Menstruating women are unable to be as productive as usual in the workplace and at school
It comes as no surprise that the impact of menstruation on women’s lives and careers is sorely underestimated, but a new study is here to validate our period pain just the same. Researchers find that period pain is the direct link to nearly nine days of lost productivity per year in workplaces and schools.
The study, published yesterday, surveyed 32,748 Dutch women between the ages of 15 and 45 in order to evaluate lost productivity due to period symptoms. They consider “lost productivity” to mean both time off from work and/or school, as well as working and studying while feeling ill.
One in seven women, or 14 percent of those surveyed, have taken time off from work or school during their period. Of that group, 3.5 percent say that this was a common occurrence — lasting every day, or nearly every day of their menstrual cycle.
Many of the women reported being less productive as a result of their period pain. Researchers concluded that, on average, women were absent from work or school 1.3 days per year because of their period. But productivity loss overall was equivalent to 8.9 days per year — because no one feels like working at the top of their game when they feel like absolute hell.
Some 81% of the Dutch women said they had been less productive as a result of their menstrual symptoms. On average, the researchers calculated, women were absent from work or school 1.3 days per year because of their period and, on average, productivity loss was equivalent to 8.9 days per year. Women under the age of 21 are three times more likely to take time off because of their menstrual symptoms.
“Women said that they weren’t as productive as they could be while at work — they needed to go to the toilet every hour or they had a headache and couldn’t concentrate,” Theodoor Nieboer, an author of the report and a gynecologist at the Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands, tells CNN.
That’s not all — the study also found that when women did call in sick due to period pain, only one in five women actually disclosed to their employer the real reason for their absence. Because periods are still a “taboo” topic — even though half the world’s population has been menstruating since the dawn of time. It’s ridiculous, yes, but very real. Women are made to feel self-conscious about the very thing our bodies are designed to do.
A majority of women, 68 percent, say they wished their employers had more flexible hours for working when feeling ill on their periods. And really, who among us wouldn’t feel 10 times more comfortable typing on our couches with a heating pad and stretch pants while popping Midol? Or — GASP — not having to work at all on the days when our periods are truly awful?
This could benefit everyone who menstruates, but particularly those with debilitating and painful conditions like endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome.
“Despite being almost two decades into the 21st century, discussions about period symtoms may still be rather taboo,” Nieboer said. “There’s a need for greater openness about the impact of menstrual symptoms on work, and companies need to be more open about this with their female workers.”