By Jessica French, Learning and Development Manager at CABA
Over the last few years we’ve seen a huge rise in the conversations around subjects which have traditionally been shunned by the mainstream media.
The stigma towards mental health and even sexual harassment has been tackled, however, one subject still remains taboo: the menopause.
Employment of women over 50 has increased significantly in the last 30 years and there’s now an increased corporate responsibility to ensure these women have the best quality of working life possible. Tie this in with the knowledge that the average woman reaches the menopause at 51, it’s therefore never been more important for employers and HR professionals to be aware of the impact the menopause can have on their workforce. In addition, being able to support women going through this life stage can make a huge difference.
Women facing the menopause can suffer from symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats and difficulty sleeping, problems with memory and concentration, mood changes, joint stiffness and even palpitations. Here are some suggestions for how your business can ensure that any of your colleagues who may be going through the menopause can feel provided for and looked after:
- Look into providing training for managers, so they are best placed to support your employees. Make efforts to develop policies which ensure a universal knowledge of the symptoms that the menopause often creates and how they can impact employees in the workplace. Also try making sure all of your employees are aware of the health and wellbeing policies within the company. This will not only be a reassurance to them, but also a guide for creating a pleasant and comfortable working environment.
- Allow frequent breaks for women who may be suffering from symptoms, without bringing them to the attention of the rest of the workforce. Try to be as subtle as possible. Women impacted by symptoms such as hot flushes or joint pain will appreciate the ability to take a short walk or step outside for some fresh air during work or following particularly long meetings.
- During conversations between employees and their line or HR managers, encourage discussions centred around their health or wellbeing. Doing this will create a natural and comfortable line of conversation where colleagues will be likely to feel more relaxed to talk freely. Do however bear in mind that some women may feel uncomfortable discussing these issues with men, therefore having a female figure whose available for such talks can help to improve the line of conversation.
- Lack of, or interrupted sleep may mean your employees aren’t running on full power. If you know that your employees are suffering from disturbed sleep, why not consider offering flexible working hours or even shift changes, to ensure you get the best out of them.
- If your workplace requires a uniform, allow for additional layers or the removal of a layer if possible. As changing temperature tends to be a real issue for menopausal women, giving the option to reduce their body heat will work towards helping to alleviate the issue and make them feel more comfortable.
- Encouraging a healthy working environment which includes things like organised lunch time walking clubs, having chilled water readily available and perhaps even desk fans, will benefit the entire workforce. It will also go far in helping to lessen the worst side effects of not just the symptoms of the menopause, but also the medication that your staff may be taking to manage it.
The menopause is a natural and temporary phase in a women’s life – but one that could go on for 10 years – whilst not all women suffer extreme symptoms it’s important to keep an open mind and treat each women’s needs differently.
Taking simple steps can make this daunting and often disconcerting experience more comfortable for those impacted. These support mechanisms don’t need to be expensive and can make such a difference to developing a better environment for employees.
Normalising this natural stage in a woman’s life will not only remove any stigma, but also help to create a happier and more motivated workforce, who will appreciate the lengths you and your business have gone to maintain workplace wellbeing.