It’s time to talk about menopause and work

work in office discussing some paperwork, menopause in the workplace

Article by Zoë Morris, President, Frank Recruitment Group

Three out of every four women experience symptoms related to menopause—with 25% reporting symptoms severe enough to impact their day-to-day life.

Yet, menopause and perimenopause remain taboo subjects—particularly when it comes to how this stage affects women in the workplace. And, with up to 80% of women of menopausal age currently in work, and 1 billion working women approaching menopause by 2025, there’s never been a better time to have conversations around this subject, and increase awareness on what employers can do to empower women and support them during this period of transition.

How menopause affects work

Menopause symptoms can vary from one woman to the next, and can be both physical and psychological. And, while there seems to be more awareness about the physical symptoms, such as hot flushes and headaches, we don’t often hear about the psychological ones. These include poor concentration and memory, tiredness, lowered confidence, as well as feeling low and depressed. All of these symptoms can hide significant difficulties and consequences for both employees and employers—so much so that a Wellbeing of Women survey revealed that a quarter of its participants said they had considered leaving their jobs because of menopause and how it affected them. This number alone should ring an alarm bell to businesses, since they risk losing some of their most experienced and skilled talent unless they prioritise discussions around women’s health. Not to mention that these statistics also mean less women make it far enough in their careers to reach senior leadership positions—which is naturally a great loss for companies, industries at wide and the fight for equality.  

How employers can support women in menopause

There’s no industry secret to supporting women in menopause in the workplace. The only way to ensure all your employees feel empowered is through focusing on creating strong and comprehensive D&I policies.

Flexibility plays an important part in ensuring employees are given equal opportunities to succeed. And, when it comes to women going through menopause, working remotely and being able to switch their usual working pattern can be extremely beneficial in dealing with both physical and psychological symptoms. This does not mean that offices shouldn’t be menopause-friendly as well—ensuring the workplace has the right temperature and ventilation, as well as providing the possibility to work from quieter and perhaps more private spots in the office supports those women who prefer or need to work from an office space.

Flexibility however needs to be accompanied by more talk, awareness and training. Studies show most women were reluctant to discuss any menopause-related health problems with their managers, particularly as most of them were either men or people younger than them. This means that training line managers on menopause and women’s health is imperative—as this further aids menopausal women to open up to their supervisors. Similarly, initiatives like company-wide guidance and anonymised surveys, and the creation of support groups or dedicated spokespeople helps to create a safe space in which women feel that they can talk about menopause openly and without embarrassment.

In conclusion

Both employers and employees stand to gain if we break down the walls around discussing women’s health, especially menopause. Ensuring menopausal women get the support they need from the companies they work for means those same companies get the opportunity to retain their talent, and avoid any consequent hiring gaps and costs.

Naturally, it also strengthens the company’s overall inclusivity—making all employees feel like the place they work is one which will empower them through all their professional and personal phases. And this sense of belonging is an often-overlooked, yet essential component to a happy and successful workplace.

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