What to do when menopause is affecting your work

For some women, menopause can bring with it a host of unwelcome symptoms, and the psychological ones are often the ones that affect them the most. These can include loss of self confidence, low self esteem, anxiety and depression.

Depressed and upset businesswoman in her office. Middle aged woman sad, frustrated

And if you’re still working, these symptoms can make you feel less able to do your job, and also have a significant impact on your work colleagues.

The retirement age is increasing – there are around 3.5 million women aged between 50 and 65 are currently in employment in the UK. The employment rate for women in the UK has increased in the past few decades and women now represent nearly half of the UK workforce. So it’s important that we’re recognising issues affecting these women, and providing advice and support in our workplaces.

What are the most common symptoms?

Around half of women have reported finding work difficult due to symptoms of menopause. These can include poor concentration, tiredness, poor memory, depression, feeling low, lack of confidence and hot flushes.

Women suffering from these symptoms can feel less engaged at work, not as satisfied with their job and less motivated. Worryingly, around 10% of women stop work altogether because of their severe menopausal symptoms.

Not every woman is aware that her symptoms are being caused by perimenopause – the time leading up to menopause. This leads to confusion, with some misdiagnosed as suffering from mental health issues, or their employers identify them as having performance issues at work. It can also mean they don’t talk about it, and more importantly, will not ask for help.

For those that remain in work, they may lack the confidence to put themselves forward for promotions or specialist posts, which can affect diversity within their organisation.

What can you do if you are suffering at work?

Nobody’s life should be detrimentally affected by menopausal symptoms, so if you feel yours are impacting your work, then it’s important to seek help.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is very effective at treating menopausal symptoms. It also has other proven health benefits including reducing the risk of osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. For women under the age of 60 the benefits of HRT usually outweigh any risks.

Sometimes finding what works for you can take a bit of time and adjusting, so keep on trying until you find the best answer for you. And if you feel that your GP is not supporting you, always persist until you find someone who will. Read and research as much as you can about HRT and other treatments, such as the Mirena coil (which can be very effective at stemming heavy bleeding) before your GP appointment. Going into the clinic forearmed with a little knowledge can help your GP support you in making informed choices and decisions.

How can my employer help?

Thankfully women are no longer expected to simply suffer in the workplace. The Faculty of Occupational Medicine has introduced new guidelines around menopause in the workplace, which provide recommendations about working conditions for menopausal women. These include training managers to be aware of the potential effects of menopause at work, adapting your working environment (this could be as straightforward as making fans available) and offering flexible working hours where appropriate.

Perhaps most importantly, they also recommend ways for women to talk openly with managers about their practical needs, encouraging discussions with the occupational health service and conversations with colleagues.

So if you think your menopausal symptoms are having an adverse effect on your ability to effectively do your job, please don’t suffer in silence – help is available. Your GP should be able to help you find the best treatment methods, so your first port of call is to make a doctor’s appointment.

Speak to your manager or occupational health department about how they can support you during your working hours.

There’s no denying some menopausal symptoms can be tough. But by seeking help and support, there is no longer any reason for them to affect your career satisfaction and capability at work…

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The Menopause in the Workplace event is on 28 February 2017 in Nottingham. THIS EVENT IS SOLD OUT.

We will be running another event this year, get in touch for more information.

Louise Newson

About Louise Newson

I am a GP and medical writer with a particular interest in the management of the menopause. I have written numerous articles and presented at local and national meetings on topics related to the menopause and its management. To find out more, here's my website. BSc (Hons), MBChB (Hons), MRCP, FRCGP