Key Takeaways

  • There is a widespread lack of support and understanding about menopause in the workplace.

  • Managing menopause symptoms at work is an important first step.

  • Opening up about menopause and having constructive conversations with your co-workers and your boss can help.

Menopause has traditionally been associated with the classic discomforts of night sweats, sleep deprivation, and muddled thinking. But it has deeper repercussions for both our personal and professional lives. And there is a startling lack of support and understanding about menopause in the workplace.

In a survey of over 1,000 working women my team and I undertook in 2017:

  • 80% reported suffering moderate to severe menopausal symptoms
  • 50% of respondents said menopause had caused stress and strain on their close relationships
  • 60% reported lower self-esteem and a dip in confidence

The survey found that despite women having more freedom and disposable income at midlife than previous generations, lack of knowledge about and effective treatment for menopause was draining them of money, happiness, and productivity:

  • 84% of respondents said their productivity at work was reduced
  • 75% felt their productivity was reduced for more than a week every month. Surprisingly, only 20% of the respondents took any time off work to deal with the symptoms.

In an Irish Congress of Trade Unions study published in 2018, 78% of women surveyed said they avoided disclosing menopause symptoms to their managers. When asked the reasons, 67% expressed concern that managers would link their situation to their performance at work, and 35% cited embarrassment.1 The study's authors argue that there is a robust business case for employer intervention to support women in menopause, as few companies offer any such support.

Many women leave the workplace because of menopause symptoms, and a much greater number consider doing so at some point. The cost in lost productivity and talent is massive, and the stresses associated with trying to continue performing at a high level when feeling subpar compound the physical, cognitive, and emotional symptoms of menopause.2

Lifting the taboo on menopause is important, giving women permission to own up to being menopausal and get support.

The next step is to provide constructive help to women in the workplace, so that instead of being dismissed as erratic and whiny during menopause, they are provided with science-based tools to overcome their symptoms. With this in mind my team and I have already started working with companies to offer workplace programs that help women to understand what’s going on in their bodies and how to overcome symptoms.

The program also focuses on helping men, as colleagues and managers, better understand what happens at menopause so they can be supportive. Our surveys show that women shy away from opening up about menopause in the workplace, so we are encouraging them to follow a strategy to increase understanding and get support.

How to manage menopause symptoms at work

An important part of that workplace strategy is to take care of yourself. Ways to help manage your menopause symptoms:

  • Give yourself plenty of time. Rushing because you are late or short of time is likely to bring on hot flashes.
  • Stay hydrated. Have cool water on hand, and drink some as soon as you feel a hot flash coming on. Consider using an insulated cup to keep the water cool.
  • Keep wet wipes in your bag and desk drawer, and have a portable fan available to help cool yourself down.
  • Layer your clothing so you can peel off as needed while still looking professional.
  • Keep calm. If you feel stressed, focus on breathing slowly and taking a moment to regroup.
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks, and let hot drinks cool before drinking them, so that you minimize hot flashes.
  • Stay nourished. Consume wholesome, foods and snacks such as fruits and vegetables that are rich in phytonutrients.
  • Communicate with your managers and colleagues about what you’re experiencing. That way you get increased support and understanding while you recover.
  • Do at least one session of formal relaxation each day to help reduce work stress.

How to talk to your boss about menopause

The time has clearly come to raise employer awareness and establish better workplace support systems. Meanwhile, the first step is for women to start the conversation themselves.

You may feel awkward, embarrassed, and anxious about being taken seriously. It's often hard enough talking about symptoms to your doctor, friends, and family, let alone your manager. But remember, your manager and colleagues want you to be at your best at work, so take a deep breath and get talking. 

Menopause is a natural transition in life, and you deserve to be listened to.

Here's how to plan for and start the conversation.

  • Document your situation: Keep a diary of your menopause symptoms, how they're affecting you at work, and what you're doing to manage them.
  • Focus on solutions: How would you like your manager to support you? Think about any practical and reasonable adjustments that would help. Could you work from home or come in to work later some days if poor sleep is an issue? If the temperature in your office is making hot flashes worse, could you have a fan or move to a desk near an air-conditioning uint or a window you can open?
  • Check out available support: Does your employer have a menopause policy? If not, what support is already available? Look at existing policies on sick leave, disability, and flexible working policies. Your employer may also offer an employee assistance program, which can provide access to counseling services to help with symptoms like anxiety.
  • Schedule a meeting: This means you'll have the time to talk, ideally in a private place.
  • Prepare: This is probably not going to be the easiest workplace conversation you have had, so it's important to plan. You could even role-play with a trusted friend. Going for a walk before the meeting may help you relax. Think about how you are going to approach the subject.
  • Describe the problem: In the meeting, explain carefully how your symptoms are affecting you. For example, disturbed sleep is making it hard for you to think clearly; fear of an embarrassing hot flash makes you anxious during meetings; or you're experiencing a lack of focus and concentration that makes it harder for you to make decisions.
  • Offer solutions: Explain that this is a transition for you, and describe constructive steps you're taking to overcome your symptoms. 
  • Follow up: At the end of the meeting, put a time on the calendar to meet again, whether that's to agree to a way forward, monitor progress, or give an update.
  • Be patient: Don't expect an immediate answer. Your boss may not be well-informed about menopause or how best to support you. Allow them time to digest what you've talked about and possibly seek advice from your employer's human resources or occupational health staff.
  • Be professional: Above all, remember this is just two professional people having a conversation. It's in everyone's best interests to find a good solution.

How to talk to your co-workers about menopause

Opening up and talking about menopause with colleagues can open avenues of support in the workplace. 

  • Choose a time: You may prefer to have a one-on-one conversation or to talk with a couple of colleagues at a time. Do what feels most comfortable to you.
  • Be honest: Colleagues may have noticed you are not your usual self, so explain how you are feeling and how menopause symptoms are affecting your work and moods.
  • Explain your symptoms: Co-workers may not know much about symptoms of menopause, to explain the causes and triggers, and talk frankly. They may be able to help. For example, if you find your work environment too hot, one of your co-workers may be sitting in a cooler area of the office and be happy to swap.
  • Put them at their ease: Encourage your colleagues to ask questions about menopause. Once they have the answers, they may be more understanding and supportive.
  • Show appreciation: Thank your co-workers for their time and support. And let them know that if they want to talk more, you are always open to the conversation.

This is the fourth article in a series by menopause expert Maryon Stewart.

Excerpted from the book Manage Your Menopause Naturally. Copyright ©2020 by Maryon Stewart. Printed with permission from New World Library—

Maryon Stewart is the author of Manage Your Menopause Naturally and 27 other books. A world-renowned health care expert, she has helped tens of thousands of women around the world overcome PMS and menopause symptoms without using drugs or hormones. Visit her online at


1. Irish Congress of Trade Unions Northern Ireland Committee.  How does the menopause affect women in the workplace? September 2018. Found on the internet at

2. Daniela Converso, et al. The relationship between menopausal symptoms and burnout. A cross-sectional study among nurses. BMC Women's Health. Nov. 27, 2019. Found on the internet at