Hiding tampons up your sleeves and avoiding getting changes in the PE changing rooms remain many British sisters abiding memories of periods at school. For the half of the population that deals with periods, the shame of our time of the month has not waned as we entered the world of work.
According to a study carried out by DPG, 1 in 10 had been at the receiving end of negative comments about periods while at work and 6 in 10 felt uncomfortable talking about periods. Most shockingly perhaps, 57 percent lied to their managers because they needed a sick day related to menstrual pain but were too embarrassed to give the real cause.
Why are periods left behind?
Neither schools nor workplaces were created for people with periods. They were built for men and, when women were allowed to join, they were expected to mould to the way that men worked. Regardless of whether we should, we can behave more like men in many ways but the fact is when it comes to menstrual cycles we can't magic our way out of them.
The UK has the largest gender health gap in the G10, and the menstrual health gap plays a significant role in this. While men experience hormonal variations, their fluctuations are not accompanied by extreme pain or discomfort. 80 percent of people with periods experience period pain at some point in their life, from mild to so painful it causes sickness.
Menstrual inequality is not just a once-a-month affair, menstrual conditions such as endometriosis, PCOS and PMDD remain difficult to diagnose and treat and comorbidities with extreme period paid and a whole host of diseases from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome to Ehlers Danlos remain mysterious.
The mental toll of menstrual health is not to be forgotten. Especially as we near the end of our periods and experience perimenopause and menopause mood changes become common, with increased feelings of anxiety, forgetfulness and loss of self esteem. The worst bit about dealing with periods is how much it changes across our lifetime -- we think we have it down by our thirties, but menstrual health likes to be unpredictable!
Let's build workplaces with periods in mind
Clearly this isn't all going to be solves by smashing taboos, or even building great period-friendly policies, but there are things we can do to be proponents and advocates for periods in the workplace.
Free period care
If you have bandages and plasters for cuts and scrapes you should offer free period care too. There is nothing worse than being in a public bathroom when your period starts early. Make sure your team never has that panic ever again.
Here at &SISTERS we offer a corporate scheme to provide plastic and toxin free period care in your bathrooms and to your remote employees. Get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
You may have seen that Spain introduced three days a month of menstrual leave for people who experience debilitating period pain. For Spaniards this will be the ability to work from home on these days. The work from home boom has been a real revolution for people with disabilities to be comfortable in environments that are truly set up for them -- it is no different for those with chronic period pain.
Mental health support
Periods are rough. For some of us they can have a very negative impact on mental health. Whether it's Headspace, Calm or access to therapists, make sure your team is supported.
It's a basic one but many workplaces miss it off, especially in our move to gender neutral toilets. Sanitary bins are a necessity. Make sure your team has a place to dispose of their used period products.
Period poverty action
If you want to be at the forefront of the period positive workplace, then you can show your team your support by supporting the community at large. Wonderful charities like The Hygiene Bank are working tirelessly to get rid of period poverty and area always looking for corporate partners.
By Ella Cheney, Brand & Product Manager, &SISTERS
B Corp certified & gynaecologically approved, &SISTERS are redefining periods with sustainable toxin free products that look after both your homes: your body & the planet.
You can get 25% your first order of &SISTERS extensive range of plastic-free compostable and reusable period care with the code THRIVESISTERS25.