The menopause. 50% of the workforce experience it. A quarter of those consider resigning - or actually resign - because of it. That’s a potential talent drain of up to one in eight employees, with all the loss of knowledge, experience, and productivity which that brings.
Right now, menopausal women are the fastest-growing demographic in the workplace. Many are part of the senior leadership talent pipeline. But those who are leaving their roles are doing so for a simple reason. The workplace isn’t understanding, or addressing, their health and wellbeing needs.
Today is World Menopause Day and we are throwing our support behind the International Menopause Society (IMS) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) to raise awareness of the menopause and to highlight support options to improve health and well-being for women in mid-life and beyond. This article explores why it’s vital to create a new and open narrative about the menopause, and how, in doing so, businesses can both improve talent retention and enhance their workplace culture for all employees.
Read on to discover four effective tactics for lifting the workplace taboo around the menopause.
Four ways to boost menopause wellbeing
1. Increase understanding throughout the workforce of the menopause as a normal experience
One of the reasons why the menopause is seen as such a taboo subject is because it is seen as embarrassing or difficult. It’s associated with being a particular age, and with experiencing difficult physical and emotional experiences.
The truth is that while the average age for the menopause in the UK is 51 years old, this is only an average. Some women are much younger. Some are much older. Complicating this further is the fact that the menopause is preceded by the perimenopause. This is a period of years in which women are transitioning to menopause and may experience the onset of menopausal symptoms.
So, there isn’t ‘an age’ for the menopause. Plus, there is a huge diversity in how these biological changes affect women. For some, there’s barely any impact. For others, it can be a turbulent time both physically – hot flushes, interrupted sleep, brain fog – and mentally, with increased anxiety and hormonally-driven mood swings.
This diversity means that there isn’t one ‘menopause experience’. Ensuring that all employees understand that is the first step towards making this a topic that can be talked about comfortably. Why? Because it stops people making assumptions about what their colleagues are going through and how they might feel.
Open communication supports everyone throughout the workplace to understand the realities of the menopause. That understanding should be reinforced with management training: focusing particularly on help line managers to understand how to talk about the menopause, and why this is a topic that needs to be addressed.
Taken together, those approaches make it easier for women to share what’s happening for them and to ask for the support they – as an individual – might need. It’s that support which may be crucial to an employee’s performance, and which may ultimately make the difference between losing or retaining key talent.
2. Lead from the top
One of the fastest ways to normalise taboo subjects is to ensure that it is championed by senior leadership. In this instance, talk to your senior female achievers and ask if they are willing to speak out about their menopause experiences.
If they are willing to, this is an approach that:
- Makes it easier for other employees to speak openly.
- Builds understanding about the menopause in employees who aren’t at this life stage.
- Reinforces the diversity of menopause experience.
- Shows that the menopause doesn’t prevent women from achieving their full potential.
3. Create opt-in support groups
Peer-to-peer support will be an invaluable resource for some women going through the menopause. Whether this is an in-person social group, or a remote access chat room, this is an opportunity to bring together colleagues who have been through, are going through, or are aware they are approaching menopause.
Knowing that there is a supportive pool of colleagues who can share concerns and advice, and offer help in navigating the challenges of this life stage is enormously beneficial. As an organisation, the key is to create that resource, communicate that it’s there, and make it something that people can access quietly and easily.
4. Take small actions
Honest and open communication about the menopause is critical, but that communication needs to be backed up with training and resources. The good news is that there are two simple, cost-effective but impactful actions you can take to show that wellbeing during the menopause matters:
- Equipping all employees with a desk fan. Making a desk fan a universal resource removes any sense of stigma in using them. That allows women to deal discreetly with one of the most common and uncomfortable physical symptoms of the menopause – the sudden hot flush.
- Add menopausal symptoms to your health professional advice line offering. This gives women the opportunity to talk through what they’re experiencing with a professional. It’s a simple way to highlight that your workplace is supportive, and that help is available.
We could all learn from some of these inspirational brands championing women all year round with their taboo-smashing marketing activity.
And finally check out this award winning ad campaign from Holland & Barrett Running under the strapline ‘Me.No.Pause’. it focuses on the loss of femininity, identity and self that can be some of the most difficult aspects of the menopause.