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Menopause in the Workplace

Written by O'Connor Professional Group
Published on May 15, 2024

What is Menopause?

Menopause is a critical topic that is too often excluded from discussions on gender diversity and inclusion in the workplace. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, menopause-age women account for 26% of the workforce. Yet companies are not doing enough to address this major health transition.

According to a 2023 survey by Employee Benefit News, 72% of companies do not have a menopause policy in place and only 16% of companies train managers to address menopause at work. Factoring in the high percentage of affected women, menopause symptoms have a substantial effect on productivity, absenteeism, medical costs, and diminished likelihood of career advancement and need to be more adequately addressed.

How does menopause influence women in the workplace?

Menopause, which typically occurs between ages 45 and 55, can cause significant psychological distress such as anxiety, depression, and memory problems. These symptoms adversely affect productivity and well-being in the workplace. In a survey of 50 to 65-year-olds, 40% said that menopause interferes with their work performance at least weekly and half report experiencing anxiety. Ultimately, suffering from menopause can lead to stress and burnout.

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Unfortunately, menopause tends to be a taboo subject. Women view it as a private topic and are embarrassed to discuss it with their managers. One of the many concerns is that talking about menopause could lead to discrimination and bias. A fear of ageism is common as women worry they will be marginalized or viewed as disposable. Yet, Harvard Business Review postulates that “millions of postmenopausal women are coming into management and top leadership roles while experiencing depression, anxiety, sleep deprivation and cognitive impairment related to menopause. These women, reaching the highest levels of leadership at this stage of their careers, often have the most to contribute.

Why is menopause so important to address?

A Mayo Clinic study claims that in the U.S. alone, approximately $1.8 billion is lost in work time each year due to the impact of menopause-related symptoms. Nearly 20% of people with menopause in the U.S. have quit or contemplated leaving their jobs as a result of their symptoms. Employers overestimate how often and how well menopause is acknowledged. In a recent Bank of America study, 76% of HR benefit managers say they discuss menopause-related issues with employees and yet only 3% of female employees say they have talked about menopause with HR. The same survey finds that double the number of employers than employees reports a positive company culture around menopause. There is an identifiable need and substantial motivation to address menopause in the workplace.

How to Manage Menopause in a Workplace

To combat the effects of menopause on the work environment and productivity, employers first need to reduce the stigma in company culture. Normalizing this life transition through discussion is the first step. It is important to create awareness and provide education. Women should receive information on how to reduce stress and manage symptoms, such as through guidance on nutrition, exercise, and self-care. They need to be informed on best practices to communicate and achieve healthy relationships.

The conversation around menopause should evolve similarly to conversations about pregnancy, becoming a safer space to discuss physical and emotional symptoms without fear of discrimination or marginalization. Employers also need to offer counseling services to address the emotional challenges of menopause. Women who have access to menopause benefits are significantly more likely to recommend their company as a great place to work as well as the product and services it sells.

Flexibility in working arrangements and temperature control can also help to alleviate stress and discomfort. Overall, getting the support needed from managers and human resources will help to retain and elevate a population of women who are invaluable to a company’s growth and prosperity.

Contact Us Today

To learn more about O’Connor Professional Group’s Employer Services corporate wellness programs, please contact Margaret Stone, Director of Employer Services at mstone@oconnorpg.com.

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