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Desk Fans? Lighter Uniforms?

What offices could do for menopausal employees

Menopausal Employees Desk Fans

Henrik Sorensen/Getty Images

The number of older females in the U.S. workforce is expected to jump to 31 million by 2018.

With a growing number of older women in the workforce, offices need to take measures to make menopausal females feel as comfortable as possible, a new government report has urged.

These measures include providing more access to desk fans and good ventilation, quiet places to rest, nonsynthetic or lighter uniforms, more natural light and cold-water fountains, in addition to special policies allowing for time off when needed.

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Although the report comes from the Government Equalities Office in Britain — where the biggest jump in employment rates since the early 1990s has been among women in their 40s — the number of older females in America’s workforce also has been climbing.

Indeed, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, by 2024, there will be twice as many older female workers (age 55 and older) than there are working women ages 16 to 24. In 2012, nearly 27 million women ages 45 to 64 made up nearly 20 percent of the U.S. workforce, a number expected to jump to 31 million women by 2018.

For some women, menopause is scarcely a blip on the road through midlife. But for others, symptoms are so severe they can wreak havoc both emotionally and physically for 10 years or longer.

In addition to hot flashes and night sweats, women going through menopause may also suffer from insomnia, headaches, brain fogginess, dry skin and eyes, depression and an overall lack of energy.

The British report noted that menopausal women in stressful office settings could experience spikes in these symptoms when faced with the daily angst associated with mounting deadlines and work meetings.

Mary Ann Lumsden, professor of gynecology at the University of Glasgow and past president of the British Menopause Society, told the Telegraph that a lot of women are at the peak of their careers when menopause hits and that it can be extremely debilitating.

“I think women are embarrassed or unwilling to talk about it, which has led to a culture where it isn’t discussed,” she said. “Workplaces should be offering options like desk fans and lighter uniforms, which women can choose to discreetly use if they wish.”

In late 2015, the European Menopause and Andropause Society also recommended that employers provide desk fans, air conditioning and cold drinking water for menopausal employees, and flexible work schedules for those with sleep issues. Some 61 percent of postmenopausal women say they suffer from frequent insomnia.

Despite all the recommendations that employers recognize how disruptive menopause can be for their female employees, it’s not clear how many companies actually do make any special accommodations for those going through it.

“With 50 million menopausal women in Canada and the United States at any given time, I think it wise and prudent for human resources departments to address and support this sector of the workforce,” Donna Faye Randall, author of Menopause or Lunacy … That Is the Question, told the Society for Human Resource Management. “If your workplace has a strict dress code that demands business attire that includes suits and pantyhose, exceptions should be made, especially in hot weather.”

She also said that information on menopause should be placed in employee cafeterias so that women feel more comfortable broaching the subject with their bosses.

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