Almost half the world’s population will go through menopause at some point in their life. So why is it still such a taboo subject?
Estimates suggest that 75% of people going through the menopause have symptoms and for one in four these will impact their daily life and ability to do their job. The NHS lists a range of symptoms including hot flushes, muscular aches, poor concentration, anxiety and headaches. So it’s easy to see how this is likely to affect all workplaces.
So what can organisations do to support those going through menopause in the workplace?
1. Leave Your Preconceptions Behind
Although typically menopause affects women when they reach around 50 years old, 1 in 100 will go through menopause before 40. All women will go through menopause at some stage during their lives, but it can also impact trans and non-binary people as well.
Of course, the impacts of menopause can affect people of any age and gender. Close relatives and romantic partners of those going through menopause may also feel the effects. It’s impossible to see from the outside who may be touched by menopause in the workplace. Bear this in mind when planning how to support your people.
2. Break the Taboo
Of course, like any topic which relates to reproductive health, menopause can be a deeply private and emotive subject. However, there are still things you can do as an organisation to break taboos. Talk about the potential impacts with your people, and help everyone understand menopause. It’s a perfectly natural and normal process, but many people just don’t understand what it is, which builds uncertainty and discomfort.
Getting buy-in from senior management and discussing menopause and how it may impact your workplace is key. If they feel open to discussing their experiences this would be helpful, or alternatively, they can make it clear that everyone will be supported.
3. Review Your Policies
Whether you want to create a seperate menopause policy, or feel it would be better to include menopause within existing DE&I or wellbeing programmes will depend on your organisation. Either way it might be useful to your people to clearly state what provisions can be made for those affected by the menopause in the workplace.
Talking to your people and their experiences with menopause may help inform your policies. You might want to set up a specific task force or working group. Alternatively it might be useful to include within existing surveys.
4. Empower your managers
Help your managers understand what kinds of reasonable adjustments might be appropriate for individuals within their team. Managers are more likely to be on the lookout for signs of team members who are struggling if you’ve started to break down taboos around menopause and wellbeing more generally. By giving them clear examples of what they could be doing to support their team, they will be able to be more proactive.
Specific training around the symptoms and effects of the menopause, or building it into existing health and safety or wellbeing training might be a good option. This will help to create more awareness amongst your team.
5. Continue to listen to those affected by menopause in the workplace
As always, you should be listening to your people to understand how your organisation can support them as individuals. Everyone experiences the menopause differently, and so you can’t create a blanket approach. Be willing to be flexible and update your policies and create new reasonable adjustments based on feedback.
There are lots of companies out there who have already started putting together. Companies as diverse as Vodafone, Aviva and Channel 4 all have policies. Channel 4 has already seen great success with their policy. A survey of their staff showed that 78% of women working there felt better about their workplace after the policy launched.