95% of women over the age of 55 are in menopause. The average American woman works until the age of 66. That means that a huge section of the workforce could be affected and struggling with the symptoms of menopause.
Although there are currently no fixed laws within the US that directly relate to menopause, but women do have protection in terms of age discrimination and gender bias. Human Resource departments are often very willing to help with simple accommodations that can make things better.
How can menopause affect work performance?
Menopause is more than cessation of menstruation. Although effects vary, most women experience some symptoms which last on average up to four years. The most common symptoms that could interfere with a woman’s working life include difficulty sleeping, fatigue and joint/muscle pain. Menopausal women may find that their concentration and mood are affected too. Anxiety, memory problems and irritability can wax and wane.
These can impact focus, alertness, the ability to perform manual tasks and the ability to manage stressful moments with colleagues or customers.
75% of menopausal women experience hot flashes. The experience is like an intense feeling of heat spreading throughout the body; it can lead to sweating and skin redness. Working in a warm or stuffy office may exacerbate these symptoms.
Other conditions linked to the menopause include heart palpitations, urinary tract infections and even increased risk from other, more serious conditions such as osteoporosis and heart disease. For many women, menopause just isn’t pleasant and can make work more of a challenge.
If you’re experiencing symptoms, what can you do?
While it may feel strange talking to your employer about your issues, most are understanding. Don’t be afraid to talk with your employer or the Human Resources department and make requests based on what you feel able to manage.
- Adjusting your schedule or allowing for flexible hours can help you avoid having to take time off.
- Having access to the temperature control for your office or being allowed a small fan to assist in your comfort can help you avoid taking too many breaks or losing focus.
For your part, maintaining a healthy lifestyle outside of work can help. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet full of vitamins and minerals may help alleviate symptoms of fatigue; protein sources from grass fed meat, wild fatty fish, pasture raised poultry and eggs, healthy fats, lots of green veggies and minimizing carbohydrates can stabilize blood sugar and help improve energy.
Exercise and meditation can improve mood and help ease stress and anxiety. There are numerous meditation apps like "Calm" that make it possible for some quick stress relief that you can do during a work break. Even five minutes of slow deep belly breathing will activate the parasympathetic nervous system and put you in the rest and digest mode. Where there is a will there is a way, even in the workplace.