A set of emojis to subtly communicate when you are menstruating at work.
Client: Flo Health
Not enough people are talking about how periods affect them at work .
A set of 4 downloadable emojis and guidebook which can be used at workplaces and on Slack statuses for people to talk about their periods at work.
How it works
I worked with Flo on a campaign to use emoji as a more approachable and opt-in alternative for menstruating people to talk about periods at work. The emoji come with a guidebook which detail the context in which the emoji are intended to be used. There is also advice for people who don’t menstruate about supporting those on their period.
Research and development
A few months ago, I told 11,000 people at work that I was on my period.
It’s normal for me to throw up from pain on my period and I found myself uncontrollably cramping during meetings. I had just come back from being ill, and worried it would look like I was ‘slacking’.
I didn’t feel comfortable starting this conversation in the team room, so I used a red drop emoji and set it as my ‘Slack’ status. It was my way of saying “I’m in pain, please be mindful and recognise that I might not have the energy to deal with some tasks.” For me, this was essential information for me to do my job, but it’s a very personal choice.
It ended up sparking many conversations across the company, with some colleagues expressing they too had the same experience, some who were unsure about the approach, and others who didn’t have periods wanting to know how best to support. The conversation also expanded into thinking about other hormonal changes, such as IVF and menopause.
I raised this during International Women’s day because menstrual anxiety can affect all people who have periods/PMS and can still impact our lives profoundly. And remember periods can affect more people than women as well – including nonbinary, intersex people, and trans men.
The response went viral on LinkedIn and started many conversations about periods in the workplace.
Who should have been included in this work, but was not.
People who work in settings where they don’t have online communication platforms, such as those in the hospitality and acting industries.
“The instinct to see it as oversharing is actually a reflection of the stigma and taboo associated with it. That in itself opens a can of worms, but these worms need to be released if we ever want to achieve true gender parity. Good on you Sophia Luu for having the courage to raise this.”
“Thanks for posting. It’s important to understand how hormones affect many, including those going through IVF and menopause. I’m sure there are many other treatments where the side effects just wreck havoc on your bodies’ ability to regulate their hormones for women and men.”
“Hey Sophia! First, sorry you’re in pain – that sucks especially while trying to work… well done on the post, always good to normalize these things. While as a trans woman I don’t menstruate, I do get PMS symptoms and definitely have felt invisible pressure to not bring that up to teams so they don’t doubt my general productivity, etc.”
There are many subjects which are traditionally thought of as taboo which severely impact whether someone feels they can perform well at work. A solution that supports people on their period also works for those who, for whatever reason, might want their colleagues to know that they need to take a break or turn their camera off for a day. This is particularly also in the case of chronic illness and other mental health situations.
Downloaded and used commonly in many companies, including Flo Health, McKinsey and even Slack themselves!
I don’t believe in a perfect solution. What I can do though, is reflect on how to make things better in hindsight. Given the digital focus for this project, I didn’t consider other online platforms like Microsoft Teams or Zoom. The emojis were only able to be applied on Slack, and so were not compatible for workplaces using other software. If I could do this again, I would consider that more.