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Supporting Menopause in the Workplace

Supporting Menopause in the Workplace

Menopause is a natural biological process that over half the population will experience. Despite its substantial impact on various aspects of a woman’s life, it remains a taboo topic, especially in the workplace. With an aging workforce and more women working longer, menopause needs to be on every company’s agenda. The lack of awareness, conversation, and resources can cause women to feel isolated and unsupported. This blog outlines why discussing and supporting menopause in the workplace benefits both employers and employees. Understanding and addressing the challenges associated with menopause fosters a more inclusive and supportive workplace, helping women thrive in mid-life.

Menopause Basics

Women’s hormones begin to change during perimenopause, typically starting between the ages of 40 to 50. When a woman has gone twelve consecutive months without a period, she has officially reached menopause. This marks the start of the postmenopausal era, beginning at an average age of 51, and continuing for the rest of her life. Menopause affects every person born with female anatomy, but for the purposes of simplification, this article will refer to the collective group impacted as “women.” Currently, 75 million women in the U.S. are in perimenopause, menopause, or post-menopause (collectively referred to as “menopause”), with 6,000 more reaching menopause each day.1 Despite its prevalence, menopause has long been overlooked. There are over forty potential physical, psychological, and cognitive impacts, including menstruation changes, hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, memory issues, sleep disturbances, weight gain, joint pain, fatigue, and genitourinary symptoms (urinary frequency, incontinence, UTIs, vaginal irritation, and painful intercourse). Please see Menowar’s blog on the symptoms of menopause for more detailed information.

Hormonal changes during menopause can also increase the risk of serious illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Many women do not schedule regular care visits during midlife and are unaware that by age 55, 80% of women will have at least one chronic disease; this also worsens with age.1 Unfortunately, even when women visit their doctor, he or she may not be a menopause expert. Less than 20% of OB-GYN residency programs offer menopause training, and 73% of women do not treat menopause symptoms.2 Due to a lack of awareness and medical counsel, 92% of women did not feel prepared for menopause. This leaves some women struggling with health and life impacts without effective management strategies as menopause begins to affect them at work and home. Find more information on getting the best medical care during menopause in Menowar’s blog on the subject.

How Menopause Shows Up in the Workplace

Women make up nearly half of the U.S. workforce, with 44% aged 45 or older, according to the US Department of Labor. Therefore, the menopause demographic represents approximately 20% of the female workforce, a conservative estimate given that 40% of women experience menopause symptoms before their mid-40s.2 It is critical for companies to retain and leverage this group, given their skills, expertise, and seniority.

To add fuel to the fire, ageism continues to be a factor, with society often socializing women to believe their worth is tied to their attractiveness and reproductive ability. Menopause can make women fear being perceived as old, creating a crisis of confidence that is reinforced by social media. Additionally, menopause often occurs at a crucial career stage when women have risen to leadership positions and face intensified demands. Many women are also caring for children, transitioning to an empty nest, caring for aging parents, and managing households – so their lives are filled with stressors.

Eighty-six percent of women going through menopause while working have experienced symptoms, which last an average of seven years or more.3 These can significantly impact their quality of life, healthcare costs, and workplace performance. Sixty-two percent of women reported that their symptoms affected their work including: 3

  • Productivity:  Symptoms like fatigue, memory problems, and difficulty concentrating can reduce productivity.
  • Mental Health: Mood swings, anxiety, and depression can affect relationships and create additional stress.
  • Physical Comfort: Hot flashes and night sweats can make maintaining physical comfort at work challenging. These vasomotor symptoms (VSM) can also lead to poor sleep, which can further impact a women’s productivity and mental health.
  • Missed work: Women may miss work or have to reduce hours due to menopause symptoms and doctor’s appointments. Forty nine percent of women missed workdays due to symptoms, averaging over 9 days per year, and equating to nearly $3,500 in lost time.2
  • Reduced Hours and Promotion Opportunities:  Fourteen percent of women in a Fawcett research report reduced their hours at work, 14% went part-time, and 8% did not applied for promotion. 
  • Financial Impact:  Many healthcare plans do not adequately cover menopause expenses, with 45% of women paying out of pocket for related services.2
  • Employment Changes: 70% of women in a Carrot Fertility study considered some type of employment change due to menopause, led by 47% who’ve considered remote or hybrid work. An astonishing 15% said they have considered quitting a job due to symptoms and 13% have quit in a survey by Korn Ferry and Vira Health.

Women who were used to firing on all cylinders may find themselves unable to keep up their frenetic pace. Can you imagine breaking out in sweat in the middle of a presentation, having period blood leak through clothing, forgetting key information in the middle of an important meeting, falling asleep while working, or getting suddenly emotional or experience rage in a conversation with a co-worker or manager? All these harrowing situations and more can happen to women during menopause. 

A report by Bank of America found that women also experience shame and isolation, with 60% considering menopause stigmatized and were too embarrassed to discuss symptoms at work. Many women hide their symptoms, adding to the stress. Eighty-seven percent did not discuss symptoms with their employers, fearing stigma and doubting positive changes.4

Why Corporate Menopause Support Makes Sense

While we have progressed in supporting fertility, pregnancy, and post-partum health, only 8% of women report significant employer support for menopause.6 Menopause is a logical continuation of women’s healthcare. Awareness can lead to better care, resulting in improved health, work, happiness, and relationships. Employers can make a significant difference in their menopausal employees’ lives and their bottom lines by supporting menopause corporately!

Given the number of women in this life stage and their value to the workforce, workplace menopause support can produce enormous benefits.

  • Wisdom & Leadership:  Women over 50 are the fastest growing workforce demographic and are often a company’s longest tenured and most loyal employees. Post-menopausal women offer wisdom, clarity, leadership, and mentorship that can benefit the entire organization.
  • Productivity:  Menopause resources and healthcare can enhance productivity, efficiency, and engagement. When benefits are offered, 58% of women report a positive impact on their work.7 
  • Cultural: Supported employees work harder and help achieve key goals. Allyship with menopausal women improves relationships, collaboration, and overall culture. Among the 92% of respondents whose employers have not offered support, 55% say such a benefit would increase job satisfaction.6 
  • Loyalty & Retention:  Menopause resources can enhance loyalty and retention, keeping valuable employees longer. Employees are more likely to recommend their employer as a great place to work when menopause-specific benefits are available (83% vs. 69%).7 
  • Recruitment:  An inclusive and empathetic workplace culture attracts a diverse workforce. Providing menopause benefits can help boost your corporate recruitment success and help your company be seen as one that is supportive of women’s needs.
  • Financial Impact:  The Mayo Clinic study estimated the cost of menopause in the U.S. workplace at $1.8 billion in lost work time annually and $26.6 billion when medical expenses are added. This estimate does not include the costs related to reduced hours of work, the loss of employment, early retirement, or changing jobs.
  • Avoiding Litigation & Claims: Menopause symptoms may fall under employment law protections. The EEOC included menopause in its 2024 Enforcement Guidance on Harassment, stating that employers may be liable for discrimination if women experience prejudice or negative stereotypes due to menopause-related symptoms. The relatively new Pregnant Workers Fairness Act mandates employers provide accommodations for workers experiencing pregnancy, postpartum recovery and “related medical conditions,” which could feasibly include menopause. 

Most importantly, supporting women through menopause is the RIGHT THING TO DO. Providing faster, better, more affordable, and accessible care helps women thrive in all aspects of life, including the workplace.

Creating a Supportive Workplace

Developing a comprehensive menopause support strategy is key, but many small steps can make a significant impact:

  1. Awareness and Education: Educate all employees about menopause and its potential impacts. Awareness programs reduce stigma, promote empathy, and ensure appropriate communication. It is best to include all employees – in addition to experiencing or working with those in menopause, everyone has a mother, sister, partner, other family member, or friend impacted.
  2. Training:  Offer training specifically for menopausal women to help them better manage their health and wellbeing. Companies can also provide training for senior executives, managers, and/or HR/DEI representatives to equip them to have productive and appropriate conversations. This can be done through an outside expert, such as Over the Bloody Moon.
  3. Open Communication: Foster an environment where women feel comfortable discussing their needs without fear of discrimination or judgment – awareness, education, and training are great first steps!
  4. Menopause Support Groups:  In the midst of menopause, many women benefit from having others to confide in and with whom to share experiences. Facilitate internal support groups, or provide access to external organizations, like the non-profit Menopause Cafe, for community, empathy, and information sharing.
  5. Resource Hub:  Create an internal menopause information hub or select an external provider with ready-to-use tools, like Over the Bloody Moon
  6. Menopause Health Benefits:  While more than 80% of companies offer medical benefits, only 20% offer healthcare benefits specific to women’s health; many of these are related to reproductive and fertility benefits.Companies should provide expansive menopause health benefits, including lifestyle techniques, medical interventions, and alternative therapies. Telehealth organizations, like Midi Health, can help provide access and flexibility and are often covered by health insurance. 
  7. Other Coverage Options:  Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) and Health Savings Accounts (HSA) are other ways to make menopause care more affordable. 
  8. Flexible Working Arrangements: Allow flexible work, incremental sick time, more frequent breaks, and leave policies so women are better able to tend to their health when symptoms strike.
  9. Comfortable Work Environment:  Ensure a cool work environment, access to fans or cooling devices, cool water, and breathable uniforms. 
  10. Access to Menstrual Products:  Provide access to, and if possible, free menstrual products for unexpected period flow during menopause.
  11. Health and Wellness Programs: Promote physical and mental well-being programs, including counseling, stress management workshops, and exercise facilities.
  12. Policies and Procedures: Develop clear policies that support women experiencing menopause, including leave policies and reasonable work condition adjustments.

Conclusion

Menopause is a significant life stage for many women, and its impact on work should not be underestimated. By fostering an understanding and supportive workplace, employers can help women navigate this transition more smoothly and enhance overall workplace harmony and productivity. Embracing this change with empathy and proactive measures will contribute to a more inclusive and resilient workforce. Menopause should have no shame, and all women should receive the treatment, resources, and support they need in the workplace and all aspects of their lives. This will create a culture where everyone can thrive and drive towards profitable growth.

Build a menopause inclusive workplace today! Learn more about how Over the Bloody Moon can help, or if you prefer 1:1 menopause coaching with Menowar, click here

Footnotes
  1. NIH & Statista and CDC data
  2. Evernow, 2021
  3. Vodafone, 10/21
  4. Biote, May 2022
  5. Mayo Clinic, April 2023
  6. Bank of America, June 2023
  7. Bonafide, 2023
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