Menopause support – the pitfalls organisations should avoid

Happy business woman working together online on a tablet, menopause

Article by Kathy Abernethy, Director of Menopause, Peppy

Where once it was treated as something to be silently endured, menopause is now a topic that is well and truly in the public eye – from celebrities like Davina McCall, to politicians like Nicola Sturgeon, to top employers, everyone is talking about menopause. 

As the conversation around the life stage that affects half the population gains momentum, awareness of the challenges that it can pose are becoming common knowledge. 

And this awareness is leading to action. 

Last month, it was announced that one specific type of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) would become available across the counter, a ‘huge step forward’ for the health of people going through menopause. 

At the same time, research by REBA and AXA Health revealed that coverage for gender-specific health issues like menopause could become ‘almost universal’ by 2024, with a projected 91% of employers expected to offer workplace support.

Why? Because women of menopausal age are the fastest-growing demographic in the UK workforce, and the impact of menopause on women’s careers can be devastating. One in four women – often at the height of their professional experience and career – consider leaving the workforce because of symptoms including brain fog, hot flushes and anxiety.

The boom in menopause support is a step forward that must be celebrated, but inevitably, the support offered is not always hitting the mark. Here are some key pitfalls to avoid…

Avoid support that is too generalist

The fact is, there is a lot of information out there around menopause. Any guidance employers offer their people will be more engaging and useful when it covers specific symptoms and actionable solutions. Crucially, support should be delivered by expert menopause specialists, rather than generalist healthcare professionals.

Don’t focus only on physical symptoms 

Recent research we carried out, revealed that over 78% of people going through menopause have experienced brain fog. Hormone fluctuations, stress, body image and symptoms can have a negative impact on emotional and mental wellbeing during menopause, so the psychological impacts of menopause should be supported just as much as physical changes. 

Steer clear of complicated pathways to support

There’s no point in offering menopause support if people don’t know it’s there or how to access it. Ensure that staff know who to turn to for menopause support, whether it’s their manager or HR team or another member of staff, and make sure that the support available is clearly signposted during onboarding, on a company intranet and through visible comms like posters and desk drops – this will help get the conversation out in the open, as well as encourage employees to use the benefits available. 

Don’t take a flash in the pan approach

Unfortunately, some organisations view menopause support as a tick-box exercise, completed by laying on a couple of webinars. But this isn’t a ‘once and done’ duty for an HR team – support needs to be regular and ongoing. Providing a virtual support channel, perhaps on Slack or Teams, or an in-person Menopause Café will give strength in numbers and help foster a culture of openness. Normalise menopause by asking senior business leaders to share their experience. Above all, listen to colleagues by regularly reviewing health benefits and sending out surveys that ask how menopause is impacting them. 

Avoid making employees ask for help

Despite recent years, menopause remains a subject that many find difficult to broach with their employers, either for embarrassment or even for fear of ageist attitudes. Mitigate this by making menopause support confidential, so people can access expert advice and answers remotely and in private. Support needs to be flexible enough that if individuals don’t want to talk to their manager about going through menopause, they shouldn’t have to – it should always be easy to access on their own terms.

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Don’t forget partners

Directly or indirectly, menopause will touch all people at some stage – and that includes men. Male colleagues, family members, friends or partners must be included in conversations around menopause too, to help them understand what others are going through and how to best support the women they work with. Speak to men directly with webinars and resources aimed directly at men, or events that welcome partners.

Avoid making assumptions about menopause

Not all who experience menopause are women, and not all women will experience menopause. It’s important that everyone can access the support they need without fear of judgement or misinformation. Remember that there is no one experience of menopause –  people from the LGBTQ+ community can experience menopause, and it’s not uncommon for people to go through natural or surgical menopause at a young age or for symptoms to last a long time. Communications and support need to be inclusive to all.

Don’t ignore the bigger picture

It’s important not to just cover the usual menopausal symptoms in the support provided, but wider health implications too. Menopause impacts all areas of health: fitness, nutrition, relationships and mental wellbeing are as important as menopause symptoms so the right information and advice can make all the difference to how people thrive through menopause. As a person going through menopause, it’s easy to lose identity. Knowing, for example, that regular exercise improves mood and confidence, via the release of endorphins, can be of enormous benefit to anyone going through this. 

The benefits don’t just stand to benefit individuals, but their ability to perform to their best ability in their personal and working lives as well. No wonder, then, that we are in the midst of the rise and rise of menopause support. 

About the author

Kathy Abernethy is the Director of Menopause at Peppy.

She is the Immediate past Chair of the British Menopause Society, with thirty years’ clinical experience.

Kathy Abernethy

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