Most woman today are working and so the experience of menopause is different from that of many of their mothers and grandmothers. If you are working at home you can at least open the fridge door and stick your head in, but in the workplace such behaviour does not help your career prospects or success.
If your boss is a woman she may be more understanding, or not, as women do experience this differently and where one woman struggles another may sail through it. A new study by a group of researchers at La Trobe University and Monash University in Melbourne, Australia asked women what their experience was and the results may come as no surprise.
They found that what is most missing is a level of support from both co-workers and managers, if that is present then menopause is manageable. If it isn’t then the option women are forced to face is giving up their jobs. This is a tragedy for them, but also for their companies as they have years of expertise, skills and experience that will be lost.
It was called the amazingly accurate Women at Work study and looked at health and well-being in working women, with a special emphasis on experiences close to the menopause. This was a select group that only looked at women executives, administrative and academics working at three different universities in Australia with an average age of 51. What they were looking for was their attitudes to four key things about their work experience: how engaged they were in their job, what their level of satisfaction with it was, what level of support and commitment they received from management and if they intended to stay in their job or leave.
The key factors affecting work at menopause
When younger there can be problems at work with symptoms such as PMS or menstruation problems affecting performance, but of greater significance the women reported that at peri or menopause their symptoms definitely affected their work. Two thirds of the women questioned reported symptoms at menopause and most commonly seen as problems were tiredness, lack of focus, poor sleep and anxiety and if suffering these, then it affected what they felt about their job.
Only 1% of the women felt that their workplace had any management training on how to help women at menopause and how it might affect their work, and only 3% reported that their workplace had informal support networks, presumably other women, to help those going through the menopause.
The biggest factor causing women to consider leaving their jobs was anxiety as this affected all areas of their work. Menopause itself was not the issue, but the frequency and severity of symptoms which women experience, and how these factors affect their work.
What can you do to help?
Whether it affects you or a co-worker there are several ways you can help. If your company does not have any support programme you can set up an informal support group where women can talk about their problems and be offered practical advice. Your company may have a doctor or therapist on the staff who can advise and often simply providing an arena to share information and experience is enormously helpful. Trying natural therapies such as aromatherapy, homeopathy and hypnotherapy can help as can meditation, yoga and tai chi to bring some calmness as well as relaxation.
At menopause there are many ways to help from a nurturing diet and pleasurable exercise to checking your hormones are in balance, and if not helping them with supplementary progesterone, or progesterone and oestrogen if anxiety is the major factor you are trying to deal with.