We’ve said it before – supporting menopause in the workplace makes sound commercial sense. Contributor Helen Crossland, Working Transitions Coach.
Research has shown time and time again that gender balance across all echelons of an organisation – including senior leadership – is good business sense: firms do better with more diverse teams.
Understanding the impact of menopause, is an important consideration when striving to support gender balance within an organisation. Currently, there are around 3.5 million women aged over 50 years employed in the UK.
Studies have shown that around 50 percent of women find work ‘somewhat’ or ‘fairly’ difficult due to the symptoms of menopause. That’s a lot of women – and a staggering 10 percent have considered giving up work altogether as a result of their symptoms.
Symptoms of the menopause can vary widely – from almost no symptoms at all, to the classic hot flushes and mood swings, to depression and lack of concentration. Various studies have also shown that menopause symptoms can affect confidence and energy levels and, in some cases, can have an adverse effect on performance.
Supporting menopause in the workplace can be surprisingly simple – there are many interventions which can help women to manage their symptoms – from environmental adjustments (provision of fans, access to open windows) to changes in working patterns (avoiding excessive hours, allowing breaks where needed, allowing flexible or home working).
To ensure the right interventions, line manager support is crucial – and can make a significant difference to a woman’s experience at work. However, many women simply don’t feel comfortable disclosing the fact that they are experiencing menopausal symptoms to their manager. This concern can be heightened if the line manager is younger, male, or both. Because of this, it can often be left to the line manager to raise the issue – often as a result of feedback from colleagues – and have a sensitive conversation.
Very few line managers, no matter how experienced they are, will relish a conversation about menopause. It can feel awkward, personal and almost ‘taboo’. In our experience, organisations need to ask themselves four key questions before they encourage managers to embark on sensitive conversations around menopause.
Do we have an authentic intention to help and support the individual? Simply paying ‘lip service’ will quickly be uncovered! An authentic intention can only be demonstrated by a willingness to act on – and implement – an employee’s suggestions.
Have we provided comprehensive training and awareness to our managers to enable them to be able to handle conversations sensitively and supportively? Do they know what the parameters are and when to refer the employee on to others (e.g. a medical or occupational health professional?)
Do we have an accessible policy and framework around the menopause easily available in the workplace?
Do we have support and reasonable adjustments available such as support groups, flexible working, or even things as simple as fans, cold water in place?
It is important to offer relevant and appropriate training to managers to have sensitive conversations. A simple, easy to use framework such as the well proven ‘GROW’ model encourages managers to think through all of the issues ensuring they raise the subject feeling confident and prepared and facilitate a valuable and mutually beneficial conversation.