How to promote the well-being of your employees going through menopause

Un groupe de femmes discutent ensemble

While the balancing act between your personal and professional life is important, the often overlooked step in a woman’s life – menopause – adds its fair share of challenges to this already complicated transition.

Menopause is a female rite of passage that can have an impact on a woman’s career and overall well-being at work.

Find out how you can help change the mindset around menopause and alleviate the shame and taboo around it and offer an inclusive workplace that goes a long way in improving women’s well-being.

A host of symptoms

Hot flashes, especially night sweats, can contribute to poor sleep and increased irritability the next day. Low energy and feelings of extreme fatigue. Forgetfulness. Intense and frequent migraines. Trouble concentrating. Mood swings that range from feeling impulsive, anxious to depressed.

Menopause symptoms... the list goes on and on. There are, in fact, 34.

They come and go. They can be mild to intense and varies between women. Some say they barely notice any change, while others feel like they turn into Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and barely know what they’re saying or doing. This transition period is unique to each woman, but some factors will come into play:

  • Ethnic origin
  • Weight
  • Tobacco use
  • Eating habits
  • Socioeconomic status

There’s no single pattern, except that one thing is universal: symptoms can hit at any time of the day or night...including during a day at the office.

Premenopause or menopause?

We often confuse the two.

During premenopause (or perimenopause), there’s a hormonal shift and menstrual cycles become irregular. The main symptoms appear and can last anywhere from 7 to 14 years.

A woman is in menopause when she no longer has her period for 1 year.

At what age do the first signs of menopause appear? Again, this varies, but generally between the ages of 45 and 55. The onset of menopause can occur earlier in some women, for example as a result of chemotherapy, radiotherapy or oophorectomy.

What are the economic impacts of menopause?

The impact of menopause-related hormonal shifts should not be underestimated.

The physical and mental well-being of women going through more severe symptoms can be significantly compromised during this transition period. A woman’s quality of life and performance at work, just to name a few factors, can be affected for several years.

The Menopause Foundation of Canada (This hyperlink will open in a new tab) has calculated the annual impact of menopause on Canada’s economy:

  • $3.5B in costs related to untreated menopausal symptoms
  • $3.3B in lost income due to reduced salary and/or hours of work or being away from the workplace.
  • $237M in lost productivity
  • 540,000 working days lost to managing menopausal symptoms.

And what about your organization?

In 32% of cases, menopausal symptoms have affected womens’ work performance.

Has menopause ever come up during a coffee break? Not yet! As with menstruation and other women’s health issues, women tend to keep a low profile. They don’t discuss it openly, but do so among themselves.

Why? Age and the stigma associated with menopause are still very prevalent on the job market. Approximately 70% of women feel that talking openly about menopause at work is not an option, because they’re afraid of the consequences of bringing it up.

Yet women who are at this stage in their lives are at the peak of their professional potential and skills.  They put their knowledge and experience to work in their organizations and are invaluable assets in mentoring and preparing the next generation.  The onset of menopausal symptoms, however, can be confidence-shattering and career-derailing. The impact is so great that it can hinder the process of balancing personal and professional life.

This is the stage at which women sacrifice a part or their entire career:

  • Reduced working hours
  • Refusing promotions
  • Absenteeism
  • Presenteeism
  • Disability
  • Resignation (actual resignation or quiet quitting)
  • Early retirement

As we deal with a labour shortage, do you have the luxury of depriving yourself of your female staff?  If you answered “No” to this question, know that you can take action to support women who all too often suffer menopause in silence.

Un groupe de femmes se serrent dans les bras

What you can do

Menopause isn’t a disease you can cure. It’s a stage in a woman’s life, just like her first menstrual period or experiencing motherhood for the first time. It’s also a period where there’s a start and end as symptoms start to taper off.

By providing an inclusive workplace for women during this transition period, you’re helping them improve their health and well-being. This is even more important because many of them don’t have a family physician or regular medical follow-ups.

You can play a key role in breaking down the stigma related to menopause. To break down taboos, you need to be open, empathetic and tactful. Invite all employees to join in this important discussion.

Debunk stereotypes about menopausal women depicted in newspaper caricatures. Training, self help groups, posters and information sessions should be used to raise awareness about menopause.

We’re sure that all your efforts will shine through within your organization.

Flexible working conditions

Be flexible and listen to your female staff on a daily basis. Ask them what they need to alleviate some of the effects of their symptoms. Solutions can be as simple as offering flexible working hours which can be a real life-saver when they’re sleep cycle is disrupted.

You can also adapt your work environment to reduce hot flashes that affect most women. Opening windows, controlling room temperature or improving the ventilation system can make all the difference!

A group insurance plan tailored to women

The group insurance plan you offer your employees is also a springboard for creating a more inclusive workplace.

Your insurer offers a number of solutions to support women whose menopausal symptoms are overwhelming:

  • Health insurance that includes treatment of menopausal symptoms
  • A group insurance plan  that takes menopausal women into account
  • Telemedecine
  • Employee Assistance Program which offers access to healthcare professionals.
  • A Workplace Health team to help you build an inclusive health culture tailored to your organization’s reality.

Why go without?

Women should have their say

Despite all the options available to help you promote the well-being of your menopausal employees, nothing beats a personalized approach.

Just poll them about it. Ask them about their needs, expectations, interests and limitations. Once you have the information in hand, you'll be in a position to propose solutions that are adapted (and adopted) for your employees.