Half the population faces a silent career killer from about the age of 45 … 

At a time when their careers are often taking off, women can be betrayed by their own bodies, often leaving them no option than to leave their workplace.

While corporate Australia has slowly incorporated the needs of pregnant and breastfeeding mothers into their cultures, those at the other end of the journey are neither acknowledged nor understood.

Breaking the workplace taboo on talking about and managing menopause symptoms will improve employee satisfaction and retention.

If companies could keep these skilled, capable employees, they would save on recruitment and training costs, while sending out an important message to the workforce:

Our employees matter.  We care for our staff.

Menopausal changes start from the age of 40 and the effects of this hormonal rollercoaster can last well into a woman’s 50s…

It is a normal life event for women: it is a bit like puberty in reverse.

77% of women themselves don’t realise what they are experiencing is menopause related so it’s no surprise that they are often blindsided by the symptoms of menopause.

“The M Word” still has such a stigma attached to it. It can leave women terrified of being made fun of and ridiculed as they experience symptoms like hot flushes, brain fog and weight gain.  This may sound dramatic, but many women are ambushed by such severe menopausal symptoms that they either turn down promotions or leave work completely.

Many would rather leave a fulfilling career than suffer in an unsupportive workplace. 

12% of women resign due to menopause symptoms

Psychological symptoms like anxiety, depression, loss of self confidence and self esteem, often affect women the most.  Other symptoms include poor concentration, tiredness, poor memory, depression, sleepiness and particularly hot flushes all contributing to increased absenteeism and ultimately women quitting their jobs.

The numbers speak for themselves:

20% of women suffer severe menopausal symptoms

77% of women don’t realise their symptoms are menopause related until they seek medical advice

18% take at least 8 weeks off work

21% avoid promotions at work

18% reduce working hours

12% resign

These numbers are astounding given that half the population will go through menopause.

A menopause policy send a powerful company culture message

Companies that are putting menopause policies in place, are sending out the message that they care about their staff, and they are seeing the benefits as women feel better equipped to manage their symptoms at work without fear of recrimination or embarrassment.  

By fostering a supportive, open culture around menopause, women are more likely to seek out promotional opportunities and stay in employment.

These days, people don’t just look for a job.  Increasingly, people are seeking employment opportunities with companies that offer more.   Culture, access to wellbeing support and support of social and environmental issues are all taken into consideration when deciding where to work these days.

A workplace menopause policy needs to sit alongside maternity policy, mental health and wellbeing as well as social issues.

This isn’t just about women.  By educating all employees, it normalises the conversation and understanding across ages and genders.  Whether it’s a direct report, manager, colleague, client or on a personal level, wife, mother, sister etc, increased education helps build relationships.

The Australian workforce & women – the research

Work place participation is steadily growing in women over 45 years of age, with the 55-64 age group growing by 23% between 1999-2012.

A study of women working at over 40 Australian universities, is one of the few to examine this issue locally. The research showed there is a strong link between the severity of symptoms and reduced engagement and satisfaction at work, as well as a higher intention to resign from work.

In 2013, a report “Older Women Matter: Harnessing the talents of Australia’s older female workforce”, looked at the issue of attracting and retaining older women in the Australian workforce. While the report was not directly about menopause, it did argue that employers would benefit from examining their strategies and policies for employees in this demographic.

Looking overseas, particularly in the UK, there have been have more comprehensive studies exploring the link between workplace performance and menopause.

There is general consensus that women can are often able to conceal their symptoms and manage their workload, but that this often comes at their own personal expense.

One study found that only a quarter of respondents felt comfortable discussing their menopausal symptoms with their managers, and many felt too embarrassed to discuss a personal matter with a male manager.

The consensus is that this important group of employees need support so that menopausal symptoms can be discussed and managed.

Practical steps for companies:

Breaking the workplace taboo on talking about and managing menopause symptoms will improve employee satisfaction and retention.

Careers need not be stalled or threatened by the impact of menopause. Even though there is no “typical” menopause, some easy and inexpensive workplace adjustments can be made to help with symptoms.

Most importantly, an open dialogue needs to be established so employees aren’t placed under further stress by trying to conceal menopause symptoms. This may be done through workplace and managerial training and health promotion programs.

In addition, simple workplace adjustments can help women manage their symptoms and keep working effectively.

Simple, practical strategies can help women manage their symptoms at work

Examples include:

  • providing easy access to fans and/or temperature control for women experiencing hot flushes
  • providing adequate toilet and personal spaces for affected women to seek short-term refuge
  • flexible working hours and other arrangements can also help with managing symptoms, including fatigue from sleep disruption

Lifestyle is the fundamental pillar of good menopause care and giving women access to information that can help them make the right choices for them is key.

These simple changes send a message of an employer’s commitment to staff health and well-being while helping the organisation meet occupational health and safety obligations.

Indeed, researchers are working to further understand the impacts on the careers and progression of women in Australia with a view to increasing awareness of the ramifications of menopause in the workplace.

What is menopause?

It's time to change our thinking
Menopause is a natural hormonal transition

Menopause is defined by the end of a woman’s fertility and menstrual cycle and the lead up to this is peri-menopause. It is a normal, natural life event for women: a bit like puberty in reverse.  It is not an illness or a medical condition, which means the symptoms can be under recognized, undervalued and not taken seriously.

Symptoms of the menopause last far longer than most women anticipate; the average length of time is 4 years and many women still have some symptoms for longer than 10 years.

On average, women spend nearly one-third of their life being post-menopausal. With the retirement age increasing, the older female workforce should not be ignored. Women at this age typically have less childcare demands, have a wealth of experience and are enthusiastic about work.

Isn’t it time to harness this experienced, knowledgeable human resource?

Don’t get left behind – change is happening

Companies are starting to implement menopause policies, celebrities are opening up about their own menopausal journey and investment in menopause businesses is sky rocketing.

1 billion women, approximately 12% of the global population, are expected to experience menopause by 2025.   

It’s time we talked about it. 
It’s time we broke the taboo
Join the conversation and be part of the change.

The Wellbeing Toolkit specialises in menopause training and coaching for employers and individual women.

If you are interested in learning more about what you can do for your employees, or if you are experiencing menopause yourself and want to learn how to manage your symptoms, you can contact Anja at The Wellbeing Toolkit

hello@thewellbeingtoolkit.com.au 

Related Posts

The silent career killer

The silent career killer

zzzz – the secret to good health

zzzz – the secret to good health

Peri-menopause

Peri-menopause

Inflammation – good or bad?

Inflammation – good or bad?