Kristel de Groot, the 30-year-old Dutch founder of Californian food supplement startup Your Super, came up with the concept for “moon days” when sitting in a boardroom waiting to give a three-hour presentation. On most days she would feel prepared, but at that moment, she was having trouble focusing because she was distracted by period pain.
Following this experience, de Groot introduced 12 annual “moon days” in June of last year. These days were allotted to her full-time menstruating employees on top of their regular sick days to give them a break if they need it during their period. De Groot conceptualizes them as a “do-what-you-can day,” so that menstruating employees have the option to not work, opt to work from home or take a half-day. “It’s to create empathy around the issue, and also encourages the team to listen to their bodies.”
Despite how common menstruation is, it is still uncommon to talk openly about it. 20 to 40 percent of women report experiencing menstrual cramps, mood swings, and fatigue, and up to 80 percent have experienced problems that have prevented them from working at their usual pace.
De Groot asked her employees to fill out a survey about their experiences with menstruation and work prior to introducing the moon days. The survey revealed that 65 percent of her 110 employees at Your Super are menstruators, and around half of them say they’ve been impacted by their menstrual cycle.
That said, when moon days were first introduced, it was received with mixed reactions. “There was some consternation. ‘Oh, we’re talking about this?’ It’s not just men who don’t want to talk about it. Many women don’t want to talk about it either,” de Groot explains. However, this is likely because many women grow up in a culture that shames menstruation and teaches them that it’s something to hide.
Now, de Groot’s employees have accepted Moon Days and treat them just like sick days or vacation days. On average, de Groot reports that her female employees take around 21.5 hours of moon day time per year.
Though well-intentioned, the moon days initiative risks backfiring by perpetuating stereotypes about menstruation-related mood swings and other outdated jokes about PMS. However, de Groot argues that “periods are actually the start of the creation of life,” and that they are “something to be celebrated, not something bad or dirty.” She hopes that more companies will join in on adapting workplaces to women’s needs, as “the workplace was actually built by men and hasn’t ever really changed,” even though women have more professional opportunities now.
As for the impact the moon days have had on her own company, de Groot says that she’s noticed that since they’ve been implemented, more women are open to talking about their periods. “Women started to share about their periods, about PMS—that was really encouraging to see. Women can support each other. Even if you don’t talk about it, at least women shouldn’t feel ashamed of it. Not talking about it sometimes comes with shame, and there is really no reason for that.”