Time to change: How companies can create a menopause-friendly workplace

Happy mature old female mentor coach supervisor training young interns at group office meeting professional workshop, menopause

By Windy Maledu, senior behavioural scientist at CoachHub

There are currently around 15 million women in the UK workforce, with women over 50 making up 13% of this figure.

Many in this age bracket will be approaching the high point of their careers, achieving senior management positions and top salaries.

However, this career apex also coincides with the onset of the menopause. Still a deeply taboo topic, menopause can begin any time from someone’s late 30s through to their late 50s and symptoms often last for years. Common physical and behavioural symptoms include difficulty sleeping, hot flushes, increased anxiety and loss of confidence, and memory and concentration issues.

In the workplace, these symptoms can make it very challenging for women to perform at their previous levels and manage these issues. With 1 in 10 women battling these issues for as long as 12 years, it’s imperative business leaders understand how to help women cope with these biological changes and ensure their continued progression and wellbeing within the business as they retain their talent.

Building confidence in conversation

Often, one of the biggest challenges to creating a menopause friendly workplace is a lack of confidence or fear from line managers around how to broach the topic. Due to the stigma around discussing reproductive and sexual health in the workplace, many managers do not feel that they have the tools or experience to support women through these conversations.

However, it’s not necessary to be an expert in women’s health to provide high quality support. Few of us understand the full complexities of pregnancy or maternity care, but most of us know enough to support a pregnant colleague and make them feel comfortable. With this in mind, managers can apply the same strategy for the menopause. Starting the conversation is key, and managers can play a vital role using coaching skills in letting women know that they are there to provide support, listen, and work with women to help them continue to achieve their full potential.

Understanding the basics

In tandem with confidence-building strategies, workplaces should ensure that managers and colleagues have a basic understanding of how the menopause affects those experiencing it. Many of the physical symptoms of the menopause, including hot flushes and insomnia, can be mitigated by simple changes in the workplace; whether that’s providing a cooling desktop fan or introducing flexible start times to aid sleep.

It’s also helpful to understand that those experiencing the menopause may also suffer from behavioural symptoms like mood changes, anxiety, and depression. These are areas where the majority of workplaces will already have policies in place to cover mental health and wellbeing, and will be familiar to managers and colleagues alike. Recognising that underperformance, lack of engagement, and low mood at work may be due to these physical changes can be highly beneficial, especially as it reduces the stress of women who may be worrying about how they are being perceived.

With the proper knowledge, managers can provide tailored support plans for individuals, along with implementing frameworks that will serve women across the business before, during, and after menopause.

Invest in training and development

One of the best ways to support employees continues to be investing in their ongoing professional and personal development, and this is even more important for those within the menopausal age bracket. The cumulative effects of physical and mental symptoms can lead to a significant reduction in confidence amongst women, leading 1 in 10 women to resign in order to cope.

Businesses simply can’t afford to lose the years of knowledge, expertise, and investment of these employees, and it’s vital to tackle the problem head-on to prevent staff losses and improve performance. This could include wellbeing workshops, mental health provisions, and individualised coaching that focuses on areas like confidence, positive psychology, and coping mechanisms.

The aim is not to single women out, but rather to acknowledge that there are areas  of health transitions in which we can all struggle through no fault of our own, and to demonstrate support and investment in the talents of those in the workforce. Training and development can be highly valuable in improving outcomes, especially when the support is one-to-one, personalised, and tailored to suit individual needs.

Society on the whole has come a long way towards reducing the stigma surrounding a variety of conditions which affect performance and wellbeing in the workplace. With proper support, attention, and investment in skills and training, menopause should become an area that people need not worry about whilst in employment.

Windy Tshepiso Maledu (1)About the author

Windy is passionate about coaching, leadership and behavioural change. As a Senior Behavioural Scientist for CoachHub, she helps advance the science of digital coaching and behaviour change at scale in the Coaching Lab. Windy helps organisations worldwide to effectively design, implement and evaluate their coaching programmes. As a coach she continues to impact lives one coaching conversation at a time.

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