Dare to discuss: demystifying menopause in the workplace
Did you know that the UK’s four million women aged between 45 and 55 are the largest and fastest growing proportion of the workforce?
On World Menopause Day, Thursday 18 October, Frazer Jones and Carter Murray UK hosted a webinar on demystifying menopause in the workplace.
We welcomed expert guests Bernadette Thomas, CEO and Founder of Rosby Consulting and The Wellbeing Games, and Dr. Francesca Cappelluto – NHS GP and Founder of The Molesley Meet-up.
Education and freedom at work
At Frazer Jones we understand the importance of education and freedom in the workplace. We believe every professional should be able to work with autonomy and shape their own career.
Our webinar aimed not only to raise awareness but to help businesses do more to support women throughout its many stages.
For those of you who couldn’t make it or would like to recap, here are some highlights from the event that covers:
- What is the peri-menopause?
- The complicated relationship between women and menopause
- Groups who need extra support
- How symptoms affect women in the workplace
- Adjustments in the workplace
- Creating a menopause strategy
- Questions from the audience
You can also download the slides here and watch the recording below.
What is the peri-menopause?
To start the webinar, we heard from Dr. Francesca as she explained the actual meaning of peri-menopause.
Peri-menopause occurs when symptoms of menopause begin – which can be up to 10 years earlier than the menopause itself. As the average age for menopause is 51, this could be as early as 40+.
Symptoms can be at their most severe during this stage and there’s no fixed time length.
The complicated relationship between women and menopause
Dr. Francesca highlighted some fascinating insights on women and menopause, including:
- 75% of women in the UK say menopause has made them change their life
- 32% of women feel they are no longer good company
- 38% of partners feel helpless when supporting their partner through menopause
She also raised awareness of the fact there are 40 formally recognised symptoms, while the list of other possible symptoms grows.
Mental health is a major factor during the stages of perimenopause and menopause, including lack of concentration, anxiety, sleeplessness and brain fog. It can also worsen underlying conditions such as ADHD.
Groups who need extra support
If you’re an employer, there are certain groups who may need extra support from you – including BAME, transgender people, those with Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (under 40), early menopause (40-45) and those with disabilities.
There are many sources of information and support for all people going through any menopause stage, including their GP, family, friends, support groups and websites such as Rock My Menopause, Women’s Health Concern and Menopause Matters. Books include Va Va Voom and The Happy Menopause by Jackie Lynch and Spoon-Fed by Tim Spector.
How symptoms affect women in the workplace
Next, we heard from Bernadette on how symptoms directly affect women in the workplace.
She noted that some women may not know that they’re going through perimenopause or menopause, so it’s helpful for employers to bring awareness and understanding of the potential symptoms.
Mood and cognition can be heavily impacted by the stages of menopause as shown by eye-opening these statistics:
- 9 in 10 women are negatively affected at work by menopausal symptoms
- 1 million women in the UK have left jobs as a result
- 99% women describe at least one symptom
- 25% of women consider giving up work as a result of symptoms
- 1 in 3 women take time off because of symptoms
Businesses are losing some of their best talent because of the menopause – so the more support given to these individuals, the better it will be for them and for your business.
Adjustments in the workplace
We asked our audience what their businesses are doing to support women throughout menopause:
- 14% of respondents have a policy and an active committee supporting their menopause strategy
- 39% are in the planning phase
- 18% are just starting their journey and have gained senior management sign off for plans
- 30% are doing nothing
It’s really positive to see so many in the planning phase and some that already have a policy or are starting their journey with management approval.
Bernadette also talked us through the results to a survey conducted by The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) that highlighted how employers can make their workplace more menopause supportive:
At the top of the list was flexible working with 43% votes from respondents, followed by ability to control temperature at 36% and support with emotional and mental wellbeing at 34%.
Many businesses will offer some or all of these elements of care, so there are some quick wins in adapting your policies or measures already in place and communicating that they are available to support women during perimenopause or menopause.
Creating a menopause strategy
A powerful step many businesses take is to decide they need a menopause strategy, empowering managers to make on-the-spot decisions when supporting their employees who may be experiencing menopausal symptoms and initiating dedicating programmes.
Importantly, a menopause strategy isn’t a one-size-fits-all – just as everyone experiences perimenopause and menopause in different ways. The key as an employer is to be open-minded and flexible.
Step 1: define your purpose
The purpose of your strategy could come from the deep pain of valued and talented women leaving your business. Issues you might face are high levels of attrition of women aged 33-55, high sickness absence levels and disengaged employee groups.
Step 2: establish your outcomes
The prize could be to support and retain women at all ages and stages at work. This could be through improved performance and engagement, loyal and supported employee groups and greater retention/attraction of top talent.
Step 3: how to get there
There are many tactics that could help you address the issues that separate where you are and where you want to be, including:
- Training and education at individual, team and business level
- Interactive workshops to implement behavioural change
- Supportive forums to discuss ideas
- Menopause networks or cafes hosted monthly to drive change and support throughout life changes
- Policy, process and behavioural changes and occupational adjustments
- Coaching around focus, clarity, self-talk, confidence and personal goals
You can visit Rosby Consulting for more information on how to create your strategy.
Questions from the audience
“What are examples of transgender challenges we should be aware of?”
Dr. Francesca: Similarly to women going through menopause, a huge challenge for transgender people is not seeing their workplace as a safe space to talk about what they’re going through – which can include many hormonal changes that impact their life inside and outside of work.
The most important thing an employer can do is instil an open and transparent culture where people who are on this difficult and sometimes long-term journey can speak freely without feeling judged.
“What support should we offer for andropause?”
Bernadette: For those who don’t know, andropause is the male menopause. There is lots of emerging research in this space which shows the differences in how it manifests for men and impacts them in the workplace.
With andropause, the testosterone hormone is decreasing over a long period of time. For some women during menopause, hormonal changes can happen suddenly whereas men’s tend to be more gradual.
Despite this, the impact at work can be similar – including lack of confidence, not feeling valued and hesitancy when applying for promotions.
“Do you have any suggestions for individuals who aren’t getting GP support they need?”
Dr. Francesca: Firstly, ask to speak to GP who has interest in women’s health. You can also request a double appointment which lasts for 20 minutes instead of 10, depending on the surgery.
You can also enable your doctor to help you as quickly as possible if you are able to consider and understand the symptoms you’re going through. You can do this by reading online sources and taking menopause questionnaires.
An important point is not to wait until symptoms worsen. Talk to someone as soon as they start, as the earlier they’re treated the more benefits you’ll see.
Get in touch
A huge thank you to our expert guests who joined our webinar to gift us with their expertise and experience.
Thank you also to everyone who attended; we hope you took away some knowledge and techniques to support people navigating this uncertain time. If you have questions that haven’t been answered, please do visit useful online sources such as Rock My Menopause and Balance Menopause.
As a recruitment business, we’re aware of the vital role we can play in creating a more diverse, inclusive and progressive future for workplaces of every shape and size.
The menopause impacts individuals and those they live and work with, so we are considering ways to support employees experiencing the perimenopause and menopause themselves while fostering inclusion and wider understanding in our business. We will use the framework of the Mindful Business Charter to help us structure those initiatives.
Please feel free to get in touch with us to discuss the webinar or anything else.