It’s estimated that there are around 13 million peri or menopausal women in the UK right now. That’s about one third of the total female population.
The symptoms that women experience can vary significantly. As many as 20% will have no symptoms at all yet 1 in 4 describe the menopause as debilitating - and for those women, it presents immense challenges. Brain fog, insomnia, fatigue, low mood, headaches, and hot flushes are just some of the common symptoms that affect women in menopause, though it’s important to recognise there’s no one-size-fits-all. No two women will experience menopause in the same way and the support they need will differ greatly.
Adding to these challenges is the long-standing taboo that has attached itself to the topic of menopause. Most women tend not to talk about their experiences outside of their families or close friendship circles. It’s certainly not a general topic of conversation, and even less so in the workplace.
That needs to change.
Thanks in part to Davina McCall’s ‘Sex, Myths and the Menopause’, the menopause has gone mainstream over the past year and as a society, we’re beginning to make progress. People of all ages and genders are becoming more aware of the issues that menopausal women are dealing with - and that awareness marks the first step in creating more understanding and support for those who need it.
Menopause and the workplace
The workplace is a particularly big factor in all of this. According to research from the CIPD - the professional body for HR and development, three out of five (59%) women aged between 45 and 55 say the menopause has a negative impact on them at work. Worse still, the same study found that, over an undefined period, 900,000 women even left their jobs due to symptoms of the menopause.
But here’s the double whammy: these women are also typically at the peak of their professional experience. By losing them to early retirement or another employer, organisations are likely to see a direct impact on productivity and performance.
When we think about the menopause in these terms it’s baffling that organisations are only just beginning to get serious about an issue that, at one time or another, affects 50% of the total workforce.
It’s no longer a question of simply wanting to support women through a challenging time. Yes, that’s a key consideration, but in the current climate, it goes beyond that: organisations need to get better at this if they are to maintain and drive performance.
So what can organisations (and managers) do to support employees who are going through menopause?
Culture: opening up the conversation
The solution lies in enabling women to speak up about what they need in order to stay well, feel supported, and thrive at work. To achieve this, organisations first need to create a culture in which employees are actively encouraged to talk about any struggles or concerns that might affect their performance. This calls for a psychologically safe working environment underpinned by trust; a culture in which people can show vulnerability and ask for help without fear of judgement or penalty. It is in these environments that employees are able to bring any topic to the table, whether it be related to work, home, health or whatever. It’s no holds barred and no topic too taboo.
Better still, organisations must enable the employee to lead these vital conversations so that their manager can not only gain a clear understanding of their challenges, but provide the right support based on the individual’s specific needs and circumstances.
Helping managers to have human conversations
Of course, most managers will understand the value of talking to employees about their health but that doesn’t mean they have the know-how to support effective conversations right off the bat. In fact, our recent research suggests managers are far less confident when it comes to talking to employees about informal issues.
Managers, therefore, need the right training and tools if they are to succeed in helping their employees to thrive at work - and it’s something that should be formalised as part of their ongoing learning and development.
On top of this, and especially in the world of hybrid work, the right HR technology can also help to facilitate the broad conversations that are needed. At OpenBlend, our unique blend model (employee motivation software) enables individual employees to select - and continually update - a number of key drivers that directly impact their ability to perform. These drivers, which are different for every employee, provide managers with a bespoke framework from which to support more effective and more human conversations.
Continuing the conversation: World Menopause Day
But we’re not the only ones who believe that continuous conversation forms the best foundation for supporting menopausal women at work. In honour of World Menopause Day, broadcaster and journalist, Louise Minchin, will tonight present ‘Menopause: Continuing the Conversation’ - a collaboration between the British Menopause Society and ITN Productions. Promising to highlight the importance of conversation in creating awareness and ensuring the right support, you can bet the OpenBlend team will be tuning in!
To learn how OpenBlend can #continuetheconversation and support employees in your organisation, get in touch with our team today.