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Menopause & The Workplace

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The female workforce makes up 52% of the working population, contributing and providing so much skill, commercial acumen, and creative energy in the workplace.  Up to one third of women will experience menopause symptoms that can impact on their quality of life. Menopause is not a new issue, but it is one that has always silently affected women in the workplace. Despite much progress on gender equality in recent years, a stigma has remained around the topic of menopause.

The most reported difficulties that menopausal women report at work include poor concentration, tiredness, poor memory, feeling low/depressed and lowered confidence which have also been linked to women having a higher intention to leave the workforce.  Whilst hot flushes and erratic periods are well documented, the psychological symptoms can often be somewhat overlooked. And these are often the ones that have the most severe impacts in the workplace.

Being aware of the impact of menopause on the female workforce is a must for forward-thinking and inspirational organisations.  It is important that organisations introduce menopause friendly work practises and help to provide solutions to make the workplace a safe and considerate place, through awareness, education, support.  If organisations are pioneering in their approach, then they will look at implementing policies that will make a positive difference to their colleagues.

We need to change the mindsets and attitudes towards menopause making it easy to talk about and easy to help women navigate through this very difficult time.  Furthermore, menopause awareness isn’t just for women, everyone needs to understand how they can support their direct reports, colleagues, wives, girlfriends, sister and significant others, basically how to support family and friends. Those who are experiencing menopause symptoms need to feel confident to be able to discuss it and ask for support they need to continue being happy and successful at work.

It is in the work context that women often have the most difficulty in managing symptoms and can feel embarrassed and unable to disclose their menopausal status (the final stages of a women life).  Individuals can be reluctant to talk about it – let alone with their managers in the workplace.  This is important because workplaces can often lack the empathy and support needed, as well as the practical support for both colleagues and managers to help make a difference.

Ultimately, all organisations should take menopause in the workplace seriously, because menopause isn’t just a women’s issue.  Others can be impacted by hormonal changes, medications, and the potential threat of life changes diseases when menopause symptoms take hold.  It’s good for colleagues to understand more (male and female colleagues) and it’s good for the whole organisations. When employees feel supported, they are more likely to feel happier in the workplace and are less likely to take time off work for sickness and less likely to leave the organisation.  Working towards a ‘wellness’ workplace means demonstrating empathy, working towards long-term sustainable changes in the workplace and providing solutions.  Fostering an inclusive culture where everyone can be their best.  It also means you’ll find it easier to retain new talent, and recruit new colleagues, as a place where people want to work.

Diet and lifestyle play a crucial role in the management of menopause symptoms.  There should be a holistic and individualised approach in managing menopause symptoms, with particular reference to lifestyle advice and diet modification, because everyone’s symptoms and the degree of severities can be very different.

Lifestyle factors

A healthy lifestyle including exercise, diet modification and reducing alcohol intake can make a big difference to menopausal symptoms in addition to improving heart and bone health.  The menopause transition should be seen as an opportunity to review and optimise lifestyle, dietary intake and exercise uptake.

This should include:

  • Advice on healthy diet, such as including a diet that is low in saturated fat, that is rich in calcium and vitamin D to strengthen bones. Sugar should be eliminated as much as possible as it becomes more difficult to burn.
  • Regular exercise, as this helps to relieve stress and lowers the risk of heart disease. Regular, varied exercise may include cycling, swimming, running or aerobics.
  • Stopping smoking, as smoking has been shown to increase the risk of an earlier menopause and trigger hot flushes. If women smoke, they also run a higher risk of developing osteoporosis and heart disease, which is the most common cause of death in women.
  • Drinking moderately, as alcohol increases hot flushes and is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Women should try not to drink more than 2 to 3 units of alcohol per day and keep at least one day a week alcohol-free.
  • Relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga and walking can reduce stress levels and help cope with anxiety.

Diet will play a very important role in managing to balance the raging hormones in your body and so it is important to eat the right food to provide the much needed nutrition to your body The gut is the most important place to focus on and eating for good gut health will enable you manage your physical health as well as your emotional health as food plays a vital role in releasing chemicals and hormones into the body.

Organisations should provide advice from a reputable nutritionist, dietician or food specialists to help navigate this and create suitable eating plans with a consultancy service being made available to both individuals as well as outside speakers coming into the organisation to talk to employees at all levels offering advice on how to manage the symptoms.  If you would like to know more about managing your menopause symptoms then contact kumud@thecookingacademy.co.uk

 

 

 

Articles in the press related to menopause in the workplace

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-64381216

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-62323327

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