Lash-Ed Issue 4 October 2019 - Page 49

Menopause

and Work

Every woman will go through the menopause, so why is it rarely discussed openly in a work environment? A significant cultural shift is required in the workplace to openly discuss menopause. Currently, women are afraid to speak up about their own symptoms and ask for help when they so desperately need it. It is a serious issue considering every woman will go through the menopause.

The average age range for menopause in the UK is 45 to 55-years-old, and depending on demographics, this can represent a large percentage of a workforce. Menopause symptoms are wide-ranging from hot flushes and memory / concentration challenges to brain fog and severe anxiety with mental health issues. Every woman’s menopause experience is different, lasting for different periods of time.

The menopause is a life event, not an illness. Around 80% of women going through the menopause in the UK have symptoms and 25% of these have severe symptoms. Over 75% of women do not realise their symptoms are due to the menopause. This can be a challenge for them, their colleagues and employers.

There are increasing numbers of menopausal women in work. Two-thirds of women going through the menopause say they have no support at work meaning they choose to introduce their own reasonable adjustments such as avoiding promotion, taking a lesser role, reducing hours, and 10% even leave work altogether.

Results of recent Talking Menopause client surveys showed women were embarrassed and ashamed, saying they feel weak and have been mocked and made a joke of when discussing menopause at work.

Engaging in the menopause at work

Given this lack of awareness of menopause and support for women, it’s important to consider how menopause aware your organisation is.

Consider - Is your organisation engaged in the menopause and are women given the confidence to be open about their menopausal challenges? Are the health, safety and wellbeing of menopausal employees effectively managed?

How can women be supported on their menopausal journey to ensure productively levels are managed and optimised for individuals, their colleagues and the organisation?

Positive menopause discussions

Menopause needs normalising, acknowledging and accepting across all levels of an organisation. It should not be treated in isolation. Women often tell us they are uncomfortable talking to managers about menopause, how employers do not understand it and the impact and challenges it can bring. However, by having these conversations a positive and inclusive working culture can be developed.

Managing menopause at work

When menopause is managed well, for example by an employer providing simple reasonable adjustments such as the provision of a desk fan or flexible working arrangements, it can prove beneficial for both parties, including reducing associated issues such as absenteeism, and improving productivity.

Raising awareness through workshops and conferences also helps to give women the confidence to speak up and ask for help as well as get a clear understanding of their symptoms and impact by facilitating menopause conversations.

It is recommended that organisations conduct a review of practices and procedures on current support for menopausal women. For example, existing women’s networks, informal and support or interest groups can be positive places to initiate menopause discussions.

So, where can an organisation start? Firstly, by understanding that menopause is more than hot flushes, and secondly, simply by talking openly about it, making it visible, normalising it. How about asking ‘Why are we NOT talking about menopause?’

Talking Menopause focuses on engaging and leading positive menopause discussions and support across all levels of the workplace through tailored, interactive programmes aligned to the organisation’s culture.

Lynda Bailey

Sarah Davies

Directors of Talking Menopause

www.talkingmenopause.co.uk

Menopause Special Feature| 49

Many employers have nothing in place to support women coping with menopausal symptoms. Failing to make reasonable adjustments make employers vulnerable if it's raised in an Employment Tribunal. More women will go through it during their working life as more are working and working for longer. 25% consider leaving their job because of it and 10% do. Employers are losing knowledgeable and talented staff because of a temporary phase in their lives.

My symptoms have had a huge impact on my productivity, for others, the quality of their work may suffer or it may affect their relationships with colleagues. It could be the cause of absenteeism or you may notice that their behavior has changed. Providing awareness raising training about it and how symptoms can cause difficulties for some women at work is quite easy to do. Both staff and managers will know that there are some simple things that can be done to help those going through it feel more comfortable so they can continue working. Some simple adjustments for some symptoms could be:

Hot flushes: consider room temperature and ventilation. Opening salon windows can be an issue so desktop fan s are useful. Positioning their work station away from radiators or unncovered windows in the summer helps. We can protect our clients from the chill with heated blankets and covers. Ensure that cold drinking water is readily available. If you supply uniform, is it lightweight and breathable? Perhaps a light cotton alternative and issuing extra, so they can freshen up and stay at work after an episode.

Heavy periods: Quick access to a restroom helps. Reassure that it’s okay for them to look after themselves.

If sleep is disturbed, is a later start time possible? I know this can be an issue with bookings but perhaps thinking ahead for a period of time would really help them to continue working.

I lead menopause awareness raising and implement good practice in an organisation that employees around 3000 women. I worked with Talking Menopause who specialise in workplace awareness raising. They are a fountain of knowledge! We have held 3 events reaching over 300 people with more planned as word got around about how helpful they were. Over 50 people contacted me after the events to say that it has changed their lives. That or any form of awareness training was worth the investment.

I sincerely encourage you to look after you and learn more about something that affects over 80% of women and can last for years. If you lead a team as an employer or manager, you need to be prepared so knowing more about it and thinking about reasonable adjustments will not only help them, but your business.

For further reading, I highly recommend a book called ‘Menopause: All you need to know in one concise manual’. It's written by a renowned menopause specialist Doctor called Louise Newson. Her website is very informative too www.menopausedoctor. co.uk

If you’re interested in arranging professional training for your team, it’s worth having a chat with Talking Menopause at www.talkingmenopause.co.uk

Thanks for reading and remember, if it’s yet to come and go, it’s on its way. . .

Julie Knight, Editor