The Menopause

6 surprising ways that the menopause can impact your career

Menopause symptoms can be tricky to manage at the best of times, but navigating hot flushes, mood swings, and brain fog in the workplace can make you feel isolated – even if you’re lucky enough to have a supportive employer.

Menopause symptoms can be wide-ranging and unfortunately many employers lack awareness about the menopause and how it can affect their employees. This leads to many women struggling in their careers, and not receiving the appropriate support during this trying transition.

Here we reveal some of the surprising ways menopause can impact women in the workplace, and share our advice for seeking support.

6 surprising ways that the menopause can impact your career

According to a study instigated by the Mayo Clinic Health System, women who experience menopausal symptoms in the workplace often struggle with productivity. Further research also showed that a large number of menopausal women take an increased number of sick days – presumably to manage their symptoms.

Common menopausal symptoms that affect women at work include brain fog, fatigue and mood swings. However, other less well-known menopause symptoms can impact productivity and concentration, too.

You might start developing an allergy to the office

Sneezing every time you sit at your desk? It might not be that you’ve developed an allergy to your colleague’s perfume and more likely that you’re experiencing a menopausal symptom.

Itching, sneezing, and coughing can all be related to hormonal changes during midlife. Many people don’t know that the menopause can cause hay fever, as fluctuating levels of oestrogen cause the body to produce more histamine than normal.

Your hearing might be affected

Research from the journal, Menopause, has shown that low oestrogen levels can impair hearing. If you’re suddenly finding it hard to hear what your boss is saying, it might be because your hormones are affecting your hearing.

You can feel achy

If you work an office job or you’re on your feet a lot, then feeling stiff by the end of the day probably isn’t anything unusual. However, continual feelings of achiness can be a symptom of the menopause.

According to the NHS, falling oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone can all have a significant impact on the bones, muscles and soft tissues of the body, which is why, for some midlife women, simply going to work can feel like they’ve run a marathon by the end of the day.

It can affect your confidence

Many women find that low mood and anxiety cause a confidence crisis during the menopause. One study from the British Menopause Society found that 45% of women felt that menopausal symptoms harmed their work efforts and over 33% of women felt less self-confident in social situations.

Sudden weight gain (another unfortunate side-effect of plummeting hormones) can also cause some women to feel less self-assured.

You might decide you want a change

Change doesn’t always have to be negative. The menopause can cause a lot of women to take stock and reassess what they want from life. This could look like a career change or requesting flexible working and switching from a full-time role to a part-time one to spend more time with your family or pursue hobbies.

You might feel forgetful

It’s no secret that a lack of sleep can impact your memory, but research from Harvard Health shows that forgetfulness for women in midlife is often caused by the menopause. Researchers think one of the reasons is because menopause lowers levels of glucose in the brain (the primary fuel source for our brain cells), which impacts the part of our brain used for memory retention.

How to talk to your employer about your menopause symptoms

“The first thing to do is to get a list of all the menopausal symptoms,” says Kate Usher, a menopause coach who specialises in menopause support in the workplace.

“It might surprise you how many and how diverse they are. Next, identify which symptoms are having the greatest impact. This is a helpful pointer to what you need to focus on first. It also gives you an explanation for why you have been feeling out of sorts for the last few weeks, months or even years.

“The power in this process is getting a clear picture of the complexity of your experience, even at this early stage.”

Advice from the Menopause Charity states: ‘If menopause symptoms are affecting your work, the first step is to talk to your line manager. If your organisation supports flexible working, a later start might help if you’re having trouble sleeping, or you may find that you’re more comfortable working from home.’

It’s also worth asking if your employer has a menopause policy in place, as this can offer some guidance on how to get better support.

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