Welcome to our first Phoenix for Employers Blog by Phoenix Wellness Coaching. I am a regular blogger and have a YouTube channel that supports women experiencing menopause, but I recognise that we need a different approach to help employers. From this month, I am launching my monthly Menopause-Friendly Employers blog where I will answer the big questions you have around how to support your menopausal co-workers. I hope you find these blogs useful, and if there is a subject you want me to cover then please do get in touch.
Alongside these blogs I will be launching a bi-monthly Phoenix Menopause Roundtable online discussion open to HR Directors, CEO’s and other senior leaders who want to talk about their challenges in developing a menopause-friendly organisation. I am looking forward to opening these conversations with you.
What does it mean to be a menopause-friendly organisation?
A massive question for many employers, and one on which I am increasingly being asked to share my views. Having a menopause policy is a brilliant first step in developing support for their perimenopausal and menopausal female staff members, but it doesn’t alone change your culture into one that is menopause-friendly. There is often a wide divide between policy and culture – and what is the saying about “culture eating strategy for breakfast”?
Having a menopause policy, as part of your wider wellbeing strategy, is a step in the right direction as it demonstrates your commitment to employee wellbeing; to staff experiencing menopause feeling fully supported by both management and other colleagues; and ensuring they are treated fairly at work.
Not having a menopause policy can lead to reduced engagement, lower productivity and performance, increased absences as well as potential
What should you include in your menopause policy?
Having a menopause policy will go some way towards creating an open and positive environment, helping those staff experiencing menopause to feel supported. Not being supported at work is one of the top reasons that menopausal women leave the workplace – 72% of women in a recent study said they felt unsupported at work!
Writing a policy can be difficult, especially if this is a new area for you, but there is a lot of support available but here are some top tips to get you started:
- Include a definition that describes what the menopause is and what the symptoms involve, to ensure that all staff members are clear on this.
- State what the intention of the policy is, for instance, prioritising the wellbeing and health of staff who are experiencing menopause symptoms.
- Detail the policy aims, for example, making certain that the business understands menopause and ensuring that employees who are experiencing these symptoms have support.
- Detail the law that’s relevant, for instance, equality, discrimination, health and safety at work. These laws can be used to discuss the treatment employees should receive at work.
- Information about the specific types of support available for employees experiencing menopause-related symptoms, for example, what reasonable adjustments you can make.
- Information about who employees can talk to get support or details of third-party organisations if staff feel uncomfortable talking to colleagues.
How to use your policy to change culture
This is the next step and the one where some employers can fail. Yes, they have a policy which is a great first step as we’ve said, and if your policy ticks all the boxes above then it is a comprehensive one, but that won’t change your culture. That takes more time and thought, so what could you do? Here are my Top Ten Tips that will move your organisation from one that recognises the importance of supporting menopausal staff members, to one where their contribution is celebrated:
- Celebrate the launch of your menopause policy – don’t just keep the good news within your HR department. It will be a relief to many colleagues to know that you have a menopause policy so think about launching it with a “big bang”. Invite colleagues to a launch party for your policy where you explain why you have developed a menopause policy and how it can support colleagues.
- Educate colleagues about your menopause policy – this is like celebrating the launch but is much more around talking to managers and staff about how to make the best use of the policy, what they can do to support colleagues and how to access the policy.
- Open a conversation at all levels of your organisation about menopause – talking about the issues and how they can impact your colleagues at work starts to demystify and destigmatise menopause. Menopause is often a taboo subject and that just makes it harder for women to get the support they need. Opening a conversation across your organisation will help to bring it into the mainstream, at the same time as educating one another.
- Find your Champions – this could be a senior woman who is comfortable talking about and sharing her menopause journey, or it could be a senior man who understands the issue and wants to champion supporting women through this stage of their career, or it could be a colleague who isn’t in leadership but who is skilled and confident talking about menopause. Use these champions at events or ask them to blog on your website to ensure the conversation isn’t forgotten.
- Develop a shared language around menopause – this isn’t about removing all banter but recognising that banter and jokes around menopause can cause embarrassment for some staff, especially if those jokes are focused on their discomfort. So, talk about menopause and develop a healthy language that fits your organisation. Encourage colleagues to challenge one another when the language is less supportive.
- Encourage mutual support – think about setting up a women’s network or regular Menopause Cafes to enable women to come together and share their experiences. Perhaps engage external speakers to share hints and tips with the group so that women can better manage their symptoms at work.
- Training, training and even more training – we’ve talked about educating colleagues on your policy, but now is the time to train line managers, both long-standing and new ones in how to hold conversations with menopausal colleagues, what reasonable adjustments they can offer etc. Having menopause confident and capable managers will ensure that women feel supported and understood – 9 out of 10 women currently do not feel able to talk to their managers about their symptoms.
- Don’t make it a one-off, do it continuously – this is a given. Ensure that your support for staff experiencing menopause is on a continuous loop and remember, once is never enough! Think about how you can add menopause to other conversations around key dates throughout the year i.e., Mental Health Awareness Week, Learning at Work Week, International Women’s Day, International Menopause Day.
- Make use of your Staff Survey – add questions around wellbeing and in particular menopause support to your next staff survey so that staff can tell you how they feel this is going. This will be a great temperature gauge on how things are going, plus if you use open text boxes you can ask what other support would be welcomed. By doing this you will be engaging your staff in the solution and getting more buy-in.
- Set up a Menopause First Aiders network – this would be a network of colleagues who have been trained to understand menopause and are fully aware of the support open to colleagues through your menopause policy or through third-parties, who would be able to provide a confidential space (outside the line management chain) for colleagues to get advice. Sometimes staff feel uncomfortable talking to managers – many women don’t want to talk to their line manager as they feel sharing their menopausal struggles will have a negative impact on their careers.
These are just my starters for 10 and is by no means an exhaustive list but if you think like this, then you will start to change your culture to a more menopause-friendly one.
How long will it take?
There’s no simple answer here and I could say “how long is a piece of string?” because it’s just like that. You cannot put a timescale or a deadline on changing culture in an organisation as it will take as long as it takes. If you do all the above, and come up with your own ideas, then you will achieve a more menopause-confident organisation and you will change culture. Culture is something that permeates all facets of your organisation and the people that form it, so the change will only happen if your staff feel supported, able to change the status quo and want to do this.
If you want to make a head start on becoming a more menopause-friendly organisation, then we can help with awareness raising workshops, manager training, and supporting your networks. Reach out to learn more at email@example.com or check out the Employers section of our website at www.phoenixwellness.co.uk