March is observed as World Endometriosis Month. As such, it is imperative to highlight this chronic disease, how it affects women and the role it plays in the workplace.
What is Endometriosis?
The World Endometriosis Research Foundation (WERF) states that endometriosis is a chronic illness that affects an estimated 176 million women and girls worldwide.
As described by Syrona Health, with this illness, normal uterine tissues tend to grow outside the uterine cavity in places such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes. This abnormal occurrence causes immense amounts of pain. It is debilitating and often occurs in a cyclical manner, and in connection with a woman’s menstrual cycle. Next to the pain are other symptoms such as longer and heavier menstrual bleeding.
The illness affects the quality of life. Imagine having to lead a perceived normal life while enduring copious amounts of pain accompanied by other harsh symptoms of the illness.
Endo in the Workplace
Women in the workplace tend not to reveal a number of health issues for fears of being a complainer trying to escape their duties. Some women try to hide this health issue because the occurrence of endometriosis is often downplayed as “bad period cramps”. It’s easily understood why any woman would choose not to divulge this information.
However, #EndoWomen or #EndoSisters are encouraged to tell their employers, through the proper channels of their battle with the illness. If personal health and professional output are negatively impacted, consider engaging your employer in conversation.
Employers, if or when someone on your team shares about their relationship with endometriosis, do not ignore their cries. Make an attempt to educate yourself and the other people on your team about it. Education is part of the key to end ignorance. Follow that with actions to support the #EndoWarriors who help you achieve your business goals.
A WERF funded study concluded that endometriosis “impairs health-related quality of life (HRQoL) and work productivity across countries and ethnicities.”
In spite of this, women often go unheard and labelled inappropriately. Make a step in the right direction and actively address the issue of the mistreatment of endometriosis in the workplace. Let women feel included and heard. Let them see that you’re about action and not just talk.
Ways employers may support women with endometriosis in the workplace
According to Safe Work Australia, employers may engage in these actions to support their people with endometriosis:
- Safe Work Australia states, “developing, implementing and promoting policies and procedures in relation to chronic diseases such as endometriosis can assist in raising awareness and understanding of the illness.” In this regard, effective policies should:
- Be developed in consultation with employees and medical professionals who are subject matter experts
- Be made available and communicated to everyone on staff
- Included in the onboarding of new staff
- Discussed in team meetings
- Be part of the business communication plan and socially responsible practices
- Reviewed regularly
- Endometriosis is debilitating and many women with it barely function with the pain and other symptoms. Work alongside your employees to determine the right course of action that suits their functionality but still yields the desired results.
Flexible work arrangements
- This works in tandem with job modifications. Allow for flexible work hours and work locations. This is ideal and all parties benefit. Your employee will be better able to manage their pain and their tasks more comfortably.
Create a safe space for women with endometriosis
- A space free of judgement and filled with support in the form of conversation and actionable plans are key.
Inclusion In Action – Honourable Mention
In early 2021, Johnson & Johnson MedTech became an Endometriosis Friendly Employer. To be an Endometriosis Friendly Employer means that the company demonstrates their commitment to staff who have the condition and help to break down the stigma surrounding endometriosis in the workplace.
This, after Endometriosis UK launched the Endometriosis Friendly Employer Scheme where the organisation will provide guidance to employers on how to support their employees directly and indirectly affected by the condition.
Endometriosis UK will assist employers with leadership and management support, tackling stigma and changing culture, and communications. In the same breath, companies who officially sign up with the scheme will receive support for Endometriosis champions, a copy of the book, ‘Endometriosis: The Experts’ Guide to Treat, Manage and Live well with Your Symptoms’. Other benefits are included in the Scheme.
Your company does not have to reinvent the wheel. Get some research done within your organisation and within the market. Identify where you may add to the conversation and make a difference in addressing the issue for your employees and potential employees.
Inclusion is more than covering the surface level everyday discussions that we frequently talk about. This one goes below the surface. Yes, addressing a reproductive health issue for your employees with Endometriosis is in part and parcel a means of inclusion. Look within and identify where or how you may purposely add to this discussion in the workplace.
Sources and resources:
- Endometriosis – World Endometriosis Research Foundation
- Talking Endometriosis in the workplace – Syrona Health Limited
- WERF funded study finds women’s productivity at work significantly impacted by endometriosis – World Endometriosis Research Foundation
- Impact of endometriosis on quality of life and and work productivity: A multicenter study across 10 countries – National Center for Biotechnology Information
- Supporting Workers with Endometriosis in the Workplace – Safe Work Australia
- Johnson & Johnson MedTech becomes an Endometriosis Friendly Employer – Johnson & Johnson MedTech
- Endometriosis Friendly Employer Scheme – Endometriosis UK