Why every company should be talking about the ‘M’ word

Image of man holding woman experiencing menopause sitting in nature in the background.
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There’s an issue that affects 50% of Australia’s workforce.

Employees often suffer in silence and keep on working while their physical and mental health deteriorates or they eventually quit. 

The issue is menopause in the workplace. Seen as a taboo subject, it’s either completely ignored or addressed with comments like, ‘it’s hormonal and you just need to cope with it.’

Your company needs to start talking about it because it can no longer be ignored.

In 2021, Circle In an employee experience platform that helps companies offer personalized support to working parents and caregivers commissioned research into menopause at work

Menopause is not a subject that’s widely discussed in workplaces yet so many of our customers repeatedly talked to us about it. Few employers around the world offer menopausal policies or leave. The information that was available told us it was worth investigating.

Jodi Geddes, Co-founder at Circle In

700 employees were surveyed and the results were startling: 

  • 83% of respondents said their work was negatively affected
  • Almost half of all respondents (48%) struggled with a drop in confidence at work
  • 60% of respondents said company support was ‘poor’ or ‘below average’

Respondents also shared these comments:

At times I experienced a sense of panic… which was difficult to mask in meetings and other professional settings, and during which it was extremely difficult to stay mentally present.

I was unbelievably emotional and found it hard to concentrate. I would often burst into tears over nothing and struggled to cope with things I would usually handle with ease.  I actually thought I was losing my mind.

The average retirement age for women in US is 63 years, and 52.1 years in Australia. However, more than 75% of Australians aged over 50 want to keep working indefinitely

So, more women are likely to experience menopause while working full-time jobs. Without the right support to help manage their experiences, these women or those identifying as female often end up feeling isolated or quit.

While research has confirmed that work outcomes aren’t affected by menopause, there’s a direct link between hot flashes and the decision to stop working.

1. Tackling the taboo head-on

Creating policies, putting them into practice, and supporting them with training are usually the best ways to bring about positive change in the workplace.

Art Processors, a creative technology company decided to tackle this taboo topic head-on by developing a Menstruation and Menopause policy. The company has begun offering flexibility and paid leave to their employees to help manage menopause symptoms.

I’ve managed a number of women adversely affected by menopause throughout my career. At Art Processors, we wanted to normalize the subject of women’s health, be more open about what menopause is and how it affects both individuals and organizations. We live and work in a world where menopause is real, so it’s important to recognize it and allow our people to manage any adverse effects in a way that allows them to be their best selves at work, without shame or risk of repercussions.

Vanessa Doake, Chief People Officer at Art Processors

The Circle In report provides these guidelines for employers on creating a supportive environment for their menopausal employees.

2. Raise awareness of menopause in the workplace

This helps to foster a workplace culture where the topic is taken seriously. When everyone (including managers with little understanding of menopause) becomes familiar with the issues involved, those experiencing menopause feel more comfortable asking for the support they need.

3. Provide practical support to employees

Sought-after support can come in the form of empathy and openness, or it can be physical assistance such as cool drinking water, fans, and provision of a rest area. Connecting female colleagues to support each other through the challenges can be helpful.

4. Develop a flexible framework

Some may not need to make any changes to their duties. Others may benefit from flexible or changed hours, or a temporary shift in their role, for example, reducing client-facing work while they experience frequent hot flashes. The Victorian Women’s Trust has developed a free menstrual and menopause workplace policy template for use by employers. It’s designed to adapt to your particular workplace and the needs of your employee.

5. Equip and inform your managers and leaders

With only 3% of respondents feeling that they had received ‘excellent’ support from their workplace during menopause, equipping, upskilling, and supporting managers are absolutely essential.

We hope it serves as a call to arms for organizations globally, looking to improve the experience for all their employees – including those that may currently be taking their menopausal journey in silence.

Jodi Geddes, Co-founder at Circle In

If you’d like to learn more about how you can support your employees, click here to talk to us today.

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