Menopause affects us all, it's not just about women, it has an impact on everyone around them, their work colleagues, managers, families and partners and while ALL women will go through it, why does it still seem to be a taboo subject?
A third of all workers are now over the age of 50 and menopausal women are becoming the fastest-growing workplace demographic, so it's never been more important to include menopause awareness in corporate wellbeing strategies.
Companies are losing hundreds of thousands of experienced women every year as they struggle to cope with sometimes debilitating symptoms. This loss of skill and knowledge can have a big impact on businesses, not just from a productivity point of view, but also the direct costs of recruiting and retraining new staff.
The average age for women to go through menopause is 51, however, the journey to that stage (known as perimenopause) can begin for some women decades earlier, last for up to 10 years and result in a diverse range of symptoms that can dramatically affect the way they work.
Anxiety, depression, brain fog, memory loss, lack of sleep from constant night sweats, fatigue, mood swings and muscle and joint pain can lead to some women feeling like they just can't function in the workplace, and are too embarrassed to ask for help. But with the right support and empathy from managers and colleagues life can feel a little easier during this challenging time.
According to research by Vodaphone 62% of women surveyed felt their symptoms had negatively impacted them at work and 64% thought there should be more workplace support for menopausal women.
With the number of job vacancies in the UK reaching a 20 year high, and some industries fighting to get skilled staff, it makes sense to do what you can to retain the people you have.
Male-dominated industries that are trying to attract more women into their ranks, such as construction, could potentially be missing out on a large pool of experienced and talented employees in a market where workers are already in short supply.
Whilst many industry-leading organisations have recognised the importance of diversity and inclusivity in order to retain experts there's still a need to create workplace cultures that encourage women to seek help when it comes to menopause. But for this to happen, managers, both male and female, should be given the training they need to understand what menopause is, how to feel comfortable discussing the topic and know what support they can put in place to help their female colleagues and support co-workers.
All workplaces have maternity policies, but not all women will become pregnant, there's a growing recognition of the need for mental health support in the workplace but menopause can also have a big impact on workers. Companies such as ASOS and Vodaphone are leading the way by offering staff flexible working, paid leave, staff training and access to help through employee assistance programmes.
If we continue to let women suffer in silence, or leave the workplace because they feel they have no other option, the impact will affect us all
There are a number of strategies companies can put in place to create a working environment that offers women the confidence to seek help, such as:
Openly discussing the topic internally
Running training for managers - there are companies who specialise in this topic
Allowing flexible working for women experiencing symptoms
Setting up a weekly confidential women's support group
Providing women who are experiencing hot flushes with a desk fan or seating near a window that opens
Including counselling around menopause in employee assistance programmes
Running regular mindfulness and/or meditation workshops to help ease anxiety
Teams are stronger together, when everyone has the support and tools they need to carry out their role to the best of their ability everyone wins.