C&C Search Boutique Recruitment Blog - Menopausal Symptoms in the work place

How can HR provide authentic support for women experiencing peri-menopausal and menopausal symptoms in the workplace?

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How can HR provide authentic support for women experiencing peri-menopausal and menopausal symptoms in the workplace?

The eagerness of HR professionals to participate in this event reflects their commitment to providing genuine support for women going through peri-menopausal and menopausal symptoms at work. Unlike other HR topics, a simple Google search does not yield substantial research or useful resources on how HR can assist women dealing with menopause symptoms in the workplace. This gap in information underscores the need for more comprehensive studies on the business impact of menopause. The diverse backgrounds and experiences of the attendees enriched the discussion and highlighted the urgency of this issue.

All HR representatives agreed that there is a pressing need for more research on how menopause affects businesses. Raising awareness about menopause, including recognizing symptoms in oneself or others and understanding the business implications, is a crucial first step. The discussions echoed themes from previous events: fostering a culture of open communication, building a business case with solid evidence, and developing effective management strategies to provide the most genuine support possible on an individual basis.

In many ways, the discussions followed the motifs of previous events: creating a culture of communication, building a business case through tangible evidence, and cultivating effective management tools to ensure it is supported on a case by case basis to provide the most authentic support possible.

Building a Business Case

There are simply not enough qualitative studies on the impacts of menopausal symptoms on productivity, retention and performance in the workplace, or subsequently enough resources/guidelines how business owners and HR departments within organisations can best support women experiencing symptoms in the workplace.

Amongst a number of shared anecdotes, there was a general agreement that one of the most challenging aspects HR have faced in attempts to bring the conversation to the board is finding the tangible data to build a business case. It's common practice that commercially-focused data is the foundation for initiating new conversations to the board or SLT. Whilst there is an undeniable correlation between women experiencing menopausal symptoms and workplace productivity, the data surrounding the specific implications to an organisation is minimal. Partially, this can be attributed to those who don’t vocalise their experiences and symptoms, whilst on the other hand, there is not the demand and drive for studies and surveys due to the taboo surrounding the menopause, and all menstruation conversations for that matter.

Using the data that is easily accessible and reflecting the figures from your organisation to provide your board with an estimated outcome has proven successful in some cases for building a business case around why it is necessary to focus resources on education and support pathways for employees experiencing menopausal symptoms. Depicting a ‘this is what could happen’ scenario can sometimes be enough to kickstart the conversation. Alongside this, identifying the sympathetic head in the room to act as your advocate or ally for the board is helpful in ensuring that the business case does not fall on deaf ears. For attendees, some found that this may be a female board member currently experiencing or having experienced the menopause, or a husband whose partner or wife is experiencing symptoms.

Creating a Culture of Communication

At 24 years old, I have limited experience in working with those suffering with the menopause and for the most part of my earlier life, my understanding of the impacts boiled down to simply ceding control of the air con! I have benefited hugely from an honest office culture at C&C Search, where symptoms are vocalised, educated on, and ultimately, addressed. I must interject here that as a female-founded, female-led and all-female organisation, directed by the ever-inspirational and refreshingly honest Lucy Chamberlain, there can be some sense of inevitability in the female-empowering culture she has cultivated.

Generating communication around taboo topics is not a quick fix and nor is it one-routed. Indeed, some employees are vocal advocates of their own experience, bringing awareness to their symptoms, readily discussing how it impacts their work, and how they feel best supported, whilst others are keen to maintain privacy around their personal matters. Vocal advocates can help galvanise an environment of learning, and can educate through lived experience whilst also reducing the apparent stigma by having open and regular conversations. For those who choose to openly speak through it, ensuring the initiatives and support they are offered is visibly available is equally important. Therefore, others in the business will understand some of the options and provisions open to them, should they wish to access them; some as simple as adjustments and flexibility in working hours, which can be offered without bringing too much attention to your personal case; through to bringing in temporary support to check work to limit effects of reported ‘brain fog’ and fear around under-performance during difficult periods (as one organisation had offered).

Alongside employee advocacy, the culture of communication and general awareness of the challenges faced can be enhanced through talks and training. Some found some success through hosting guest speakers who may be senior and high profile women or men, from the industry to speak about the effects of menopausal symptoms on work which raised awareness for the topic and cultivated a noticeable conversation in the following weeks. However, a couple of HR professionals in attendance recognised that one-off talks, whilst useful in stimulating conversations in the days following the event, did little to transform the fundamental perception that the menopause is a topic better left unspoken.

Rather, talks from health practitioners, typically from the organisation’s healthcare provider, were found to be most effective at bringing awareness to the topic, highlighting the business implications of menopausal symptoms at work and shifting the narrative away from ‘emotional’ language to conversations around symptomatic and health concerns. A number of HR professionals recognised a shift in open conversations around the office and found line managers were reaching out to HR to ask for support and advice after recognising symptoms. Ultimately, getting health practitioners to share the ‘facts’ was eye-opening for many and prompted a response from managers t treat menopausal-related performance challenges with the sincerity they do other health concerns.

For another, they went further to hold the talks for three separate focus groups; men, women of expected peri-menopausal and menopausal age, and younger women. Tailoring the talks to the different groups helped to create psychologically safe environments for more open discussions and allowed the speaker to tailor the keynote from identifying symptoms for others, different ways support can be offered, and how to recognise symptoms in oneself.

Hosting these talks on or around World Menopause Day (18th October) can help shape the events and ensures it is marked as an annual conversation.

Authentic Support

It was broadly agreed that the most effective support organisations can provide is tailored to individual needs. Menopause manifests differently in every woman, with some not experiencing any noticeable symptoms. As previously mentioned, it’s not expected that everyone will want or benefit from the same kind of support. Given this, it’s crucial to ensure that support options are widely known and consistently visible. For example, leveraging the experiences of advocates and the support they’ve received is a powerful way to showcase available resources, should employees need them. It’s important to ensure that, where applicable, healthcare provisions include menopause support, and to highlight where employees can seek treatment for symptoms or find additional advice and support for managing menopause. This approach encourages employees to take advantage of the support available and may help to mitigate potential performance issues or other workplace implications related to menopause.Thank you to all HR attendees who approached the event with the solutions-focused engagement that the topic deserved. It was clear to see the demand from the HR community to do better in this space and focus on how to support women experiencing menopausal symptoms authentically until the research catches up.

Our discussions led neatly to 3 conclusions;

  • Building the collective communication and awareness around the topic through advocates and guest talks is the first step in breaking down the barriers.

  • Utilising and manipulating the data available to build the business case can help awaken leaders to the business implications at hand.

  • Authentic support is facilitated by case by case management of menopausal symptoms in the workplace.

Please reach out to grace@candcsearch.co.uk for discussions on how C&C Search can create impact as a hiring partner, if you would like to learn more about the bespoke training offerings delivered by ICF Master Coach, Global Speaker and W-Corp leader Lucy Chamberlain, or if you would like to attend our next event on 23rd April 2024.

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