How might symptoms of the menopause appear in the workplace?

January 10, 2022

Menopausal women are the fastest growing demographic in the workplace and, as such, managing the effects of menopause at work in a sensitive manner is extremely important so women do not leave the workplace and/or suffer unlawful discrimination. The menopause has received a lot of attention in the last 18 months as the taboo around this subject is slowly lifted.  In this article we look at how symptoms might present in the workplace.

Menopause usually affects women between the ages of 45 to 55, however, it can often happen earlier and later than this age bracket and symptoms can last for up to 10 years in some cases.

 

 

What are the common symptoms of menopause?

Symptoms can vary dramatically in terms of the severity and type, however, typical symptoms are hot flushes, poor sleep, heightened anxiety levels, headaches, mood swings, lack of confidence and forgetfulness.

However, because for so long this has been a ‘taboo’ subject (especially at work), so many women are masters at disguising symptoms so employers need to be cognisant of how they may manifest at work.

How to spot symptoms in the workplace

Some symptoms can be more obvious than others, but here are some things to look out for that may be results of one of the common symptoms:

  1. Hot flushes – probably the most obvious of all the symptoms listed above. Employees who are suffering with these issues will often appear hot, flushed and perspiring when other team members aren’t and will therefore seek to have access to increased ventilation and often ‘fan’ themselves.
  2. Concentration levels (aka ‘brain fog’) – so many women often mistake the onset of menopause as a sign of dementia, such is the severity of impact on their concentration levels. At work this can often show up as a lack of attention to detail and forgetfulness around actions, tasks and purpose.
  3. Anxiety levels – as anxiety levels are often heightened during the menopause, this can have a knock-on effect on confidence and a previously confident employee may become withdrawn, contribute less at meetings, be reluctant to take on new projects, shy away from presentations or just generally appear more unsure in their day-to-day dealings with others. An anxious employee may also appear irritable in their exchanges with other colleagues/customers/members of the public.
  4. Energy levels – as sleep is often deprived or disturbed during the menopause, it stands to reason an employee may appear to be less enthusiastic or motivated about their work. Lack of sleep can greatly affect a person’s mood so affected employees may appear ‘low’ or ‘down’.

Ultimately symptoms associated with menopause can vary dramatically from person to person; there is no one size fits all when it comes to the level and severity of symptoms.  Many of the effects of menopause impact on mental health and, bearing this in mind, it is important to look out for changes in behaviour and be alert to behaviour which is not usual for the individual in question.  In the workplace all of the above symptoms can often result in declining work performance, increased absence levels, frequent lateness and/or a mixture of all three.

It is also worth remembering in the new world of remote working some of these symptoms may be more difficult to pick up on.  However, it is possible that an employee’s quality of work may suffer so this will be relevant and perhaps the starting point for any future discussion.

If you need any advice when dealing with workplace menopause, please do get in touch.