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
Co-Foun­der Vulvani | | 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.