Menopause in the workplace support and understanding has come on in leaps and bounds over the past five years. But while it’s great that the taboo has been lifted, where do we go from here?
Kathy Abernethy, former Chair of the British Menopause Society and now Director of Menopause Services for Peppy Health believes the next step is widening out conversations so menopause isn’t seen as a ‘women’s issue’.
“Menopause is talked about a lot more than it used to be,” she says. “But I think we need to embrace the idea that it affects us all in different ways. I’d like to see us talking about it as openly as we do about pregnancy or puberty. After all, menopause is a similar journey.”
We’re seeing menopause discussions extending now across workplaces and menopause cafés, finding their way into the mainstream media and talked about openly by high-profile women.
“The progress that’s been made is fantastic,” continues Kathy. “But there’s always room for improvement. I think menopause is still often thought of as a ‘women’s issue’ – as biologically it’s something a female will go through.
“But menopause is something everyone needs to know about, as we could be working alongside people experiencing menopause, or living with them, or relating to them in some way. So it’s an ‘everybody’ conversation.”
A new understanding
With hundreds of organisations now realising the benefits of introducing menopause policies, practice and guidance, workplaces have, in many cases, transformed the working lives for their colleagues.
“When I look back a few years, I was being invited into a few places, but it certainly wasn’t the norm,” says Kathy. “Now we’re accepting it’s a conversation we should be having at work with our colleagues and peers. It’s much more embraced as a subject and I think it’s quite right that it should be.
“Menopause knowledge is really important for somebody who is experiencing this journey and having the hormonal fluctuations. Knowledge is power. And if you have the knowledge and understanding of what’s happening in your body you can make choices and follow the path that’s right for you, whether that’s treatment or not treatment, lifestyle management or HRT.
“Without the knowledge about what’s happening to your body and the things you can do to help it, you can’t make the choices that are right for you.”
And taking this understanding into the wider working world can make all the difference for women suffering from menopause symptoms.
The psychological side of menopause
“Hot flushes and sweats are often the most prevalent symptoms, and they can certainly be quite troublesome, both at home and at work,” says Kathy. “But it’s often the broader, more psychological symptoms which can have the most impact on work. Things like irritability, mood changes, tiredness and brain fog. These are all really important factors when you’re trying to do your job, and reasonable adjustments in the workplace can really help here.”
For those thinking of starting a menopause campaign, Kathy recommends starting with education and awareness around the topic, so everybody in the workplace becomes involved. Then expanding on this, building a strategy that’s going to be the most effective in your organisation. Need more inspiration?
Here is her final thought: “I’d say just go for it!”