Jessica French, Development Manager at CABA, an advice and support charity for the chartered accountant community, offers employers advice on how to support menopausal employees at work.
Why your firm needs to support menopausal employees
Over the last few years, we’ve seen a huge rise in the conversations around subjects that have traditionally been shunned by the mainstream media. The stigma towards mental health and even sexual harassment is being tackled; however, one subject still remains taboo – menopause.
The employment of women over fifty has increased significantly in the last thirty 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 menopause at fifty-one, and it’s never been more important for employers to support menopausal employees at work. In addition, being able to support women going through this life stage can make a huge difference.
Women facing menopause can suffer from hot flushes, night sweats, 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 menopause can feel provided for and looked after:
1. Provide training for managers
Make efforts to develop policies that 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 company’s health and wellbeing policies. This will be a reassurance to them and a guide for creating a pleasant and comfortable working environment.
2. Let staff take frequent breaks
Allow frequent breaks for women who may be suffering from menopause 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 available for such talks can help improve the line of conversation.
3. Allow for job flexibility
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.
4. Make any uniforms menopause friendly
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 them the option to reduce their body heat will work towards helping to alleviate the issue and make them feel more comfortable.
5. Provide workplace adjustments and wellbeing activities
Encouraging a healthy working environment that includes organising lunchtime 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 menopause but also the medication that your staff may be taking to manage it.
Why making adjustments for menopausal employees is important
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 in developing a better environment for employees.
Normalising this natural stage in a woman’s life will remove any stigma and help create a happier and more motivated workforce who will appreciate the lengths you and your business have gone to maintain workplace well-being.
CABA Development Manager Jessica French uses research and data to build CABA’s support provision. Working across all internal teams, she ensures the wraparound support available to members is holistic, covering all facets of personal and professional wellbeing.