INSIGHTS

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Many of us are becoming much happier talking about health and wellbeing, even in the workplace. We’re starting to realise that opening up about our problems gives others the opportunity to offer help and support.

This has probably been accelerated by the pandemic, but it’s far wider than that. When we tell our managers that we’re experiencing backache, we can be given chairs with better lumbar support. Talking about our experiences isn’t “complaining” — it helps us to do our jobs.

Menopause used to be considered profoundly private. Women struggled through as best they could and waited to feel better. As we start to talk about “The Change” more openly, it’s becoming clear that it’s something that impacts our working lives, not just our personal lives.

Women make up more than half of the population and 85% of us experience menopause symptoms. That’s a lot of people.

It’s not just that it’s such a common experience, it can have a big impact on our ability to work. 59% of women have taken time off work as a result of menopause. A quarter of women consider leaving their job as a result of their menopause symptoms, and one in ten actually do.

Let’s look at how the situation is improving and what we can do to help.

Awareness is growing

Women are becoming much more comfortable talking about their menopause symptoms, but it hasn’t been easy. It’s taken a long time for it to be normal to discuss any women’s problems, but younger women have led the charge on normalising conversations about periods.

Now we’re seeing the same process taking place for menopause and perimenopause.

Menopause awareness is growing faster than many of us could have anticipated. A big part of this is due to the “Davina Effect”. Davina McCall’s 2021 documentary “The Menopause Brain Drain” really helped to bring these discussions out into the open.

This, along with other educators such as Dr Nighat Arif, has put a spotlight on menopause for the first time. Importantly, it highlighted that this isn’t just a “women’s issue”. It’s a health issue. It’s a social issue. It’s a business issue. It’s a human issue.

I’m playing my part by making space for the people around me to talk about their experiences. Sometimes, this will mean dealing with my own and others’ discomfort.

As a woman and an employer, I want to know that I’m doing everything I can to make life easier for any employees experiencing menopause symptoms. I want them to feel safe and comfortable at work, and I definitely don’t want to lose my fantastic staff.

Here are the things I’m looking at to make sure that my company is doing its part. 

What can you do to support employees during menopause?

Awareness and training

Awareness is improving already, but we still have a part to play. We have years of misinformation and misunderstandings to overcome.

The first step is to make sure that our employees have accurate information about what menopause is, and what it can mean. Look for authoritative resources, such as the CIPD to ensure your staff are fully informed.

This isn’t always a comfortable topic of conversation, so we need to think carefully about how to destigmatise the issue. It’s important that people feel comfortable and not pressured. Offer a safe space for people to talk about their symptoms.

Don’t underestimate how uncomfortable these conversations can make some male members of staff (especially older ones) too, but don’t allow their discomfort to shut down the discussion. Providing online information and training can help them to acclimatise to a more open culture in the workplace.

Prioritise open communication

We don’t always know what is going to help our employees to feel most comfortable. I might feel confident talking in front of a large group, but my staff might prefer to approach me in private.

This is where a corporate culture based on psychological safety and mutual respect can really pay dividends. When your employees know that they will be treated with courtesy and compassion, they’re more likely to open up.

Focus on building a culture of mutual trust. This makes it easier for your team members to come to you as soon as they need support. The sooner you know there’s a problem, the easier it is for you to step in, and the better your chances of retaining great workers.

Promote health & wellbeing in the office

There’s nothing unique about menopause. Incorporating your menopause management approach into your overall health and wellbeing strategy is a meaningful step you can take to help further normalise the issue.

Menopause has implications for both mental and physical health, so make sure you address the full range of symptoms your staff are experiencing. 

Many of the steps that can help with menopause symptoms are universally good for us and sometimes far too easy to overlook. Advice on healthy eating, exercise, sleep and stress management can all be helpful.

This is a great opportunity to show real leadership and avoid mixed messages. Don’t just tell your staff to reduce their stress — take ownership of the issue by not replying to emails outside of office hours and expecting your employees to do the same.

Put a formal framework in place

Putting a formal framework in place to address how you will deal with issues related to menopause is one of the cornerstones in creating a supportive environment around the subject. Formalising a framework now allows you to be proactive and strategic, rather than reactive and rushed.

Having a policy already in place can reduce the anxiety for employees just starting menopause and provide comfort to those already experiencing symptoms. It offers tangible evidence that you take the issue seriously.

I’ve been lucky enough to mostly work in relatively small teams with a strong culture of trust and mutual respect. I’ve never had to deal with colleagues discriminating or belittling their female coworkers but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a policy in place for what I would do if that did happen.

Having a formal menopause policy isn’t just about valuing your older female workers. It’s yet another strand in a successful DEI strategy where all of your staff feel respected, safe and empowered to succeed.

Hopefully, this has given you a few ideas for supporting your employees through menopause. Check out the rest of our blogs for more tips and advice on creating a safe and supportive workplace for everyone!

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