Last month’s World Menopause Month and World Menopause Day (October 18th, 2023) once again encouraged people to talk about menopause both at home and at work. Reflecting on these annual awareness-building efforts year-on-year I can see definite progress.
From there not being a workplace menopause policy in the land in 2016, a number of workplace surveys and professional bodies show between 25% and 45% of UK organisations now have one in place. The ongoing and increasing awareness of menopause in the workplace will surely see this figure grow. However, we shouldn’t rest until menopause-friendly workplaces are commonplace. Until, dare I say it, organisations no longer ‘stand out’ for being menopause friendly. That day is yet a long way off.
With so much heightened awareness of menopause, employers can’t pretend they don’t know about this seismic shift. There really is no excuse for not putting plans in place to become menopause friendly. We work with organisations large and small in both the public and private sectors.
Core to our principles is to work with organisations to shape a bespoke policy that suits their business model and culture. That’s important – as no ‘one size fits all’ policy will work sufficiently well. The growing number of employers gaining the Menopause Friendly Accreditation have one thing in common. Be they large or small organisations, all place a clear emphasis on normalising the conversation around menopause. This is key. As with tackling a difficult topic in our personal and professional lives, solutions start with talking things through and being open. Speaking up will only take you part way to solving the problem: your audience must truly listen to what you have to say, not just hear you.
Of course, prior to normalising the conversation you need to START the conversation. And, importantly, after normalising the conversation you need to ACT on it. Only then can you become menopause friendly.
If your organisation isn’t yet menopause friendly, October’s World Menopause Month and focal point of World Menopause Day on October 18th are timely triggers to begin talking about it. Plenty of discussions and media coverage arose which can act as a springboard to raise the issue with your colleagues and line manager. Not only will this recent activity illustrate the importance of the topic, it will also show the accessibility to help, guidance, training and support in the workplace.
Here we explore how to start and normalise the conversation and suggest simple changes you can make to transform the culture of your workplace to be menopause friendly.
Start the Conversation
Education: The first step in addressing menopause in the workplace is to educate both employees and employers. Provide information about what menopause is, its symptoms, and the potential impact on work performance. Create workshops, seminars and informational materials to ensure everyone is on the same page. Host information on an intranet or safe space for those people who prefer to access details more privately.
Involve your leadership team: Encourage senior leaders to be part of the conversation. When executives and managers openly acknowledge the importance of this issue, it sets a positive tone for the entire organisation – which is key to culture change.
Shape Policies: Develop clear policies and guidelines that address menopause-related concerns, such as flexible working arrangements, additional break times, or access to counselling services. Communicate these policies to all employees and encourage response and action to keep them relevant and useful.
Normalise the Conversation
Encourage Dialogue: Create safe spaces where employees can share their experiences and concerns. Establish support groups or forums where people can exchange advice and seek guidance.
Mind your language: Promote using inclusive and non-stigmatising language. Avoid derogatory terms and jokes that may marginalise or belittle people going through menopause. Enforce zero tolerance of unacceptable language and behaviour.
Act on the Conversation
Flexible Working Hours: Allow employees to adjust their working hours to accommodate their energy levels or medical appointments. Remote work options can also be beneficial.
Temperature Control: Make temperature control a priority. Consider allowing employees to regulate the office temperature within a comfortable range, allow people to sit near windows/ventilation and provide desk fans.
Adequate Breaks: Ensure there are suitable break areas where employees can take time out if experiencing hot flushes, anxiety or tiredness.
Counselling/Healthcare Services: Offer access to confidential counselling and healthcare services to help employees manage emotional and mental health aspects of menopause.
Keep the drumbeat going
Keep the drumbeat going by ensuring ongoing training and awareness sessions. Continuously educate employees about menopause and its impact and make menopause awareness a part of your company culture, as you would with other diversity and inclusion initiatives.
Create a menopause network and/or encourage menopause champions to take responsibility for keeping the discussion going. Arrange a talk or training from an outside speaker, share company news and progress, work towards Menopause Friendly Accreditation and celebrate your organisation’s involvement in industry events, conferences and webinars to keep people alert to the importance and impact of being a menopause friendly workplace.
Make a commitment
As World Menopause Month comes to a close, it’s the perfect time to start or continue the conversation around menopause in your workplace and commit to creating a culture of understanding and support. If you normalise the conversation and take steps to create a menopause-friendly workplace, you will be rewarded with a more inclusive, compassionate and productive workforce.
Deborah Garlick is the CEO and founder of Henpicked, and director of Menopause Friendly Australia. She has overseen the delivery of training to over a thousand organisations across the public and private sector. She was instrumental in establishing Menopause Friendly, for organisations to receive accreditation of their menopause activity from an independent panel of experts. Deborah is a passionate advocate of all things menopause, appearing regularly in the press, on TV and radio.