Menopausal women are the fastest growing demographic in the UK workforce with a third of the UK’s female population, around 13 million women, currently in the perimenopause or menopause stage of life. Menopausal age women between 45 and 54 make up 11% of the UK working demographic and 23% of all women in employment.
Menopause, whilst a natural life transition that half the population will go through, has traditionally been a taboo subject particularly between men and women. A UCL-led study carried out in May 2021 found that 9 out 10 women were never educated about the menopause – it’s therefore no stretch to conclude that men have generally been even less informed on what to expect and how to deal with it, especially in the workplace.
Menopause symptoms can impact a woman’s sense of self, affecting her day-to-day activities, relationships, and home and working life. It can be a challenging time, both for the woman herself, those close to her, and even work colleagues and employers. Better education, much needed research, knowledge and understanding of symptoms, and noise in the press are all helping to normalise the subject, but it can still be a potentially bewildering and embarrassing minefield for men to address with female employees.
The latest GenM Invisibility Report stated that 1 in 4 women have left their job due to menopause with only 1 in 5 women believing that their employer is well-informed about the subject and almost 50% of menopausal employees reluctant to discuss menopause symptoms at work for fear of being negatively perceived, sidelined or passed over for promotion. A staggering 88% would like more support from their workplace.
Equally it can be difficult for male colleagues and managers to discuss female-related health issues dispassionately.
Bodyline Medical Wellness Clinics, who offer tailored menopause treatment and support as part of their corporate medical solutions, have collated the following tips for talking about menopause in the workplace.
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Know what to expect
The menopause is about more than just a woman’s periods stopping. Usually occurring between the ages of 45 and 55 and lasting around 7 years, the average age for a woman to reach menopause in the UK is 51, although symptoms can start in the mid 30s with perimenopause and continue well into the mid 50s. Menopause is reached when a woman hasn’t had a period for 12 consecutive months and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally.
The menopause experience can differ greatly between women, with symptoms varying in duration and severity. There are 48 associated physical and psychological symptoms with the more widely known including fatigue, hot flushes, night sweats, difficulty getting to sleep and sleep disruption, headaches, weight gain, brain fog, loss of libido, mood swings and anxiety.
Potentially less commonly recognised symptoms can include itchy skin, cold flushes, sore breasts, muscle and joint pain, loss of bladder control, frequent UTIs, thinning hair, acne, dry eyes, heart palpitations, changes in vision, hearing and taste, burning sensations in the mouth, new allergies, dizziness or vertigo and tingling in the hands and feet.
Start the conversation
Engaging the entire workforce, regardless of gender or age, is crucial in starting the conversation around menopause in the workplace. By organising meetings and webinars, and recognising events like World Menopause Day, employers can break the ice and create an open and inclusive environment for discussing menopause, ultimately fostering understanding and support among employees.
As a male manager, the more approachable you make yourself and the more knowledgeable you are about menopause symptoms and how they can affect a woman’s health and work life, the easier it will be for a female colleague to talk to you about her menopause and for you to identify what kind of support she might need in the workplace. Most people, even in a potentially embarrassing situation, would rather have an issue addressed than ignored.
Lead by example
Traditionally, menopause is not something that men have felt comfortable talking about, however in a workplace scenario, it’s a subject that everybody needs to know about. If a male manager is comfortable openly discussing menopause, then other staff will follow their lead, therefore creating a safe and supportive environment crucial for raising awareness and facilitating understanding.
Approach the subject as you would any other
It’s important to deal with the subject as you would any other sensitive, work-related wellness issue. You don’t have to be a menopause specialist, rather your role is to provide the tools and support to help staff with their health and wellbeing at work.
Book a meeting room to ensure privacy and avoid unwanted interruptions, turn your phone off, be calm and empathetic, ask open-ended general questions but encourage the staff member to explain the situation from their perspective, listen to what’s being said, don’t make assumptions, remain non-judgemental, and foster empathy and understanding by shifting the focus towards the person involved rather than solely on the problem itself.
Implement a menopause policy
Promoting an open and supportive culture around menopause in the workplace by implementing an inclusive menopause policy – that also includes trans and non-binary staff members – is something that every organisation should be doing to help make the topic more mainstream. This can cover flexible working, menopause leave, guidance and support packages, and alterations to the physical working environment to help manage menopause symptoms.
Making sure that your staff knows that the policy exists, inviting feedback and acting on it will all demonstrate a commitment to a menopause-friendly workplace culture.
Sally-Ann Turner, MD and Founder of Bodyline, has this to say:
“A lot of women lose their identity at this point and start to feel superfluous to society, it can be a root cause for anxiety and depression. Lack of discussion leaves women ill-prepared for what can be a difficult period in their life. And when things like brain fog and forgetfulness come as a surprise, it can be distressing. Anything that gets people talking about menopause and its associated symptoms can only be a good thing.”
“Every woman’s experience of the menopause is different and a blanket, standardised approach to treatment and support will not yield quantifiable benefits for organisations or deliver a step change in the health and wellbeing of the menopausal employee.”
“There certainly needs to be more education of menopause in the workplace and management should be given autonomy to support an employee’s menopause journey on a case-by-case basis within the scope of the organisation’s menopause policy.
At Bodyline, we work in collaboration with organisations to offer gold standard, industry leading corporate medical solutions. The M Plan, for perimenopause and menopause, delivers quantifiable cost benefits and provides life changing results to the employee that enhance productivity, reduce absenteeism and support employee retention.”
About Bodyline Medical Wellness Group
Bodyline is a clinically led, CQC registered medical wellness group headquartered in the North West of England and providing supportive, effective, tailored and affordable wellness programmes throughout the UK. With 17 years’ experience, Bodyline has treated over 100,000 patients from its nine in-clinic locations and via on-line video consultations at home. Medical wellness treatments include HRT and menopause solutions, safe medical weight loss programmes, low testosterone treatments for men and Low Dose Naltrexone treatments.
Bodyline Medical Wellness Group is a menopause specialist, offering bespoke holistic and supportive HRT treatments for women from perimenopause into menopause and right through to post menopause. The group also provides tailored wellness solutions for employers and organisations that value individual healthcare solutions for their workforce, working in partnership with other health and wellness services to offer specialist medical services to their clients.