Menopause: How to break the taboo at workby
Addressing this life change in the workplace can be daunting for many women but normalising the conversation is the first step in helping to support female employees.
Some say that we're in the midst of a menopause revolution. Once a little-spoken-about topic, today the way we think, talk and act about menopause is changing – including in the workplace.
From Davina McCall to Michelle Obama to Nicola Sturgeon, major celebrities and public figures are speaking out about menopause. According to recent research from REBA and Howden, menopause support is the top-emerging benefit in the UK, with 88% of organisations either already offering support or planning to do so in the next two years.
Start by asking a simple “Are you ok?” and signpost the resources available in the workplace
There’s a long way to go
While attitudes are changing, the negative impact of menopause is significant – for women and businesses. 1 in 4 consider leaving their job because of menopause, and 1 in 10 actually does.
It’s a subject that many find difficult to broach with their employers. Research we’ve run this year revealed that just 22% of workers have spoken about menopause at work, and over 80% of employers do not have a menopause policy in place. From colleagues to line managers, to C-suite employees, workplaces must take action to normalise the conversation around menopause.
How to talk to someone going through menopause
Starting a conversation about menopause at work can be difficult. It is not a subject everyone feels comfortable talking about, either for fear that ageist attitudes may affect how they’re treated or because of embarrassment. When talking to someone employers suspect may be going through menopause, the conversation should be dealt with sensitively and without judgement.
If a female colleague or someone assigned female at birth, in her late thirties to fifties is beginning to show any signs of entering perimenopause, it’s the right time to show that support is on-hand and that talking about menopause is as acceptable as discussing Covid or a common cold. Remember that menopause can affect women of any age – not just in midlife.
Be aware of the signs. These could be physical (visibly overheating or sweating, complaining of headaches) or behavioural (untypical forgetfulness or nervousness, missing deadlines, erratic mood swings).
Start by asking a simple, “Are you ok?”, and signpost the resources available in the workplace. Avoid highlighting any problems and by no means make jokes about anything you have noticed. It’s a good time to mention any menopause champions at work or a menopause café where colleagues can share experiences and get support.
Apps may connect colleagues to a team of highly-trained, human menopause experts at the touch of a button
Offer support colleagues feel comfortable with
The anonymity of digital solutions like health apps makes them ideal for supporting menopause, as well as other taboo or sensitive health journeys.
Apps may connect colleagues to a team of highly-trained, human menopause experts at the touch of a button, day or night, via one-to-one chat, video consultations and live events. They give the whole workforce access to specialist knowledge and vetted resources – in private, without having to take time off, and without needing to tell anyone at work.
Communicating the support available is key. Appoint a senior person from the business to champion the support available to boost uptake whilst showing that, when it comes to menopause and taking control of symptoms, there’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Involve everyone in the menopause conversation
Directly or indirectly, everyone will be affected by menopause, whether it’s partners, family members, colleagues or line managers. It’s vital to involve men and non-cis women in the conversation and make menopause information and resources part of line manager training for all, not just for women or women's groups.
Put on menopause webinars targeted at men, or for women and their partners. If possible, extend the provision of support to colleagues’ partners. And, crucially, work with health benefits providers which can support a range of experiences of menopause (including early menopause, surgical menopause and menopause as an LGBTQ+ person).
Menopause support isn't just good for employees – it's good for business too
Trans and non-binary people (who may self-identify as male) can also go through natural or surgical menopause, and trans women who were born male may never experience menopause or similar symptoms from hormonal fluctuations. Everyone should have access to the support they need without fear of judgement or misinformation, so ensure support is inclusive and accessible.
Menopause support is highly effective for DE&I
Our research with REBA showed that 95% of employers rate menopause support as effective or highly effective for enhancing diversity, equality and inclusion in the workplace.
Menopause support isn't just good for employees – it's good for business too. If organisations aren’t yet supporting this natural life stage, now is the time to start.