This past December, I made the decision to become an embedded contractor within a large health-system. This means instead of working mostly from home, I’m now heading into an office everyday. And, in that office is a sea of people working in “cubes.” And, within those sea of cubes…are whole bunch of women, many of who are between the ages of 40-60 years old.
So, what’s my point? For the second time in my career, I’m wondering how the wellness of a large group of my co-workers (and, myself) is affecting the overall culture and productivity of the organization. In my late 20’s and early 30’s, I thought about how the pregnant women I was working with and supervising were affecting the same thing. These days I (again) feel a lot of empathy and comradery. Again, why? It’s because I’m in the midst of perimenopause and suddenly surrounded by other women who are in the same stage of life. It’s a heck of a lot different than being pregnant!
I want to ask my co-workers so badly if they are sharing some of the same perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms as I am and now they are surviving. Take a look at the list of common symptoms:
- Sleep disturbances
- Memory loss
- Hot flushes
Those are some fairly serious symptoms to deal with when you are trying to hold down a job. Take it first hand from me. On any given day, I’m dealing with at least three out the six. It’s a wonder I’m functioning as well as I am! And, it’s just common sense that people can’t perform 100% went they aren’t feeling 100%.
I started pondering what can be done to help women who are suffering these symptoms and/or employ women in this category to keep performance high, along with retention. Here are some workplace practice tips that can be instituted:
- Give women some control over the temperature in their work environment. This can be as simple as placing a fan at their work desk. Being able to lower the temperature controls in their workspace can reduce the occurrence and intensity of hot flushes experienced.
- Provide information in your overall wellness education program to all staff about menopause and its symptoms, so support can be provided if needed.
- Offer flexible working hours for women to assist in better work practices.
- Create an environment that provides organizational support and workplace cultures that encourage people to be more supportive of the mature woman rather than allow stigmatism commonly associated with these women. Having a hot flush should be viewed as a natural occurrence, not a weakness.
- Open dialogue in the workplace. This can help alleviate any misconceptions and allow for greater harmony in the workplace, particularly if the woman is working in a male-dominated area, or a workplace with a higher proportion of younger colleagues.
These easy techniques and a greater understanding of the anxiety and stigma attached to perimenopausal and menopausal women allow for a more coherent workplace.
A woman experiencing perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms does not make her lesser of an employee. In fact, mature women (such as myself) more than balance out these issues with a proven record in the areas of experience, commitment, ambition, resilience and dependability. Look around the world today. There some pretty powerful women in this age space running things – Arianna Huffington, Oprah, Meg Witman, Indra K. Nooyi and Marissa Mayer (to name a few). Not a shabby list.
Take the opportunity this month as Heidi and I focus on wellness to think about how you can feel better at work. A few simple changes can potentially create a stress-free day. I’m all for that kind of day!