Anxiety and stress are commonly felt in the workplace as a result of menstruation, workers reveal in a new report. To alleviate this, these employees are asking employers to normalise conversations about menstruation in the workplace.
A new report conducted by the menstrual equity charity Bloody Good found that there was a significant stigma surrounding menstruation and its effects in the workplace.
Around a quarter of workers who menstruate (25 per cent) confessed that they never openly discuss their period at work. When asked why this was, a third of respondents (33 per cent) stated that they felt it was “more professional” to not discuss this matter in the workplace.
Despite this stigma surrounding the topic, almost nine in 10 employees (89 per cent) stated that they had experienced some form of stress in the workplace because of their period.
However, ‘menstrual concealment’, a term to describe the silence surrounding menstruation, is causing serious damage for women at work. When in the workplace, almost a fifth of women (16 per cent) said that they either never or only sometimes have free access to toilets and breaks.
The same number of employees (25 per cent) reported that the time that they did have to take off from work due to menstrual health issues has impacted their career progression, showing the risks surrounding the taboo nature of menstruation in the workplace.
This attitude is leaving workers feeling disconnected from their employers. Almost three in 10 (27 per cent) confessed that they never felt supported by employers, with younger people feeling the least supported.
When asked how employers could help, almost two-thirds of respondents (63 per cent) said that it would be useful for employers to normalise conversations about menstruation in the workplace.
A further six in 10 (59 per cent) wanted employers to provide more information about menstruation to all employees which would help to overcome ignorance linked to the topic and showcase that each person’s experience is different. It states that employers should move away from support being provided through personal relationships, i.e. relying on a senior manager’s experience to offer support. This could end up focussing the conversation around the senior staff’s experiences as opposed to an employee who is struggling.
Joe Gray, Employers project lead at Bloody Good Period, says:
The repetitive lack of communication around periods is at the heart of this ‘cycle of silence’.
Most, though not all, workplaces have issues around stigma, non-disclosure around how periods can be challenging at work, and a general lack of knowledge. In spite of this, our research shows it is possible to exercise change, in a very human way. Even the simple act of taking part in this research encouraged managers to start talking and reflecting, and we also heard about positive rapport in workplaces that provide open and productive environments for these conversations. BGP believes the Covid crisis has focused attention on the changes that are possible at work.
Gabby Edlin, BGP founder and CEO, says:
More than ever, we have an opportunity to actively reshape our worlds and workplaces. There’s also a business case for doing this: we believe that supporting people when they have their periods can have significant mental health benefits, boosting satisfaction levels, happiness at work, productivity and loyalty. Looking after staff in a way that reflects their whole selves is the right thing to do.
This research was taken from Bloody Good Period’s report ‘Bloody Good Research: Periods and menstrual wellbeing in the workplace – the case for change’. This research surveyed 3,000 members of the public and also involved an employer-facing study.