While the noise of information has increased around menopause in the last few years, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to tackling the issue. And as October comes to a close, reflecting on this year’s World Menopause Day theme of cognition and mood, it’s important to note that menopause is still causing challenges for working women – in fact, 1 in 4 have considered leaving their jobs because of the menopause, and 1 in 10 have done so. Cognition and mood play a big part in this – because if you can’t do your job effectively due to brain fog and mood swings, loss of confidence will soon follow.
So, what lessons have we learned this World Menopause Day and how can we turn these learnings into useful action?
Policies need to be backed by action
Menopause policies are a great first step on a company’s journey to becoming a menopause-friendly workplace, but to enable true change, policies need to be backed by meaningful and practical support.
So, if somebody is struggling at any level in the organisation, how do they get the support they need, whether that’s managerial support, reasonable adjustments to their work conditions, or flexible working? Do they know who should be their first point of contact?
Make sure the pathway of support is communicated effectively and there are clear, discreet ways to access it. With someone senior in the business championing the support available, it will help to normalise and de-stigmatise the conversation around menopause.
The confidentiality of digital solutions like health apps such as Peppy, is perfect for employees around the time of the menopause, as it means they can talk about what they are going through with menopause experts, without embarrassment, and get advice tailored to their personal needs
Support needs to be inclusive of everyone
We know that when it comes to menopause support one size fits no-one. Employers need to get real about who needs to be offered menopause support among their work force, and how their needs differ. The heteronormative vision of a person going through menopause – a heterosexual woman aged 50+ – excludes a lot of affected staff. People of all genders can be affected by menopause. For example, trans men and non-binary people also go through menopause as do much younger people and are often left out of the conversation.
They will have different experiences and challenges relating to menopause, requiring tailored advice and information Access to personalised and confidential support – and to menopause experts that can understand the nuances of these experiences – really makes a difference.
Considering how you communicate about menopause support is also important. Businesses should ensure communications reach – and feel relevant – to all affected staff. This means tailoring your language and visuals so they’re inclusive of all genders. Refer sometimes to ‘people going through the menopause’ in order to include trans and non-binary staff, rather than always referring to women. Instead of using imagery of white 50+ women, keep it diverse.
The menopause conversation must involve men too
To drive momentum around the menopause conversation, men need to be involved too. Because even though they may not go through it personally, they’re either living with, working alongside or spending time around someone who’s going through a whole raft of symptoms. If their boss or a colleague is experiencing brain fog, hot flushes or loss of confidence, it can also affect them. Educating men, will mean they are better-placed to spot the signs and symptoms of menopause, and offer support.
In addition, educating everyone across the business will help normalise the conversation and alleviate the ‘taboo’ around menopause.
Consider holding events specifically for men on menopause, or tailoring communications so they engage in the topic and feel comfortable with the conversation. This will also help male business leaders to become engaged and understand the impact on their business, ensuring they are supportive of their staff, thus preventing attrition.
Menopause support needs to be holistic
The theme of this year’s World Menopause Day was cognition and mood.Many events and articles have focused on this topic and shone a light on the lesser known, less spoken about side effects of menopause on mental health. Symptoms including brain fog, mood swings, anxiety and low mood are having an enormous – but oft-hidden – impact on the workforce.
It’s likely that loss of mental clarity is a major driver for menopausal women leaving their jobs, because if brain fog is making your staff forgetful and anxious, they’ll quickly lose their confidence to perform at work. Often called ‘cotton wool brain’, with brain fog you lose your mental clarity and can’t order your thoughts in a clear way, which can be highly distressing and severely affects performance.
The impact on mental wellbeing is often overlooked, and it’s common not to be aware that mental health issues such as anxiety and panic attacks are genuine symptoms of menopause. For support to be truly impactful, it needs to address these mental health symptoms, as well as the physical, to treat the whole person.
Support tools like health app Peppy, including guidance on meditation, affirmations and other strategies, such as cognitive behavioural tools, to enable positive wellbeing, can be really beneficial for tackling these mental health issues.
The lessons learned over recent years about menopause are manifold, meaning that a subject that was long brushed under the carpet is now discussed openly. While this can only be a good thing for menopausal staff and their families and colleagues, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with it. The conversation must continue between workforce and HR teams to ensure that support is inclusive and holistic, while the anonymity of health apps like Peppy ensure that support is reaching the people that need it in ways that suit them.