October 18th marks World Menopause Day, and this year’s focus is on fostering menopause-friendly work environments, acknowledging the challenges women face and advocating for supportive policies and practices. But beyond awareness, what action can employers take to create positive change?
While going through the menopause is undoubtedly a challenging time in a woman’s life, it also poses a financial challenge to employers. Globally, the cost of menopause-related productivity losses to businesses is now thought to be up to US$150 billion a year.
It’s not just productivity and unplanned absence related to menopause that poses an issue for businesses. It’s thought that 900,000 women in the UK have quit their jobs due to menopause symptoms, contributing to significant staff turnover costs, a loss of skills and experience, and even a negative impact on an employer’s brand.
To combat these challenges, edays absence management provides actionable tips for creating menopause-friendly workplaces, including:
Promoting understanding and empathy: The menopause is not short-term and for some, it can last for years. It’s important, and helpful, to speak with menopausal employees about their symptoms (if they are comfortable talking about it), to show compassion and consider any possible adjustments that could be made. Organisations can choose to have female ‘buddies’ to talk with and relate to ensure that women feel comfortable sharing their experiences should they wish.
Offering flexible work options: Employers can implement flexible working hours and remote options to help employees manage their responsibilities while prioritising self-care. For example, insomnia is a common symptom of the menopause – offering employees temporary flexible working hours could help to minimise the impact of a lack of sleep.
Monitoring absence patterns: Ensuring that all absences are tracked, along with a reason for the absence, will provide much-needed visibility over teams and individuals. Menopausal employees may need to take sick leave due to their symptoms, but not necessarily state the full reason why they are taking time off because of the extremely personal nature of the situation. Getting to the root cause of any sickness absences through open, honest conversations means that the appropriate support can be given to employees if needed.
Policy considerations: Organisations can elect to have a dedicated menopause policy, detailing any arrangements or adjustments that can be made for individuals. Conducting training sessions to educate employees and management will also help to increase dialogue on the subject, and foster empathy in the workplace.
Wellbeing programs: Integrating programs focusing on nutrition, stress management, work-life balance, and exercise can contribute to enhancing the overall health and resilience of women experiencing menopause.
Appropriate working environments: Employees going through menopause may benefit from working from home more often, to help manage their symptoms more comfortably. For office-based workers, there are several things employers can offer. These might include being able to wear comfortable clothing, sit near a window, have a desk fan, and ensure access to suitable toilet facilities in so that managing symptoms can be made easier and less stressful.
Providing appropriate tools: Providing understanding is key, as is fostering awareness and open dialogue in the workplace, but so is providing the right tools for menopausal women in order for them to continue to succeed in their roles. There are a number of work management tools available to help with remembering and managing tasks and workload, which an employer can provide.
Katrina Bennett, People Director at edays, says: “Ensuring that everyone feels they work in an understanding and supportive environment allows employees not only to feel respected but also valued in the workplace.
“For businesses, creating a compassionate workplace is likely to result in increased productivity, retention of vital skills, experience and knowledge, and employee happiness over the long-term. Honest conversations are key – and any menopause-related absences, issues and reasonable adjustments should be discussed openly between the employee, their manager and HR.
“The statistics are striking – people going through the menopause represent the fastest-growing demographic in the workforce, and the financial implications of unaddressed menopause-related challenges on businesses are significant. That’s why it’s important that organisations take practical steps to support women affected by the menopause, create a supportive culture and provide safe and comfortable workplaces for everyone.”