Workplace menopause and discussions around the subject have received a lot more media attention in the past twelve months. There are many reasons for this. Firstly, around the world, there are more women over 50 in the workplace than ever before. Employers are starting to understand the benefits to their business performance and their brand of supporting employees at this stage of life. And, more women are citing menopause symptoms as an issue in employment law cases.
In various research projects it has been found that 70-80% of women experience menopause symptoms that can affect their performance in the workplace. More alarmingly, 25% of women consider leaving their jobs due to their symptoms and being unable to talk about it to their manager or colleagues. Employers are losing highly trained, knowledgeable and experienced employees without even understanding why this is happening.
And the solutions can be so simple and inexpensive. It is a win/win/win situation.
My guest on the Hot Women Rock Radio Show this week, Kate Usher, is an author, coach and change strategist with a specialism in Menopause and gender equality. She works with women and organisations to create simple strategies that enable modern and supportive Menopause conversations.
Together, we talked about the steps employers can take to break the silence around menopause and create a more profitable, equal and diverse workplace.
Kate had a 28 career as a Project Manager and working in change management. She worked for FTSE 100 organisations and was flying to places around the world, some of them are very far flung, to create bonded and effective project teams. Often, she was called in because those teams weren’t working properly.
“That was all fantastic. Then the financial crisis hit, and I was made redundant. I’d already trained as a psychotherapist and as a coach and I was able to pick that up seamlessly. Then my menopause hit and it absolutely devastated me. Within six months I went from being a go-getting individual to someone who could not get out the front door. It was tough, really, really hard. The symptoms came in in waves and I just started to use my skills. I had to save myself.
Nobody seven years ago was talking about menopause at all, except the fabulous Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4. But other than that, nobody was talking about menopause, and I really did feel isolated and very lonely.
So, I started to do this work just to save myself. If somebody did say the word menopause it was normally derogatory. Referring to someone as a menopausal women was the biggest insult you could give because it combined age with symptoms and a whole load of negative connotations.
That is why I started working with organisations to increase awareness, and change the perceptions around workplace menopause. This is a time of life when we have so much experience, knowledge, and capability to offer to employers. And, in association with that, we are a force to be reckoned with! That’s what we have to talk about.”
Top Tips for Managing Workplace Menopause from Kate and Pat
Many organisations have put menopause policies in place to set out their approach to this issue and the support they provide. But there are many steps you can take before you reach that stage.
1 Understand the business case for supporting women at menopause. This includes the increase in performance, the reduction in sickness absence, improved retention of experienced staff and lower risk of employment related legal cases.
2 Raise awareness of menopause in your workplace. Let employees know that this is a subject your organisation talks about. Make sure this message is coming right from the top of your organisation.
3 Carry out a short staff survey to find out what support your employees want. You only need a few simple questions such as: Do you feel comfortable talking about menopause with your colleagues? Do you feel comfortable talking about menopause to your Line-Manager? Would you benefit from training on this subject? What support do you need around workplace menopause issues?
4 Make information about menopause readily accessible to your employees. You could place menopause information on your intranet or in posters placed in communal areas such as kitchens or meeting room, or by providing fact sheets.
5 Offer training sessions and workshops to employees and managers. Some employees may need basic information about what menopause is and what symptoms might be experienced in the workplace. Line-managers may need training on how to have the conversation about menopause and what reasonable adjustments might be required and offered.
6 Create a pathway to support for employees. The employer is not expected to provide diagnosis and offer treatment options! It is helpful to let employees where and how they can access support.
7 Consider what reasonable adjustments employees need to cope with their menopause symptoms. This may be as simple as ready access to cold drinking water or toilet breaks. It might be a review of uniform clothing. It could be as simple as providing a desk fan. (See Menopause: Mind the Gap for more ideas)
If you or your organisation need more support to manage workplace menopause contact Pat today.