Designing a positive workplace experience for women

  • On the tangible front, insistence on open space design coupled with the persistence of taboos around menstruation makes it incredibly complicated to BE on your period at work. Everything from the position of toilets, to the design of toilets to the design of facilities in the toilets and the complete impossibility to carry menstrual products around in a relaxed way, makes having to deal with your period in the office a minefield. Period product design still wavers between “hey, let’s all be feminists so no need to make this anything other than bright pink” and “OMG, let’s pretend this is not a tampon and make it look like chapstick”. So, handling period or menopause-related products in the office is uneasy ,to say the least. I still have horror flashbacks to a specific day in the office, when I walked into an elevator while searching for my badge in my bag and a large, lilac coloured sanitary pad dropped from my bag onto the floor at the feet of one of our senior Business Managers. I don’t think he ever made eye contact with me again after that. He most surely did not bend down to pick it up for me.
  • Beyond the basics of care, like free sanitary products in the bathroom, offices seldom cater to other symptoms of periods / menopause or specific conditions like endometriosis. Changing clothes or washing up after a hot flush are near to impossible to do as is trying to compose yourself after a meno-induced anxiety attack.
  • On the less physical front, workplaces are still grappling with how to regulate for these type of situations. Are periods and menopause diseases and should they be treated as such? And if they are not, how is help expected to be provided? The problem with making communication and rules which address these issues head-on is that the narrative itself is not clear and not agreed for everyone, so while there may be well intentioned progress being made — like time off for heavy periods, the story being told may not necessarily be the right one (see below).

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Bogdana

Bogdana

Digital Strategist. The Internet will save the world (pending verification). Views expressed here are my own/should not be construed as coming from my employer.