How to support people with endometriosis in the workplace

Endometriosis - a chronic gynaecological condition - seriously affects people who suffer from it. In this article we learn more about the condition and how you can effectively support people in your workplace living with endometriosis.

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a gynaecological condition that typically affects people between puberty and menopause. It affects approximately one in every ten women, but it’s important we recognise that not everyone who is affected by endometriosis is a woman.

This is something that can affect our non-binary and trans colleagues too. Often the gendered language used when talking about endometriosis is a barrier for those individuals being involved in the conversation and accessing support.

Endometriosis is a condition that is known for being difficult to diagnose. Pain, abnormal menstrual flows, fatigue, poor mental health, and other gastrointestinal problems are some of the primary symptoms. Symptoms can appear at any age, whether earlier or later on in life.

Is endometriosis a disability?

In the UK, endometriosis is not recognised as a disability. Endometriosis is known as a chronic condition, which means it cannot be cured, only managed.

There have been petitions for endometriosis to be classed as a disability, but as of the time this article was written, it is not recognised as such yet.

How endometriosis impacts people’s lives

Endometriosis can drastically alter the lives of many people. During their menstrual cycle, as well as in everyday situations, they may experience severe pain.

In addition to the pain and severe bleeding they may experience, people’s fertility can also be affected. This is a difficult topic for many people to understand and comprehend, and individuals may feel uncomfortable talking about their experiences due to perceived stigma. Sleep disturbances, incapacitating pain, dyspareunia, and other factors can all have a negative impact on one’s mental health.

One of the reasons endometriosis is so difficult to diagnose is the wide range of symptoms that can vary from person to person. Being unable to obtain a diagnosis can have a negative impact on a person’s mental health and leave them feeling extremely lost and misunderstood.

It’s also important to consider how different people find it tougher to get a diagnosis. For example, Black people are less likely to get endometriosis diagnosed. This is due to the fact research is widely based on White patients, and that often endometriosis can overlap with other conditions that Black people are more likely to have.

How to support someone with endometriosis in the workplace

Having endometriosis can have a significant impact on an individuals daily life. Employers must be aware of how to support an employee suffering from endometriosis in the workplace.

Take a look at our suggestions for effective support below.

Understand the difficulties of working with endometriosis

It is critical to understand the difficulties that people face when coping with endometriosis. The pain can be incapacitating, preventing them from working physically.

Employees may need to take time off work, as a result of severe pain and other symptoms.  As an employer, it is important that you are prepared for this and  take an understanding and empathetic approach to offering support.

Along with the physical pain, the mental impact of the condition can be extremely damaging. It is essential to understand the difficulties and collaborate with your employees to determine how you can support them and what works best for them individually.

Be open to flexible working arrangements

If someone has been diagnosed with endometriosis, they may require flexible working arrangements.

As an employer, you should be open about your flexible working policies and allow some leeway for employees to have the working conditions they require to work with their condition. Flexible hours, job sharing, working from home, or reducing their hours in general could all be options.

Employees will feel more comfortable asking for different working arrangements to help with their condition if you are open about your policies and discuss them with people in the workplace.

Provide signposting to appropriate support

As endometriosis is a chronic medical condition, it’s unlikely that you will know all of the answers or understand it completely.

However, it’s important to assist employees by directing them to appropriate resources, which can offer them the support they need. This could include anything from mental health support to team members who can help them with their workload.

Endometriosis support websites and groups can help your co-workers share their experiences with other people in similar situations.

Make safe spaces for people to be comfortable

Everyone in the workplace should feel safe and accepted no matter what. By creating safe spaces, people will feel more comfortable speaking openly about the support they require and how their employer can assist them with their condition. One of the barriers for trans and non-binary colleagues accessing support for endometriosis is the feeling that these spaces are not traditionally designed for them. It’s important that these safe spaces are inclusive of all genders.

Raise awareness of the condition

Raising endometriosis awareness is a great way to help an entire workplace understand the condition a little better. People don’t always have awareness of the health conditions that others around them may face, but educating them on people’s lived experience can lead to a shift in perspective.

Raising awareness can help people learn how to support someone with endometriosis, but it can also help create a culture where people may feel more comfortable talking openly about their condition. Do you have anyone in your organisation that is willing to share their experience to educate others?

It is important to note that everyone’s experience with endometriosis will be unique; it is not a condition that presents itself in the same way in every person. Find resources, raise awareness, and gain a better understanding of the various experiences that people go through.

How Inclusive Employers can help support gender diversity in the workplace

Here at Inclusive Employers, we can assist you in becoming a more understanding employer and collaborate with you to support gender diversity in the workplace.

To aid you in this, we have resources for International Women’s Day, flexible working, and more.

If you are not looking for resources, please contact us here to learn more about how we can best help you in supporting women with endometriosis at work.