How Employers can provide support to those with menopause at work

Adam Lilley

Our interview with the content creator for our Mental Health & Wellbeing courses, Emma Parnell, on the affects of menopause on women's wellbeing.

As part of our recently released guide - 'Let's Talk about Mental Health and Wellbeing' guide - designed for employers and HR teams looking to support the psychological well-being of their people - we wanted to explore the largely under-discussed topic of menopause in the workplace 

In this article, Emma Parnell, Associate Product Manager at The Access Group whom has experienced menopause herself, shares its effects on women’s mental health and wellbeing, and how employers and HR teams can increase awareness, and provide essential training and support.

Going back to basics: How does menopause affect women’s mental health?

 

Hi Emma, please tell us what mental health and/or wellbeing problems women may experience when going through menopause?

Menopause is when a woman stops having periods and usually occurs between the ages of 45 – 55 years of age, as women’s oestrogen levels decline. It comprises of three stages, known as perimenopause, then menopause followed by post menopause. According to the NHS, the symptoms of menopause can include:

• Hot flushes
• Mood changes such as low mood or anxiety
• Difficulty sleeping
• Night sweats
• Problems with memory and concentration

In a recent survey by Newsom Health Research and Education, 99% of women felt their perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms led a negative impact on their careers. Having been through menopause myself, I experienced heightened emotional reactions to things that wouldn’t usually cause me to react like that, as well as frequent migraines. These symptoms would occur at any time - whether I was working or at home or in the office - and often without warning.

How can employers help to support workers going through menopause?

 

In your experience working at The Access Group, how can employers and HR leaders help promote menopause awareness with people managers and colleagues?

The most important thing is to have continued, open communication on the menopause; either through email campaigns or by signposting individuals and teams to relevant organisations that can offer support, such as the Menopause Charity and the British Menopause Society.

At The Access Group, employees and line managers can receive mental health and wellbeing awareness training, which can be delivered via eLearning courses. These courses help with menopause and how to effectively manage and allow women experiencing this, to be more productive and how their organisations can help.

The Access Group also provides our extensive library of resources and a wealth of initiatives and support groups that empower our teams to open up about big life-changing moments so many of us experience. We have a team of Wellbeing Champions, who, in addition to their main roles will also be there for colleagues to offer support and guidance and recommend the next steps.  

 

Are you keen to organise similar support initiatives for your employees?

Read more in our ‘Let's Talk about Mental Health’ guide

 

What practical actions can people managers do to help ensure women feel comfortable talking about menopause and their wellbeing at work and feel understood?

I think the first port of call for people managers is to complete, if available, any mental health and wellbeing awareness training that their organisation may provide. This will give them tips on how to support their employee going through menopause at work, like enabling women to create internal support networks and simply allowing and starting the conversation, and signpost to the relevant organisations for more information or guidance, such as the Menopause Charity, if needed. If this isn’t available, or if a manager has more questions, I recommend they speak with the HR department on how to approach a conversation with an employee that need supports.  

It also helps when managers have the right people skills, as they have established good relationships with their staff which makes it easier to have all kinds of conversations. These can be built with eLearning content that looks at building relationships with others and managing emotions. It may also mean that their employee is more likely to feel comfortable in disclosing this themselves without the manager needing to ask too many questions.

 

Talking about menopause is crucial for providing the right support

 

How has the recently raised profile of menopause in the media helped to increase awareness of the effects it has on women and their mental health, especially in the workplace?

Many people think that menopause is just one thing; that a woman’s menstrual cycle will end. Yet, menopause is so much more, and one woman’s experience of it can be very different to other women they know, with culture being found to influence a woman’s experience.  

Raising the profile of menopause is so important as many women don’t realise how menopause might affect them. Furthermore, raising the profile helps those who live with, work with, or manage women going through menopause. The more we talk about it and get comfortable with it, then the easier things will get for women and their employers.

I am not suggesting that when a woman starts to experience menopause symptoms that she should wear a badge and let everyone know. But, some women will experience changes there, and it’s important that this is understood by their employer. Some women resign from their jobs believing they can no longer perform their role or can’t cope with it, with a Benenden Health survey stating a third of women have said they left the workforce due to menopause, so managers need to consider if menopause could be a factor.

That said, no manager is going to just ask outright and nor should they. There should be guidance and help from HR on how to have that conversation. Some companies may not have access to a dedicated HR professional.

It’s also a matter of culture too, and whether a woman works for a company where she feels comfortable disclosing information about her health and wellbeing. Does she trust her manager? Could she have a conversation with him/her about her menopause symptoms and the impact on her mental health?

What effect does speaking up about topics like menopause have on the employee and the business as a whole?

If anyone is going through menopause or lives/works with someone who is, knowing they can talk about it or know where they can get help and advice. And likewise, for those who are trying to understand why their mum/wife/partner may be feeling worried or stressed at work as well as home, they need support too.

So, it pays for businesses to be aware of the mental as well as physical impacts menopause has and what they can do to support it.

 

How to empower your people to thrive

For employers looking to improve mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, equipping employees with the right knowledge in areas such as recognising and handling stress and other mental health conditions is vital. Get started today by viewing our wide range of Mental Health & Wellbeing courses, or for more information.

We will have new additions of content, including our Menopause and the effect on Women’s Mental Health due for release in Early 2022.