Menopause at work
The world of menopause and work are finally talking. Companies are introducing guidelines, running awareness sessions and educating leaders. Common reasonable adjustments recommended in the workplace include:
- USB desk fans to help mitigate hot flushes
- Quieter working spaces to help with poor concentration
- Employee Assistance Schemes for guidance with managing anxiety
What’s rarely mentioned however are the more intimate symptoms of menopause. After all who wants to talk about vaginas at work! Aside from the embarrassment factor why would it even be relevant?
How can vaginal dryness affect our working lives?
The reality is vaginal dryness isn’t restricted to the bedroom and can impact your ability to do your job as much hot flushes, memory loss and rising levels of anxiety. Additionally, unlike other symptoms which tend to fade post menopause vaginal dryness will get worse unless treated.
For many women the physical discomfort leads to avoidance of sex which can create tensions with partners. When your home life is strained it can affect your relationships at work too. Plus, the discomfort can be such that you can’t wear certain clothing or remain seated or standing for long periods of time. HRT or topical oestrogen can help reverse the effects very quickly or Sylk is an excellent natural option if you can’t or don’t want to use any form of HRT.
But what can you do if the irritation and discomfort means your work is suffering?
How do you talk vaginas with your boss?!
Well, here’s the thing: you don’t have to. If you need help the quickest way to get it is to ask but crucially you don’t need to divulge personal, intimate details to get that help. Use this simple conversation framework to bring about the best possible outcome for both you and your work.
Check to see what if anything your organisation already has in place with regards to menopause at work. What do the current guidelines or policy suggest you do if symptoms are impeding your ability to do your job as well as you’d like. Once you’ve done your homework book a time to talk with you manager.
Rehearse out loud what you’re going to say so when you have your meeting the words feel and sound natural. You can practice in the shower, in your car or out loud in front of the mirror. You could even do a mini role play with a trusted friend. This isn’t an easy conversation but you can make it easier by getting comfortable with what you want to say.
Consider what would help you and offer a solution. Explain you’re experiencing some discomfort due to menopause (no need to be anymore specific) and what would help is a larger uniform or moving to a different seat or more frequent breaks than you currently take. Did you know that once you’ve worked for an organisation for 26 weeks you’re entitled to request flexible working? Again, you don’t have to state why but be prepared to explain how you’ll still be able to get your job done.
Talk to others
Menopause isn’t an easy topic to discuss particularly the more personal details with regards to vaginal dryness, flooding or incontinence. However, these difficulties aren’t unusual, and you may find yourself better able to cope if you talk to others who are experiencing the same. So if you can’t face talking to your manager why not set up an informal menopause meet up at work with like-minded colleagues. You’ll soon benefit from the shared experiences, support, laughter and relief that you’re not alone.
Find out more
Julie Dennis is a Menopause Trainer and partners with organisations across the UK to introduce menopause as an inclusive topic, educate leaders and improve the experience of people working through menopause.