Mentl Logo


The Menopause

The challenge of attracting and retaining talent is faced by companies worldwide. Hiring new people is a time-consuming process, plus the cost of attrition is eye-wateringly high. Studies claim it costs upwards of a year’s salary to replace someone, with that amount rising significantly for c-suites.

A major factor, which isn’t getting the attention it deserves, is the link between menopause and workplace gender imbalance, writes Sharon James, UAE Menopause coach.

A recent report by Standard Chartered entitled Menopause in the Workplace: Impact on Women in Financial Services, found that many women either consider leaving their roles or are less likely to apply for promotion because of the menopause. The resulting skill gap is especially felt in more senior positions, where the right expertise is critical. As a result, change is needed to tackle these barriers and understand how better to support women in every stage of their careers.

While the Standard Chartered report focuses on the financial services sector, it gives a good indication of a much broader problem. To re-cap on some of the main findings:

  • 1 in 10 employees working in financial services are currently going through the menopause.
  • 50 percent of those experiencing the menopause are less likely to want to progress in their role.
  • 25 percent are more likely to retire early as a result.
  • Only 22 percent of those experiencing the menopause are open about it at work.
  • Difficulty sleeping, anxiety and problems with recall were cited among the most common symptoms.
Sharon James, UAE Menopause coach

How does menopause affect women at work?

There are many ways that menopause impacts motivation and performance. Concentration, memory problems, and brain fog are classic symptoms caused by natural hormonal fluctuations, namely lower oestrogen and testosterone. It can feel like you are losing your mind at times, which is a major blow and source of embarrassment if you’re in a demanding job.

Symptoms can be so intrusive that they erode confidence and women can often become less engaged, feel guilty about letting colleagues down, dissatisfied with their job performance, and reluctant to commit to certain projects.

All of the above gets compounded further by a culture of silence. As such, very few women disclose the real reasons for their absence or changes to their behaviour because they’re ashamed to ask for help. There is also a very real fear that admitting to menopause struggles might throw their abilities into question, reduce chances of promotion, and even cost them their job.

Thankfully, more organisations are paying attention to the problem. They realise that if they handle menopause sensitively, it helps to reduce absenteeism and keeps professional experienced women in the workplace.

What can you do as an employer?

Employers should be supporting menopausal women as part of a holistic approach to health and wellbeing. Implementing a simple menopause policy is a great start. However, it’s important to remember that every woman’s menopause is different; some have mild symptoms others endure them for several years. Ask questions, listen carefully, and be prepared to tailor any support.

Small steps can make a big difference, for example:

  • Menopause awareness training helps all employees understand the basic issues that can arise and how they can help.
  • If you have an intranet, create a women’s wellness page (alongside other well-being content) with information on the causes, symptoms, treatments and coping strategies. Also include links to further medical advice.
  • Give employees time and space to meet with others to share experiences, swap suggestions, and raise any issues for employers.
  • Offer the flexibility to move desksand review temperature and ventilation to see if people need their immediate environment adapting.
  • Consider flexible working hours or shift changes. If sleep is being disturbed, later start times are helpful.
  • Provide desktop fans and access to cold drinks.
  • Allow flexibility within working hours to take a break, get some quiet time or go for a walk.
  • Consider whether heavy, cumbersome uniforms might be contributing to symptoms like hot flushes, especially in a climate like the UAE.

Strategies for women

It’s a personal choice if you want to discuss your situation and symptoms. That said, encouraging open and honest dialogue about a topic that affects everyone in one way or another (men and women) really is the only way we’ll make progress. Speaking up is also crucial to secure the support you need. By starting the conversation, you may also be helping other women who are experiencing the same challenges. Consider some of the following strategies:

  • Request a meeting with your manager or HR representative. This is your chance to outline symptoms and request changes to your daily working routine if necessary.
  • Have a few concrete examples of how your symptoms might be affecting your work and what could be exacerbating them.
  • Avoid early morning meetings if you are suffering from insomnia.
  • Don’t have back-to-back meetings, give yourself a break, time to breath, and refocus your thoughts.
  • Keep work diary on your phone and set reminders for important things.
  • Prepare some note cards in advance for meetings. Post-It notes are also useful for your desk.
  • Take lunch breaks and only use the time to eat and relax.
  • Plan up your day according to when you function better. You might want to tackle big projects in the mornings if you feel your energy and concentration are highest.
  • Quick relaxation exercises can help improve concentration and reduce stress in the afternoons.
  • Think about lifestyle changes which might alleviate some of your symptoms, such as exercise, healthy eating, avoiding caffeine and alcohol.
  • Some people find CBT very effective to combat anxiety and low mood.

Ultimately, companies should be responsible for protecting their staff’s wellbeing, which comes from the top down. Everyone needs to feel seen and heard, and that’s why open conversation is key to breaking down the stigma. We should acknowledge that menopause is a thing, but it doesn’t have to be a ‘big thing’ when women have the support and understanding they deserve.