Despite current efforts, female health and menstruation can often feel like a stigmatised subject in a place of work. It is important that we recognise the struggles of those living and working with Endometriosis, which starts with businesses embracing a wider understanding of the condition and how it affects their workforce.
Endometriosis is a condition which can affect anyone born with a female reproductive system, in which the standardly-unbearable symptoms of periods can become chronic and debilitating; not discussed frequently enough and often misunderstood. It is a significantly difficult condition to live with, in which the body produces excess tissue that mimics that of the lining of the womb in areas that it would not – and should not – normally develop.
With such little discourse around the subject, here are some things you may not realise about Endometriosis:
- It affects as many as 1 in 10 women around the world.
- It could affect masc-presenting employees who may still have a female reproductive system.
- It can cause fertility issues, as well as a range of psychological conditions.
- While many believe it is incurable, there are a number of medical and surgical options for treatment.
- While it most commonly presents with painful symptoms, some sufferers may be asymptomatic or have misdiagnosed symptoms and therefore be unaware of it’s presence.
So, how can it affect the workplace, and what can you do to help as an employer?
- Flexible working hours:
The pain of Endometriosis can be exhausting, and could cause employees to struggle with standing, walking and travelling, as well as making them lethargic and affecting their concentration, communication and commitment to projects. They might need more time away from the office, and even from home, for regular doctor’s appointments, collecting prescriptions, receiving therapy or downtime for pain management. Be sure to be understanding instead of critical should this happen, and consider offering a more flexible work schedule to accommodate them. This could include a varying timetable in which they can dictate their own hours, as well as supplying them with the equipment to have a desk both in the office and at home. Consider including optional, regular screen-time so that being away from the office doesn’t diminish their face-to-face time with colleagues.
- Job security and maternity options:
As well as a realm of uncomfortable symptoms, in a more severe case Endometriosis could lead to infertility. For many women, this would come as a huge psychological blow, and if still looking to begin a family it will also become a financial consideration too. This could cause panic when looking at their future within the company. Consider an open discussion about maternity leave and job security, as this will encourage mothers-to-be to feel secure, and meaning worry around this subject would be less likely to affect their work or even move them to leave the company. Make sure maternity information is easily accessible and available from the point of hire.
As an employer, it is useful to be in a position to support and educate employees, which can include having a rounded understanding of what employees are going through and putting yourself in a position to actively help. Try to remember that the further you go to support your staff, the more loyal a workforce you’ll obtain, which will eventually lead to better retention of staff and a dedicated team.
- Ensure a compassionate workplace
With such a high number of women suffering with menstrual conditions, it is important to remind employees that they are not alone. It can feel alienating to live with a chronic condition, and you have no idea how many of your staff could be struggling silently.
Someone with Endometriosis may not feel comfortable with disclosing their diagnosis for fear that assumptions about their productivity might be made. Ensure to create an open and compassionate environment, with easily accessible and in-person support facilities.
- More sanitation awareness:
You can go to extra lengths by openly offering menstrual equipment in bathrooms, and including posters and information on the back of toilet doors, for example. This instils in people’s minds that the company is supportive and aware, and will continue to encourage an open discourse. By doing so, you promote a healthier mindset when approaching female wellbeing.
- Encourage medical attention:
As well as offering your employees support, or the chance to work from a home office, you can encourage them to seek professional medical help, and reassure them that there are a range of treatment options. Specialists are now able to manage pain levels and even operate in severe conditions. It no longer needs to be a lifetime diagnosis.
Don’t forget to remain educated. Continue to read up on women’s health and have tools to hand should you be approached. Here are some further tips you could offer an employee who thinks they might have Endometriosis:
- Keep a symptom diary to make conversations with a health care provider easier, including noting pain levels and how they fluctuate.
- Record any pain involved with urination and bowel movements and encourage a lack of stigma around such subjects.
- Remember that the pain and symptoms associated are genuine and debilitating, and remind employees of the option to take over-the-counter medication.
- Remind them that some women do suffer from heavier and more intense periods, and that while this may not be Endometriosis, they don’t need to suffer in silence and should seek medical advice for methods of controlling this.
Healthcare for these types of things can often be difficult to obtain, especially if a chronic diagnosis is affecting someone’s mental health. By offering your employees a service like Peppy, they have free access to hands-on specialists who are qualified to diagnose, advise and support, and don’t need to concern themselves with taking time off work for appointments or financing their own private subscriptions.
It can also offer you and your team advice on how to retain dedicated employees, encouraging them to give back to you the support you have shown them. We can assist with maternity leave advice and how to offer a regimented plan, as well as administrative and medical support whenever you’re struggling to assist an employee with a recent diagnosis.