Impacts of menopause in the workplace

Menopause and associated symptoms are still a taboo topic. In this article, we look at why we should talk about it more and how menopausal symptoms affect women in the workplace.
Frau Wechseljahre Menopause

An estimated 1 billion women worldwide are currently going through the menopause. In Germany alone, there are currently around 9 million women. Menopausal women are the fastest growing group among employees 

Menopause basics and typical symptoms

The menopause marks a natural transition in a woman’s life that is characterized by hormonal changes. This process takes place over several phases, starting with the premenopause, which can begin as early as the late 30s, but typically starts around the age of 40. The second stage, perimenopause, usually begins around the age of 45 and is characterized by irregular menstrual cycles and hormonal fluctuations. The actual menopause occurs on average between the ages of 51 and 52 and is defined as the complete absence of menstruation for at least one year. Postmenopause follows menopause and can last until the age of 65.  

During these phases, many women are confronted with a variety of symptoms. Around a third of women experience only minor symptoms, another third suffer from mild symptoms, while the final third struggle with severe symptoms. The most common symptoms include sleep disorders, hot flushes, difficulty concentrating and weight gain. However, the range of symptoms is far-reaching and also includes mood swings, dry skin, vaginal dryness and much more. The individual experience of the menopause can vary greatly, and coping with these challenges often requires an individual approach and support. 

The stresses of menopause in the work context

The stresses and strains of the menopause can also have a significant impact on women’s work life and productivity. Sleep disorders, which are often associated with the menopause, can lead to tiredness and reduced performance during the working day. Concentration problems, which are also typical, can affect efficiency and productivity at work. Hot flashes can lead to uncomfortable situations, especially in environments where there is no opportunity to cool down, which can lead to distractions and discomfort during work. 

In addition, these symptoms can affect the self-confidence and self-esteem of the women affected. The sudden hot flushes or difficulty concentrating can lead to feelings of insecurity and frustration, especially if they occur in the work environment. Women may feel embarrassed or uncomfortable, which can have a negative impact on their self-confidence. This, in turn, may cause them to withdraw or become less actively involved in work life, which could affect their career progression or lead to resignation and early retirement. It is important that employers are sensitive to the needs of menopausal women and provide support and a supportive working environment to help them overcome these challenges. 

In a survey conducted by the MenoSupport research project at the Berlin School of Economics and Law in 2023, 74.3% of women surveyed stated that they were less able to concentrate at work due to menopausal symptoms. 73.8% said they felt more stressed, 50% said they were more impatient/irritable and 38% said their self-confidence suffered due to menopausal symptoms, with the research findings mirroring the results of a similar study in the UK in 2021. 

Menopausal symptoms also have a concrete impact on women’s willingness to work. In the MenoSupport study, only 57.6% stated that the menopause had no (54.6%) or positive (3%) impact on career decisions or their career. The remaining women had all reduced hours, changed jobs, taken time off, retired early or turned down a promotion due to menopausal symptoms. These figures are also in line with the results of international studies, according to which 25% of all women reduce their working hours due to menopausal symptoms and more than 10% quit their jobs as a result. 

Support from employers

The impact of the menopause on the world of work should not be underestimated. It is estimated that millions of working hours and a significant amount of productivity are lost worldwide every year due to the menopause. A study in the UK estimated the number of working hours lost in the UK alone at more than 14 million per year.  

Given these figures, it is clear how important employer support is for women going through the menopause. Such support can help prevent women from dropping out of work due to menopausal symptoms and the difficulties of balancing these with work. In addition, support from the employer can boost the mental wellbeing and self-esteem of the women concerned by giving them the feeling that their needs are being taken seriously and supported. 

However, the current situation in many companies is anything but positive. Only 15.3% of women in Germany feel that their working environment is supportive with regard to the menopause. This is the result of a survey conducted as part of the MenoSupport research project at the Berlin School of Economics and Law. 38.8% do not feel supported at all, 23.7% rather not and 22.3% only partly.  

Employers can take various measures to support women during the menopause. In addition to offering information and advice, for example through organizations such as Onuava, companies can also introduce measures tailored to individual needs. These include flexible working hours, the option to work from home, the provision of breathable workwear, the installation of fans in the workplace if necessary, the option to swap desks and sit by a window, and the provision of a quiet room for times of increased need. 

It is important to emphasize that these investments in supporting menopausal women pay off for employers. By creating a supportive work environment, companies can increase the loyalty and retention of their female employees and promote their health and wellbeing, leading to a more productive and satisfied workforce in the long term. 

Onuava can help

Onuava can help provide comprehensive support for women going through the menopause. With our wide range of information and individual, expert advice, we are on hand to help employees manage the menopause successfully.  

Together with our doctors and partners, we also offer educational webinars on the topic of menopause to better educate and raise awareness among menopausal women as well as colleagues and managers. Through our commitment, we want to help menopausal women feel better supported and understood in their professional environment. 

Furthermore, Onuava supports companies in the development of a menopause policy. Such menopause policies are already widely used in the UK and bring together all supportive measures in one policy. We offer our expertise to help companies develop a tailored policy that takes into account the needs of their menopausal employees and sets out clear guidelines for support measures in the workplace. By introducing a menopause policy, companies can establish a structured approach to supporting menopausal women and ensure that this group of employees is appropriately supported and integrated. 

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