It’s an issue outside the boundaries of knowledge for most of us, often related to feelings of discomfort and (small but mighty) bouts of teenage moodiness. 1 in 4 women experience serious symptoms at some point in their lives, ranging from psychological strain to physical exhaustion. This daily torment goes unnoticed by most and is undervalued by many. Why is an issue so widely experienced, discussed behind closed doors? It’s the ‘M’ word, the change... the Menopause! The sheer mention of it fills palms with beads of sweat and turns cheeks rosy red. Let’s face it, it’s time for a Menopause rebrand.
It’s been estimated that 10% of women stop working altogether because of their menopause symptoms.
Like anything, menopausal symptoms vary from woman to woman. Some breeze through it, barely noticing the effects. Others get dealt the bad hand. Menopause can be particularly difficult to manage for women while at work. From brain fog suffocating the ability to complete tasks on time, to insomnia transforming mid-morning meetings into nap-central. The strain and embarrassment caused by menopausal symptoms have resulted in women refusing workplace progression opportunities, with others choosing to leave their roles entirely. The exodus of menopausal women is disadvantageous to the organization, forcing a premature search for replacement talent and simultaneously reducing team diversity.
What can organisations do to help?
It’s not as easy as saying: ‘Make menopause acceptably spoken about in the workplace!’. Sure, allowing women to feel empowered enough to speak out about their issues is part of the solution, but there are plenty of initiatives that organisations can adopt to enhance workplace satisfaction and retention amongst menopausal women.
· Managers don’t need to be medical experts to support, but it does help to have some knowledge behind you! Authoritative members of staff should undergo menopause training to increase awareness of the potential effects of menopause on women within the workplace. They should learn how to converse with employees who raise menopause or perimenopause concerns, provide recommendations, and know when to act if necessary.
· Appoint a menopause champion within your organization! These employees should also be aware of the laws relating to menopause and should be viewed as beacons of support for menopausal women to approach in times of need.
· The working environment conditions may need to be altered where appropriate, ensuring correct ventilation is available and adaptable to individual’s needs. This may include providing desktop fans or altering workstation locations to be nearer an open window.
· Start-times should be considered and may need to become flexible for those experiencing sleepless nights. With insomnia striking women throughout the menopause, later start times could allow greater focus and less brain fog while completing tasks at work.
· Wellbeing and health should also be advised amongst menopausal women (and the organization as a whole!) to assist with menopausal symptoms.
Monitoring the projected age distribution of the workforce will enable employers to be proactive about the needs of their employees, avoiding a reactive approach to age-related health issues. Advice from health professionals should be attained, alongside a supportive human resource policy. Most importantly, show compassion for members of the team who are suffering from menopausal symptoms. The topic remains extremely stigmatized. Speaking out takes courage, so make sure that this is considered.
Let’s rebrand Menopause and allow women to feel comfortable enough to stay at work by supporting them with their symptoms and building a support network around them.
Menopause is not just a female issue, it’s an organizational one. Let’s treat it as such!
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