As menopause impacts nearly half of the global workforce, menopause transition is not just a “women’s issue” any longer. And while employers (obviously) aren’t doing enough to acknowledge and address it within the workspace environment, it is not surprising that Google searches for ‘Menopause benefits at work’ jumped +200% in the past year in the US.
The profound effect of menopause-related symptoms over the individual’s quality of work is starkly evident in the recent Mira survey on State of Menopause in the US. Shockingly, one-third of women said they have been taking more sick days since the start of menopause, while 2 out of 5 women are planning to retire earlier than originally planned.
According to Dr. McElligott (OB/GYN, MD, MPH), NAMS Certified Menopause Practitioner, US-based Medical Advisor at Mira, these five tips will help women thrive in the workplace before, during, and after the menopausal transition.
Tip #1: Talk about menopause at work.
Talking about the experience of menopause, whether you notice symptoms or not, changes the game for midlife females in the workplace.
What happens when we talk about menopause?
- We dispel myths and misconceptions while advocating for change.
- We alleviate silent suffering and increase productivity. You are not alone: ~ 40% of women say menopause-related symptoms significantly affect their work life.
How can workplaces be more menopause-friendly?
- Provide education to reduce stigma.
- Improve the work environment (e.g. keep the temperature cool).
- Consider flexible work hours and personal accommodations.
Tip #2: SLEEP
During the menopausal transition, the risk of missed work reduced productivity, and future unemployment is higher in females who experience sleep disturbance!
Estrogen deficiency worsens sleep quantity and quality. Poor sleep also worsens other menopausal symptoms, creating a self-fulfilling downward spiral, worsening fatigue, brain fog, mood changes, and weight gain.
To improve productivity, you may be tempted to stay up late and skip some sleep, but that is not the right choice. I recommend you take a look at Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker (a book I recommend to my patients).
Here are just a few ways to get better sleep:
- Set aside at least 8 hours for sleep, and try to go to sleep around the same time every day.
- Avoid alcohol or other sedatives.
- Create your ideal sleep environment. Some find a cooling blanket and a fan very helpful.
- Speak to a provider about hormone or non-hormonal treatment options to support better sleep.
- See Tips #3 and #4!
Tip #3: Write expressively every day
Okay, this may seem out of left field, but hear me out!
Expressive writing, a well-studied medical intervention, is recording your honest thoughts on paper—both pleasant and unpleasant—with no editing, censoring, or filtering and then immediately tearing the page up. Expressive writing, when done consistently, can improve mood, brain fog, sleep, and pain – all issues that disproportionately affect women during midlife and worsen during menopause.
How? In the morning, evening, or whenever you have a free moment, jot down everything in your mind, then tear it up. It doesn’t have to be 20 consecutive minutes to be beneficial.
Tip #4: Go outside for a walk (or other exercise)
This tip is a two-for-one: nature-based therapy and physical activity. Both are shown to improve menopausal symptoms such as mood, hot flashes, sleep, weight gain, and more.
How? Try taking a 30-minute walk outside before work or during your lunch break.
Tip #5: Keep an open mind about symptom control
Every female experiences this transition differently. There is no one-size-fits-all for menopause, and there are ways to avoid suffering, loss of productivity, or missing work
How? Here are some types of menopausal support.
- Hormone therapy, starting as early as perimenopause, is a safe option more often than not. Supplying the body with estrogen (~the same amount that males also naturally produce) reduces or eliminates symptoms.
- If you have been experiencing bladder issues – consider vaginal estrogen; it is safe for almost everyone.
- Non-hormonal options, such as medications, lifestyle changes, or acupuncture. These have been studied and make a difference.
Seek the support of a Menopause Society Certified Practitioner (MSCP) at menopause.org.