Ensuring staff well-being is now at the top of HR and employers’ agenda. Employers are now aware that good physical and mental health means a more productive workforce and ensures company growth. There are many different initiatives being trialled by companies in the UK to ensure that their staff are happy and productive. Another positive move forward has been the discussions and understanding around Menopause. However, menstruation affects around 18 million women in the UK and the implications of a women’s monthly cycle on their cognitive and physical abilities at certain times during the month need better understanding by employers and HR.

Lauren Derrett, Founder of Wear ’em Out the award-winning reusable period pad company, says that “For many years periods and menstruation wasn’t talked about. Just like menopause, there has been a stigma attached to it. We are now talking more about menopause thanks to the intervention of household names such as Davina McCall and Lorraine Kelly raising awareness and sharing their struggles. However, it doesn’t feel like we are there yet with periods. We really do need to start the conversation because individuals who period are struggling daily in the workplace and going unsupported.”

A recent survey of over 1000 people carried out by Wear Em Out, found that more than 60 per cent of women find it difficult to concentrate when they are on their period. This brain fog and inability to concentrate affects every part of our lives, including work. When you look at the figures it seems that menstruation really does need more discussion in exactly the same way as Menopause. It seems a large proportion of a woman’s working life could be affected by episodes of brain fog due to their menstrual cycle.

It is true to say that for many women, daily tasks can become more difficult during menstruation. The reason for this brain fog could be to do with hormones or anaemia. In the days leading up to a woman’s period, oestrogen and progesterone levels fall. This change in hormones can affect neurotransmitters and how alert a woman feels. Heavy periods can cause anaemia and low levels of iron. This affects the amount of oxygen carried around the body. If less oxygen is getting to the brain, the person may feel more sluggish.

Lauren is calling for more education around understanding how menstruation affects work. Lauren says that the main things for employers and HR professionals to look out for are:

Higher levels of frustration as energy levels feel depleted or employees struggle with motivation when on their period.

Women need extra calories around their period so may need to eat or consume more water and protein. Both of these will improve concentration by increasing blood flow. Therefore they may need more breaks to eat.

A woman’s sleep may be compromised during their period. This can lead to lower levels of concentration. More breaks in the work day may be needed or an understanding that a change to their working environment may be warranted.

Being active can help some women with their periods. Moving around in their workplace setting if they need to or leaving their desk during lunchtime can help. Some may need to lay down or rest.
Ultimately Lauren says that ensuring a woman is supported during their monthly cycle is imperative to the productivity of a workplace.