Top Ten Tips for... Managing Menopause in the Workplace
A record number of older women are now working past retirement age – starting new careers, setting up new businesses, looking at jobs they may have wished they’d turned to at a younger age. According to the Department for Work and Pensions, the proportion of women aged 50 to 64 with jobs has risen by more than 50 per cent in the past 30 years.
But that also means there are more women working through the menopause - a natural condition which affects all women at some stage of their life.
According to the Menopause Doctor, Dr Louise Newson, around half of women say they find work difficult due to the menopause. So why is it not more commonly discussed in the workplace?
Here are our Top Ten Tips for managing the menopause at work.
1. Understand the symptoms
It’s not just about having hot flushes! Most women have symptoms related to menopause – whether it is those hot flushes, mood swings, brain fog, memory issues or difficulties concentrating. These feelings can lead to depression, anxiety and a lack of self-confidence. Many women have difficulty sleeping which can lead to tiredness at work. Around one in four women have severe symptoms which detrimentally affect their work life. Being more honest and understanding about what it feels like to work with these symptoms will make it much more easy to bear for your female colleagues.
2. Engage with your colleagues
There’s not always a lot of support in the workplace for women experiencing the menopause, so it’s important to consider how menopause aware your organisation is. You need to think about whether you have an open culture in which women can talk about the menopause and the challenges they face? Are the health, safety and wellbeing of menopausal employees effectively managed? How can women be supported to ensure productively levels are managed for individuals, their colleagues and the organisation?
3. Discuss it
It shouldn’t feel embarrassing or stressful to talk about the menopause and how it can potentially make work life more challenging, but in reality of course, these feelings can be difficult to raise with a manager or work peers. You should do what you can to make women feel more confident and able to talk about it with their colleagues. If women don’t want to discuss it personally, then why not provide links to specialist organisations or written information on your intranet or other shared spaces, so women can seek the advice they need in private?
4. But don’t joke about it!
Sometimes humour is a wonderful ice breaker and a great way to get people to talk about sensitive issues. And while that tactic might work for some women, be aware that joking about their menopausal symptoms may also have a detrimental effect on some women's mental wellbeing. We’ve all heard the rather sexist comments about ‘women’s time of the month’ or ‘pregnancy brain’ and further comments about hot flushes won’t help.
5. Raise awareness
Larger organisations who have Occupational Health, HR departments or employee assistance programmes are more likely to be able to offer workshops and conferences for women to help them understand their symptoms better and how to deal with them. But whatever the size of your organisation, you can do something to show your employees you care. For example, you could set up a support group or signpost your employees to existing women’s networks such as Menopause Cafe.
6. Be adaptable
There are some simple things which employers can do to make the menopausal symptoms women feel bearable. For example, a simple desk fan can help with hot flushes. A drinks dispenser can help women stay cool. Providing a proper work/life balance rather than encouraging overtime can help alleviate anxiety and tiredness. Flexible working arrangements can also reduce stress. Being adaptable to your workers’ needs, as well as compassionate about what they’re going through, will also help to improve their attendance and efficiency.
7. Include men in the conversation too
Changing the culture at work so that both men and women feel able to discuss the menopause, or any other serious health condition, should involve everyone – not just women. Helping male colleagues understand how women can feel during the menopause can make all the difference. You may find male co-workers say it helps them understand what’s going on at home with their partners, wives or mums too, which can only make us more understanding and compassionate human beings.
8. Support time out for treatment
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the most effective treatment at improving symptoms related to the menopause but very few women know about HRT to make an informed choice about it. About 10 per cent of women actually stop work because of their severe menopausal symptoms, which may seem drastic but highlights the serious impact the menopause can have. Be supportive of any time-out employees need to seek medical support.
9. Encourage a good work/life balance
We spend the majority of our lives at work and balancing our busy work life with our families and health can be really tricky, especially when going through the menopause. Many of us can feel torn between work and home, particularly now technology means we’re now more easily contactable than ever before. We expect our employees to be focused and productive while at work but by encouraging them to get the right work/life balance will protect them from potentially burning out, and for women, exacerbating their menopausal symptoms.
10. Know what the national guidelines say
In November 2016, the Faculty of Occupational Medicine introduced new guidelines for women entitled ‘Guidance on menopause and the workplace.’ They aim to help women experiencing troublesome menopausal symptoms and to support their colleagues and managers in tackling the occupational aspects of menopausal symptoms.
Julie Gordon is the Managing Director of cHRysos HR Solutions, a Doncaster based HR training and consultancy company providing CIPD and CMI accredited qualifications nationwide, as well as HR Consultancy to SMEs. For more information about how cHRysos HR can help you return to study and achieve further qualifications contact Julie on email@example.com or call +44 (0)1302 802128.