Once a taboo topic, menopause in the workplace is having a moment. And it’s about time. Globally, 657 million women are in their menopausal years (aged 45–59) and around half contribute to the labor force. According to CIPD, three out of five (59%) working women between the ages of 45 and 55 who are experiencing menopause symptoms say it has a negative impact on them at work.
With stereotypes and embarrassment persisting, some women try to push through the challenges on their own. But at an age when many women are stepping into leadership roles, employers must do more to support employees who are experiencing symptoms of menopause in the workplace.
What is Menopause?
Menopause signals a natural transition in a woman’s life, marking the end of menstruation and fertility. It typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 as hormone levels fluctuate and decline. While a normal part of aging, menopause can usher in a variety of symptoms. Hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, fatigue, memory lapses, mood swings—no two women experience it the same.
How Menopause Impacts Women at Work
In the same CIPD report, nearly two-thirds (65%) of women said they were less able to concentrate. More than half (58%) experienced more stress, which led to less patience with clients and colleagues.
Not only do menopause symptoms disrupt focus, but they can also impact morale and attendance. In fact, 30% of impacted women have taken sick leave because of their symptoms. However, only a quarter of them felt able to tell their manager the real reason for their absence with some citing embarrassment (34%) and concerns about privacy (45%). Even more concerning is that another 32% said an unsupportive manager was the reason for not disclosing. In some cases, women have even left their jobs due to these challenges.
The decrease in engagement and loss of productivity shouldn’t be overlooked by employers. A report from the Mayo Clinic revealed the U.S. economy loses $26.6 billion (USD) each year due to lost productivity and health expenses resulting from employees who are managing menopause symptoms.
With the right support, women can shine through menopause without missing a beat in their careers. Enlightened leaders can create a culture where women openly discuss their experiences and get the flexibility they need.
How to Create a Supportive Environment for Menopause in the Workplace
HR leaders have real power to destigmatize menopause and help women thrive. By treating this transition as you would any other employee wellbeing topic and regularly evaluating policies, you can set the tone for women in your organization. Menopause isn’t just about managing symptoms. It’s about supporting employee growth.
So, how can CHROs foster a supportive environment for menopausal staff? Here are some recommendations:
1. Encourage open dialogue and self-advocacy. Make space for open, judgment-free conversations about menopause and let women know assistance is available. Breaking the stigma through dialogue and education is key.
2. Review policies through a menopause lens. Is time off sufficient? Are you penalizing women unfairly? Consider putting a dedicated menopause policy in place. Ensure that work schedules, remote work options, and time off allowances give women managing menopause the flexibility they need to manage their symptoms.
3. Make accommodations. Give leeway on start times for sleep struggles. Allow remote work flexibility. Simple adjustments like cooling fans, access to cold water and relaxed dress codes can go a long way to help ease hot flashes.
99% of women don’t get any menopause benefits at work
4. Provide education. Make educational resources readily available including FAQs, support groups, webinars, workshops. Consider offering menopause-specific training for managers so they feel more comfortable initiating menopause discussions. Plus, ensure they understand your policies to ensure women are not penalized or sidelined in performance reviews and career advancement unfairly due to menopause difficulties.
It’s time to move past minimizing women’s symptoms or whispering about “the change.” Companies that support women experiencing menopause in the workplace are better at holding on to experienced female talent and avoiding costly turnover. With the right policies and culture, women can feel empowered and valued during this transition. When women feel their company has their backs through this transition, that loyalty and trust lasts. They’ll repay it with their talent and dedication.