Working through menopause? How to get the help you need to thrive

Are you struggling to work through the menopause? Read on for advice on how to make this stage of your life easier.

Menopause is a phase of life for all women, typically occurring between the ages of 45 and 55. A fortunate few will sail through this transition, but many will find menopause symptoms challenging both at work and home.

If you – or someone you know – need menopause support in your workplace, read on to find out about your entitlement to support, how to start the conversation with your manager, ways to build awareness at work and ideas on simple changes that could see you thrive – not just survive – at this time.

Know your rights

First and foremost, be aware of your rights as an employee. The Equality Act 2010 in the UK protects individuals from discrimination on the grounds of age, sex and disability with menopause covered by any one of these.

Understanding that you have the legal right to ask for workplace adjustments and accommodations to help manage your menopausal symptoms should give you confidence that your requests are valid and deserve to be heard. 

Ask your HR team if your organisation has a menopause policy in place as this would be a good start. Increasingly, employers have these now but, if not, there are many ways for them to access guidance to support colleagues.

Do your homework!

Before asking to speak to your line manager or HR team, take some time to learn more about menopause and its symptoms. People are generally aware of the more common hot flushes and ‘brain fog’ but you may be surprised to find other physical and emotional changes that you’re experiencing are due to menopause.

Having a good understanding of the symptoms can help you communicate your needs more effectively. There’s a wealth of information out there so look for one trustworthy and comprehensive resource such as Henpicked’s Menopause Hub to avoid drowning in information!

Choose the right time and place

When you’re ready to discuss your menopause symptoms with your employer or colleagues, pick a suitable time and place. Let them know what you want to talk about and give them time to think about this in advance.

Don’t be afraid to ask for a private and confidential meeting so you can speak openly. Jot down your main symptoms, how they are affecting you and what reasonable adjustments at work would help you cope better. Take these notes into your meeting – don’t trust to memory! Quite apart from the fact ‘brain fog’ may affect you, it’s good to have a written form of your requests to keep your conversation on track.

Find a friend

If you’re finding the prospect of this meeting daunting, ask a trusted colleague to accompany you: make sure your manager is aware of this person joining so they are prepared. Menopause Champions and advocates at work often step forward to help more than one individual and can provide that little extra support just when it’s needed.

Use positive language

Approach the conversation with a positive and proactive tone. Focus on how addressing your menopausal symptoms will benefit not only you but also your productivity at work. Be clear about your needs and be ready to suggest some practical solutions to make your work environment more accommodating. These will vary depending on your workplace and role but could include:

  • Moving your desk position away from a heat source / closer to good ventilation
  • Having breaks in meetings
  • Flexible working hours – arriving later/leaving earlier – if you’re feeling tired. Or working from home if you’re struggling with problem periods
  • Relaxing the dress code if your uniform is tight or made from synthetic materials
  • Setting aside a quiet breakout area where you (and others) can go 
  • Having a desk fan

Helping someone else?

If you suspect someone else is struggling with menopause symptoms, gently ask if you can help them. Don’t make assumptions but perhaps say you noticed they’re not their usual self and ask if there is anything you can do to help.

If you have first-hand experience of menopause, share this to show empathy. If you don’t know what it’s like to have menopause symptoms do a little reading up on the topic so you can understand better what they might be feeling and, importantly, what might help them.

Pay it forward

Once you’re on an even keel, consider sharing your experience to help reduce any stigma around menopause in your workplace. If telling your own story is too difficult, suggest your employer hosts a training session from an independent expert to break the ice and bring the topic out in the open.

At Menopause Friendly we find, time and again, that simply hosting a webinar or face-to-face talk is just the catalyst needed to get people talking about menopause in the workplace.

Remember, menopause symptoms are widely recognised as impacting someone’s physical and mental wellbeing and ability to be their best at work. A wealth of guidance is available to help employers become menopause friendly. If you’re leading the charge at work, be brave and speak up – your colleagues today and those following in your footsteps will be glad that you did!

Deborah Garlick is the CEO and founder of Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace and director of Menopause Friendly Australia. She was instrumental in establishing Menopause Friendly, for organisations to receive accreditation of their menopause activity from an independent panel of experts. 

Menopause Friendly has just run its second Menopause Friendly Employer Awards, celebrating workplace excellence in the field. Deborah is a passionate advocate of all-things menopause, appearing regularly in press, on TV and radio.

She gave evidence to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Menopause and is also the author of the book Menopause: The Change for the Better, published by Bloomsbury.