According to researchers at the Australian Menopause Society, menopausal symptoms are becoming worse and worse for women, and are directly affecting them while at work. These symptoms are frequently misdiagnosed as mental illnesses or other conditions and can impact attendance and productivity at work.
As October marks World Menopause Month, it is vital that we begin to acknowledge the challenges many women face in the workplace due to its symptoms.
MENOPAUSE IN THE WORKPLACE
Menopause is a natural occurrence and happens to every woman at some point in their life. In Australia, more than 80% of women experience mild to harsh menopause symptoms.
A quarter of women going through menopause endure debilitating symptoms, including but not limited to irregular periods, hot flashes, chills, mood changes, irregular sleep patterns, etc. These symptoms can last up to 10 years, with many women cutting their hours, working only part-time or retiring early to cope with their symptoms.
As a result of the severity of these symptoms, women can become discouraged at work, decreasing their satisfaction with their jobs and reducing their working hours. According to the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees (AIST), menopause costs women upwards of $17 billion annually in lost revenue and superannuation.
Many women have difficulty identifying their symptoms, which leads them to avoid seeking help. Having colleagues who do not understand menopause or don’t have enough information about it makes it even harder for them to discuss or ask for help.
Researchers have found that early diagnosis and education is an important preventative measure for menopause and its related illnesses. When the necessary actions are taken to educate others, it reduces absenteeism in the workplace and encourages women to speak up about their experiences.
JEAN HAILES WANTS MORE CONVERSATION
Janet Michelmore AO, CEO of Jean Hailes for Women’s Health, stresses the importance of ending the stigma in regards to menopause in the workplace and finding women the necessary treatment.
“We need to break taboos around the topic of menopause and encourage women, their partners and families, and workplaces to acknowledge this life stage and talk more openly about it. We need to find options and uncover more ways to keep women in the workplace so they can contribute to society and the economy as they wish to,” says Ms Michelmore.
Jean Hailes for Women’s Health is a national not-for-profit organisation that advocates for women’s health education. The organisation honours the work of Jean Hailes, who opened the nation’s first women’s health clinic dedicated to menopause in 1992. In 2015, Jean Hailes opened their second clinic in East Melbourne, servicing all women and their health issues.
Michelmore encourages women everywhere to check out the Jean Hailes for Women’s Health Website for updated information, booklets, video, and podcasts on how to manage menopausal symptoms.
“Important conversations and increased education for women and their health practitioners around menopause have to become the norm,” says Janet.
WHAT CAN WORKPLACES DO?
It’s essential that workplaces today recognize the negative impact menopause has on the many women who do so much to benefit the organisation.
There are many different strategies management and HR can implement that will help women feel more comfortable talking about their symptoms and asking for assistance. Some of them include:
- Encouraging support groups to discuss perceptions of menopause
- Providing HR Managers and other employees with the necessary training and information on what menopause is and how it can impact work conditions
- Understanding that each woman experiences menopause differently
- Creating new HR policies that promote menopause-friendly ideas
- Assisting in awareness campaigns that acknowledge menopause and work to remove the stigma behind it
Managing symptoms and understanding them at work often enables women’s wellbeing to return to normal in a short period of time. It’s time we take the necessary steps to make women feel comfortable and heard at their workplace.
Click here to read our latest business articles and learn more about Australian businesses!