Employee Experience Menopausal Symptoms in Workplace. How Can We support Her and Others?
Question: One of our employees informed us that she’s menopausal and experiencing symptoms in the workplace. What can we do to support her and others in her situation?
Answer from Lisa, PHR: Menopause (the time that marks the end of the menstrual cycle) and perimenopause (the time just before) can come with a host of symptoms. Anxiety, brain fog, burnout, menstrual changes, cognitive changes, depression, hot flashes, sleep issues, and stress are common experiences. Not everyone experiences them or to the same degree, however.
While symptoms can be problematic for those experiencing them, they are generally manageable and shouldn’t impact the quality of an employee’s work, especially if you’re willing to offer support. Here are some ideas:
If employees come to you wanting to talk about their symptoms, don’t shy away from the discussion. Be able to talk about menopause as the normal phase of life that it is. Meet employees where they are, listen to them, and consider any accommodations they request. Even if accommodations are not legally required, providing them generates good will with employees and can make you an employer of choice for people in this stage of their life.
Let managers know that menopausal issues may come up, so that possibility should be on their radar. Give managers some pointers about what to do (e.g., be supportive and flexible, comply with legal requirements as applicable) and not do (e.g., discriminate, assume menopause is a contributing factor to their behavior or performance).
Implement simple and easy practices that give employees time and space to meet their needs. Can your employees take unscheduled breaks or step out of a meeting if they feel the need? The freedom to take unscheduled breaks, even during meetings, can help when an employee is having a hot flash. The ability to get some fresh air when needed and work in close proximity to a bathroom may also help. If you offer flexible schedules or remote options for other reasons, consider offering them to menopausal employees as well.
Address menopause in workplace health programs, employee assistance programs, and health and wellness presentations.
Lisa is a career copy editor and writer and has been editing HR and employment law copy for almost 20 years. She occasionally writes on HR topics, has been published in Quartz, and was recently interviewed for an article published in Business Insider. She received her PHR in February, 2021.