Dealing with menopause at work: “You put your barriers up”

  • Occupational health
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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

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For too long, fear of speaking about menopause has left workers feeling they have to suffer in silence, or even quit their job.

That’s why, through World Menopause Month, we’re shaking off the stigma around sharing symptoms. Because when people speak out, more people feel empowered to ask for the support they need.

To kick things off, we spoke to Lorna, a HR consultant here at Peninsula. She discusses how menopause affects her and what she thinks every manager should be doing to support their staff…

How long have you been dealing with menopause?

“I was first diagnosed with endometriosis after an operation when I was nineteen. So since then I've actually had four chemical menopauses.

What that means is I'm giving injections every month to induce a state of menopause. While I'm having the treatment, it stops endometriosis symptoms. But instead, I’m dealing with symptoms of menopause.

For me, it's been constant from a very early age.”

What kind of symptoms do you experience?

“The hot flushes straight away. That’s the first thing you notice.

And complete intolerance for me, it’s as though the walls go up and you’re closed off from everybody. You put your barriers up.

And I think there's that feeling that I’m the only one who knows what I'm going through. So I might as well cut everybody else off. Afterwards, there’s the realisation that you can't go it alone and you do need your family and your friends.”

How does Peninsula support you at work?

“Because of the discomfort that I face, I have a specially adapted chair and a standing desk. I also have Bluetooth headphones so that I can move around and still talk to my clients and colleagues.

And when symptoms get tough, I take either longer or more frequent comfort breaks.

Working from home helps because I’ve not got that intensity of relationships around me. I’m in constant communication with the office, but I can purely focus on the work – I’m not getting caught up in the personal and emotional aspect of it.

But I think the most important thing for me is that my managers know that sometimes I might just need a chat.”

And how does that conversation go?

“It's always been a very open forum in terms of letting me take the floor.

I’ve worked for Peninsula for 10 years now, and with all the managers I've had, I've always been very open to discussing the issues that I’ve faced.

I've heard people say over the years ‘gosh, I've got a male manager’, or ‘I've got a really young manager. How do you approach the conversation?’ But I’ve never had a problem at all.

I've had quite a few male managers, and I've never had a problem talking to them because they've never had a problem talking to me.

They understand that there are days I just want to focus on my work and not think about the bigger picture. But other days, they pick up on the signs where I might need to offload a little bit.”

What do you think all managers should do to help their staff?

“I think appreciating that womens’ health issues – gynaecology, endometriosis, right down to miscarriage, baby loss, and fertility issues – they should all be more openly discussed, because people need that support.

I think managers should have some level of mandatory training in being able to recognise when employees might need the support.

Also, people should realise that it's not just a few hot flushes when you turn 50. Women can start suffering very young.”

Watch Peninsula continue the conversation…

To reduce the stigma around menopause, Peninsula teamed up with the British Menopause Society to participate in a recent ITN programme: “Menopause: Continuing the Conversation”.

In the programme, three more Peninsula employees shared their experience of dealing with menopause.

You can watch the feature in full here

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