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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Break Room

Period Leave’s a Great First Step, But It’s Not Nearly Enough

woman working from home

In an effort to increase creativity and efficiency, U.K.-based company Coexist unveiled a new company policy: period leave. Yes, it’s what it sounds like.

The policy, which is essentially an extension of a lenient work-from-home initiative, would allow women to take time off during their menstrual cycle, a time which Bex Baxter, director of Coexist, says women “are in a winter state, when they need to regroup, keep warm and nourish their bodies.”

The idea is not to have women call in sick when they’re doubled over with cramps or battling nausea coupled with an aching back and irritability levels through the roof; rather, the company considers the compassionate leave a way of encouraging employees to work when they are feeling at their very best. (It’s following the menstrual cycle, apparently, when “women [in the spring state] are actually three times as productive as usual.”)

Instead of working through a debilitating period month after month (which, as many women can attest to, is a real struggle), the taboo and stigma surrounding taking time off from work when you’re in bed with a heating pad and laptop on your lap is dismissed.

As a woman who has experienced all of the above-mentioned symptoms and more, I fully support the idea of being able to stay home on those particularly trying days of the month, but I also find this leave policy short-sighted.

If every workplace allowed for greater flexibility, we wouldn’t need this type of official strategy to begin with. Menstruation isn’t the only item that should be taken into consideration when organizations are determining and defining the WFH policy.

What about allergies? Insomnia? An emotionally draining conflict with a friend or partner? A dog who’s spent too much time alone lately? A child who’s having a meltdown? The day after taking a red-eye flight?

In no way is it my intention to undermine the impact of a woman’s period on her physical and mental well being (that would be like turning my back on my sex and pretending like my own monthly friend is a walk in the park), but, really, aren’t there so many reasons that one might be better off working from home (or not working altogether) because, barring official sick days or the death of a relative, that’s the rigid expectation?

If more CEOs understood the positive effect that instituting a flexible work policy has on its employees, the better off and more productive we’d all be. What’s it going to take for companies everywhere to embrace flexibility and trust that their staff isn’t going to drop the ball just because they met their deadlines from the comfort of their coach without ever changing out of their period, er, I mean, comfy pants? The period leave policy is an applaudable start, but it’s just that—a start. We have a long way to go.