Menopause & Mental Health at Work – A challenge or opportunity for your business
Do you feel uncomfortable when thinking about having a conversation about the menopause in your workplace? Don’t worry – you are not alone. However, there is a growing awareness of the menopause and the impact it has on women at work, and it is time for us to lift the lid on this highly taboo subject and start to understand what we can do to support the mental health and wellbeing of women in the workplace who are experiencing the menopause.
The menopause has been in the dark for such a long time and it is only now, with high profile women starting to talk openly about their experiences of the menopause in the media, that this transitional phase every woman will go through, is getting the attention it deserves.
When there is a conversation going on outside the workplace, and women are aware of and involved in it, then business should be thinking about bringing this conversation into the workplace, so women don’t feel they have to leave work due to their menopause symptoms. Women should feel empowered to speak up and get the support they need and given that mental ill health is the leading cause of sickness absence across a range of sectors, having support focused on the menopause makes good business sense.
The menopause can have a massive impact on women’s mental health and wellbeing – from loss of confidence, brain fog, poor concentration, low mood and depression and feeling overwhelmed – if women are experiencing these symptoms – many will find it easier to just leave work than talk to their manager about this. Last year one in five women gave up work because they could not cope with the symptoms. But, like mental health in general, talking to someone about what they are experiencing can be just what a woman needs at this time.
In Northern Ireland, women make up 50.7% of the population and almost 27% of these women are between the ages of 40-60. Many of these women are in the workplace and will be experiencing symptoms of perimenopause and the menopause. This demographic is typically at the top of their professional game, offering a wealth of experience and skills.
If you want to retain and recruit top talent to your workplace, my advice is to start the conversation now. Learn about the menopause and be proactive in your approach to changes you might need to make. Talk to your staff and consider co-producing policies around the menopause, this will help create a culture where it is ok for female staff to be open about what they are experiencing. Implementing cost-neutral or low cost interventions can have a massive impact on women’s experience at work. We all know, having a conversation costs nothing. Think about how you can really make a difference and support your female staff, like setting up a Menopause Room at work, where women can come together and share what they are doing to help manage their menopause, and generally feel more at ease when being at work.
If you can, then also consider how the work day is planned for women – could you offer flexible start times for those women who have not slept the night before, could you train Menopause Champions so women have someone to go to when they are feeling overwhelmed or anxious, even consider menopause specific wellbeing programmes that complement what you might already be offering your staff. That’s where we can all have a part to play in destigmatising the menopause.
As women become more aware of the symptoms of the menopause, they may well expect their employer to support them at this transitional phase in their lives. It is a new area for many businesses across NI. But the companies I have worked with have been proactive in transforming their workplace to support menopausal staff. They have, with my help, developed a Menopause Policy which links to other policies including sick leave, flexible working and their health and wellbeing policies and procedures. Ensuring that relevant policies are reviewed to include the menopause, means that they are integrated and do not just rely on a stand-alone menopause policy. And given my years of experience in the area of mental health I am well placed to help them consider what needs to be done to support their female staff during the menopause, particularly around mental health and wellbeing. This includes information on the menopause, training for staff, delivery of wellbeing focused workshops and signposting staff to sources of support.
I have found that having a policy in place facilitates conversations – but that is just the start. A research and development company I worked with recently, to develop their menopause policy, did not just put it in the Staff Handbook, they went much further. The organisation has taken a radical approach to supporting their staff and have monthly get togethers focusing on creativity – there is a positive link between creativity and wellbeing. It has been remarkable to see the impact this is having on the business. There has been a transformation in the culture and wellbeing in the company – and not only are the female staff reporting that they feel better working there, but the male staff do too.
Please do not shy away from this topic. Given the focus on the menopause and growing awareness of the impact symptoms can have on women, it is better to be proactive than reactive. Being menopause aware and knowing that some of your female staff will have mental health and wellbeing issues at this time in their life, gives you a head start. Think about the cost of replacing your top female talent, which far outweighs the cost of taking action now. Being aware of the symptoms is critical if you are going to have a menopause friendly workplace and of course reviewing existing and developing new policies and procedures can help you support women who are menopausal. You should also consider providing menopause awareness training for all staff.
If you know this is important in your workplace, but the thought of having these conversations still makes you feel uncomfortable, talk to me. Being menopause aware and taking action now could be an opportunity for you to modernise your workplace.
07715 342 999