Destigmatizing menopause has been a hot topic in 2023 and is a trend that will continue in the years ahead. Within recent years, it’s involved increasing awareness in the workplace about the menopause transition, the symptoms and the effects those symptoms can have on work and quality of life. Some employers are considering workplace changes with a goal of retaining experienced women, addressing symptoms that impact productivity and creating an inclusive work environment.
About 20% of the workforce is in some stage of menopause transition, according to Let’s Talk Menopause. Nearly 11% of women age 45 to 60 reported missing work in the last 12 months due to symptoms like hot flashes and sleep disturbances, according to a study by the Mayo Clinic. The study estimated that menopause causes $1.8 billion in lost work time per year in the U.S. and highlighted an opportunity for employers to make the workplace environment more supportive for women going through this universal life stage.
Employers can ensure that employees experiencing the menopause life stage can continue to grow and succeed, which positively affects organizational culture and impacts business and the bottom line, Lana M. Saal, well-being innovator and chief executive officer of the VitHealthity Group, said during a webcast titled, “The Next Stage: Level-Up by Adding Menopause Benefits as a Creative Solution to Positively Impact Your Organization.”
Some employers are starting by offering education defining menopause, raising awareness of symptoms and helping to reduce stigma. Further steps include reviewing benefit offerings and seeking employee feedback.
What is menopause?
The menopause transition is a gradual three-stage process. A woman has reached menopause when she has not had a period for one year. Symptoms can start during the time leading up to menopause, usually affecting women in their late 30s to mid-40s, when the hormones responsible for reproduction begin to change, known as perimenopause. While menopause usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, it may occur as early as the 30s or as late as the 60s for a variety of reasons. Some women continue to experience menopause symptoms for a decade or longer after menopause, known as postmenopause.
What are menopause symptoms?
While not everyone will experience symptoms, there are more than 35 menopause-related symptoms that can be categorized as physical, emotional and cognitive. Some of the symptoms that could impact performance at work are hot flashes, anxiety, fatigue, sleep disturbances, brain fog and memory disturbances/word recall issues. Approximately 50% of women will experience mild to moderate symptoms and 25% are likely to suffer severe symptoms.
Nearly two-thirds of women say they want some kind of a menopause-related benefit, according to a Bank of America survey. Simply having a clear policy on menopause is the most common.
Employer considerations for menopause policies
A menopause policy could establish an employer’s commitment to ensuring the well-being of all employees. It could cover time off, flexibility, workplace adjustments, communication and more. The goals and elements of a policy may include:
- Intent to promote understanding of how menopause may affect people and work performance
- Open lines of communication and support from their managers, HR or other points of contact, while addressing confidentiality
- Description of paid time off, breaks and flexible work arrangements
- Examples of workplace adjustments (e.g., fans, modified uniforms, water stations, feminine hygiene supplies)
- Other types of support that are available, like employee resource groups (ERGs) that focus on women’s health.
Consider benefit offerings
Other benefits that women identified as desirable in the Bank of America survey included access to menopause health professionals, menopause awareness sessions and a lifestyle spending account (LSA) with approved use for menopause-related services.
A thorough review of benefits available could include the following.
- Medical benefits coverage (e.g., mental health, prescription drugs, pelvic floor physical therapy, gyno-urinary benefits, nutritional counseling, hormone replacement therapy)
- Access to providers in/out of network (e.g., virtual providers, endocrinologists, mental health professionals, sleep coaches, health coaches)
- EAP offerings (e.g., awareness sessions)
Listen and learn from others
There is no one-size-fits-all solution, as experiences and symptoms will vary, both in terms of the individual and over time. Because every menopause experience is going to be different, Saal recommended asking employees: What do they want or need? What helps them in their workspace? One idea is to provide a suggestion box as a listening tool for people who want to remain anonymous.
View the recorded webcast for more steps that employers can take to provide a supportive workplace for employees going through menopause, ultimately retaining experienced women and positively affecting organizational culture.