Weaving support of Women’s Wellbeing into your Wellbeing strategy


Ahead of International Women’s Day on 8th March, the panel session with this focus at The Watercooler Event and following our feature on ‘What’s next for Women’s Health at work?’, we’ve put together these tips from experts about how to weave support of women’s wellbeing into a wellbeing strategy.

1. Make sure you are thinking about Women’s Health consistently and constantly, not just around International Women’s Day or World Menopause Day

“Employees need education, so employers need to keep the information coming on all women’s health issues,” says Trudi Roscouet, Founder of Vitality 40 Plus. She suggests regular wellbeing events and content on your intranet as just two examples.

Most employers have a wellbeing strategy made up of various pillars, such as mental, physical, social and financial wellbeing. There will be lifestyle behaviours that help and hinder lifestages such as the menopause and Roscouet suggests weaving women’s health related content into your existing pillars. “I think we could still embed women’s health into lifestyle content more,” she says.

2. Involve Men

Waste management company Biffa has a predominantly male workforce and, as its Head of Wellbeing, Leo Capernaros, says it’s essential that employers “take the time to educate managers – both men and women – to understand the types of support that may be needed by women in their teams”.

Bupa’s Rachel Murray, Head of Employee Health & Wellbeing at Bupa Global & UK, agrees, adding that employers must ensure, too, “that everyone understands your company policies, so they can offer the right guidance”.

“It is also helpful when male (and female) senior leaders are visible in their support for women in the workforce as this helps to drive the right behaviours across the organisation,” says Capernaros.

3. Create supportive spaces for your employees to share experiences

Some employers have set up informal groups where people can share their experiences and connect with others going through similar things. Bupa, for example, has done this around menopause and period symptoms.

“We really champion an open culture at Bupa so this is something we regularly have, and doctors or senior leaders join as well so that we can share stories at all levels. Sharing our stories has been hugely powerful,” says Bupa’s Murray, adding internal and external speakers are also invited to these meetings to give their perspectives.  

“Going through menopause or suffering with painful or heavy periods can be really lonely. Helping to create a culture where people feel they can be open is incredibly important, and it helps to know that others are going through the same experience,” she says.

4. Don’t think that a Women’s Health group should be all-female 

As per our earlier point, it’s essential men are involved too. In fact, at Biffa, where there’s a predominantly male workforce, Capernaros describes the “centrepiece” of its Women’s Health strategy as its “#pause menopause support group”, which has over 200 active members, men and women.  

“Everyone is welcome so they can learn more about the menopause and share together. Sessions take place every month on Teams hosted by #pause champions or an external expert with topics such as: HRT, Early Stages and Hysterectomy,” he says.

5. Provide support to deal with symptoms

Services can be hard to access via the NHS, so employers can make a huge difference when it comes to Women’s Health by offering employees support.

“Having services offered through work can make so much difference,” says Bupa’s Murray. Various options could be private GP services, nurse-led phonelines offering 24/7 access or EAPs (employee assistance programmes).

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“Having support and access to treatment means that employees are able to stay well, in work and improves productivity,” adds Murray. “With such a huge variety of symptoms, some of which can be embarrassing to talk about, having someone impartial and discreet to talk to can really help people open up.”

Biffa’s Capernaros has this advice when considering what services to offer:

“Talk to your employees about the issues they are experiencing and the support they would like and then work out what you can do to provide this.  Employers need to be careful not to assume they know.  Every organisation is different and what’s needed varies according to the make-up of your workforce, as well as the type of work you do.”

Then, once you’ve spoken to your employees, he says, speak to your providers, such as your EAP, Occupational Health and insurance, “to understand and capitalise on what services they can offer and ensure these arre woven into our approach”.

6. Make sure your employees know there is support

As Bupa’s Murray says, there’s no point providing support if no one knows about it: “Do publicise your support: ensure your people know about what you offer in terms of supporting colleagues with Women’s Health and how they can access this.”

7. Work with charities & organisations that specialise in Women’s Health

As Heidi Yule, Head of Development at Endometriosis UK says, charities like hers tend to offer ‘lunch and learn’ sessions in exchange for “a modest fee or donation”. Charities also have ready-to-go information materials that you can display around the workplaces in bathrooms and public areas, for instance. 

“You can also reach out to us if you need advice checking whether your policy or guidance documents are endometriosis friendly and fully inclusive to all with menstrual conditions, and you can sign up to become an endometriosis friendly employer, along with companies like British Airways, Hargreaves Lansdowne and Clifford Chance,” she says.

Working in partnership this way means you can leverage specialist knowledge. For example, Mondays Organic, which provides natural menstruation products for officers, works with its clients on their internal communications strategy, to help raise awareness and knowledge.

“It’s important to also empower colleagues and line managers to understand women’s health issues and how to support their teams,” says Elisabeth Dewey, Co-founder of Mondays Organic. “Ultimately we use data and evidence-based information backed up with practical guidance. Simple anonymous surveys are very powerful ways to give employees a voice and empower them to make suggestions themselves how they can be supported.”

8. Put it in policyand do more than the statutory minimum

Policies are fundamental as they send a message to the workforce that Women’s Health is important, and also ensure that all managers have the issue on their radar.

But Biffa’s Capernaros goes further than this saying that policies need to go “much further than statutory requirements to ensure the right approach is taken across the organisation”.

He also argues that robust, progressive family-friendly policies “go a long way to support Women’s Health and Wellbeing”. As a result, Biffa prides istself on its progressive policies on related subjects such as Maternity, Paternity and Menopause.

9. Join it all up

There are many elements to getting your Women’s Health and Wellbeing strategy working well, from awareness-raising to training to policy making.

“It is crucial for us that we not only raise awareness across the business, but also ensure our policies, procedures, service providers, et cetera, all walk-the-walk in terms of giving timely and high-quality support when it’s required.” 

We’ll be honing in on this topic at The Watercooler Event during the panel session on 24th April: “What’s on the agenda with women’s health and wellbeing – from endometriosis to menopause”. This includes input from Cathy Earnshaw-Balding, Head of Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging , GXO; Helen Tomlinson, Government Menopause Employment Champion; Maurice O’Connor, Wellbeing Manager, British Airways; Dr Samantha Wild, Women’s Health Clinical Lead, BUPA and will be ably Chaired by Trudi Roscouet, Founder of Vitality 40 Plus. You can find out more and register to attend here.

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