It is estimated that around a quarter of menopausal women may consider leaving work due to symptoms, such as hot flushes, sleep problems, low mood and poor concentration.
As well as being physically uncomfortable, hot flushes and other symptoms can feel embarrassing for women who are often concerned about negative reactions from others at work. In addition, many women report being unwilling to disclose menopause-related health problems to line managers, many of whom are men or younger than them.
Awareness about menopause in workplaces is shockingly low - many women, often at the peak of their careers, are misunderstood or left to suffer in silence.
This can be a distressing for women – but, as women of menopausal age are the fastest-growing demographic in the workplace, it is likely to be an increasingly-serious blow for workplaces too.
Professor Myra Hunter, Emeritus Professor of Clinical Health Psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College, London, and Professor Amanda Griffiths, Professor of Occupational Health Psychology in the Division of Psychiatry and Applied Psychology at the University of Nottingham, are exploring using non-medical solutions to help women manage and cope with their symptoms and to increase awareness of menopause among managers.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) works for some women but, for others is not an option due to preference, side effects or ineffectiveness. Simply talking to bosses and colleagues about it also isn’t a realistic option for many either.
Professor Hunter and colleagues set out to identify the important issues in the workplace for menopausal women. They conducted a study of attitudes of men and women aged 25-45 to menopause in work settings and found that their attitudes towards menopause were more negative than those of menopausal women and, in a previous survey, menopausal women have reported their managers having negative reactions.
Professor Hunter has developed a cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) based treatment to help women manage their symptoms in which women received information and advice to help them to develop strategies to reduce stress, deal with hot flushes and improve sleep disrupted by night sweats.
In the project, Professor Hunter and her team will work with eight large, British organisations to put this treatment into practice and see how effective it is for working women.
They will also work to improve employers’, including managers and occupational health professionals, awareness of the menopause using a new on-line training, so that managers can learn how to make their workplaces more supportive of women going through menopause.
By improving menopause awareness and giving women the tools to help their symptoms, Professor Hunter is leading the way towards making workplaces menopause friendly.