It was 2021 when Davina McCall’s documentary - Sex, Myths and the Menopause– hit Channel 4. A ratings success, the programme sparked a national conversation about two life stages that have been a global taboo for too long. The perimenopause and the menopause.
During the perimenopause, levels of the female hormone oestrogen start to decline, and periods become irregular. By the menopause, oestrogen levels have fallen to the point when periods stop.
It’s a biological process that affects individuals differently. For some, the impact is mild. For others, it’s debilitating. Some people experience physical symptoms like disrupted sleep, joint pain, or headaches. Others experience anxiety, brain fog, or a loss of focus.
According to the Fawcett Society, 10% of people are affected so severely by the menopause that they resign from their jobs. With approximately 13 million people in the UK currently either menopausal or perimenopausal, that equates to a potential 1,300,000 resignations.
These are big numbers. They represent challenges at every level of the talent pipeline. Plus, the menopause usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, so it’s often highly experienced employees that are leaving. This exacerbates skills shortages, limits the candidate pool for board-level positions, and reduces workplace gender diversity.
Stemming the brain drain
There are multiple cost implications to that loss of talent. The cost to team cohesion. The cost of recruitment. The impact on the bottom line. Morgan Stanley Research has found that companies with a more diverse workforce – as represented by women across all levels of the organisation – correlate with higher average returns.
So, it’s no surprise that forward-thinking organisations are looking to ameliorate the impact of the menopause on employees and to support this demographic in navigating the menopause within the workplace.
Some, like the pharmaceutical organisation Pfizer or the professional services network PwC, provide training and resources to educate colleagues about the effects of the menopause and how to support co-workers.
Some, like the fashion retailer ASOS, offer additional paid leave options for colleagues experiencing ‘life events’, which include menopausal symptoms.
Others, like the health and beauty retailer, and pharmacy chain Boots, cover the cost of their employees’ HRT (the treatment used to relieve symptoms of the menopause) prescriptions.
In further recognition of the importance of supporting employees through the menopause, the British Standards Institute (BSI) have just published a revolutionary new standard. BS 30416 aims to help organisations identify the misconceptions and stigmas around menstruation and menopause. It also signposts actions and adjustments that can be taken to improve wellbeing.
Taking action matters. But it’s not just about what you do; it’s about how you do it. Successfully embedding menopause support means getting your communications approach right. Here’s our advice.
Six tips for embedding menopause support in the workplace
Gain leadership buy-in
It’s vital that the senior leadership team understand the importance of – and back - menopause support; the impact of offering it; and the many forms it can take. A powerful way to have this conversation is to bring in a guest speaker. As a starting point, you could approach The Menopause Friendly Accreditation team or The British Menopause Society.
Provide management training
While senior leadership buy-in is essential for rolling out meaningful cultural change around menopause resources, management buy-in is essential for ensuring the messaging lands effectively for every team. Hold training workshops to engage and inform all leaders about your plans and their role in delivering them.
Engage with and listen to colleagues
Before you create colleague-facing resources, start by listening to what colleagues want. Do they want dedicated information online? Do they want support groups? Do they want independent expert advice? Do they want engagement training for groups that are less informed about the menopause? Let colleagues lead what is created.
Update your website and policies
This update makes your support both visible and ‘official’. Explicitly using the word menopause in your published guidance is also a good way to normalise the word and bring it into organisational discussions.
Think about key colleague touchpoints for talking about the menopause
Multiple colleague touchpoints can be used to normalise the conversation about the menopause. You could flag key initiatives in your recruitment material, highlight your resources and policies during onboarding, create dedicated Menopause Champions, or promote Mental Health First Aiders as colleagues with whom menopause challenges can be discussed. You can also build menopause support – like covering HRT costs – into your benefits.
Make the conversation relevant to all colleagues
Rather than solely focusing on people actively experiencing the perimenopause or menopause, broaden the conversation to show how all colleagues can benefit from these discussions. A better understanding of the menopause supports people to be better leaders and colleagues, building greater trust and connections within teams.
At Caburn Hope, we’re experts in employee engagement. If you want us to support you with your menopause training and conversations – or any other aspect of internal communications – get in touch!