Alongside the surge of awareness around managing menopause symptoms is a spotlight on the importance of managing menopause in the workplace. Menopause symptoms – such as hot flushes, brain fog, fatigue, anxiety and problem sleeping – can debilitate women to the point they reduce their work hours or stop altogether. There are currently 3.5 million women aged 50 – 65 in the workplace, many at the peak of the career. To support – and keep! – these talented, experienced colleagues, employers must understand the challenges they face, learn how to support them and implement changes. Here are the first five steps to becoming a menopause friendly employer by Deborah Garlick, founder of Henpicked: Menopause in The Workplace
Start the conversation
It’s vital that people feel able to speak freely about menopause at work but it can be hard to know how to start the conversation. Hosting a professional speaker or awareness event on the topic is a great way to bring menopause into the open and break the taboo. Experience shows that once the topic is in the open and up for discussion, people feel able to speak openly about their concerns, ask for help and share their tips to help others too. Once the conversation is started, you may be surprised who joins in and how quickly change can start to happen.
Train ALL colleagues
Menopause in the workplace affects everyone – half of us first-hand and the rest through their relationships whether that’s with a partner, family member, friend or colleague. It’s important to ensure everyone has some form of briefing or presentation and access to support materials – a menopause hub on the work intranet works well. Train all line managers so they feel confident and ready to support colleagues in managing their menopause. In addition, train individual menopause champions at all levels across the business so everyone feels they have someone in their department or at their level to talk to. Include men too as they will relish the chance to have menopause demystified to help them support the women in their lives at home as well as at work!
Create a menopause friendly environment
Small, inexpensive changes can make a big difference at work. Think about temperature control, can people sit where’s best for them, whether that’s near a window or air conditioning, Make desktop fans readily available and ensure fresh chilled water is accessible at a water cooler station or in the staff kitchen. Acknowledge some people have difficulty sleeping and, if possible, vary their start and finish times or enable working from home to ease the problem. Provide free toiletries and sanitary products to enable women to freshen up at work. These little touches will mean a lot!
Exercise is great for both body and mind during menopause with activity releasing stress, anxiety, aches and pains and feel-good endorphins. Encourage colleagues to have an activity break during work hours – a 15-minute brisk walk around the block will work wonders to clear the mind and balance mood on a busy day. Allow flexible working hours so people can arrive a little later or leave a little earlier if they prefer to do a morning or evening exercise session, run or walk to/from work. Consider providing access to health and wellbeing apps such as those provided by https://site.gympass.com/uk/companies so they can do physical or mental wellbeing sessions whenever they need.
First pledge, then COMMIT
Signing The Menopause Workplace Pledge (https://www.wellbeingofwomen.org.uk/campaigns/menopausepledge) is a great start. However, because it doesn’t include training, solutions or expert support, it will only take you part way to becoming a menopause friendly employer. Your next step is to engage in education and training to gain recognition from an independent panel and achieve Menopause Friendly Accreditation (https://menopausefriendly.co.uk/). Increasingly considered a kitemark of quality and excellence in the workplace, THIS is the badge that marks employers out as having made the commitment to bring lasting and positive change in the workplace.