Working Transitions

Supporting Menopause in the Workplace - 5 minutes with...Deborah Garlick

When it comes to Menopause, Deborah Garlick is on a mission to change the culture of the UK – one Employer at a time.

Deborah is the founder of ‘Henpicked’ – the UK’s fastest growing websites for women over the age of 40. The website – which boasts the strapline ‘for women who weren’t born yesterday’ - gives women a place to have their say, promoting health debates and bringing about positive change. With almost 100,000 followers on social media and a reach of between 250,000 – 1m readers a week, ‘Henpicked’ knows exactly what subjects are popular amongst women.

‘We noticed that every-time we published something on the subject of Menopause there was a sharp spike in activity’ explains Deborah ‘it was obvious that this was an area that women wanted to discuss’. To address this, Deborah pulled together a group of contributing authors and other experts and conducted a facilitators session on hopes, fears and questions around the menopause.

The positive reaction and success of this session sparked the book – ‘Menopause – the change for the better’. Published on 3 May, this no-nonsense, easy-to-read guide explores the facts, the myths, what to expect and includes stories from women who have been there. Deborah explains ‘I felt passionate that there was a real gap in the market for a guide written in plain English that had real-life accounts that women could relate to. When I explored the publications that were already out there, I felt that the choice was either very technical guides aimed at the medical profession or weighty tomes that could be used to prop a door open! It was important to me to create something easy to read and relatable. The ultimate aim of the book is to change the perception in the UK - if every woman is not concerned or embarrassed to talk about menopause for fear of discrimination then we can enter a period where everyone is comfortable with it and it is viewed as a ‘natural’ time of life’.

If you truly want to change cultural perceptions however, you can’t do it just through a website or book. Deborah partners with organisations to ensure that they have the relevant policies, awareness and education in place and that menopause is not a ‘taboo’ subject across their workplace. Deborah says ‘As an example, I provide Menopause Seminars to a large utilities company – we’re about to conduct their 4th event – that will mean that 400 people have listened to us talking about menopause – that’s 400 more people who are comfortable talking about menopause just within that one organisation – and word spreads. We’ve conducted some phenomenal events for organisations - last year we conducted the first ever menopause seminar in the world bringing together people from all sectors to benefit from collective experience’.

Deborah’s seminars are completely unbiased, exploring both the medical and natural side of menopause – they provide the awareness, education and the signposting to allow women to make up their own mind and remove the stigma that surrounds menopause.

We asked Deborah:

Why should menopause be of interest to employers/organisations?

We are an ageing population. In the UK, around 1 in 3 employees is aged over 50 and around half of all workers are women. We know that women are reluctant to talk to their line managers about menopause yet many struggle to be at their best as a result of symptoms - around 1 in 4 have said they have thought about leaving work as a direct result of their symptoms. We know that symptoms can result in increased absenteeism.

It doesn’t need to be that way.

Talking about menopause openly, raising awareness and education means that an employer can improve the working environment for menopausal women, and also reduce absenteeism, increase productivity and increase retention of valuable, experienced employees.

Leaders and line managers have told us that they don’t understand enough about menopause to be able to spot the symptoms, have good conversations and give the right support. Demystifying the subject for line managers allows them to get their heads around how to address the conversation - putting a structured framework around the conversation makes it much easier. It’s important for line managers to appreciate that they don’t have to be the GP – they should not try to give medical advice. Being able to talk about it is such a relief for women - normalising symptoms can be so important- being open makes it much easier and makes work life comfortable.

If that’s not enough, the risk of a successful tribunal against you for missing menopausal symptoms leading to disciplinary or any type of discrimination is increased for two reasons. General awareness of menopause symptoms is being raised and leading organisations are already taking action

Menopause is covered by the law - age, sex and disability discrimination towards workers are prohibited under the Equality Act 2010. Are you sure your line managers and colleagues would know the symptoms and take the appropriate action?

It’s a choice.

Leading organisations are already starting to put in place the right awareness, education and support and seeing clear benefits both to their culture and the bottom line.

What symptoms can impact on workplace performance?

Most people will be familiar with hot flushes but actually, the range of menopausal symptoms are far more wide-ranging. Every woman is different, both in terms of what her symptoms are and also the severity, but three out of four will experience symptoms and one in four will experience symptoms which can be classed as serious. Many women will not have even consulted a doctor or understand the ways in which symptoms can be managed.

The impact on performance at work largely depends on the sort of job a woman is doing. Physical symptoms in addition to ‘temperature control’ include lack of sleep, general fatigue, aches and pains and frequent urinary tract infections.

Psychological problems may include ‘brain fog’, feeling forgetful, lack of confidence, anxiety and irritability. In some instances, women have told us that they feared early onset dementia, others find that they are continually checking their work, fearful that they’ve forgotten something or done it wrong. Not speaking up or participating fully in meetings due to lack of confidence is another concern.

What are the benefits of supporting menopausal women in the workplace?

When women realise that what they are experiencing are the symptoms of menopause, often there is an initial feeling of relief. There are ways to manage symptoms and women are very grateful to their employers for the education and support.

Equipping leaders and line managers to have good conversations ensures they are able to provide the necessary support – both to the woman and the wider team.

For any organisation, it helps reduce the cost of unnecessary absence, cost of replacing women leaving the business and creates or supports a culture where employee wellbeing is valued. And of course, it reduces the risk of negative PR and the cost of tribunals.

How can you de-mystify the stigma of menopause in the workplace?

The first thing to do is start the conversation. Menopause should not be a taboo subject or driven underground. Our experience is that as soon as you start the conversation you’ll be surprised at how much colleagues do want to talk about it.

Education is key and based on the facts – there are so many myths.

What advice would you give to an employer looking to support women in the workplace?

Do it, I can think of no reason why any employer wouldn’t do this. If it’s not about the benefits of creating a healthy, happy workforce, the financial benefits are simply waiting to be picked up.

Menopause is not a minority issue, it’s not just for women. All women will go through menopause and all men will experience it second-hand. We will all play a crucial supporting role at some time in our life, whether that’s to a colleague, family member or friend.

It’s very little effort to do with the right support, and the benefits are realised quickly and simply get bigger over time.

Working Transitions CEO, Lynne Hardman:

“At Working Transitions we support both organisations and individuals facing workplace transition and change. We see Menopause as another key life stage that impacts career transition, similar to maternity or other health or life stage related issues, that have the potential to de-rail career or organisational plans. In this case, it’s an issue that will be faced directly by around 50% of the workforce, so more of our clients are recognising the importance and value of providing additional support and guidance in the workplace. We are delighted to be working in partnership with Deborah to provide coaching and other support to allow women to successfully navigate this transition and for organisations to prosper”

 

The book ‘Menopause – the change for the better’ is published on 3rd May. Readers of our article can get a 20% discount on the purchase price using the code MENOPAUSE20 at the checkout. www.bloomsbury.com/Menopause.

To find out more about how Working Transitions can support your Organisation call 01604 744101

 

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Author
Working Transitions
Date
04 April 2018
Categories
Change
Development
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