As we prepare for Menopause Awareness Month in October, Tania Hemming, a menopause coach who works with employers to help them retain talent through this stage of life, looks to further the conversation on menopause in the workplace.
Menopause has been receiving a lot of media attention of late, and with very good cause. By 2030, it’s estimated that the number of people who are menopausal and postmenopausal will number 1.2 billion – that’s 15% of the global population.
In addition to this, 47 million people will begin their menopause journey each year. In the UK, that tends to happen on average from women’s early 40s to early 50s – often coinciding with some of our most senior and significant career years.
And yet, roughly 10% of the workforce will leave their job due to the menopause – equivalent to more than a million people in 2022.
As women over the age of 50 are becoming the fastest-growing population in the workforce, one thing is clear: companies that want to hold on to talented, experienced employees must do more to support them as they go through this stage of life.
October is Menopause Awareness Month, though as with all things, menopause support needs to be a daily commitment on the part of companies that wish to retain talent.
Despite this, a third of all employers don’t feel equipped to support staff going through menopause.
The Menopause: Translated
So what is ‘The Menopause’? Put simply, the menopause occurs when you haven’t had a period for 12 consecutive months. Caused by a change in hormones, your periods stop, and your ovaries lose their reproductive function.
There are three stages of the menopause: perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause.
Perimenopause is when your hormone levels start decreasing and you may start to experience symptoms.
Menopause occurs when you haven’t had a period for one year and, interestingly, lasts for just one day! After this, you are considered post-menopausal.
Post-menopause is defined as the rest of your life after menopause, where you may experience lingering symptoms, or these may stop altogether.
A person’s physical, emotional, mental, and general wellbeing can be impacted by the menopause. It quite literally affects anyone who has a female reproductive system: 51% of the population.
What are the symptoms?
Eight out of 10 women experience most of the common symptoms. These include, but aren’t limited, to hot flashes/flushes, night sweats, insomnia, joint pains, irritability, low mood, loss of libido and memory problems. However, there are reportedly 62 symptoms associated with menopause and some that might surprise you.
Things like sensitivity to noise, dry eyes, restless legs, feelings of rage, tinnitus, frozen shoulder, burning mouth and body odour change can all be signs of the menopause.
Brain fog and memory issues
Recent research from 6000 women shows the most common symptom experienced during menopause was ‘brain fog’. A total of 87% of women experienced brain fog, which is described as poor concentration, feeling confused, ‘fuzzy’ thinking, forgetfulness, lost words, and mental fatigue.
The second most common symptom was ‘memory issues’ – reported by 77% of respondents. With so many experiencing brain fog and memory issues, it is little wonder that people have a crisis of confidence, with one in 10 leaving the workforce due to menopause.
This has a huge impact not only on organisations, but on the individuals themselves. So many women know very little about the menopause before they begin their journey, and often do not realise that their symptoms are caused by this change in their lives. Being unprepared or taken by surprise like this can cause people significant anxiety, stress, or even fear.
How employers can help
With 10% of the workforce leaving year-on-year, organisations have a duty to support staff who experience the menopause. Not only does menopause support defend against loss of talent, it also normalises a subject that many still consider taboo.
Companies must first educate their workforce so that people are better equipped to recognise and manage their menopause journey and advocate for their needs. Secondly, employers need to ensure the right support is provided on a daily basis.
Awareness and flexibility are key for companies that retain and nurture female talent through this season. Awareness enables people to ask for support, and flexibility ensures that, despite any symptoms, people can still contribute their skills and knowledge.
Flexible working practices, environments, and personal approaches to the workday can be the difference between staying with a company or handing in your notice. Many organisations are at the start of their own menopause journey, as they begin to understand what support needs to be provided.
Top tips for employers
- Develop your own knowledge and understanding of menopause.
- Destigmatise the language when referencing menopause.
- Create open dialogue to foster an inclusive culture- just talking about menopause can reduce stress and anxiety for those impacted.
- Understand the policies you already have that can provide support, such as flexible working, extended periods of leave, workplace adjustments, occupational health services and wellbeing programmes.
- Support and signpost clear, reliable, certified sources of information and refrain from diagnosing or potentially making assumptions.
- Know that everyone’s menopause journey is individual. The support that’s needed will vary from person to person.
- Be clear on the law and discrimination in relation to menopause.
The menopause is a complex and often uncomfortable subject, but every one of us has a role to play in changing how we view, talk about, and support our communities through menopause.
By embracing that role, we can create safe, inclusive workplaces where people can advocate for their needs, have them met, and empower themselves to continue their careers through the menopause, and beyond.
Tania Hemming is a qualified leadership coach, certified menopause coach and founder of Hold the Space. With a CPD accredited Menopause Coaching Programme, The Menopause: Translated and one-to-one sessions, Tania helps companies retain talent through menopause coaching and training that’s designed to help employees advocate for their own needs.