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How can Kiwi businesses create a menopause-friendly workplace?

Published November 29, 2023 - Face2Face Field Service Manager

Women’s health and well-being are issues that are rarely talked about in the workplace and often overlooked or shrouded in shame. The things that can have a significant impact on our physical and mental well-being- periods, hormones, and menopause have the tendency to make others feel uncomfortable. As a result, women in the workplace shy away from talking about these issues and even feel guilty about it. However, that is set to change soon.

A new generation of women is hitting midlife, and they are not prepared to suffer in silence anymore. They want to talk about it, and they want understanding and support from business owners and employers.

The number of women who will be affected by this in the workplace is only growing. According to reports, by 2025, 12% of the global population or 1 billion women will be undergoing menopause. Menopausal women are the fastest growing workforce demographic in some countries. 58% find managing work during this transition challenging. However, businesses look at it, this is going to impact you and your staff. If you want to attract the best talent and retain them, having consistent and tangible support for all your workforce is a must.

History

Approximately 60% of employees surveyed in the US felt that menopause is generally stigmatized. Classified as ‘too personal ‘ or a ‘taboo’, menopause is often discussed in whispers or repressed for fear of repercussions or damage to career progression. When women get into the age group of 40-55, they are usually in their high earning potential and at their peak of their career. This also comes with its set of responsibilities and duties. They don’t feel comfortable talking about menopause with their managers at work. Some are forced to leave their jobs due to lack of accessible and effective support. Traditional career models that are heavily influenced by male-centric pathways are another obstacle for women in this age group to progress. Menopause costs the U.S. economy an estimated $1.8 billion in lost working time per year. Another study has revealed that 1 in 10 women between the ages of 45 and 54 in the U.K. reportedly leave their jobs because of symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes, joint aches, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, and brain fog.

As of June 2023, women’s participation in the Kiwi labour force has increased to 67.7%, yet there is a glaring lack of conversations around menopause in the workplace. Why is that? The gaps in conversations and the taboo around it doesn’t necessarily stem from a lack of caring. It usually means that like every topic around women’s health, employers and employees are simply unaware and ignorant of the detrimental effects of menopause and its symptoms.

The first step for any business owner to become menopause-friendly is to understand the history, acknowledge its role, and focus on education within the workplace.

Menopause is not a trend

Jokes and memes and myths around menopause are in abundance. They perpetuate a cycle of misinformation that can be far damaging than actual ignorance. Menopause is neither a trend, nor a joke, nor it is a reason that can make a person less effective in their job, or weaker than men. It is simply a natural and temporary transition that everyone with ovaries will go through. It is not an illness; it is a stage of life- like puberty or pregnancy.

Benefits of menopause policies

There are proven benefits to supporting women at the workplace during menopause. 49% of women surveyed said they would feel more supported by the company if there were any tangible benefits and accessible support. As populations age, it is crucial we help older workers stay healthy and active within the workforce. Menopause-related benefits form a vital part of the response, alongside ensuring your multi-generational workforce feels engaged and trusted. Greater employer and policy support around menopause can be essential for women’s health. Discussion in the workplace tends to center around younger women and employees but it’s high time we consider our aging societies and boost health equity across gender and age.

More than AI or other trending buzzwords, the future of work and workplaces will be greatly defined by our ability to adapt to a workforce more old than young.

No one-size fits all

This journey may seem different for everyone. Some employees may need lots of support and some may need none. As a business owner and manager, you need to respect their needs and way of communication. Simply acknowledge that you are aware of their needs and that you are there for them should they need it.

Educate the workplace

Small businesses may not have the resources of multinationals or global companies. This shouldn’t deter them from being inclusive. Education around menopause can help reduce the stigma and make your employees feel heard. This can take the form of a workshop, webinar, or simply a conversation. Having an external person come in and talk about this topic in a clear, practical and scientific manner can make people feel empowered and help get a conversation started.

Walk the walk

Now that you have spoken about it, how are you actually going to make your workplace menopause-friendly? Paying lip service is not enough and makes your employees feel as if you are all about words and not action. Companies have already started looking at policies such as 10 days of leave, getting training from experts for managers, and making menopause conversations a norm.

Employers that have added benefits have definitely seen success. Microsoft had more than 1,000 activations of menopause support in the first week of launching benefits. Employees across 58 countries have accessed and used those benefits since then. Publicis Groupe ANZ recently launched a new policy to support its people experiencing symptoms related to menopause.

A menopause policy doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Look at what your business and employees need, is it is possible to integrate menopause in existing wellbeing actions and initiatives? Some options that can support menopause may be:

  • Flexible working
  • Access to medical, health and wellbeing services
  • Better workplace design (temperature control, quiet spaces etc)
  • Training for managers
  • Leave policies

The idea is to build a culture of communication, transparency, and support.

Communication

Once you do have a policy in place or processes, ensure it is communicated clearly and regularly to all employees. Make sure all employees know you are committed to being a menopause-friendly workplace. They should know who to reach out to if they have any questions, or concerns, and how to communicate those questions in an empathetic manner.

Things to remember

What do you need to remember before implementing any benefits to support employees going through perimenopause and menopause?

  • Get feedback- Talk directly to your employees on what they need. Consider sharing your plans and get feedback from them.
  • Talk to women’s groups and experts- While you may know what’s best for your business, you need expert help before starting any initiatives or benefits around menopause. A women’s group, employee resource groups, or expert providers can be an excellent partner and guiding source for you in this journey.
  • Look at the bigger picture- Any policy or benefit you consider launching should be sustainable, beneficial, and supportive for your business in the long run.

Please note that this information is intended to act as general information and does not constitute advice. If you need help with policies, please consult a qualified professional.

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