WAW Results – Women’s Perspectives on Health and Work

Two open-ended questions were included at the end of the survey in order to give participants the opportunity to provide further comments or insights. Main themes and common responses are described below.

The first question was:

“Does any aspect of your health impact on your experiences, enjoyment or engagement at work? If yes, please explain how.”

501 women provided a response to the first question. Main themes and common responses included:

  • Stress and tiredness

    Tiredness and fatigue were commonly reported as having an impact on the day-to-day experience of work:

    “Feeling tired all of the time, lethargic. Not happy!”

    “Feeling so tired all the time and not being able to function mentally as well as I used to is demoralising and also means I don’t work as well.”

  • Combined effects of health and work

    Many respondents commented on the culmination of health and work-related issues:

    Fatigue due to low iron and vitamin D and working two jobs.”

  • Sedentary nature of work

    In particular, the sedentary nature of their job was identified as an issue by many:

    “Not currently, although I am experiencing swollen feet/calves due to too much sitting down at work, trying to rectify by walking, taking breaks more often and pilates classes.”

    “I also struggle with the very sedentary nature of my job. I’ve just returned to work after a week’s rec leave, during which I did household maintenance and gardening, and my body feels better than it has for months.”

  • Pain

    Pain, particularly back and neck pain associated with computer work, was also commonly reported:

    “Chronic shoulder pain from using computers and work station.”

    “RSI – pain in shoulder and neck due to computer work.”

  •  Work exacerbating health, not vice versa

    Some women challenged our question about how health affects work, reporting the effect was the other way around.

    “My physical health does NOT have negative impact on my work. It is my work and work-related stress that affects my life, and contributes to my increased level of anxiety and problems with sleep.”

    “I am trying to lose weight but find it difficult to attend regular exercise classes and eat regular meals due to the requirements of my work, where there is a heavy load of irregular meetings. This makes me feel less engaged with work and less positive in general.”

    “Asthma exacerbated when workload becomes very heavy and hours become excessive. This happens regularly.”

The second open-ended question specifically asked about menopause:

“Does menopause directly or indirectly impact on any aspect of your work (either positively or negatively)? (For example, your perceived competence, relationships with colleagues, discomfort due the conditions of your work environment etc.)? If yes, please explain how.”

471 women provided a response to the second question. Themes and common responses included:

  • Difficulty in ascribing behaviours specifically to menopause

    Many responses highlighted the ambiguity in correlating menopause with specific work behaviours.  Other women were unsure whether their problems were associated with the menopause:

    the memory thing possibly – but I put that down to overload in my new role.”

    “I’m not aware of menopause impacting on my work life other than changes in body temperature, hot flushes, chills, with apparently no control over this stuff. I’m not sure if moodiness is built into me or if it is menopause related; confusing.”

    “Not that I know of. Is fatigue a peri menopausal symptom?”

  • Working conditions exacerbate the experience of menopause-related symptoms

    For some women work exacerbated menopausal-related issues.  Most frequently reported problems were associated with hot flushes; particularly the lack of control of temperature in the working environment:

    “Sometimes I have to turn on the fan because I’m hot. I get impatient and moody sometimes.”

    “Office heating / air-conditioning being an issue. I swelter in summer and winter.”

    “Yes, lack of sleep, discomfort in the workplace, a non-understanding male supervisor, open plan office which is more often over heated for colleagues who feel the cold more than I.”

    “I have almost finished menopause, but hot flushes were a real problem for about 2 years. The heating at work is unreliable and can be extreme – hot flushes added another layer of discomfort and I often find I am taking layers of clothing on and off during the day. I also experienced periods of sadness and lethargy which made working and conversing with people a real chore; this has now lifted and I am back to my old self, happy and active.”

  • Recognition of menopause-related symptoms by colleagues

    The importance of recognition of menopause in the workplace, and the presence of colleagues who functioned as a support network were mentioned frequently as a reason why women did not view menopause as a problem:

    “No not really – other women have hot flushes too, and we laugh it off easily.”

    “A group of us in my immediate workplace is in the menopausal age range, so one does not feel alone.”

    “No. The men in my department (and they are all men) are tremendously supportive. I’m very lucky to be working with such a great team of guys.”

  • Ageism and gendered ageism

    Finally, the number of comments surrounding marginalisation due to being viewed as older or as an older woman suggested that ageism is still a prevalent feature of organisational life:

    “I find it difficult to get support or express the need for support at the workplace as gender-related health issues such as this could be perceived as a weakness and could provide the basis for lack of promotion and ability to perform. I definitely feel older women are disadvantaged in the workplace.”

    “Over the past two years I have had the most difficulty I have ever had with relationships at work. I am irritable and impatient. The younger staff think I am incompetent and don’t know anything because I am old. I struggle with having to learn so many new skills and technologies all the time while others just seem to take it in their stride.”

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