Menopause, defined as the cessation of menstrual cycles, is a naturally-occurring 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 with age-inclusive workplace and menopause policies.
Studies suggest that 11% of people experiencing menopause miss work due to symptoms, contributing to global productivity losses due to menopause of $150 billion a year. And one in 10 women quit their job altogether due to menopause symptoms, shortening the career span of many employees in leadership positions.
How can companies better support menopausal employees? By building an age-inclusive workplace culture with benefits to match.
What is menopause and how is it treated?
A person enters menopause when they've gone 12 months without a 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 therapy, 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.
Vasomotor menopause symptoms
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 have 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 one 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.
What are menopause work benefits?
To better support employees as they navigate perimenopause and menopause, companies have begun offering menopause-specific benefits to support their employees during this transition. Some of the common menopause work benefits may include:
- Flexible working arrangements: This can include working from home, part-time work, or adjusted hours, which can help people manage their symptoms and reduce stress.
- Menopause education and support: Many companies provide online, clinically-vetted resources to help employees better understand their symptoms and how to manage them effectively. Online classes and community groups can also provide employees with the tools needed to advocate for themselves during menopause.
- Access to virtual healthcare services: Some companies provide on-demand, virtual access to providers who can support employees as they navigate menopause.
- Mental health support: Menopause can be a challenging time emotionally, and companies can provide access to mental health providers to help guide employees through this change.
How to create workplace policies to support employees experiencing menopausal symptoms
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 and mental health support
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.
4. Create space for employees to discuss their experiences
Menopause often impacts employees at the height of their careers, and there can be days when symptoms feel debilitating. Creating a space where employees feel safe and empowered to share their experiences—and ask for help—can make a difference.
Offering employees access to online or in-person support groups and training managers to handle conversations around menopause can be a lifeline to employees as they balance work and menopause.
How companies benefit from offering menopause policies and support
When done well, menopause policies can benefit both employees and their employers. By offering menopause-specific benefits like flexible working arrangements, virtual menopause care, and mental health support, companies can help employees better manage their symptoms at home and at work.
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.
Maven is the only platform with the range of trained specialists needed to support women through every area impacted by menopause - emotional, physical, personal, and professional. Diverse specialists are available 24/7/365 to help members understand and address symptoms including OB-GYNs, mental health specialists, nutritionists, wellness coaches, career coaches, sex coaches and more.
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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