So yes, time to confess, at 44, I’m perimenopausal and have been for years but have only really recognised it in the last six months. It took a long while for me to associate my symptoms with menopause and once I had it was a relief, to be honest, a lot of things started to make sense!
With around half the population due to experience the hormonal changes in the body that trigger menopause in their lives, it’s something that affects everyone either directly or indirectly at some point.
The symptoms vary and can impact everyday life for millions of women worldwide, with around a third of women experiencing severe symptoms.
Typically, women begin to experience systems during a busy time of their lives, when they’re juggling family, home and work commitments; most of us are spinning plates to keep on top of everything and it can be difficult to cope even without hormonal changes and brain fog!
Symptoms inevitably impact women in the workplace, many fear discrimination when talking about what they’re experiencing – I mean it doesn’t feel great when you’re basically saying to your boss, I’m struggling to do my job as I have severe brain fog, am utterly exhausted, experiencing a huge range of other symptoms and can barely function as a human being some days!
The CIPD says that “estimates suggest that around one million women have already quit their jobs due to difficulties managing the menopause... And with some women feeling as if they have no choice but to leave their jobs, this not only drains companies of valuable talent and experience, but also contributes to a lack of diversity, particularly at senior management level, and the gender pay gap.”
My symptoms came to a pinnacle last Spring/Summer. The hot flushes and subsequent lack of sleep (especially during the heat wave) were becoming too much to cope with, I was losing hair in massive handfuls and had cradle cap to top it off. My mental health was terrible, and I was losing patience with my daughter - I decided I needed to seek help and do something about it. I’d heard of the menopause and started to investigate the symptoms; it began to dawn on me that this is what I was experiencing.
I’m fortunate to have worked for Client Server for the past 17 years. CEO, Nick Boulton and Founder, David Kerr know me well; I’m in a trusted position so when I plucked up the courage to tell them I was struggling, I was told to do whatever I needed to do. I felt reassured that I could take time out for consultations with a menopause specialist and to use the flexibility to work from home when needed.
I’ve made progress but there are still times when I find it difficult. Normalising menopause in the workplace (and wider society in general), communication, understanding and kindness are things that can help massively. I’m lucky to have a supportive environment, a long-suffering husband, and great colleagues (shout out to Amy Taylor who always has my back!).
At Client Server, we’ve made changes to the company handbook, recognising menopause, and have signed the “menopause pledge” which states that we’ll commit to:
- Recognising that menopause can be an issue in the workplace and that women need support
- Talking openly, positively, and respectfully about the menopause
- Actively supporting and informing your employees affected by the menopause
And there are lots of practical things employers can do from providing sanitary products in female facilities, desk fans, moving closer to a window, adjusting uniforms, and allowing some flexibility to start late or work from home when needed.
There’s a list of resources at the end of this article in the hopes that this will inform and lead to open discussion.
- NHS- https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/symptoms/
- The Menopause Charity- https://www.themenopausecharity.org/2021/10/21/symptoms-list/
- Menopausing: Davina McCall with Dr Naomi Potter
- Balance App: Dr Louise Newson- https://www.balance-menopause.com/balance-app/
- Women's Health Concern- https://www.womens-health-concern.org/help-and-advice/menopause-in-the-workplace/
- Menopause Matters- https://www.menopausematters.co.uk/
- CIPD- https://www.cipd.co.uk/Images/line-manager-guide-to-menopause_tcm18-95174.pdf