Menopause, defined as the cessation of menstrual cycles, is a naturally occuring process in people with ovaries. In the U.S. alone, approximately 1.3 million women enter menopause annually, typically between the ages of 45 and 55. However, despite the ubiquity of menopause, there are startlingly few conversations about how it impacts women in the workplace—and how their employers can support them through the transition.
Studies suggest that global productivity losses due to menopause top $150 billion a year, and over $2,100 in direct and indirect healthcare costs per women per year. How can companies support menopausal employees? By building an age-inclusive workplace culture with benefits to match.
What is menopause and how is it treated?
Menopause refers to the point in time 12 months after a person’s last period. But the time leading up to that point—referred to as perimenopause—typically lasts between three and seven years. Without treatment, perimenopause symptoms last about 7 years. Within this time, your employees will experience fluctuations in their levels of estrogen and progesterone, in addition to a variety of physiological changes. Studies show that 75% of menopausal women will experience some vasomotor symptoms, the most common among them being hot flashes and brain fog.
Treatments can include pharmaceuticals and hormone replacement therapies, as well as homeopathic approaches to lessen the impact of some symptoms. Unfortunately, in the same way that menopause is so rarely discussed in the workplace, it’s still a nascent field of study in the healthcare system. 80% of OB-GYN residents indicate they are “barely comfortable” discussing or treating menopause, meaning that the majority of your employees will likely need to seek out specialty care for their menopausal needs.
Understanding the impact of menopause on your employees
Menopause is a time of transition for your employees, but few employers understand the implications. Normalizing and appreciating how your employees are affected by menopause can help limit the impact it has on their wellbeing and productivity.
Hot flashes and brain fog, two of the most common symptoms of menopause, can have major impacts on the wellbeing of your employees. Hot flashes can occur sporadically throughout the day, lasting for three to four minutes at a time, causing unpredictable distress and discomfort. Brain fog, which has a reciprocal relationship with the poor sleep quality that’s often associated with menopause, can similarly sap your employees of their energy.
Menopausal symptoms put employees at a higher risk of mental illness, for several reasons. On one hand, vasomotor symptoms can impact their quality of life: discomfort, poor sleep, and intimacy struggles can cause stress. On the other hand, fluctuating hormone levels can also impact and trigger mental illness. Studies show that over a third of women who experience menopausal symptoms also experience depression. They also reported significant reductions in their quality of life and productivity at work.
The experience of menopause in the workplace can be incredibly isolating: your employees may fear that being open about their symptoms will result in discrimination and stigma, or that being labeled as “old” will have a negative impact on their career. A recent survey found that one in three women in the UK have taken off from work due to menopause symptoms, but less than a third who called out told anyone at work, and only 11% of them requested “workplace adjustments.”
A defining phase of life
Because menopause is so rarely discussed in the workplace in spite of its prevalence, your employees may often feel alone during this pivotal phase of life. Feelings of loss, shame, and isolation can prompt your employees to make drastic changes in response to their symptoms. A recent study found that nearly 1 million women in the U.K. quit their jobs because of menopausal symptoms, indicating the significant role this experience plays in the lives of your employees.
How to support menopausal employees
As research into menopause continues, it’s clear that it’s an unmet need of great importance in every organization. Employers can support menopause in the workplace in three ways:
1. Reducing stigma
The most important thing employers can do is reduce the stigma around menopause. Training managers how to talk to employees about their symptoms, creating ERGs for women’s health issues, and providing educational resources that are privately accessible can go a long way toward building an age-inclusive culture.
2. Building an age-inclusive workplace
Consider making common-sense adjustments to office spaces such as improving climate control or offering fans or portable A/C units. These efforts can help employees manage their symptoms while demonstrating your commitment to supporting them. Similarly, offering paid leave or expanding sick day usage to include menopausal symptoms can help employees take time off comfortably.
3. Providing access to specialty care
Because symptoms can be so diverse, and providers often feel untrained or unprepared to treat menopause, many of your employees will need access to specialty care providers like reproductive endocrinologists or mental health specialists. Rather than going through the complicated loop of referrals and waitlists, adding a virtual-care benefit for women’s and family health can help your employees get the support they need.
Maven can help support your age-inclusive health benefits
Maven is the complete digital family health platform for payers and employers seeking to provide more inclusive, cost-effective care to women and families. By offering members high-touch care navigation, specialized care teams, and evidence-based care management programs, Maven delivers the right care at the right time, all within a seamless virtual experience. To learn more, contact us today.
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