Innov­at­ive meas­ures, new ini­ti­at­ives as well as sus­tain­able changes are needed to pro­mote a change towards more open­ness and accept­ance of men­stru­ation within a cor­por­ate cul­ture. From top man­agers to employ­ees, every­one must work on this together. This pro­cess includes train­ings to be more empath­etic when it comes to peri­ods in the work­place. The aim is to develop simple and cost-effect­ive strategies that have a pos­it­ive impact on employee sat­is­fac­tion and loyalty.

Peri­ods in the work­place: Where and how can we start?

The first step towards a period-friendly cor­por­ate cul­ture should be to con­sciously include men­stru­ation in the work struc­tures. This means includ­ing the related men­strual cycle as well. This goes hand in hand with the accept­ance of the needs of men­stru­at­ing people. And thus the right to well-being at work for all. But what could such a concept actu­ally look like in today’s world? A men­strual policy or period guideline would prob­ably be a good start. In the fol­low­ing we will explain which three aspects these should def­in­itely include. Ready for a guide of meas­ures for a period-friendly cor­por­ate culture?

1. Rein­ter­pret­a­tion of periods

The rein­ter­pret­a­tion peri­ods and the res­ult­ing change of the neg­at­ive attri­bu­tions must be addressed together. The most import­ant thing is that every­one puts aside their embar­rass­ment and fears of using the term men­stru­ation. And simply call it by their name: Period. Every­one must feel com­fort­able talk­ing about their men­stru­ation, even when they are at work. How­ever, dis­card­ing shame does not hap­pen by itself and espe­cially not overnight. The nor­m­al­isa­tion of peri­ods includes, for example, dis­cus­sions, edu­ca­tion and work­shops. These are ways to pro­mote not only period know­ledge but also more respect and inclu­sion in the work­place. All of a sud­den the hid­den prob­lem is no longer so taboo and if it is talked about openly, new solu­tions can be found together.

 2. Free period products

A period-friendly work­ing envir­on­ment starts with the equip­ment of the toi­let facil­it­ies. A basic require­ment is that free period products are avail­able in the toi­lets (regard­less of gender) at all times and in suf­fi­cient quant­ity. After all, access to men­strual products is essen­tial in order to be able to man­age one’s peri­ods with dig­nity and to pro­mote greater equal­ity and accept­ance. The avail­ab­il­ity of free period products is also a meas­ure against period poverty, because not every­one can afford period products. The sup­ply of free products there­fore also pro­motes social par­ti­cip­a­tion and inclu­sion of all. It is best to provide dif­fer­ent types of peri­od­ical products, as some people can­not or do not want to use some products for med­ical or reli­gious reas­ons. Dis­pos­able products are the first step. 

Reusable period products and uni­sex toi­lets in the office?

How­ever, it would also be desir­able to con­duct reg­u­lar sur­veys on con­sumer beha­viour in order to be able to respond even bet­ter to the needs of men­stru­at­ing employ­ees. Per­haps sus­tain­able products, such as period under­wear or men­strual cups, could also be another idea. Run­ning water, soap, toi­let paper and waste bins for dis­pos­ing of dis­pos­able period products in all toi­let cab­ins should of course be avail­able as well. How­ever, this should actu­ally be a given. A next step could also to con­sider whether gender-neut­ral bath­rooms are another way of achiev­ing greater inclu­sion within the com­pany. Uni­sex toi­lets have become stand­ard in pub­lic trans­port, such as trains or planes. So why not in the office?

3. Men­strual flexibility

Flex­ible arrange­ments in terms of places and times of work should be imple­men­ted for all, if pos­sible. Say hello to remote work and flexi­time! The pos­sib­il­ity of work­ing flex­ibly, for example to rest when men­strual prob­lems are more severe, can sig­ni­fic­antly improve the work­ing day of a men­stru­at­ing per­son. Some­times it is enough just to be able to work from home in comfy pants (plus a hot water bottle) or with longer breaks or to come into the office an hour later. A flex­ible work sched­ule can be invalu­able in such moments, as it allows employ­ees to work more when they feel good and work less when they feel tired. If we listen to our body and take breaks when needed, we can recover more quickly (aka less men­strual pain).

Cor­por­ate cul­ture of trust and self-determination

It is often pos­sible to avoid tak­ing paink­illers or altern­at­ively a whole sick day by chan­ging the gen­eral work con­di­tions and thus adapt­ing to the (pos­sibly slightly) changed phys­ical needs. Of course, there should always be the option to call in sick if period pain is too severe. The pos­sib­il­ity to work more before or after the period also strengthens the employ­ees in their self-determ­in­a­tion and takes away the shame of call­ing in sick because of one’s period. In other words, this is a cor­por­ate cul­ture of trust and self-determ­in­a­tion, where all the to-do’s are still done at the end of the month any­way. Maybe just not dur­ing the clas­sic 9 am to 5 pm office hours from Monday to Fri­day. Depend­ing on the job, it could also be help­ful to take the men­strual cycle into account when plan­ning the work schedule.

Peri­ods in the work­place: What are your experiences?

What does the situ­ation at your com­pany look like? Is the period still not talked about? Or are there maybe already meas­ures and ini­ti­at­ives to nor­m­al­ise peri­ods in the work­place? If not, do you have any ideas on how to make your com­pany more period-friendly? Feel free to share your exper­i­ences and sug­ges­tions in the com­ments below or send us a mes­sage. We are look­ing for­ward dis­cuss­ing this topic fur­ther with you.

Britta Wiebe, period education, Vulvani
Britta 
Co-Founder Vul­vani | britta@vulvani.com | Web­site | + posts

Britta Wiebe is the co-founder of Vul­vani. She loves research­ing, writ­ing and design­ing new art­icles or innov­at­ive edu­ca­tional con­cepts about men­stru­ation all day long. When she is not trav­el­ling the world, she enjoys spend­ing time with her loved ones in the beau­ti­ful city of Ham­burg in Germany.