Dealing with the Menopause at Work

Aug 10, 2022.

Are you a Healthcare Professional struggling to deal with menopausal symptoms and working?

The menopause has been big news lately, especially in light of the recent HRT shortages and a new Channel 4 documentary, Davina McCall: Sex, Mind And The Menopause, which presents new research* into how the menopause can affect women in the workplace, including that one in 10 women who have worked during the menopause have left a job due to their symptoms and that 69% experience difficulties with anxiety or depression due to menopause.

Women make up nearly 77 percent of the 1.3 million people NHS staff and, whether you’re a Nurse, Doctor or HCA, dealing with symptoms of the menopause and trying to do your job at the same time can be difficult. Especially because your job is so focused on care. This means that, trying to find ways to alleviate your symptoms and ask for support is crucial to both your wellbeing and your work.

Read on for more guidance on dealing with the menopause at work.

Talk about it

The menopause can trigger all kinds of symptoms including tiredness, loss of concentration and even anxiety, but it is important that you don’t suffer in silence or feel afraid to ask for support if you’re struggling.

Thankfully, more and more organisations are taking the fact that so many women suffer from menopausal symptoms seriously, and the NHS is at the forefront by ensuring they have the right policies in place to support their workers.

A workplace issue

The NHS Staff Council’s Health, Safety and Partnership Group has produced a guide called Menopause at Work to support NHS organisations improve the way they address this. This includes a range of principles for line managers and staff that addresses the menopause a workplace issue.

The guide states:

‘It is essential that NHS organisations take action to support and retain a skilled and experienced workforce and reduce unnecessary absence from the workplace.’

If you’re going through the menopause, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. We have already touched upon the fact there is a predominantly female workforce in healthcare, but it is also important to note that many are in their late 40s to mid-50s, which means that a significant number will be either perimenopausal or menopausal. This is in addition to women who experience early menopause, premature ovarian insufficiency or if you are trans, non-binary or intersex dealing with menopausal type symptoms.

 Suzanne Banks, Chief Nurse, Sherwood Forests Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust notes:

‘The menopause, whether pre, during or post, can be varied in its impact, especially within the workplace and we want to raise awareness of it at work and support women that are struggling with symptoms. We need to remember that some of our most successful employees are female, but because they are now working into their 60s and the average age of menopause being around 51, they’re battling with symptoms that can really affect them. We need to support these women and ensure that they can continue to work and feel happy at work. It’s also important to remember this isn’t just an issue for women, men should be aware too so they can support colleagues, friends and family, and our patients too. We’re one of the first NHS trusts to put best practice in place and to talk openly about menopause and I would encourage other employers to do the same.’

Also within the guide, Sue Harriman, Chief Executive, Solent NHS Trust says:

‘We want to remove the taboo and recognise that the NHS workforce, which is getting older, must be able to move through all stages of their lives, ageing happily while working for the NHS. By giving them a great place to work, they can provide the best care and decide themselves when they want stop working.’

This type of awareness and guidance is encouraging, as it means you can feel comfortable in speaking up, and seeking the help you need so that you can do your work with the right support. This in turn filters to a whole host of benefits for the NHS, such as employee retention, lower absence and sickness, increased employee performance, employee retention and supporting a culture of diversity and inclusivity.

Symptoms, effects and adjustments

If you’re suffering from menopausal symptoms, which in turn have an effect on your work, you could request certain adjustments be made. For example, if you’re suffering from hot flushes regularly, you could request a desk fan or a cooler uniform. Make sure you have access to cold drinking water too, and don’t be afraid to discuss flexible working to deal with any sleep deprivation or ask for extra breaks/more time to prepare for meetings.

Coping with the menopause at work

Taking steps to ease specific symptoms whilst at work can make a difference to getting through a shift. Our handy checklist may help:

– If you suffer from brain fog, keep a notebook to hand, or use your notes app on your phone, and write a ‘to do’ list that you can refer to and that can help keep you focused and cope with forgetfulness

– If you find yourself feeling anxious, a few deep breathing exercises can really help alleviate these types of symptoms 

– Understanding more can really help, so take a look at Podcasts relating to the menopause such as Anxiety And The Menopause With Tania Elfersy

– If you suffer from hot flushes, try cooling products such as cooling sprays. There are even special menopausal scarves or neck wraps to keep you cool such as Meno Cool scarves and, don’t forget to take the time for a lunchtime walk in the fresh air, which is great for your mental wellbeing too!

– Take a look at different supplements for menopausal symptoms and what has worked for others through reviews sites such as Which?

– Go online for support and advice – Live Better With is an online platform with a fantastic Q&A hub where you can ask questions, swap tips and share knowledge and experiences about living with menopause

Sleep better

Sleep is essential and a real struggle for some dealing with the menopause, making it harder to cope at work. Here are some handy tips that may help improve your sleep:

– Treat yourself to a relaxing hot bath, an hour or two before bed, this may sound counter-intuitive, but research shows it can help reduce your core temperature, signalling your body it is time for sleep and reducing time to get to sleep (or Sleep onset Latency)

– A few Lavender oil drops on a cloth kept next to your bed may also help improve your sleep as you gently inhale the aroma throughout the night

– It sounds obvious, but sometimes we forget, rather than reaching for caffeinated drinks, try switching to  soothing cups of chamomile or peppermint tea after shifts

Relaxing music guided meditation or just white noise can also help. Spotify, Amazon Music and Audible are just a few apps which have stacks of sleep enhancing music and sounds to help you drift off to sleep

We hope our blog on dealing with the menopause at work has been useful and don’t forget that we’re on hand to help you find the right opportunities, with hours and shifts to suit your lifestyle and your needs, with 1-2-1 support and guidance at every step of the way. For more information, please get in touch.  

*Finestripe Productions, which was commissioned by Channel 4 to produce the documentary, asked Savanta ComRes to conduct a representative survey of 4,014 UK women aged 45-55 who are currently, or have previously experienced, the perimenopause or the menopause. This research was supported by the Fawcett Society, which has produced a report that includes all the research called Menopause And The Workplace.