Let’s talk about menopause! Supporting your workforce and dismantling the taboo

Tired stressed old mature business woman suffering from neckpain working from home office sitting at table. Overworked senior middle aged lady massaging neck feeling hurt pain from incorrect posture. Menopause

Article by Emma Loizidis, Head of People, Fox Agency

Menopause had traditionally been considered a taboo subject, not to be discussed unless behind closed doors, and for those going through it to continue on as if nothing has changed.

However, the more we talk about it, the more awareness it brings. Businesses and employers must understand the impact the menopause has on employees, and implement changes  to significantly improve the workplace for everyone.

Educating employees on menopause creates a more open environment in which a sense of belonging and support can be cultivated. At Fox Agency, we are committed to providing a safe and inclusive working environment for all our employees. And, in the case of menopause, we believe that if those going through it feel supported at work, they will be more engaged, and ultimately, more likely to remain within the business.

What can businesses do to support employees going through the menopause?

To support employees coping with the menopause whilst at work, it is important for businesses to provide a number of solutions , be that physical, such as providing a fan to combat hot flushes, or offering a more flexible working arrangement.

Employees are encouraged to speak openly and honestly to their manager at an early stage, and to keep them updated, so that their symptoms are treated as an ongoing health issue rather than as individual instances of ill health. Open communication also helps managers to work with employees on agreeing the most appropriate course of action to support their individual needs.

It is crucial to understand that menopause is unique to each person. No two people experience exactly the same level or combination of symptoms, so it’s  essential that we provide support on a case-by-case basis.

Supporting with symptoms

Difficulty sleeping is a common symptom of the menopause. A poor night’s sleep can affect an employee’s concentration, drive, and productivity, as well as their overall wellbeing. To help combat this, businesses can offer temporary or permanent changes to working hours, wherever possible. This may include a variation to the pattern of work hours, flexibility to avoid peak travel, or a reduction in hours if this is something required by the employee.

Hot flushes and daytime sweats are another common symptom and can be uncomfortable and disruptive to the working day for anyone experiencing them. Organisations should aim to find a comfortable working temperature in the office with the provision of air-conditioning, and having desk fans available upon request. Chilled drinking water should also be readily available.

Providing direction to external support from the likes of Menopause Matters and Daisy Network is also useful in educating the team in terms of what menopause actually is, what it may entail, and the treatment options available.

A change in workplace culture

It is important that colleagues are there to support their team members. Being supportive and understanding goes a long way. We aim to do away with any preconceptions surrounding menopause, and instead, familiarise the team with symptoms so they can recognise them when they happen.

Menopause is often viewed as too personal or embarrassing to talk about, especially in the workplace. But menopause is not a taboo subject. Everyone should be made to feel confident in speaking to their line manager about any concerns or symptoms.

By making menopause a regular area of discussion we can alleviate negative connotations and create an inclusive, supportive workforce and an open culture where people feel they can speak up when they are struggling with symptoms.

Why is it important to recognise menopause as an ongoing occupational health issue?

Organisations have a duty of care for their employees and recognising reproductive and sexual health conditions needs to be considered in the same way as other possible occupational health issues.

It’s worth noting that, while menopause is not a specifically protected characteristic in the Equality Act 2010, employers can be taken to an employment tribunal over age, sex, or even disability discrimination if they fail to effectively take into account the potential impact of menopausal symptoms.

The global workforce is becoming older, with a higher number of those directly experiencing menopausal symptoms in employment. This means more individuals than ever before are having to manage the physical and physiological bodily changes caused by menopause at work.

How can individuals better prepare for menopause?

While it may not be effective for everyone, there are a number of things that individuals can do to help to alleviate symptoms, or at the very least, better prepare for the menopause.

  • Eating a balanced diet, high in calcium in particular, and with a limited amount of caffeine and alcohol
  • Focus on exercise and a good amount of sleep
  • Understand individual symptom triggers and how to avoid them
  • Being comfortable reaching out to your doctor and all of the support services available
  • Talk openly to others who are going through the same thing

Menopause affects us all

Everyone will know someone experiencing menopause, whether it’s a family member, a colleague, or a partner. A lack of understanding around the topic can put strain on relationships, professional and otherwise. Education for all in the workplace on menopause is key to building a supportive network.

About the author

Joining Fox Agency in May, 2022 as the company’s first Head of People, Emma Loizidis supports with business development by placing people first and nurturing company culture.

With 15 years of HR and recruitment expertise, Emma knows the ins and outs of people management and how to support personal growth within a business. As well as building the people function of the business, Emma has implemented strategies for growth, whilst also ensuring the team feels happy, supported, and fulfilled in working towards a shared goal.

Prior to joining Fox Agency, Emma ran her own recruitment company for ten years, and single-handedly established the HR department for Barcelona-based tech start-up, Hosco. She joined Fox Agency following her role as Group People Manager at Mediacom UK, one of the UK’s largest media agencies, where she supported 400 people across five different businesses.

Emma Loizidis, Fox Agency Head of People
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