Tag Archives: workplaces

Workplaces ‘should cater for menopause as they do for pregnancy’

Workplaces should start catering for the menopause in a comparable way to pregnancy, according to one of Britain’s leading women’s health experts.

Myra Hunter, emeritus professor of clinical health psychology at King’s College London said that menopausal symptoms remained a “taboo issue” in many workplaces and, while policies to support pregnant women are now standard, there is still little awareness of the impact that the menopause can have on women who are often at the peak of their career.

“Often there’s a will to address this among managers, but they just don’t know how to talk about it,” said Hunter. “Women want it to be raised if appropriate. They don’t want to be treated as ill, they just want some understanding and awareness of it.”

The call comes as Hunter and colleagues publish the results of one of the first major studies looking at how symptoms such as hot flushes affect women at work. The study, which tracked 124 female employees in the public and private sectors, found that such symptoms could have a significant impact, but that following a simple programme of cognitive behavioural therapy, delivered via a self-help booklet, hugely reduced the degree to which women felt their symptoms were problematic.

The menopause occurs at the age of 51 years, on average, and the way women experience this transition can vary a lot. About 80% of women experience some hot flushes and night sweats and for 20 to 30% these symptoms are severe enough to have a significant impact on quality of life. Some women also report tiredness, “brain fog”, mood swings and loss of confidence. For some women, the transition period lasts just a few years and in others it can last a decade.

There is no strong evidence that the menopause causes women to leave jobs in large numbers or that it has a negative impact on professional performance. “The evidence we’ve got from surveys, it’s subjective, but it suggests that women might over-compensate,” said Hunter.

The trial recruited 124 women who were struggling with their symptoms (the women experienced 56 flushes on average each week). Half the women were provided with a self-help booklet that provided guidance on how to cope with work stress, how to discuss the menopause at work and which challenged negative stereotypes associated with the menopause, such as “being past it”.

The booklet also set women cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) exercises, in which they were asked to write down the thoughts they have during hot flushes, for instance, and then challenge these beliefs.

“If a woman has a hot flush half the anxiety is about how people see her,” said Hunter. “There’s embarrassment and anxiety about being joked about and a big concept is hiding symptoms in fear of being ridiculed.”

“Really, we shouldn’t feel like that and when women verbalise it, it does appear ridiculous,” she added.

Women who were given the booklet reported a noticeable reduction in both their symptoms and how problematic they were. When they were followed up after five months, the number of hot flushes they experienced was reduced by one third, they reported better quality sleep and viewed their symptoms more neutrally. In interviews after the trial, 82% said the intervention had reduced the impact of their symptoms and 37% had spoken about their menopause to their line manager.

Kathy Abernethy, chair of the British Menopause Society and a specialist nurse, welcomed the work, saying that a social shift was underway with people generally becoming more open about discussing the menopause.

This trend, she said, has been partly driven by celebrities who “have decided that it’s not something embarrassing to talk about”. Far more women in their 50s are also in work than in the past. According to the Department for Work and Pensions, the proportion of women aged 50 to 64 with jobs has risen by more than 50% in the past 30 years.

“Women simply want to know workplaces are taking it seriously,” Abernethy added. “Awareness is a key thing. If managers are aware of the menopause it means the whole thing becomes a non-issue, like pregnancy.”

Tina Weaver, CEO of the charity Wellbeing of Women, which funded the research, said the study offered practical and accessible interventions to help women. “It’s alarming so many women suffer from these debilitating symptoms and feel so unsupported during the menopause that they drop out of the work force,” she said. “This natural process has been overlooked and considered a taboo for too long.”

The findings are published in the journal Menopause.

‘Some days I felt like I needed a badge saying “Stand clear: menopausal woman approaching!”’

Angela Bonnett

Angela Bonnett found professional skills that she’d come to take for granted suddenly foundering during the menopause. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

Angela Bonnett, 57, had a successful career in finance and by her early 50s was a senior project manager at a well-known financial institution in the City. “I’d spent 30 years being an excellent performer at the top of my tree,” she said.

Five years ago, she entered the menopause and found professional skills that she’d come to take for granted – her razor sharp memory and a cool disposition – suddenly foundering. “I felt all those things were falling away,” Bonnett said.

She experienced hot flushes in meetings, night sweats that disturbed her sleep, sudden mood swings, problems concentrating and irritation. “Everything that you’ve ever read about the menopause seemed to happen to some degree,” she said. “Some days I felt like I needed a badge saying ‘Stand clear: menopausal woman approaching!’”

In work, she noticed herself making careless mistakes, struggling to recall names or conversations she’d had a day earlier – “things that were just alien to me”.

She took detailed notes to prompt her memory and worked harder to compensate for tiredness. She began wearing layered clothes so she could “quickly disrobe” when she was hit by a hot flush in a meeting and took to carrying a fan she had picked up on holiday in Spain.

“Initially I had some reservations that people would know why I’m doing this,” she said. “But in the end I thought, either I’m going to explode or I need to cool down.”

As a rule, Bonnett did not share personal problems at work. “I prefer to keep the two separate,” she said. And the menopause felt like a particularly personal experience. “Whether you want someone to know your periods have stopped – it’s quite core to who you are.”

Angela Bonnett

Bonnett said that having support at work made dealing with the menopause easier. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

However, when she found herself snapping at a colleague – a reaction that was completely out of character – she decided she needed to raise the issue with her manager.

“Previously I’d been quite sensitive in situations at work, but from nowhere there would come a really sharp, nasty response to people that made the whole room gasp,” she recalled.

The lack of an established protocol made raising the issue at work feel potentially awkward. Eventually she emailed her line manager, a man in his mid-30s, with a newspaper article in which a high level lawyer described the challenges she’d faced at work due to menopausal symptoms. “This allowed me to introduce the subject using outside information and explain what I was going through,” she said.

Bonnett says her boss was not unwilling to help, he was simply oblivious. “It was an education for him. He said ‘I had no idea you were going through this’. I said ‘It’s because I’ve been working extra hard to make sure I carry on performing’.”

Once aware of her situation, Bonnett’s manager was understanding and reassured her that she should feel free to come in late or leave earlier, if she needed to. The message was: whatever you need to do to cope, that’s fine.

“Just having that reassurance made it a lot easier,” Bonnett said. “I didn’t need to do any of those things, but knowing he knew was sufficient and removed a lot of the anxiety.”

Beyondblue survey finds construction internet sites are mentally wholesome workplaces

They may possibly look rough and ready but development internet sites are amid Australia’s most caring locations to function.

Which is according to a national survey carried out by the psychological health charity beyondblue.

It found building staff are the most very likely to say they work in a mentally wholesome environment.

The least probably are agriculture and public administration employees.

Geographically, workplaces in Western Australia are the most mentally healthy and individuals in Queensland the least.

The investigation was released on Monday to mark the launch of headsup.org.au, a cost-free on-line guide businesses can use to generate their personal psychological overall health plan.

It also also discovered that all around 50% of employees do not believe they perform in a mentally healthier environment and 1 in 5 had taken time off work in the past twelve months since they felt mentally unwell.

Supportive and caring managers and versatile operating hrs are crucial attributes of a mentally wholesome workplace, in accordance to beyondblue.

These organisations also motivate employees to get lunch breaks, prevent discrimination and have help programs.

Many employers do not realise they can reduce absenteeism and improve productivity by improving psychological well being, says beyondblue’s chairman, Jeff Kennett.

“Employers not only have a overall health and safety obligation to supply great psychological wellness in the workplace but also a moral obligation to support their employees who usually spend far more time at function than anyplace else.”

He mentioned the on-line manual could support organizations of all sizes with sensible advice on how to set up a psychological wellness strategy.