woman alone on a bench

How Much Work is Lost to Periods?

Women lose 9 days of work annually on average due to period-related symptoms according to a new study by BMJ Open. The study, which was conducted in a cohort of almost 33,000 women aged between 15-45, further reveals that women find it hard to reveal the real reason for their absenteeism or ‘presenteeism’ in fear of retribution or discrimination.

Unfortunately, the topic of menstruation is still considered a taboo in the corporate culture. This problem is exacerbated further by work environments that are predominantly male-dominated making it hard for women to voice their concerns.

Why do periods affect productivity and work?

A closer look at the study reveals that there are several reasons for why periods affect women’s productivity. While some of them are physical, others are mental and psychological, a clear indication that there's a need to have the period talk in offices.

1. Absenteeism

At least 1 day is lost annually due to absenteeism caused by periods, the study reveals. And while most women try to call in sick, only 20% revealed the real reason for their absenteeism. Almost half of them just mentioned a symptom like cramps and the rest either gave no reason or made something up.

2. Presenteeism

Presenteeism is being physically present at your work station although not able to fully  perform your duties. This is especially because of job insecurities. Most women prefer to go to work rather than call in sick due to symptoms related to periods. This leads to less productivity, (at least 30% loss in productivity.) This goes to show that women have lower job security as they’re at risk of losing their job if they call in sick due to periods.

3. Discomfort

Periods can cause discomfort especially to the self-conscious woman. So instead of working, your mind gets carried away by what’s happening in your body. Furthermore, due to hormonal changes, your mood may fluctuate during the day leading to less productivity and lethargy. 

4. Premenstrual Syndrome

Premenstrual syndrome are symptoms that occur usually a week or two before your periods. At least 90% of women experience PMS. Some of the symptoms include mood swings, tender breasts, food cravings, fatigue, irritability and depression, all of which affect women’s productivity at work. 

5. Dysmenorrhea 

This is pain due to periods. At least 50% of women experience some form of pain or cramps during their periods. It may be natural or caused by a disorder such as endometriosis or fibroids which 9% of women reported to have. However, only 20% of women told their bosses that they missed work due to period pain, especially women under 21.

What should we do about it?

Period pains and premenstrual syndrome should not be a taboo two decades down the 21st century. However, as long as women are afraid to voice their concerns on this discrimination, it will continue being treated as woman’s problem when it in fact affects the whole organization.

No one should feel ashamed of menstruating. It is the reason everyone was born. Everyone has a female relative and they should understand that it’s part of a natural process in the female body. Take measures to always communicate when your periods affect your productivity and relationships. Communication is the best strategy to weed out this “taboo.”

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