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Menstruation and career: How to navigate the workplace

Author: Emma Libner

Raise your hand if you have tried one or more of the following scenarios: Have you hidden pads or tampons up your sleeve to avoid revealing that you had your period at work? Have you struggled through period pain to be able to do your job during your bleeding? Or maybe you've tried to find yourself in the middle of a powerpoint presentation for a big meeting, while you could feel yourself bleeding through? (We have a full record here!).

In the vast majority of workplaces, menstruation is unfortunately still an overlooked aspect of working life. And that, even though a large part of the colleagues around you have a menstrual cycle, which affects them for better or for worse.

Juggling meetings, deadlines, KPIs and demands, menstruators can often feel like they are alone with their challenges. Therefore, we at Flow believe that it is important to focus on how to create a more inclusive and supportive environment for all employees - whether they have a uterus or not.

Menstruation policies: An important step towards inclusion

Around the world, we are now seeing more examples of companies implementing menstruation policies to meet the needs of their menstruating employees. Countries such as Japan, Indonesia, Spain and South Korea have already introduced policies that give women the right to "menstrual leave" – a form of leave that recognizes period-related challenges such as pain and a greater need for rest during menstruation.

The point of offering menstrual leave is that employees do not have to spend sick days looking after themselves. Sick days are counted and calculated, and this can affect employment - you should not be able to potentially lose your job because you are menstruating.

Even though we are a small company, here at Flow Intimates we have prioritized from the first employee that all employees have the right to a monthly care day in connection with their menstruation. We don't think it makes sense to talk about employee well-being without also including the conversation about menstruation at work (you can read a lot more about how your menstrual cycle can affect your mental health here LINK ).

Menstruation and working life: This is what a menstruation-friendly workplace looks like

Embracing menstruation at work should be a collective effort, with both employees and management playing an active role in creating a positive environment. Here are some of the steps you can suggest to management or to employees that can have a positive impact on the working life of menstruating employees:

  • Open communication: For starters, no employee should feel like they have to hide when they're on their period. Open communication about different needs and challenges can help create a more supportive working environment for everyone.
  • Flexible working hours: Flexible working hours can be a help for many, regardless of whether they are menstruating or not. For employees with a cycle, increased flexibility can also help with difficulty concentrating, fatigue, hot flashes, pain and other discomfort in connection with their cycle.
  • Menstruation-friendly facilities: The physical setting of a workplace also plays a major role in the inclusion of employees with a cycle. This includes everything from access to proper toilet facilities, waste bins in toilets and a steady supply of menstrual products in the workplace to areas designated for breaks and rest.
  • Implementation of menstruation policies: As previously mentioned, management may consider implementing policies that recognize and support employees during their period. For such a policy to have the desired effect, however, the workplace as a whole should ensure that all employees, regardless of their experience with menstruation, are educated and informed about menstruation, experts point out .
    Otherwise, the implementation may risk having the opposite effect.

By creating a work environment that recognizes and supports menstruators throughout their cycle, we can create a fairer and more inclusive workplace - or indeed, the world - for everyone. So let's break the taboo together and make menstruation at work something we talk about and actively deal with in a positive and respectful way.

It's time to let bleeds and exploits go hand in hand in the workplace!

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