Having hot flashes? Your career shouldn't take the heat. Menopause impacts many women at the height of their careers, and there can be days when your symptoms feel debilitating. If this sounds like you, you may want to consider talking about menopause at work. It can feel daunting, but opening up about menopause can make you feel less alone and help you find a community of others going through the same experience. Here are ways you can speak up and ask for the support you need in the workplace.

How menopause can affect your work

Remember, menopause is a natural part of life. There’s no reason to feel embarrassed or apologetic, even at work. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed during this phase of life, especially when you’re dealing with physical symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats, and mental health concerns like mood changes, anxiety, or depression. What you’re going through is real and valid—and can have an impact on how you do your job: 

  • Brain fog makes it difficult to concentrate, remember details, and make decisions
  • Mood swings make it hard to manage stress or work with others
  • Difficulty sleeping leads to fatigue and trouble focusing 
  • Hot flashes make it challenging to focus and keep cool 

How to have the conversation 

Menopause tends to happen at a time in life when people have a lot going on, both personally and professionally. It’s up to you how much to share. If you have a close working relationship with your manager, you can describe how you’re feeling and how they can best support you. If you aren’t comfortable speaking to your manager, consider reaching out to HR instead. Open communication is the only way to break the stigma about menopause in the workplace and get the support you need. 

You could say: 

  • “I’d like to share what has been happening with my health. I’ve been experiencing some menopause symptoms and I think it would be helpful for you to understand how it’s affecting me and my work.” 
  • “I’m dealing with some health changes. I’m going to keep things private and not get into it, but I just want you to be aware of it.” 
  • “I’m having a hot flash. I’m okay, but I need to excuse myself and take a break.” 

The only way the conversation around menopause in the workplace is going to change is if more people start being honest about their experiences. Be brave, be assertive, and stick up for yourself—even when it feels scary. 

Asking for what you need 

It can be hard to ask for help at first. Here are some suggestions you could make to your employer that can help you and others experiencing symptoms of menopause.

  • Flexible work schedule and/or working from home when needed 
  • More frequent breaks throughout the day
  • A fan or portable AC at your workspace
  • Extra time to prepare for meetings or presentations

Understanding workplace policies 

There may be some existing policies at your workplace that could affect you during menopause. Look for policies like: 

  • Additional sick time or paid medical leave with a note from your doctor 
  • The Age Discrimination Act, which provides protection against age discrimination for employees 40 and older

If you don’t think your company has any policies or accommodations in place when it comes to menopause, you can ask them to consider making some. Starting the conversation can be an important first step. If your workplace seems to be open to the conversation, you can suggest accommodations that can help you and others thrive at work through menopause. 

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Explore our interactive experience and journey alongside Dawn as she balances menopause symptoms with her career.

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How to take care of yourself during menopause

Caring for yourself throughout the menopause journey is more important than ever due to the symptoms you’re experiencing on a daily basis. Symptoms like changes to your sex drive, vasomotor symptoms, weight gain, and lack of quality sleep can make you feel bad—or not like yourself. You might not feel like you have a lot of control over what’s happening. 

Find manageable ways to practice self-care. Small things, such as gentle physical exercises like yoga or walking, along with eating foods that nourish your body are all great steps. Here are some tips for getting through the menopause years when working: 

  • Ask if you can start an online or in-person group for menopause support for other team members going through what you’re experiencing
  • Attend meetings over video call or phone instead of in person if you can 
  • Set lots of reminders on your calendar and phone in case brain fog strikes 
  • On work-from-home days, sleep in or schedule short naps during your breaks 
  • Talk to a mental health provider about how you’re feeling and process more of what you’re experiencing

Maven can help 

Menopause still faces stigma in the workplace, but it just takes one person to get the conversation started. Don’t be afraid to break the silence and stand up for the support you (and others)need. Have more questions about workplace policies or how to ask about them? Sign up for Maven and learn more about how to discuss and manage your menopause symptoms with Maven OB-GYNs, Career Coaches, and other specialized providers. 

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