Ever found it hard to concentrate in a meeting because of period pain? Or struggled to focus because of PMS? You’re not alone. Whilst periods are a fact of life for over half the population, our professional lives are still not set up to support us through our cycles. Here we’ll outline the various reasons that our periods can impact our productivity and give some advice on how best to manage yours in the workplace.
- Many people struggle at work during their period - due to pain or lack of energy.
- The modern way of working is built around male hormonal cycles - which isn’t great for those with a menstrual cycle!
- Menstrual leave can help people with periods feel more supported and confident in the workplace
- There are some simple techniques that can help you manage your period during work hours
Period pain and work
One of the main reasons that people struggle to work effectively - or at all - during their period, is the pain. Whilst some light cramping might not stop you making it into the office, let’s not forget that doctor’s concluded that period pain can be just as intense as a heart attack. Somehow we don’t think a man would be expected to make that Monday morning meeting if they were clutching their chest in agony!
For people living with conditions like endometriosis, adenomyosis or fibroids, this level of pain can be a reality every month. This can impact their ability to work in the short term - s well as their long term career prospects. We created the Myoovi kit to cure pain relief instantly and discreetly - and many of our customers wear theirs to work! However, there are going to be times it’s impossible to stick to your professional commitments when you are in the throes of a painful period or flare up and we sadly know of many women who have had to leave careers they loved due to period health related conditions.
Periods and our productivity
Aside from the pain, our periods can impact our productivity in other ways. At this time of our cycle, our estrogen and progesterone both plummet and this can have an effect on our cognitive ability and energy levels - as well as our confidence and mood - sometimes making it hard to put our best foot forward in the workplace.
Now - we’re not saying that people who menstruate aren’t capable during their periods, or at any point in their menstrual cycle, that’s certainly not the case! We know many incredible women who have achieved great things - like running a marathon - during their period!
But we need to remember that the traditional structure of the working week is based around a male 24 hour hormone cycle. But people with a menstrual cycle are built differently.
Our hormones change and fluctuate every day of our menstrual cycle. There will be times when we feel more energised and times when we feel more insular, and society and the workplace are rarely set up to help us thrive as we move through each phase.
Here’s an example. Around ovulation our estrogen is peaking and this can make us feel super confident and our communication skills really strong. This makes it a great time for presentations, pitches and job interviews. However, during our period, when estrogen is low, we can be more like being alone. This makes it a great time for deep focus work - like writing, researching or planning.
If there was a better understanding of menstrual health in the workplace, companies could support their colleagues to schedule work around their cycle - boosting their productivity and making a more harmonious working environment for everyone.
Want to learn more about the different phases of your cycle? Check out our Period Power series on Instagram - and you can read more about tracking your cycle right here.
Period shame in the workplace
Imagine you’re on your period and the pain is so intense you need a day off. Or maybe you are feeling overwhelmed in the office and feel like you could get more done working from home. Would you have the confidence to explain that to your boss?
If you had a headache or the flu, the chances are you would have no issue raising that with your managers and asking for sick leave or to adapt your work rate. But when it comes to our period health, we’re not so open.
Many of us are still embarrassed to talk about our periods in a professional environment, despite the fact they can have a huge impact on our productivity - and that’s because of period shame. Culturally we have been told that periods are embarrassing, disgusting and definitely something to keep private. On top of that, women have had to fight so hard for equality in the workplace, that we rarely want to highlight anything that makes us ‘different’ or that we fear could harm our chances of career progression.
The importance of menstrual leave
One of the ways companies are addressing all of these issues is to offer menstrual leave to their employees who might need it. A menstrual leave policy means that you can take time off for any symptoms relating to your period, without eating into your sick leave or holiday allowance. The amount of days you can take varies between companies, but the fact that you can take this time off guilt and shame free, is pretty powerful.
This policy is not commonplace globally yet, but there are some companies and countries spearheading the change.
- In 2023 Spain passed a law allowing those with especially painful periods to take paid menstrual leave from work, the first European country to take this step.
- Australian underwear brand ModiBodi has a policy that offers 10 days of paid leave annually for reasons related to period health.
- In India, food delivery app Zomato brought in menstrual leave in 2020.
Tips for managing your period at work
If your workplace is yet to adopt a menstrual leave policy - here are some tips for managing your period in the workplace.
Try to plan your work around your cycle
This might not always be possible, but if you work for yourself or have a lot of autonomy over your time, it can be a gamechanger! Try to schedule big meetings or presentations around the time of ovulation and block out the time before and during your period for more quiet, solo activities, like research, planning or admin.
Make the most of your lunch break
So few of us actually take a proper lunch break, but if you are struggling with period symptoms, this little opportunity for self care can be really helpful. Take yourself for a walk to get some fresh air and get your endorphins going. Endorphins are natural pain killers and the light exercise can also help to relieve tension in your pelvic muscles. What you eat can also make a big difference to period pain, so make a packed lunch that’s full of nutrients like magnesium and fibre that can help with period symptoms.
Get a work-proof period pain kit
If there’s no avoiding work during your period, make sure you have a handy toolkit that will help you manage your pain effectively. Pack your favourite anti-inflammatory tea, cosy, comfortable clothes, and essential oils that will help calm your nervous system. The Myoovi Kit is also a great drug-free solution for period pain in the workplace. Not only can it relieve pain instantly, but the pads are super discreet and the battery life will take you from 9-5 (and beyond) with no need to charge.