Breaking the silence: Addressing period shame in the workplace

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At Halcyon we prioritise holistic health care solutions for businesses because we know we can improve staff motivation, happiness and performance. Below, we delve into a topic close to our heart which is often whispered about but rarely addressed head-on: periods and the pervasive issue of period shame in the workplace. 

Some Shocking Period Facts 

According to a survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of Flex, a third of women in the UK reported that their work productivity was negatively affected by period pain.  

The same survey found that 58% of women said they would be more productive at work if they had access to better menstrual health support.  

Research by the Work Foundation suggests that menstrual-related absenteeism and presenteeism cost UK businesses approximately £1.24 billion per year. (Source: The Work Foundation Study) 

A study conducted by Plan International UK found that 49% of girls and young women in the UK have missed an entire day of school because of their period. While this statistic relates to education, it reflects the broader societal stigma surrounding menstruation. (Source: Plan International UK) 

These facts and figures reflect the true impact of period shame on the workforce in the UK; from reduced productivity and increased absenteeism to financial strain and lack of access to essential resources. Addressing these issues head on requires an approach that includes destigmatising menstruation, providing support in the workplace and advocating for policies that prioritize menstrual health and well-being for women. 

The Role Of The HR Manager In Menstruation  

HR managers play a crucial role in creating an inclusive and supportive environment for all employees. Yet, discussions around menstruation are often relegated to the shadows, creating a culture of discomfort and shame. It's time to break the silence and recognize the impact of period stigma on women in the workplace. 

Understanding Period Shame 

Period shame encompasses societal taboos and negative attitudes surrounding menstruation. This stigma manifests in various ways, from subtle comments and jokes to more overt discrimination and exclusion. Women may feel compelled to hide their menstrual symptoms or downplay their discomfort to avoid judgment or embarrassment. This has to end. 

Impact of Periods on Workplace Dynamics 

The repercussions of period shame extend far beyond individual experiences. In the workplace, it can hinder productivity, collaboration, and overall well-being. Women may feel reluctant to speak up about their needs, leading to decreased job satisfaction and engagement. The fear of judgment or ridicule can create a hostile work environment, undermining morale and teamwork which is not good for the bottom line. 

Challenges Faced by Women Menstruating 

For many women, menstruation is a monthly inconvenience as well as a significant source of physical and emotional distress. From debilitating cramps to mood swings and fatigue, menstrual symptoms can significantly impact work performance and attendance. Yet, the fear of being labelled "unprofessional" or "weak" often prevents women from seeking the support they need. 

Creating a Supportive Culture For Women 

As advocates for employee well-being, it's important for HR managers to create a culture of empathy and understanding. This starts with open communication and education surrounding menstruation and its effects. By normalizing discussions around periods and challenging any stigma, organizations can create a safe space where women feel comfortable seeking support. 

Practical Period Solutions 

Implementing practical solutions can make a world of difference for employees experiencing menstrual difficulties. Consider offering flexible work hours or remote work options to accommodate fluctuating energy levels and symptoms. Providing easy (free) access to period products in the workplace toilets and offering designated rest areas and places where women can clean themselves easily can also help alleviate discomfort and reduce anxiety. Having cardigans available so that women can feel confident in the knowledge that they can ‘cover up’ the results of flooding or an unexpected periods.  

Period Training and Awareness 

Invest in training sessions and workshops to raise awareness about period shame and its impact on workplace dynamics. Encourage open dialogue and provide resources for both managers and employees to navigate these conversations with sensitivity and respect. By equipping your team with the knowledge and tools to address period stigma, you can create a more inclusive and supportive work environment for all. After all, loyal, motivated staff add to your bottom line. 

How Halcyon Can Help 

At Halcyon, we believe in holistic approaches to workplace well-being. By confronting period shame head-on and implementing supportive policies and practices, HR managers can empower women to thrive professionally without fear or shame. Together, let's break the silence and create a workplace where everyone feels valued, respected, and supported, regardless of their menstrual cycle. 

By recognising and addressing the issues surrounding periods at work, we can pave the way for a future where all women have the opportunity to thrive and achieve their full health and career potential.  

Halcyon specialise in dealing positively with women’s health issues in your workplace which will have a dramatic positive impact on your business. Don’t worry, we have probably heard it all before and we approach every business in a confidential and commercially sensitive way.  

We offer a tailored approach with a holistic tool kit including workshops for managers, workshops for employees, workplace documentation, women’s health audits, policy formation updates and self-treatment programmes for staff. 

The first consultation is free of charge so you have nothing to lose but a lot of knowledge to gain. 

About Sarah, Owner of Halcyon  

Sarah Darwen is passionate about women’s health.  She was diagnosed with endometriosis in her mid 20s and, having undergone treatment under the NHS unsuccessfully was faced with the heart-breaking news that a hysterectomy was the next (and only) step.  She refused to accept that this was necessary and looked for alternatives to help her manage her condition. She’s been managing her endometriosis successfully for those last 20 years - most of those in remission, with only 2 flare-ups in that time.   

She now offers training on reproductive, hormonal and menstrual health to managers and staff, as well as effective treatment and self-management techniques to people struggling with their symptoms. 

If you would like to chat to Sarah about how your organisation can easily and effectively support the needs of the women in your workplace, please book a free Discovery Call here  

Source Links 

  1. https://yougov.co.uk/society/articles/43909-period-pain-and-work-many-women-have-never-taken-t  
  2. https://committees.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/126965/pdf/  
  3. https://plan-uk.org/media-centre/nearly-two-million-girls-in-the-uk-miss-school-because-of-their-period   

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