Menopause in the workplace

The University recognises that menopause can affect people in many different ways: the effects may be mild or severe, and may be temporary or long-term.  We seek to offer a positive, open and supportive work environment where staff and their colleagues and managers are well-informed about how menopause can affect people in the workplace, so that those who are experiencing negative effects of menopause feel able to ask for, and receive, the support they need to continue to thrive here at all stages of life.

These webpages set out the University’s guidance for staff and for line managers who support them.  They offer case studies and signpost sources of information, training and support (both external and internal).




What is the menopause?

The menopause is a natural stage of life which affects around half of the population. It is when menstruation stops and can affect:

  • women
  • trans people – 'trans' is an umbrella term used to describe people whose gender is not the same as the sex they were assigned at birth
  • non-binary people
  • intersex people/ people with differences in sex development

The menopause usually happens between 45 and 55 years of age and the average age of menopause in the UK is 51 but it can also happen later in someone's life, or earlier.   An early menopause may occur naturally at any age as a result of Premature Ovarian insufficiency or may be caused by illness and/or medical treatment.  


Menopause is when menstruation stops permanently.

Perimenopause is the period of months or years before menopause, when the reduction in the hormone oestrogen may cause a variety of symptoms. 

Postmenopause is defined as the time 12 months after the last menstrual period.

For simplicity, the guidance refers to ‘menopause’ to cover all of these.

Why is it important? 

All stages and types of the menopause are different and symptoms can vary from person to person, and range from very mild to severe and can also fluctuate. For many people symptoms last about 4 years, but in some cases symptoms can last a lot longer. Managing the effects of the menopause at work is therefore important for both employers and their staff.

Until recently menopausal symptoms were generally considered to be simply hot flushes and mood swings.  Whilst these can be difficult enough to manage in the workplace, it is now recognised that many other symptoms may be attributable to menopause.  Some of these symptoms can impact on ability to function effectively at work, including:

  • Anxiety or low mood
  • Difficulty concentrating (often referred to as brain fog) and memory problems
  • Night sweats and difficulty sleeping
  • Aching joints
  • Palpitations

In some cases women don’t realise that their symptoms might be menopause-related, or that support or treatments are available which can alleviate symptoms. Raising awareness and signposting for individuals and managers to external sources of information and guidance is therefore critical.

You can find out more about symptoms of menopause on the NHS webpages. 

What can I do?

There are a range of workplace adaptations that can be considered which might help someone who is experiencing symptoms of menopause which are negatively impacting on them at work. Please see the guidance tab for further guidance for line managers and staff about practical support. The resources tab has further information, including online training courses and signposting to support webpages and networks. 

What about other women's health issues?

There are many other women's health issues which might similarly negatively affect individuals in the workplace.  These include painful and/or heavy periods, other effects of hormonal fluctuations associated with the menstrual cycle, endometriosis, and many others.  Many of the suggested approaches and supportive interventions outlined in this guidance would be equally appropriate where other health-related issues are impacting on an individual in the workplace.

Guidance for staff

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The menopause is a natural stage of life which affects around half of the population. It is when menstruation stops and can affect:

  • women
  • trans people – 'trans' is an umbrella term used to describe people whose gender is not the same as the sex they were assigned at birth
  • non-binary people
  • intersex people/ people with differences in sex development

The menopause usually happens between 45 and 55 years of age and the average age of menopause in the UK is 51 but it can also happen later in someone's life, or earlier.  An early menopause may occur naturally at any age as a result of Premature Ovarian insufficiency or may be caused by illness and/or medical treatment.  


Menopause is when menstruation stops permanently.

Perimenopause are the months or years before menopause, when the reduction in oestrogen may cause a variety of symptoms. 

Postmenopause is defined as the time after a women has not had a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months.

For simplicity, this guidance refers to ‘menopause’ to cover all of these.

If you are experiencing any new health symptoms it’s important to make an appointment to see your GP and get some advice.  If the symptoms are due to menopause there are treatments available which may alleviate symptoms, but it’s important not to forget that just because you are at an age or other life stage where your symptoms may be caused by menopause, they might also be attributable to other causes and you do need to get medical advice.

Until recently menopausal symptoms were generally considered to be simply hot flushes and mood swings.  Whilst these can be difficult enough to manage in the workplace, it is now recognised that many other symptoms may be attributable to menopause.  Some of these symptoms can impact on an individual’s ability to function effectively at work, such as:

  • Anxiety or low mood
  • Difficulty concentrating (often referred to as brain fog) and memory problems
  • Night sweats and difficult sleeping
  • Aching joints
  • Palpitations

All stages and types of the menopause are different and symptoms can vary from person to person, and range from very mild to severe and can also fluctuate. For many people symptoms last about 4 years, but in some cases symptoms can last a lot longer.

You can find out more about the range of symptoms that those going through menopause might experience at the NHS webpages. 

Menopause can affect every aspect of your life. If you are, or think you are, experiencing negative effects of the menopause you should talk to someone about it. As with any change in health, if you are having new health symptoms, whether these are physical or mental, you should speak to your GP.

If you are finding that your symptoms are making it difficult to work as you did before, you should speak to someone in your department about any support that you might need. Ideally you should talk to your line manager, if you feel comfortable doing so, and in particular if you need your department to consider adjustments to your working environment or arrangements. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking to your line manager in the first instance then you could ask to speak to your departmental HAF or local HR contact.  If you are a member of a Trade Union you might also be able to speak to a local TU representative.  

However, if you would like changes made to how you work, please bear in mind that some information will need to be shared with your line manager.  They will keep this information confidential and should respond sensitively.  If your symptoms are severe your department may also consider referring you to the University’s Occupational Health team for advice about workplace adjustments.

Before talking to your line manager you may wish to think about the sorts of adjustments that might help you to manage your symptoms at work. For example:

  • Creating a comfortable working environment: if you are experiencing difficulty controlling your own temperature, would you be able to work more comfortably if you had a desk fan or moved near an openable window or ventilation source?  Do you have a work uniform or prescribed clothing that is making you uncomfortable and that could be adapted? Do you have easy access to cold-water drinking sources if a cold drink would help you control hot flushes?
  • Taking a break: if you are experiencing difficulty concentrating, or anxiety, or hot flushes, would space to take a break from your desk, maybe outside, help? Or would noise-reducing headphones to wear in open plan offices help you to tune out distractions?
  • Flexibility in work duties:  would it be helpful to be able to take short breaks in long meetings?  Or work remotely on a regular basis to help you manage symptoms?  If you are affected by poor concentration you may be able to identify some tasks, such as routine filing, that you could save up to do on days that are particularly bad.
  • Change in hours: if sleep deprivation is affecting you perhaps you could discuss changing your working hours so that you can start and finish later?  Or you may want to request a temporary flexible working change so that you work part-time hours for a period (NB this would affect your pay).

You can then discuss these with your line manager, who will need to consider operational requirements and would need to agree any changes. Setting a trial period to see how the changes work both for you and the wider team, and keeping the arrangement relatively informal and flexible, is often a good idea.  Also, since your symptoms may fluctuate or change over time, you may want to arrange to have further discussions about your work environment and arrangements to make sure that any changes are still effective.

The university has a number of existing policies and guidance that could be used to support changes to work duties, it is worth considering the below options.

  • Flexible working (informal and formal): If you think that changing your hours of work temporarily would help you manage your symptoms you can make an informal application for flexible working, or if you want these changes to be permanent, you can apply through the formal scheme.
  • New Ways of Working – there may be opportunities to look at flexible ways of working through the NWW framework
  • Sickness Absence- if your symptoms are so severe that you have to take sickness absence you should look at the guidance on how menopause related sickness absence is recorded 
  • Career break – if your symptoms are so severe that you need to consider a complete break from work for a period of time, the career break scheme enables staff to take an unpaid break but then return to work afterwards.

Guidance has been provided to line managers alongside staff guidance, and awareness raising activities are taking place across the University and Divisions so your manager should be supportive.  If you feel uncomfortable you can talk to a local HR contact or your HAF in the first instance. Early conversations and regular follow ups with your manager, as symptoms fluctuate, will help make sure that the support in place is as effective as possible.

What about career progression/PDR?

PDR is an opportunity for you and your manager to think about recent achievements and plan for the year ahead, but is also an opportunity to think about career development and training opportunities.  A PDR discussion may be an opportunity for you to talk to your manager about how you are experiencing menopause, particularly if you feel that it is impacting negatively on your work performance, so that this can be taken into account.  If you are having severe symptoms your focus may also temporarily not be on career progression.

Everyone’s experience of menopause is different and no-one should make any assumptions about your wishes but you should feel that you can inform your line manager in your PDR that your focus for the year is on your day to day activities and that you don’t wish to engage with career development activities for the time being.  This is entirely an individual choice and temporarily standing back from career development does not mean that you can’t re-engage with this when you feel the time is right for you. If you have agreed some change to your work duties to accommodate menopause-related symptoms then you may wish to consider asking to have a conversation about PDR objectives around the same time to make sure that these remain relevant and achievable.

Additional resources

There is a wealth of information available about the menopause and therapeutic and supportive interventions from a wide range of resources. We have selected some resources that we think are particularly helpful in thinking about menopause and work and these are linked from the resources tab.

Guidance for managers

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The University seeks to offer a positive, open and supportive work environment where those affected by issues such as menopause feel they can talk about the issues that are affecting them and seek support if they wish to.  Being able to talk about the effects of menopause without embarrassment or fear of how their disclosure may be received can help prevent employees from:

  • losing confidence in their abilities and skills at work
  • feeling that they are unable to work to their full potential
  • experiencing mental health conditions relating to their symptoms and the work environment
  • leaving their role

Avoiding discrimination and harassment

If an employee or worker is treated less favourably because of their menopause symptoms, this could be discrimination if related to a protected characteristic, for example:

  • age
  • sex
  • gender reassignment
  • disability

Discrimination may be related to a combination of characteristics (for example age, sex and disability).

Inappropriate language (sometimes thought of as ‘banter’) about menopause in the workplace may amount to harassment and create an atmosphere where an individual feels unable to seek the support they need.

The departmental environment 

It’s important to remember that some people might not talk about their menopause symptoms at work for a wide range of reasons and there is no requirement for them to do so.  They may, for example, feel it's a private or personal matter or feel embarrassed to discuss it.   They may be unsure what response they would get from their line manager, or be worried that it would not be treated seriously or confidentially.  They may also be concerned that admitting that they are struggling would affect their job security or opportunities to progress or seek development opportunities.

Departments should work to ensure they create and maintain an open atmosphere where individuals feel comfortable about disclosing information about any issues that are impacting on them at work. They should ensure that staff understand that they can talk to their line managers or another person such as an HR colleague privately about how the menopause is affecting them at work and what could help. This may be facilitated by ‘normalising’ the issue, for example by referencing menopause and the support that is available in departmental inductions, PDRs, departmental staff websites, communications, wellbeing events, etc.  Creating an environment which allows individuals to talk about the issues that are affecting them is the first step to providing support.

The role of the line manager

Line managers should aim to facilitate an open, supportive atmosphere within their team which encourages staff who need support to come forward, whether for menopause-related issues or any other personal issues which are impacting on their work.  They should also ensure that menopause is treated in the same way as other types of physical or mental health issue or protected characteristics, and discussed respectfully and sensitively: line managers have a key role to play in ensuring that inappropriate language, often dismissed as ‘banter’, is not tolerated.

In order for line managers to be able to respond positively should any member of their team need support, they need to be effectively supported themselves. It's important for line managers to understand:

  • how menopause may affect staff in the workplace
  • how particular types of working arrangements or environment may exacerbate symptoms
  • what support and guidance the University can offer
  • what adjustments, or measures might be available to help people to manage to work at their best

This guidance aims to provide key information and further information is available in the resources tab.

Making sure staff know that they can seek support will encourage early conversations so that any necessary measures can be put in place.

Awareness raising activities at University or departmental level are intended to help everyone to understand how menopause may affect individuals, and to create an open and supportive atmosphere.  However, initiating discussion of menopause with an individual should always be left to the individual member of staff, and should not be raised by a line manager, for example as a potential reason for poor performance, or attendance, or because someone has reached a particular age.

Not everyone experiences symptoms and not everyone who does will want to disclose or discuss this.  Some staff may prefer, in the first instance, to speak to someone other than the line manager (see ‘Giving staff the option to speak with someone else’, below).  However, where an employee does raise the issue with their line manager, the manager should be open to discussion and should ensure that such discussions are confidential and held in private where both the manager and staff member are comfortable and will not be disturbed.

The manager should:

  • allow the staff member to decide how much information they wish to disclose
  • let the staff member lead the conversation
  • not make any assumptions about the person's symptoms or experience
  • consider any needs they identify and discuss what measures might be put in place (this is discussed in more detail in ‘Practical Support’, below).

Managers should respect the person's wishes for privacy and not disclose any information to other colleagues without their permission.  However, if someone does want information about their menopause symptoms to be shared with colleagues or the HR team, the manager should let them decide what they want and do not want their colleagues to know and how this information will be shared.

It might be helpful to keep a written record of what has been agreed about confidentiality and the sharing of information.

Giving staff the option to talk with someone else

Staff affected by the menopause may want to talk with someone other than their manager.

They could be, for example a:

  • member of HR or the HAF
  • colleague / different manager
  • trade union representative (if the person is a trade union member)

Whilst all of these may be valuable sources of personal support, where workplace adjustments are required some information will need to be shared with a line manager so that any necessary measures can be put in place.

There are a range of workplace adaptations that can be considered which might help someone who is experiencing symptoms of menopause which are negatively impacting on them at work. Some of these are described below, but everyone’s experience may be different and this should not be seen as a prescriptive or definitive list.

Facilitating a comfortable working environment

Employers have a legal duty to control the risks to employee health and safety at work.  For some people working conditions can exacerbate their menopause-related symptoms and make it challenging for them to contribute effectively at work. Where an employee has disclosed menopause-related issues with their working environment, a line manager should carry out a risk assessment to help prevent and manage the symptoms by considering practical changes that could be implemented in response to identified needs.  For example:

For those experiencing hot flushes:

  • providing temperature control for the work area such as a fan on the employee’s desk that they can control;
  • enabling the employee to move near to a window/ventilation source, or away from a heat source;
  • adapting uniforms/prescribed clothing (for example if they are man-made fibres, or closely fitted, which may cause hot flushes to be harder to manage), or workplace dress codes;
  • providing easy access to a cold-water drinking source and allowing the individual to access this as needed;
  • providing storage space for a change of clothing;
  • if possible, access to a private or outdoor space, for a short break so as to manage a severe hot flush.

For those experiencing heavy periods:

  • easy access to toilet/washroom facilities;
  • easy access to sanitary products (for example by providing vending machines in a reasonable number of employee  washrooms).

For those experiencing difficulty with concentration, etc

  • offering noise-reducing headphones to wear in open plan offices and work spaces.

Considering flexibility in work duties

For those who are experiencing very severe symptoms, being able to negotiate flexible working hours or practices as a temporary measure, could make a big difference and help the employee to continue to work at their best. This might include one or some of the following:

  • allowing short breaks in long meetings;
  • ensuring regular breaks from workstations;
  • agreeing to flexible working arrangements such as altering hours  to help people manage symptoms (for example, if sleep is disturbed a later start and later finish might be helpful);
  • agreeing to requests for a regular remote working pattern, or to ad hoc requests in response to symptoms as they arise;
  • balancing the workload to allow the employee to catch up on work that may have been missed through absence;
  • planning for tasks that an employee could switch to on bad days, if possible.

This is not intended to be a prescriptive or definitive list and individuals are likely to be best placed to explain what measures/adjustments might be helpful.

If someone believes a longer term change to their job would help them with their menopause symptoms they could make a flexible working request.

Keeping a record of reasonable adjustments

Any adjustments to working patterns or arrangements that are agreed should be followed up in writing (an email is sufficient) so there is a record. Staff should also be given a reasonable amount of time to adjust to any changes made.

It’s a good idea to complete a ‘Workplace  adjustments plan'. This is an up-to-date record of the agreed adjustments that the employee can show, for example if a new manager is appointed, saving them having to go through the same process again.

For some people menopause can cause significant sickness absence.  Where this is the case sickness which is due to symptoms of the menopause should be recorded separately from other absences. This is because there may be times when it could be unfair or discriminatory to measure menopause-related absence as part of the person's overall attendance record (disability-related absence is recorded separately in the same way). Staff should be allowed time off to go to medical appointments related to the menopause in the same way as other medical appointments.

Following up/ keeping in touch

Managers should have follow-up conversations with staff (for example through normal regular 1:1 meetings) to make sure the changes are working for both them and the wider operational needs of the department/team, and bearing in mind that needs may fluctuate and change. Regular follow-ups /check-ins can help make sure support remains appropriate to an individual’s needs, which may change as symptoms fluctuate and will ensure they can continue to do their job effectively.

The frequency of follow-up conversations might differ from person to person, depending on how their symptoms and needs change.

University staff are entitled to an annual PDR discussion.  The POD guidance on PDR sets out that it has a number of purposes:

  • “to reflect on what has been achieved since the last PDR
  • plan ahead over a longer time period, taking into account the group, department or faculty priorities
  • identify learning and development needs and solutions
  • discuss any career aspirations that the reviewee wants to share
  • consider any other work related issues that need to be addressed (such as barriers to achievement, resources, buildings, working relationships or suggestions for process or system changes)
  • follow up with regular one to one conversations during the year”

PDR discussions can be a valuable opportunity for individuals to share any concerns they may have about how menopause may be affecting them and the opportunity to review and plan will always be an important part of managing staff.  However, PDR also prompts managers to review career aspirations and longer term goals with their staff and line managers should bear in mind  that some staff may be less focussed on their own career development for a range of reasons whilst going through menopause.  For example, if someone is experiencing anxiety or loss of confidence they may need more support/encouragement to engage with these sorts of activities. Or they may wish to stand back for a period of time.  Given the age at which women are typically experiencing menopause, it is important that managers do not infer that an individual who is temporarily disengaged from career development will not want to re-engage with this at a later date.

It's important to remember that a large number of people can experience symptoms, including:

  • trans people – 'trans' is an umbrella term used to describe people whose gender is not the same as the sex they were assigned at birth;
  • intersex people / people  with differences in sex development;
  • non-binary people.

There is further information on the ACAS website.

Line managers/HR contacts should ensure they support everyone equally and keep conversations confidential and private. This is particularly important because someone might talk about their gender identity when discussing their menopause symptoms and might not want it more widely known.


Other HR policies which may be of support

  • Flexible working (informal and formal): staff wishing to make a temporary or permanent change to their working hours can make a flexible working application
  • Additional Annual leave: staff may wish to explore the option to arrange up to 10 additional days of annual leave to help them with managing their symptoms
  • Sickness Absence: where an employee needs to take significant period of sickness absence related to menopause, the University treats this in the same way as disability related absence.  This means that it is recorded but menopause-related absence will be disregarded in cases where the total amount of absence might otherwise trigger disciplinary/capability procedures
  • Career break: staff who are finding that they are so badly affected that they need to ‘step away’ from the workplace for a period of time might consider requesting a career break which would allow them to return to work after a period away
  • Occupational health referral service -where staff are severely affected, a referral to the Occupational Health Service team for advice about workplace adjustments may be helpful. 


External links and services

There are many sources of information about menopause, we have brought together some of the most relevant resources to help you to understand the menopause both in the workplace and in your life more generally.

Understanding menopause
Menopause and the workplace
Free support for those going through menopause
  • Henpicked – Menopause Hub, guidance, resources and podcasts on a range of menopause issues as well as other people's menopause stories
  • Over the Bloody Moon - community, resources and education to support people going through the menopause
  • Women of a Certain Stage  specialise in resolving the impacts of menopause symptoms by focusing on increasing knowledge and improving wellbeing and morale
  • The Balance app is a service offered by menopause specialist Dr Louise Newson, it offers a symptoms tracker, downloadable expert guidance on a range of menopause issues, and the opportunity to connect and share stories with others.
  • The Daisy Network  supports women with Premature Ovarian Insufficiency which can cause early menopause. 
Campaigning organisations
  • Menopause Mandate are a group of motivated women from all walks of life who share a common interest in perimenopause and menopause. They are devoted to creating a coalition of campaigners to achieve their ultimate goal of revolutionising the support and advice women receive from both our health service and wider society. 
Case studies

We are very grateful to the colleagues who have shared their menopause journeys with us. Experiences range from those to have started their menopause much earlier than the average age, those who have struggled with recognising symptoms or getting diagnosis, different experiences of symptoms and treatments, and also a male colleague for whom hormone treatment for prostate cancer resulted in menopause-like symptoms.  Each has also offered their advice to those going through menopause the workplace, and also to the colleagues and managers who support them.  We hope you will find these useful. 

We would love to add more case studies, so if you would like to share your own experience with colleagues please get in touch with

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  • Could you tell us about your experience of menopause, and how it affected you at work?

My menopause started right at the beginning of the pandemic and it has taken some time for me to identify the symptoms as menopause related. I had a massive bleed on a flight, and first dismissed it, thinking it was related to the trip itself. Then, from never having any issues with periods in my life, I started to have irregular periods. But there was the pandemic and I did not want to bother my GP with such a “minor” issue. In the end of 2020, there were a lot of people living in our house, so I thought I was just generally stressed.

But the symptoms got worse, with more bleeding, more fatigue even after things got calmer at home after lockdown ended. I had been having headaches, migraines, mood changes and was not being able to sleep well, but I didn’t have any hot flushes during the day — so I didn’t realise that it was the menopause. I worried that it was endometrial cancer or a neurological disease, so I decided to go to the GP to get it checked.

The GP required some tests, which discarded cancer and confirmed the start of menopause. It was a relief, and I was able to deal with the problems with less stress.

I decided to return to the office to resume cycling, as I thought that the exercise would help. Exercising regularly has helped with my energy levels and mood but it hasn’t helped with the periods/bleeding and cramps. Not knowing when they are going to happen has been difficult. Also, having a more regular sleep routine was good, but not enough to help with night sweats, that always wake me up. I have spoken to the GP about HRT and she has reassured me that you can stop if you want to and if there are any side effects — this helped me decide to ask for HRT.

  • Did you change anything about your way of working, as a result of, or to help with, your symptoms?

With regards to work, I am lucky that my manager supports me and I don’t have strict clock in times, provided I work the same hours every day. The flexibility allows me to start sometimes later and sometimes earlier, depending on the appointments I have and also the symptoms and the night before!

  • What advice would you give others, both those going through the menopause and their colleagues, managers?

My advice to other women would be to get help, knowing what is going on brings you peace. Let’s raise awareness about the menopause as something as common, normal and natural as periods. Men and women need to know more about it. It has real effects and they aren’t just hot flushes, there are more than 30 symptoms registered as related to menopause — if I had known them at the time I started I might have been less concerned about what I was going through. People speak about brain fog as covid-related... but it happens with menopause too! Brain fog is real! For example, I managed to put all my bike equipment inside and locked the garage yesterday but left the bike itself outside! Now I know why this happens, I just laugh and carry on.

  • Could you tell us about your experience of menopause, and how it affected you at work?

Looking back, I can see that my perimenopause started 11 years ago but at the time I had no idea what it was.  I had mood swings, changes to my menstrual cycle, lack of sleep (I can’t remember the last time I slept all night) and for the last 2 years, awful hot flushes. On top of that I had, and still have, lethargy and aches from head to foot, as well as awful bloating.  I found my body shape changing although my eating and exercise patterns hadn’t changed.  There are such a lot of physical and psychological symptoms that I feel like everything is affected.  I had really bad brain fog - it’s got a bit better now but it makes you start to doubt yourself.  I often felt very anxious, and felt I was acting out of character but I didn’t know how to stop it – and because I felt alone and unsupported I would feel very emotional.

Before menopause I always felt that I was very efficient: I was able to work fast, and anticipate the needs of those I work for and I have always been proud of the service I could deliver. When my menopause symptoms were at their worst I found I would be making silly mistakes that were out of character for me, and then I would get anxious about what the outcomes of that would be – would I be performance managed, for example? I ended up being signed off work with stress for a while, as a result.

 I have spoken to friends about what they are going through.  A couple of them tried HRT but found it wasn’t for them, and I’m concerned that it will cause me to gain weight and cause my periods to restart so I haven’t had any treatment for my symptoms. I worry about what long term effects there might be.

The first time I talked about menopause and how it was affecting me at work was a few years ago.  I was working in a different job in a different department at the time. The reaction I had from the department was really negative: the two colleagues that I spoke to, a senior manager and an HR person told me that the University offered no support to those going through menopause.  Worse than that, I felt that they were sniggering at me, and ridiculing my concerns and I felt very alone.   It felt so different to how other issues, such as mental ill-health, were treated.  As I was getting no support at all, my symptoms got worse and I also ended up feeling less tolerant of others going through other difficulties, which is not how I normally react. 

I have recently moved to a new department and one day I started to have a hot flush during a meeting with the senior administrator and HR manager.  I explained what was happening and they immediately told me that there is a lot of new support within the University for those going through menopause.  It was so different to my last experience - they were very encouraging that it was OK to talk about this and to ask for help.   

  • What would you have changed if anything?

If I had known what I know now I would have been more open and asked for help earlier, likely from Occupational Health.

  • Did you change anything about your way of working, as a result of, or to help with, your symptoms?

With New Ways of Working I work from home 2 days a week, but the rest of the time in a shared office – this is exceptionally difficult because I find I have different ‘environmental’ needs to my office-mates.  I have a desk fan but it makes my eyes very dry so I’m hoping that something else could be provided.

  • How would a greater awareness in the workplace have helped you?

If there had been a greater awareness the first time I asked for support it would have made all the difference.  It’s been a lonely and stressful time, and I would have found it much easier if I had felt that I could talk about it in the workplace and know that I would get a positive response.

  • What advice would you give others, both those going through the menopause and their colleagues, managers?

To colleagues I would say, talk about it, seek help, find someone you can trust whether it’s a colleague or an HR manager and explore what options are available.  To managers I would say, try to be kind and listen and don’t judge.  Make sure that you are well-informed, particularly if you are a male manager, so that you understand that this is real and understand how it might be affecting the individual.  Kindness is key. 

  • Could you tell us about your experience of menopause, and how it affected you at work?

The big ‘M’ was never discussed or referred to in any of the previous organisations I worked in or in my personal life.  In fact the first time anyone mentioned it publicly was when I joined Saїd Business School and a couple of colleagues mentioned they had been experiencing symptoms.  From the little I knew about it, the menopause seemed to mean “hot flushes”, “irritability” and of course the end of the likelihood of falling pregnant.  Looking back, I first experienced peri-menopausal symptoms just prior to joining the School 6 years ago.  At the time I probably just Googled the symptoms and then thought no more about it – until of course the symptoms really started to kick in….. 

Goodness it was tough.  I was maxxed out with work, leading a growing team, commuting daily between Central London and Oxford plus dealing with family issues.  Some days I could barely drag my continuously aching bones out of bed.  I felt totally exhausted all the time.  I used to hold a weekly in-person stand-up meeting with my team (pre-pandemic) and found I couldn’t remember any of their names.  I could barely string a coherent sentence together – which is not great when you are the communications lead.  I just felt so miserable, tired and concerned that I would lose any respect I might or might not have built up.  I managed to get an appointment with my local GP and ended up embarrassingly crying my eyes out in front of them but they just told me that I needed to take more iron supplements.   

It reached the stage that I seriously thought I’d have to stop working as my body and mind seemed to be falling apart.  Of course I never dreamt of confiding in anyone at work – I didn’t want to be viewed as being unable to do my job.

My turning point came when I visited a therapist (for a constant migraine I was also suffering from) in Oxford one lunchtime.  The therapist took one look at me and gave me the name of a specialist consultant that she had visited in Wimpole Street in London.  After humming and hawing I took the plunge and made an appointment.  That turned out to be a lifechanging decision for me.  My debilitating symptoms virtually vanished by simply buying a big bottle of Vitamin D capsules and being prescribed HRT.  I realise that this solution is not for everyone and there are still concerns about HRT, but I have been very fortunate (so far) and rapidly started to get back on track and felt normal again.  I still need to have a quick occasional snooze on the train on the way home from the office and working with Zoom/Teams for the last couple of years has not necessarily cured me of forgetting of people’s names when I see them in person, but I feel I am able to do my job again and cope with whatever life throws at me.

  • What would you have changed if anything?

So many things!  I would have actively looked for more information, challenged my GP, attended webinars/talks on the topic, joined support groups, spoken about the topic openly.  Importantly, I would have had far more appreciation of what women are undergoing at this point in their lives and have been more supportive.

  • Did you change anything about your way of working, as a result of, or to help with, your symptoms?

Before I was prescribed HRT, I foolishly didn’t – I just soldiered on.  However, I would recommend that women do spend time thinking carefully about how to adjust their working patterns and talk to their line managers about what would work for them e.g., a later start time if they have experienced a really restless night or working in short activity bursts rather than sitting at a desk all day.  Exercise, fresh air and looking after yourself is so important.  We are also very fortunate that the new ways of working are actually helpful in that tiring commutes back and forth to the office everyday can now be minimised.  I also write everything down now in a paper notebook to prevent me from forgetting what I’ve promised or need to do!

  • How would a greater awareness in the workplace have helped you?

Immeasurably.  I felt a bit of a freak and that I was the only person who wasn’t coping.  Sadly, many women experience similar disinterest from their GPs and although the stigmas surrounding this life stage are now being more openly discussed, workplaces need to be supportive and a safe space where women can be open and honest about the symptoms and challenges they are experiencing.  It is such a challenge to recruit and retain experienced women that workplaces should do more to support them by making adaptions where necessary.

  • What advice would you give others, both those going through the menopause and their colleagues, managers?

Recognise it is a normal ‘condition’.  Most women will experience symptoms of some sort.  Be kind and forgive those who might snap without knowing they have or are seemingly forgetful.  Allow women to adjust their working patterns where necessary and don’t expect them to sit through hours and hours of meetings without breaks.  Plenty of cool ventilation is also a good idea.  Encourage everyone of every gender to talk about the topic openly and respectfully and attend training on how to be supportive.  It does pass and women don’t go through it forever.

  • Could you tell us about your experience of menopause, and how it affected you at work?

With the menopause, there are so many symptoms that you may not realise are because of your drop in hormones. I got a few hot flushes, they were mild and maybe occurred after having a cup of coffee, so easy to deal with, by dinking de-caff tea and coffee. Sweating at night was worse and is more like a burning feeling.

When I was in my early 50’s, I went to the GP as I thought I had thyroid problems (my mother has underactive thyroid, so not entirely random), as I was always feeling tired, my nails were flaky and breaking, my skin was very dry and I had hair loss both on my head and body. The doctor gave me tests for thyroid deficiency, I had tests for iron deficiency, tests on my hands and feet as they were sore and tender, even x-rays for arthritis. They all came back negative and there was no mention by the GP that these issues could be connected to the menopause.

There are so many symptoms that you have that you don’t realise are related to the menopause. For example, another symptom I had was dry eyes, which the optician thought was to do with me wearing contact lenses, even though I have been wearing them since I was 15. I also started with hay fever. Some of the worst symptoms were not remembering things, getting a lot more anxious about things that never used to bother me and losing confidence. I got nervous about driving on the motorway, for no reason and scared of flying, when I used to love flying. I can thoroughly recommend the EasyJet ‘Fear of Flying’ course which was amazing and really works.

The other thing that was very difficult was waking up in the early hours of the morning, I bought a 100% wool mattress, tried lots of herbal remedies, gave up caffeine, diary, sugar, took up yoga, everything I could think of to try and get more sleep. I’ve since found out that this is due to the release of different hormones, so anything I did would only help slightly.  For me, these symptoms were gradual and crept up on me.

I eventually read something about a menopause clinic in Stratford upon Avon, they were brilliant and I had an initial 45 minute consultation about my menopause symptoms and the options that I had.  Following this, I started taking HRT. After 2 days on HRT if felt as though my brain was lit up like the lights on a Christmas tree, and I slept through the night for the first time in ages. I stopped feeling so old and my quality of life is so much better.

At work I hadn’t really said anything about the poor sleep and just carried on. I didn’t realise that this was connected to the menopause. If I had have known then I would have asked if I could have come in later and worked later, on those days that were particularly exhausting.  Fortunately, I have a supportive line manager and colleagues, so I have discussed symptoms with them since I’ve been on HRT.

  • How would a greater awareness in the workplace have helped you?

We need to talk about the effects of the menopause and that it is not just hot sweats and needing a fan. If people knew it would make such a big difference. It was 4 years before I went to the GP, it is a creep of symptoms and things creep up on you.

  • What advice would you give others, both those going through the menopause and their colleagues, managers?

My advice to others would be – talk to someone about your symptoms and the menopause - your partner, a friend, a colleague, your mother and daughter. Find a GP who is a specialist, the Balance App is good for logging symptoms to take to your GP. Read up on the other symptoms, for example the anxiety, loss of confidence, brain fog, it is not just hot flushes.  Read the University menopause policy and watch the online training session and talk to your manager, to see what can help you at work. I chose to take HRT and I found that extremely helpful, so that may be an option for you.

  • Could you tell us about your experience of menopause, and how it affected you at work?

I am peri-menopausal at the moment. In the last 2-3 years my monthly cycle has become very heavy for the first 2-3 days. I get very heavy bleeding and have to change my sanitary wear every 1-2 hours. It is so heavy that I don’t feel comfortable leaving the house which can be very isolating. I’m normally a very active person and having to restrict my activities, e.g. swimming, is frustrating.

I am now under the care of a gynaecological team and they have found a large fibroid. I don’t yet know what my options are regarding treatment, other than that I can’t use HRT or hormone therapy. There may be a possibility that I will need surgery. It has impacted my iron levels, so I am now taking iron tablets on a daily basis.

My line manager is understanding that there might be days when I would ordinarily be in the office, but instead need to work from home as the commute is just too difficult when I have heavy bleeding.

The only other menopausal symptom I have is low level anxiety.

I talked to my mother about her experience of the menopause. She didn’t have any major symptoms so I can’t follow her experiences. I have met other people in the area where I live who also have fibroids, and it’s been helpful to share our experiences of this condition. There is apparently a menopause specialist at our local surgery but my GP hasn’t referred me to them yet.

  • Did you change anything about your way of working, as a result of, or to help with, your symptoms?

Nothing has changed dramatically other than that, occasionally, when I’m supposed to be in the office, I will request to work from home instead. Post-Covid, the increased flexibility to be able to work from home has enabled me to be able to work from home when I need to. This way I can still continue to work. Without this flexibility, if I had to come into the office every day, I guess I would have had to take sick leave.

  • What advice would you give others, both those going through the menopause and their colleagues, managers?

Be as open as possible with the people you work most closely with, so that they can be more understanding about your situation and can work with you to find a working arrangement that works best for you.

  • Could you tell us about your experience of menopause, and how it affected you at work

In my late thirties I started to suffer from mood swings, exhaustion and low mood. At the time I thought I had chronic fatigue or depression. I managed to keep working but the rest of my life ground to a halt for six months or so. My doctor was supportive, and I was treated for anaemia; at this time my periods also started becoming irregular, but I didn’t immediately associate this with peri-menopause because I was so young.

My colleagues at my then-employment were supportive and allowed me to change my work patterns as needed (eg to go home if I was completely exhausted, or do shorter days).

  • What would you have changed if anything?

I wish I had known more about peri-menopause and realised that this could have been what was causing the problems I was experiencing. Eventually I had a conversation with my mother (not so easy as she is of a generation where such things tended not to be talked about) and discovered that she too had had an early menopause. So I then got some books out of the library and everything started clicking into place.

I was lucky that I had a very supportive (female) GP, who arranged for blood tests to confirm the onset of peri-menopause. We discussed HRT but I decided not to go down that route as my symptoms were manageable.

  • Did you change anything about your way of working, as a result of, or to help with, your symptoms?

What changed more than my actual way of working was my mindset. I realised that I needed to start looking after myself better and getting a better work/life balance (I was working very hard in a fairly stressful environment at the time). This was one of the reasons I left that job and ended up at the University. I learnt to prioritise my sleep, healthy eating and lots of exercise. This helped me manage my mood and my energy levels, which in turn enabled me to continue working well and positively.

  • How would a greater awareness in the workplace have helped you?

Luckily the place I worked at the time was very open and supportive – there were several women going through these experiences at the same time and we were able to laugh about the hot flushes and brain fog, and about the fact that the men wanted the windows in the office closed and we wanted them open! This made a huge difference as we didn’t have to hide what we were going through or try to explain away how we were feeling and reacting to things.

  • What advice would you give others, both those going through the menopause and their colleagues, managers?

To those going through the (peri)menopause I would say: get all the help you can – including getting referred to a Menopause Clinic if appropriate; don’t feel that you have to apologise for what you are going through – it isn’t your fault, it is natural and although it can be a horrible experience and a real challenge, there is life on the other side. Link up with other women going through the same thing so that you can talk to people who really understand it.

To female colleagues not yet at that age: read up on it! If you can, talk to your mother or to older sisters about their experience. Forewarned is definitely forearmed.

To colleagues and managers: menopausal women should be given the same respect, support and space as anyone else going through life changes (eg think about how we treat – or should treat – pregnant colleagues). Read up on it (especially if you are a man or have not had direct experience of menopause yourself) so that you can be sympathetic and offer appropriate support.

  • Could you tell us about your experience of menopause, and how it affected you at work?

It is difficult to say when my symptoms started. I was on antidepressants and in retrospect I wonder if I should have been on HRT instead.

I really started to notice symptoms during the lockdown.  It was a stressful time work wise, and I didn’t know if I was stressed and anxious due to that or something else. I started to piece it all together a bit more as the menopause was in the media more and I realised that was what I was going through.

For me it coincided with the lockdown, I might have had a few hot flushes pre-lockdown but they weren’t as bad as some women. It all increased during the lockdown, I had an increase in stress and anxiety, memory issues and I wasn’t able to sleep. I couldn’t think clearly and it felt like I was losing myself. I also started to have extreme fatigue, which is partly sleep deprivation but it is more than that and not like anything I experienced in the past.

I went to occupational health, and they were really helpful and reassuring. We made some adjustments to my work when I returned to the office. Normally people are in 3 days a week since returning to the office, but on their recommendation I am in 2 days now which really helps.

After discussion with occupational health I decided to go to the GP as well. They were actually really helpful. I had been preparing myself for a battle based on what I had heard from other women.

One of my other symptoms is very heavy periods.  I always used to have painful periods, but they started to get so heavy I couldn’t leave the house for the first 2 days a month due to the bleeding. This was during lockdown and I really worried about going back to the office. The GP recommended I have a coil fitted which has helped. The GP also recommended taking a low dose of oestrogen for my high anxiety. The anxiety levels are much less now and it has helped with the fatigue. The oestrogen made a noticeable difference almost overnight.

I always read a lot about women’s bodies and health issues, but I still wasn’t aware of the perimenopause until a few years ago.  Most of the time when we are talking about menopause issues we are really talking about the perimenopause as the menopause is a year after periods cease.  For me the perimenopause has been going on for at least 3 years already.

  • What would you have changed if anything?

I might have gone to the GP sooner and tackled that, rather than antidepressants I might have gone for HRT. I had a bias against HRT, like a lot of women my age I think, because there was one flawed study which caused a lot of anxiety about the danger of taking HRT.  I also avoided it as I had bad experiences being on the pill and the contraceptive injection. It does depends in a large way how receptive your GP is though, and I was lucky.  I have moved and now go to a smaller GP practice which is great. When I started the perimenopause I was at one of those large practices where you are unable to get an appointment and you don’t feel listened to by any of the GPs. I understand that GPs are under a lot of pressure but it doesn’t make things easy if you have limited time or aren’t sure what is going on.

  • Did you change anything about your way of working, as a result of, or to help with, your symptoms?

I changed to working only 2 days in the office, post lockdown. I also start and finish early which makes a  difference for the commute.

  • How would a greater awareness in the workplace have helped you?

I suppose for me, I worried about seeming unviable. I felt quite vulnerable raising it. My colleagues were great and very supportive, but I worried that I was presenting as being unable do the job any more due to what I was experiencing. I know a lot of women resign at this point. My department were sympathetic and are finding ways of dealing with it, when other workplaces they might not and may write a woman off.

  • What advice would you give others, both those going through the menopause and their colleagues, managers?

Listen to people; everyone’s experience of it is going to be different .

If you think you might be going through it, look into it go to occupational health and your GP. Hopefully the GP support will get better but it can still be a bit hit and miss read up on it too, in case your GP is not supportive or helpful.
Find out about what is going on, it isn’t just you and there are other women going through similar things. We need to get better at talking about these things, we tend to suffer in silence about it. There is a very Victorian attitude about it, we have started talking more about periods in the offices as we have a lot of field work and we need to talk about it and the access to toilets so staff can be supported in their field work. Hopefully that is breaking down the barrier for talking about periods and women’s health.

  • Could you tell us about your experience of menopause, and how it affected you at work?

I’ve been experiencing symptoms for about 18 months.  Mainly, these include joint pain, fatigue (due to waking in the night or waking very early), occasionally forgetfulness!  It got to the point where I would get out of bed in the morning and my ankles were so stiff and painful I couldn’t walk properly across the bedroom or down stairs, and I was finding that I couldn’t unscrew lids on jars because my thumb joints were painful, this is the main thing that prompted me to speak to my GP as I’d never experienced this before.   I also wake more often at night, something I’ve never really struggled with, and that means by mid-afternoon I can struggle with concentration through a long meeting!  I get out most lunchtimes to walk the dog, this really helps as it’s a good break from the desk and fresh air.  Days where I can’t do that, I really notice the effect of tiredness!  Occasional forgetfulness may come mid-sentence, or not being able to recollect a conversation I had last week for example.  Irritating at best.   

  • What would you have changed if anything?   

I haven’t spoken to my manager about this in depth, however, our team recently introduced Wellness Action Plans and I felt able to write down ‘I’m peri-menopausal, and these are the things that affect me and what would help me…’ it made it an easy thing to say. 

  • Did you change anything about your way of working, as a result of, or to help with, your symptoms? 

Working from home is really helpful – as mentioned, I can get out for a purposeful bit of exercise at lunchtime, something I do less when I’m in the office.  I use OneNote for all my meetings now, it’s superb with having my meeting notes so well organised, so if I do forget anything, it’s captured.  And it’s better than a note book, because I can use the Tasks function to just add things to my to do list so I don’t forget anything.   

  • How would a greater awareness in the workplace have helped you? 

I am glad to see the Menopause Policy and guidance which has come out.  I think more needs to be done at a University level to raise awareness of Menopause as it’s still not widely talked about much.  The University should take the lead here, particularly as one of its aims is attract and retain senior women.

  • What advice would you give others, both those going through the menopause and their colleagues, managers? 

If you are experiencing symptoms, reach out for support.  I think everyone should watch the two Davina McCall documentaries [Available from All4 Sex, Myths and the Menopause and Sex, Mind and the Menopause]!  They will inspire you to seek support, they will also help others understand the broad range of symptoms associated with menopause, if you can be empathetic and understanding, this really is the best you can offer to start with.  I went through my GP to obtain HRT, it took a while but she was really understanding and helpful.  I have only just got it and hope that it will help with my symptoms (and perhaps avoid some that I haven’t experienced yet).  Don’t suffer in silence.  Speak to your manager, or HR team, your GP, a trusted friend, if you are struggling with symptoms

  • Could you tell us about your experience of menopause, and how it affected you at work?

I started late 2019 with the symptoms. They were mild to start with, then I was not sleeping, getting hot flushes but the worst thing for me was the mental aspect and the memory. I found this hard to manage at work. In my role I am talking to people all the time and conversations will continue after that day, I was struggling to remember the conversations and I started to feel I was going a bit mad. My memory had always been fantastic and that felt so strange to me to lose that part of me. I felt like a failure in my job and was I stressed at work.

I have a great line manager, who I can be open with and she’s slightly older so had been through it all and she was very supportive and understanding. I felt that I wasn’t doing a good job and completely failing at work, she reassured me that this was not the case.

I wasn’t sure that it was the menopause after my symptoms started, it got very busy with the pandemic. I just kept telling myself it was just stress and I was too busy. When I spoke to my doctor, they said that I was definitely perimenopausal. The symptoms were just after I had turned 40, so quite early. I spoke to my mother and she had been considered young when she went through it but she was older than I am now.

People said to me 'you are far too young for that' but we should all be aware it can affect you at any age. In my mid-30s I had been tested for early menopause, so had that awareness in the back of my mind. I just didn’t join it up fully.

I have been taking HRT since April and the doctor was great. She said you don’t have to have HRT, there are lots of things available, especially for perimenopause. I was not hesitant at all about trying HRT, I know some people feel that they don’t want to take any HRT. For me it’s going very well so far, I feel like I have my brain and memory back! It’s amazing. It helps with the sleeping as well. HRT has helped more than I expected.

  • What would you have changed if anything?

I would have spoken to my doctor earlier. If there was more general awareness, I think I would have realised earlier what was going on, and I would have gone earlier.  If it was discussed the same way we do with mental health then there would be greater awareness and understanding.

  • Did you change anything about your way of working, as a result of, or to help with, your symptoms?

I took some time off work on days that were difficult. If the anxiety became too much and I became emotional and started struggling. My manager was great, she would quickly tell me to take time off and take myself away for a bit. I have also changed my working pattern to do a 9 day fortnight, this time away from work really helps.

  • How would a greater awareness in the workplace have helped you?

Yes it would have helped. I did discus it in the rest of the team once I felt comfortable doing that, some of my colleagues are the same age or older but my younger colleague didn’t know what the symptoms were. They had no awareness really for the symptoms and they were interested to hear about it, we should be ensuring that we raise awareness for people at all ages.

It’s going to happen to all women and some men, so everyone should be aware of the menopause as they get older. It is very important as line managers that they are able to spot it in their staff. It is important that everyone is aware of it and that it’s ok to talk about it.

  • What advice would you give others, both those going through the menopause and their colleagues, managers?

To anybody going through it; talk to your GP as soon as you can and talk to others. Usually somebody is going through what you are going through. For line managers; just be aware that this thing happens to people and that its ok to talk to somebody about it if you think that they are suffering with symptoms.  Even just acknowledging that it happens removes some of the stigma.

  • Could you tell us about your experience of menopause, and how it affected you at work?

After years of good health, suddenly being diagnosed with intermediate prostate cancer in 2019 was a shock. I chose the treatment option of hormone therapy and invasive radiation, as it meant I would need the least time off work; rather than undergo a hi-tech surgical operation requiring protracted recovery. Cancer of the prostate feeds on testosterone; blocking testosterone through hormonal injections reduces the prostate in size, making it easier to zap with pinpointed radiation. However, the hormone treatment induces symptoms that are very similar to menopause (see Side effects of hormone therapy | Prostate Cancer UK) so I knew that there would be these side-effects but not quite what that would bring.

I adopted a stoical resolve to the very real prospect of an early death, which friends were surprised by and admiring of, but I was only to learn that it is all too easy to fool ourselves. I suffered hot flushes but, because I worked outdoors in a physical job at the time, I was able to manage these at work.  But at home or when out at indoor venues I would have to sometimes remove many layers of clothing and would feel very conspicuous.   I suddenly found myself having to pee every 40 minutes, which was really challenging at work but I was lucky that colleagues were supportive.  My emotions were often heightened, although I concealed this - blokes will be blokes whatever is happening to their hormones. Much of the time I was fine, but when things became too much at work, I went and cried alone in the toilets. Nights were regularly tearful and I know I often seemed like a lonely lost child to my wife. The hormones caused other physical changes which were really distressing. The loss of testosterone changed my temperament everywhere but, more positively, I became more accommodating and less rigid.  However, the treatment was effective and I was to make a good recovery in every respect.

  • What would you have changed if anything?

At the time I felt I didn’t want pity or additional consideration from co-workers and so I only told my manager about my cancer, and I didn’t mention the corresponding menopause-like symptoms and their impact on  me at all. In retrospect, I should have made the briefest potted announcement to all work colleagues, requesting understanding (although NOT sympathy which I didn’t want).  This might have helped prevent some unnecessary “unfriendly fire”, when colleagues didn’t understand my changed behaviours and I found myself facing a nasty spurious allegation at work. I was so deeply upset by this; life does not stop to accommodate ill health.

  • Did you change anything about your way of working, as a result of, or to help with, your symptoms?

After falling off a pair of dodgy steps and fracturing my pelvis, I realised that I needed more protein and calcium to make up for the testosterone loss. I had a physical, outdoor job which required strength and so I revolutionised my diet, substituting carrots for bread at lunchtime and I ate a daily tin of sardines, which I hated! I cut out sugar almost entirely, even now I almost never eat biscuits, cheap chocolate or confectioned cake. I learned that my fatigue was effectively combatted through exercise and not rest. I joined a Pilates class which made muscles fit that I did not know I had. I ran a mile every day. I started soul dancing again - first for 30 minutes and then for an hour every day – it kept me so fit and took my mood upwards. I walked in beautiful landscapes and this nature derived centring was deeply beneficial.

  • How would a greater awareness in the workplace have helped you?

When I was shown kindness at work, this went a very long way. After work one evening, a colleague who had lost her husband, shared her philosophy with me of looking to be happy above all else in life, this raised my spirits and heartened me. Given my outdoor job the hot flushes didn’t matter at all at work but in indoor environments if I overheated during a ‘flush’ I felt very conspicuous when I had to take my top half off, down to my white underwear T' shirt. My wife spontaneously bought me stylish T’ shirts that I could wear under my shirts and that left me presentable when needing to strip down to them. I often think back on this single act:  it is this type of practical kindness, from any quarter that made such a difference.

  • What advice would you give others, both those going through the menopause and their colleagues and managers? 

To those going through major hormonal changes I would say that whilst we no longer talk about ‘the change’, for me it was completely ‘a change of life’. It was really challenging but the positives are that I don’t hide my intelligence any more, nor feel the need to display it. I began writing. My marriage is very different now and I am infinitely closer with my wife.

To colleagues and managers I would say simply stand back, be kind, supportive and patient, whilst continuing to affirm your own space. If you are invited to become a confidante, share your own heart - but most of all - like a pot plant in the corner of the office , water it, add nutrients occasionally and ‘let it grow’... enjoy your new colleague as they mature and develop. Not only will they remember this, but they will remain endeared to you afterwards.

  • Could you tell us about your experience of menopause, and how it affected you at work?

I have already had 2 menopauses as a result of medical treatment for endometriosis: one in my 20s and a second in my late 30s.  And now that I’m in my 40s I am en route to a 3rd natural menopause.

In my 20s I was diagnosed with endometriosis and, after exhausting all other treatments, my doctors put me onto a drug called Zoladex.  This is a hormone therapy, and when used for endometriosis (it’s also used to treat prostate cancer in men) it works by essentially stopping your body from producing oestrogen, therefore putting your body into what’s called a medical menopause. As a result, I experienced the vast majority of the 40 or so known symptoms of the menopause!

During my first menopause I didn’t talk to anyone at work about it.  I was not anywhere near the age group where anyone would expect that this was what I was going through, and it wasn’t something that was talked about so it was a lonely experience. 

By the second time I went through menopause I was doing my current teaching job, here at Oxford.  Anxiety and hot flushes are really problematic when you have a role where you can’t easily adjust your work plans at short notice, and where you are really visible all the time.  When teaching I am often at the front of a room standing by a screen which pumps out quite a lot of heat so that can be really uncomfortable.  It’s difficult for people who haven’t experienced them to understand what a hot flush is like and that it isn’t just being hot.  Normal heat is something that usually affects your body from the outside in – so you can move away from the source of the heat.  With a hot flush it’s like it comes from the middle of your body, so it’s much harder to deal with and much more uncomfortable.

  • Did you change anything about your way of working, as a result of, or to help with, your symptoms?

By my second menopause I was more prepared to deal with the symptoms.  This coincided with the pandemic and the move to remote working which actually made things so much easier for me.  For example, if I was having bad hot flushes I found I could set myself up to teach from my kitchen which has a tiled floor that stays really cold, so I could stand on the floor in bare feet or change into lighter clothing or keep ice close to hand to help manage hot flushes. So being able to teach virtually was a real godsend for me. 

I have also got more skilled over the years at finding tactics to make things easier for myself. For example, if my brain fog means that I know the answer to a question but just can’t grasp the right word in that moment, I will say ‘excellent question – we’ll come back to that later on’.  And where I used to teach without notes, I now know that I sometimes need to work in a different way. So, I have drafted speaking notes, prompts, or lists to make sure that I don’t put myself in the position where I might lose my thread.  I have also found it really helpful to work with a colleague, or colleagues, who I can talk to in advance and explain what I find helpful and supportive.  For example, I’ve talked to the two male colleagues I teach with most regularly so they know that if I dry up because I’ve temporarily lost a word I need, I will welcome them stepping in to fill in the gap for me. That makes it a supportive and stress-reducing thing, rather than a stressful situation where they might worry that I would find it intrusive if they jump in. We also have a back channel in the meeting where I can ask them confidentially for help, or they can offer it.

In addition to causing the full range of symptoms of menopause, Zoladex also drains calcium from your bones, so I took up a variety of exercise paths to help improve my bone density. I was fortunate to have some gym equipment at home and found weightlifting really beneficial, for both my physical and mental health.

  • Looking back, what would you have changed, if anything?

The first time I went through menopause I wish I had known more, and that there had been more information. Even just about things like tactics for managing hot flushes, such as wearing natural fibres and layers. It would have been good to be more prepared, and to have a network of other women to talk to and share experiences. Also, I would definitely have talked to my colleagues and managers about this much earlier on! Having supportive colleagues who might then know what to say or not to say would have been great. For example, because of my age colleagues would sometimes ask me if my symptoms were because I was pregnant - which was upsetting.

The second time I told everyone! Even though a lot of my work as a teacher is done alone, knowing that my colleagues know what’s going on and can offer the right support is much better.

After my second menopause I had a hysterectomy and found a support group on Facebook and that was really good – being able to talk to people going through the same thing is really powerful so I would definitely look out for menopause support networks and groups.

  • What advice would you give others, both those going through the menopause and their colleagues, managers? How would greater awareness in the workplace have helped you?

To those going through it I would say tell people, but in a way that works for you. I found that I got, and still get, very emotional when talking about it, and that talking face to face can be harder than maybe writing an email.  Also, if you want to talk to someone about it, letting them know in advance what you want to talk about can be easier than having to find the words to broach the subject face to face. It also gives them a chance to prepare for the discussion themselves. I would say, try to be open to offers of support – such as discussions about how you would prefer to be supported on a bad day – as this will make things easier for everyone, not least yourself.

To colleagues and managers, I would say that, as well as being informed about who might be affected and supportive, it’s great for colleagues and managers to try to be a bit proactive. People are often really supportive but they frequently ask ‘what can we do?’.  For someone going through menopause, it can be difficult to be expected to come up with the solutions. With symptoms like brain fog, anxiety, loss of confidence, it can be difficult to really work out what you need, so it can be helpful for managers or colleagues to really listen to what your symptoms are and how they are affecting you and suggest solutions too. For example:

  • ‘Would it help if we got you a fan or put some ice packs in the fridge?’ 
  • ‘Would it help if you worked remotely when your symptoms are bad?’
  • ‘If you want to leave your camera turned off in meetings if you are having a bad day, that would be OK’

 And, to perhaps suggest things in a way that doesn’t target individuals.  For example, making sure that there are breaks in longer meetings might be important for many people for lots of different reasons. 

  • Tell us about your experience of menopause and how it affected you at work?

I'm 44 and for about 18 months had been experiencing symptoms which were having a major effect on my work and family.  The main symptom was crashing fatigue. At sudden notice I would feel like my batteries had been taken out and I needed to lie down (including mid-way through a 2 hour seminar for 40 students which I had to halt, as I simply couldn't continue). My energy levels were so low that I couldn't cycle any more (despite being generally fit and many years of cycling).  My husband had to drive me to and from work, and I had to take a nap when I got home in order to have enough energy to make supper for my kids.

On top of that, having been someone with very high drive and energy, I lost my confidence.  I developed anxiety, low mood, and most devastatingly, as an academic with a tenured role in a field I love, I started to feel I was losing interest in my work. 

My GP diagnosed burnout and I made major lifestyle changes to try to tackle this.  I tried yoga therapy, more exercise, more rest, and managing my workload but despite all this many of my symptoms persisted, and some new ones started or got worse. Most worrying (for me) were cognitive symptoms such as brain fog / poor concentration / memory lapses. On bad days, I simply couldn’t write sentences: drafting a short email would take enormous energy / effort. I couldn’t concentrate enough to read a page of an academic article. I would lose my train of thought or even ability to spell or add up in the middle of teaching a group of students.  Fortunately, I have enough teaching experience to be able to mask this by making a bit of a joke about it with my students, so these episodes didn’t affect them, but it really shook my confidence.  My symptoms weren’t continuous - some days were 'normal' but on many others I just couldn’t work. It was really unnerving.  

Eventually friends suggested I read up on perimenopause.  It had not occurred to me that what I was experiencing might be related to menopause but, as I read, I found other women's stories super helpful and I recognised myself in them.

Armed with this knowledge I went to see a different GP.  After tests to rule out other causes, she agreed perimenopause was likely to be driving my symptoms and that I should try HRT. At this point I had been experiencing symptoms for about 18 months and after just a couple of months of HRT I have found an absolutely enormous reduction in my worst symptoms and feel that I am getting myself and my life back.  And my family and partner are also getting me back.

  • Did you change anything about your way of working, as a result of, or to help with, your symptoms?

Before I knew the real cause of my symptoms I was forced to change lots about how I worked and managed my work-life balance, just to keep functioning.  My husband and I had to organise our day so that he could drive me to and from work.  Having been someone who would always rise early and get a couple of hours work done before the family and work day began I became someone who had to take lots of naps, and I found I needed to spend a good 12 hours a day in bed, and would find that by the afternoon I was literally counting the hours before I could go to bed and sleep. I had to push through even simple tasks and felt like I was fighting my body at all times.

I found myself in discussion with a senior colleague about progressing my career and although my ‘normal self’ would have been delighted at this, my new self felt there was no way that I could consider something I had worked so hard to achieve because my energy levels were so severely impacted.  I felt so low that I had actually got as far as looking up the long-term sick pay arrangements thinking that I might need to call on them as I was not sure that I could carry on working, and not sure that I would ever feel well enough to do the job properly again.

Now that the HRT is starting to take effect I am seeing really positive effects – and my normal home and work patterns are being re-established. My energy levels are returning and I’m recently back to cycling.  More importantly, my cognitive abilities are returning to normal, and I am thinking about the future positively.  However, whilst generally things are improving, I do still have bad days and these are unpredictable so I don’t yet feel I can rely on my body and brain in the way I did before. So now I plan to allow myself space in case of a bad day - for example I plan a bit of extra ‘rest and recovery’ time into work trips to make sure that I’m functioning at my best at a conference or meeting.

  • Looking back, what would you have changed, if anything?

I just wished I had known was it was much sooner.  The fact that I didn’t get a proper diagnosis for my symptoms meant that I felt I lost myself for 18 months, and also lost a crucial period of career development.  If I had understood that perimenopause can bring so many cognitive as well as physical symptoms I would been in a better place to seek the medical advice and treatment that I needed much earlier.  And I wouldn’t have had the deep worry that I might never get better.

  • What advice would you give others, both those going through the menopause and their colleagues, managers? How would greater awareness in the workplace have helped you?

For individuals, managers and colleagues, awareness of menopause and all the symptoms is key.  We need to get the message out there as much as we can to make sure that women are able to recognise their symptoms, and get a proper diagnosis and treatment as early as possible.  But we also need to dispel some of the myths that talking about menopause makes women look like a workplace problem, so that we can ask for the support we need.  Look at what women have achieved without support on this, and imagine how much more we can achieve if we are properly supported! If I had understood that I was perimenopausal earlier I wouldn’t have lost 18 months, both personally and professionally.  The more we talk about it the better!

For those going through it I would say get as much information as you can. I have joined the University’s menopause network and sharing experience and knowledge really helps.  

Join the network

We have opened up a Menopause Support Teams channel to start our networking activities. This is a private channel hosted within the Wellbeing (staff) Team.  We hope that it will be a safe space for colleagues who are going through menopause to share experiences and information, and find or offer support.  

To join the network you first need to join the Wellbeing (staff) Teams channel by clicking on the 'Connect' Tile from  Supporting others | Staff Gateway (  You can then request access to the Menopause Support Network by emailing

Recent events

October 2023 - the Work+Family Space hosted a webinar "Managing Menopause" - watch the recording.

Spring 2023 - the Said Business School hosted a fantastic panel event 'Menopause in the Workplace' - watch the recording