Recent European guidelines highlight the plight of women in the workplace as they go through the menopause, and advise that more needs to be done to make sure working conditions are taking into account the associated symptoms.
The European Menopause and Andropause Society (EMAS) recommends that more needs to be done to take into account the physical and mental health symptoms that women may experience during the menopause. These may include hot flushes, insomnia, problems with concentration and memory and mood swings. All of which could impact on women in the workplace.
The menopause typically occurs in women aged between 45 and 55 and is brought on by a reduction in oestrogen levels. With women typically working into their sixties, it is therefore an issue for a great many in the workforce.
Several of the symptoms brought on by the menopause can have an impact on day to day living for women and on their performance in the workplace. It is likely that symptoms might be alleviated to some extent by accommodating them within occupational health strategies.
One example might be allowing for flexible working patterns to assist with sleeping problems. Or for someone experiencing fluctuations in body temperature, making sure the immediate environment is not too warm or crowded and is well ventilated could help.
Another essential might be ensuring that there are adequate rest areas and that there’s easy access to clean bathroom facilities. The adjustments needed will vary hugely depending on the type of work and working environment, but with some relatively simple changes, many women could be far better supported as they go through the menopause.
This is a relatively recent area of research in terms of the workplace, and current occupational health policies are largely inadequate in this area. Further research is required to get the right policies in place. In the meantime it’s important to create a culture in which women feel they can be open about the issues they may be experiencing. If they feel comfortable approaching employers and asking for adjustments, the right measures can be put in place to support them.
A recent article outlining the recommendations made by EMAS by the University of Nottingham Innovation Park suggests that management training could be of benefit in this area.
Everyone’s needs may be different, and having these dealt with sensitively is crucial to assisting women as they go through the menopause. In addition, studies have indicated that for women who are overly stressed at work, the symptoms can be exacerbated, which is bad news for both the woman and the workplace.
The symptoms of the menopause vary enormously between women, as do the levels at which some women experience them. But they can have a major impact on work performance.
A culture in which discussing the menopause is no longer taboo and in which women feel that they can approach managers to make reasonable adjustments to assist them in the workplace is in everyone’s best interest.
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