For many women, experiencing menopause while at work can feel embarrassing, uncomfortable and distressing. But there are some things that you can do to alleviate the symptoms:
1. Don't Suffer in Silence
Women often feel the need to hide their symptoms or pretend that everything is fine, when it's not. On some days, your symptoms may be manageable. But there may be other times when they become severe and you struggle to cope. If this happens, talk to your doctor or gynaecologist. They should be able to identify if the menopause is indeed the cause and prescribe treatment.
If you still feel as though you're not getting the support you need, ask to be referred to someone with specialist knowledge. In the U.K., the British Menopause Society has an online tool that can help you to find the nearest menopause specialist to you.
2. Take Control
It may not be possible to combat every menopause symptom. But making some simple changes to your lifestyle, such as diet and exercise, can help.
Common menopause advice is to:
- Stop smoking.
- Reduce alcohol and caffeine consumption (both of which can make symptoms worse).
- Minimize stress levels where possible.
- Take regular exercise to maintain muscle strength and bone density.
- Think about your diet – try foods that are high in calcium and Vitamin D.
- Explore different therapies, such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or complementary therapies and psychological support, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
3. Talk to Your Manager
You may be embarrassed to broach the subject of menopause with your manager. But if you're worried that your symptoms are worsening or that they're impacting your work, then at some point you will need to talk to them about it. This may feel particularly challenging if your boss is young or male (or both!). But if you have a good relationship and you can trust them, the likelihood is they will be happy to listen to your concerns and provide support.
Here are some tips to consider when talking to your manager:
- Be prepared – keep a diary of your symptoms and how they are affecting you, both physically and psychologically.
- Book a meeting – let your manager know that you would like to discuss a personal matter. That way, your meeting should be given the time and discretion it deserves.
- State your situation clearly – underline the importance of having their understanding and support. Don't be afraid to give some examples of how your symptoms have affected you and/or prevented you from doing your best work.
- Offer some solutions – your manager should work with you to provide effective support, but it's always a good idea to bring some solutions to the table, too. For example, if you're suffering from hot flashes regularly, perhaps you could request a desk fan or ask to sit next to a window. Often simple things like this can make a big difference.
- Follow up – your manager may need to go away and seek further advice on what you've told them. But it's still a good idea to book a follow-up session before your first meeting ends to agree next steps and let your manager know how you're progressing.
If you feel unable to talk to your manager, talking to a trusted colleague, a different manager or senior leader, or someone from your HR team can also be helpful – and they may still be able to signpost any organizational support available.
4. Share Your Experience
Too often women suffer through the menopause in silence, but it's important to know that you're not alone. While each person's experience will be slightly different, chances are your friends are encountering similar challenges, too.
If no one is talking about it, you might support them by starting the conversation. Not only can this be a great source of emotional support, but it's also a good way to share tips and advice.
Alternatively, you could find out whether there's a menopause café near you. These are informal events where people can get together to discuss their experiences.