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What to do when menopause impacts your work, according to an HR expert

From adjusted hours to a change in uniform, there's a lot you can do

menopause career© Photo: iStock
Melanie Macleod
Wellness Editor
October 18, 2022
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When you're at the top of your game in your career, acing every project and presentation that comes your way, perimenopause can throw a real spanner in the works.

MORE: Why can't I sleep during menopause: the real reason

Gone are the sparkling ideas and inspired initiatives, and in their place are brain fog, hot flushes and irritability.

WATCH: Davina McCall urges her followers to go to the GP

Trust us when we say you're not alone if you feel perimenopause has had an impact on your work. "A huge number of people leave their job because of their perimenopause symptoms," says hormone specialist Dr. Sohere Roked. "I've seen many patients where this has happened."

READ: Penny Lancaster makes impassioned plea over 'devastating' health issue

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Dr. Sohere is right; a study of 4,000 women by Reference showed that 1 in 10 left their jobs due to their perimenopause, and even high-profile people including The Apprentice star Karren Brady and royal family member Sophie Wessex have spoken openly about how perimenopause impacted their working life.

Menopause leave is unfortunately not a thing in the UK (yet! We're working on it…), but there are ways to make your working life more comfortable when you're going through perimenopause – and there's no need to leave a career you love.

How can perimenopause impact your career?

"If you're in the throes of perimenopause, you'll know that it can affect sleep, focus and concentration and mood, all of which could impact your work if you're tired, or feeling foggy," says Dr. Sohere.

Perimenopause can also cause a spike in anxiety, which is difficult to cope with at work, especially if you need to lead presentations or meetings.

If you're experiencing brain fog, one of the most common symptoms of perimenopause, you might find tasks that are usually a doddle are suddenly a slog, or you could feel yourself zoning out during important meetings.

Chatting about her experience of perimenopause in the workplace, the Countess of Wessex, 57, said: "You suddenly can't remember what on earth it was you were talking about."

Speaking of her role as a working royal, she said: "Try being on an engagement when that happens. Your words just go. And you're standing there going, 'Hang on, I thought I was a reasonably intelligent person'. What has just happened to me?"

How to navigate perimenopause in the workplace

Thankfully, most of us don't have the eyes of the world on us at work, as Sophie does. But menopause has long been a hush-hush subject and uncomfortable to chat about at work.

Luckily the tides are turning, and being open about your experience is the first piece of advice that Dr. Sohere has when it comes to navigating your career during perimenopause.

1. Talk to your line manager

"Having an open conversation with work will help your colleagues or boss understand you're not feeling your best and that it may impact your work," she said.

HR professional Anna Whitehead agrees: "Being open about your perimenopause symptoms will allow your line manager to consider temporary adjustments to your role that will support you."

"If people understand you're being impacted by physiological changes perhaps there’s scope for working more flexibility, changing your hours, or doing different activities in the workplace," adds Dr. Sohere.

2. Explain *exactly* how perimenopause is impacting your work

Perimenopause impacts everyone differently, so make sure you're clear on how it's impacting you, be it feeling too hot in the office, struggling to maintain concentration in meetings or experiencing tiredness after a bad night's sleep.

"It’s helpful to explain how perimenopause is affecting you personally, whether that’s lack of sleep, poor focus or irritability in meetings," confirms Dr. Sohere.

3. Explain adjustments you need

"Everyone experiences perimenopause differently so the adjustments will vary with each individual," Anna explains.

"Explain what help you’re seeking and also state what would make your working life more comfortable, perhaps working from home some days or delegating some of your tasks for now," Dr. Sohere suggests.

Employers have a duty of care to consider requests for adjustments at work, says Anna. "You can also ask your GP to provide a fit-note that suggests adjustments at work that will help you. This can be very helpful for you and your line manager if you are uncertain about what will support you.

"The types of support could be a fan or move desks to sit in a cooler area, adjustments to uniform requirements, splitting a colleague's lunch break so that you can take regular smaller breaks outside to keep energy levels up, temporary adjustments to working hours and flexibility to attend more frequent GP appointments. Permanent adjustments to working hours would be made through your company's flexible working policy," Anna advises.


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