Menopause and the workplace

Is home working making the menopause easier to bear? Ahead of World Menopause Day on 18th October 2021, Sharon Cooper, Inclusion & Diversity Consultant, reflects on this and gives advice on how employers can support their employees who are going through the menopause.

A manager walking around the office sees a colleague sitting on their coat – but then thinks nothing more of it…..in reality, this colleague is embarrassed, feels like everyone is looking at them, can’t concentrate on their work, is getting hotter and hotter and just wants to get out of there –  they have had a sudden heavy period and is sitting on their coat so they don’t soil the chair.  They want to wait until the office is clear and quiet so they can go to the bathroom without fuss and clean themselves up. 

Now imagine that colleague at working at home, in an environment they can control, able to change their clothes if needed, given the option to flex their hours around their symptoms – how much happier and productive is this person?  But also, wouldn’t the employer want to create a culture where colleagues are able to share how they are feeling and open up about the support they may need. 

For some people experiencing the various symptoms of the menopause the pandemic has created the requirement to work from home, with the unintended positive consequence that they are now able to manage their symptoms in an environment which they can control.

Raising awareness of the menopause at work

Before I attended menopause awareness training, I had no idea heavy periods were a possible symptom of the menopause, I had only ever heard that the menopause is when periods stop rather than get worse and maybe sufferers start to feel a bit hot. How naive was I? The range and depth of symptoms is as varied and unique as the amazing people going through the menopause and can have devastating effects on individuals physical and mental health.

The menopause affects 50% of the workforce yet it is still a taboo subject in many organisations.  How many times is it dismissed as “that time of the month”, “it’s just a hot flush”, “don’t ask her, her memory is awful” or stops someone applying for that promotion or even leave a role they have worked hard for and love as they have lost their confidence or feel they can’t trust memory like they once could?

How can employers support colleagues going through the menopause?

So, here’s what organisations can do to support menopausal employees:

  • Awareness is a great start and its vital to included men and younger women in the conversation.  There are a lot of myths around the menopause lets gets to the facts and share knowledge.
  • Upskill managers so they can have sensitive conversations with team members about the menopause.  The Inclusion Passport is a tool which could help here: https://www.inclusiveemployers.co.uk/resource/inclusion-passport/
  • Think about setting up support networks
  • Offer flexible working hours and environments
  • Review appropriate policies – is the menopause mentioned?
  • Leaders lead from the front and share their lived experiences.

It’s also important to recognise not all roles and organisations can offer the flexibility of working from home or that everyone wants to / can work from home. If you are in this position think back to that colleague sitting on their coat… what would you like to do to support them? 

  • Do you offer comfortable welfare facilities with sanitary products? 
  • Are you able to offer flexibility around uniforms?
  • Can colleagues request alternative duties when they are experiencing hard to manage symptoms?
  • Is there a quiet space for colleagues to take a short time out?

Make the menopause part of the inclusion conversation

Remember not all people will want to talk how they are feeling, but by creating an open and inclusive environment where menopause is part of the conversation you are breaking down the taboos and creating the space which may encourage colleagues to share.

The Inclusive Employers Menopause Toolkit provides lots of practical help, advice and tools to help organisations think about their menopause conversations and support their colleagues to be their best selves in work.

World Menopause Day is the 18th October, why not use this awareness day as a springboard within your organisation to start the conversation?

If you need any help or advice on how to talk about the menopause in your organisation please contact your Account Manager or use our enquiry form to find out more about how we can support you.