Let’s talk menopause in the workplace!

The menopause is a significant event in a woman’s life that signifies the end of the reproductive years. The transition to menopause is a progressive journey lasting between 2 to 12 years depending on the individual. The menopause (including its transition), is classically identified by hot flushes and heat discomfort but also includes sleep disturbances, anxiety, joint pain, general weakness, forgetfulness and depressive mood. While these symptoms can be undoubtedly debilitating for women, they are often dismissed and overlooked causing many women to suffer in silence.

Menopause at work

Women are the fastest growing demographic in the workplace and in the UK, it is estimated that 8 out of 10 menopausal women are in the workplace. Menopausal symptoms can increase absenteeism, impair women’s ability to learn, to attend to detail and overall job performance. In some instances, symptoms may become so overwhelming that women leave their job entirely. Conversely, the workplace can exacerbate menopausal symptoms. This may be through overly warm work environments, poor ventilation, limited access to cold water and/or the necessity for uniforms. Since the COVID pandemic began, many women may have welcomed the opportunity to work from home where possible with full control of their environment to help manage symptoms. Contrary to this, women in healthcare have likely seen an increase in their workload as well as the addition of personal protective equipment, potentially intensifying menopause related symptoms.

How can we help?

Workplace interventions including temperature control and physical exercise programmes have been suggested to potentially alleviate menopause related symptoms. However, before this, we need to understand what a typical working week looks like for a menopausal in relation to symptoms, workplace productivity and physical exercise levels. The Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Health (PAtCH) research group at York St. John University plan to provide some insight into this important area. We aim to recruit menopausal women across various work sectors and conduct a focus group to capture the views of these women in relation to the that menopause has on their work. We will then monitor their menopause symptoms, exercise levels and cognitive function across a typical working week. By gathering this information, we can design appropriate sector specific workplace interventions that are underpinned by the issues identified by this work. Overall, we aspire to improve women’s quality of working life.

The menopause in the workplace project is run by Áine Brislane, Sophie Carter and Alex Beaumont from the School of Science, Technology and Health at York St John University.