’t just affect employees physically. Investing in resources and programs that address the emotional aspects of menopause contributes to creating a culture that encourages open dialogue about mental health challenges during this phase. From offering support groups to encouraging the use of your employee assistance program, your business can create a workplace that actively supports and values the mental wellbeing of older women.

5. Inclusive policies and practices

If your business wants to take an official stance on the issue, consider drafting a menopause policy that acknowledges employees’ struggles, outlines your accommodations and flexible working policies, explains any menopause/menstruation leave plans, and more. Remember that trans and non-binary people can also go through menopause, so be sure to use inclusive language when drafting your policies. Lastly, communicate these policies to your workforce so employees know they exist and how to take advantage of them.

Leading the conversation within your workplace

Your organization has the opportunity to actively support your female employees as they navigate this significant life change. Whether through physical accommodations, mental health support, or fostering an open dialogue about menopause, your business can create a more inclusive and understanding work environment.

If you're looking for additional ways to support women in the workplace or other employee demographics, consider asking the women at your company how your business can improve their experience. Conducting regular engagement and pulse surveys allows you to identify specific areas where you can provide targeted assistance to enhance employee wellbeing.

Looking to get started with employee surveys? Check out Culture Amp’s employee engagement platform to understand what drives employee engagement at your organization and how to retain top talent. Our powerful analytics tools make it easy to filter employees' responses by age, gender, office location, and more so you can gain visibility into how specific employee groups feel about your organization and how you can improve their experience at your company.

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