WorkshopThe menopauseBlossWorkplace

Employers are constantly pulled from all sides with constant demands to guarantee the best possible training and development to their employees, while at the same time offering them competitive packages. Something that has rightfully gained focus in the past few years is an interest in employee’s wellbeing.

Workplaces now offer yoga classes, posture assessments and gym discounts. Similarly, diversity and inclusion trainings have started to become popular, supporting employees working as a team. Diversity and inclusion trainings are also proven to provide engagement and productivity. Interestingly, similar benefits are obtained when focussing on employee’s mental and physical health.

Why is it so important to support your employees’ wellbeing?

So many issues need to be addressed in the workplace. Today we are going to focus on one of the most daunting statistics to anyone working in a not solely male-dominated environment.

Two thirds of women working through the menopause (all women will go through it at some point in their lives) say they currently have no support at all from their employers. Whilst this might sound shocking, it is not surprising and is the reason why 25% of women say they have considered leaving their job and 1 in 10 actually do end up handing in their notice.

A lot of work is yet to be done in raising awareness around the menopause in general, not just in the workplace. That is ultimately going to help society in being more understanding and accepting of this transition into each woman’s life as well as providing them with the support when needed.

The good news is that this can easily start in the workplace. There are many ways to treat menopausal symptoms and improve the quality of life of menopausal women, as well as spotting the signs early. With a short training workshop, awareness can start spreading across a whole organisation.

In fact, if 50% of the population (all women) go through the menopause at some point in their lives and careers, men of different ages are also very much indirectly affected by it, as the menopause affects women’s work as colleagues as well as mothers, friends, partners and more.

What would a workplace training session involve?

During a Menopause Awareness Training, we would first of all introduce the perimenopause and menopause, including relevant data pointing out the importance of raising awareness. We will then use a collaborative approach to brainstorm physical and mental health symptoms and potential workplace obstacles menopausal women could be encountering on a daily basis.

Then we will move towards brainstorming ideas around how to provide as best support as possible in the workplace according to the type of working environment. We will also discuss useful resources for employers to circulate, including when seeking medical help and some useful lifestyle changes. We will also be touching on early and premature menopause, including a focus on invisible illnesses and medically induced menopause (those of cancer survivors).

These workshops are targeted at busting myths about the menopause and understanding this process and any symptom triggers to avoid. This has the aim to normalise the menopause and get this important conversation started, as well as raising awareness about the menopause as a real occupational health issue. We will also discuss practical resources and paths for menopausal women, offering clear steps to follow.

After a training session, I often receive some very thankful messages from menopausal women but also sons and daughters, husbands and friends of menopausal women that now feel more confident offering support to the menopausal women in their lives. Sometimes some will even spot their own or other people’s beginning of the perimenopause.

Menopause Awareness Training workshops get staff to talk about a topic that has been taboo for too long, bringing employees together and helping them in their working and personal lives.

And yes, this training will initiate conversations around swapping desks according to their proximity to ventilation. But more than anything else, if paired by a healthy working environment, this training will minimise menopausal women leaving the workplace entirely, as well as their sick leave and their overall performances.

Looking at an organisation like an organism, made up of different organs – each employee with a different function – it is clear how the overall health of a company is directly impacted by the wellbeing of each employee. And given that there are wonderful resources available around the menopause, sharing them with the whole organisation is easy and rewarding.

How does the menopause affect women and why is it so important to talk about it?

Research from the Menopause Experts Group has found that suicide rates for women aged between 45 and 54 (the most common age group for perimenopause and menopause) has risen by 6% in the past 20 years.

Mental health symptoms including depression, anxiety, mood swings are often dismissed by doctors with anti-depression and anti-anxiety medication, without investigating their origin. These medications do not work against hormone induced symptoms and women don’t end up getting the right help.

1/4 of women have considered leaving their job because of the menopause.

Women also experience a variety of physical symptoms including:

  • fatigue
  • hot flushes
  • heart palpitations
  • migraines
  • itchiness
  • vaginal dryness and discomfort during sex
  • difficulty sleeping
  • joint pain
  • brain fog

These are pretty major symptoms and although not every woman experiences all symptoms (some do not have any!) or don’t experience them all at the same time, it is of vital importance that they are aware of them so they can spot them and ask for the right treatment before their lives are drastically impacted.

Fatigue, brain fog and migraines, in particular, affect any job, both physically demanding and screen-based, and can destroy the confidence of women experiencing them. Usually, there is an element of shame attached to menopausal symptoms. As menopausal women are often dismissed by medical professionals, pinpointing their symptoms to stress, they are often discouraged to seek help in other settings, including the workplace.

The following are shocking figures:

  • 27% of women had seen more than three doctors in hospital about their symptoms
  • 99% of these women had hospital investigations undertaken for their menopausal symptoms
  • 8% had more than six hospital investigations
  • Of those women who had taken time off work to attend their hospital appointments, 76% had taken at least two days off work to attend them

This quote shows a few of the reasons why it is so important to address menopause awareness training in the workplace. Indeed, women spend a lot of time and energy getting the right diagnosis, this often taking years of them worrying there is a scary underlying health condition, during which they have to take time off from work for appointments (or sick leave), and during which their productivity is hugely impacted by their symptoms.

Let’s clarify the terms we have been using to describe this. Menopause is technically only one day (one year after the last periods) after which a woman is considered post-menopausal. Prior to that, women go through the peri-menopause, the onset of menopause. This usually happens in a woman’s forties and can last longer than ten years!

This is the time when women experience the most severe symptoms, but their periods haven’t drastically stopped yet. Perhaps they have just become a bit more irregular, heavier or lighter. Women can be in their late thirties or forties (usually) and given the possibility of a long perimenopause, if symptoms aren’t treated, women’s entire careers are often put at stake.

First of all, workplace training needs to prepare women of the peri-menopause. It is also important to talk about premature menopause (happening before the age of 40), which can happen at any age!

I personally went through it before puberty and at the age of fifteen, I was postmenopausal already. This happens to one in a hundred women and it needs addressing, as younger women going through the menopause will experience more severe symptoms, as their hormone receptors are very active.

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