It’s Not Just Women’s Business…

As a 52-year-old perimenopausal woman my echo chamber is full of menopause chat, and I am continually learning more and more about the impact and effect of this transition. Earlier on I had a quick google of menopause symptoms and I was astonished to find over FORTY. Not every woman will suffer from all of them but, by my reckoning and a bit of odd analysis you are likely to suffer from a broad range which means that one woman’s menopause journey may look quite different from the next.

I was brought up to believe that ‘the change’ was having a hot flush and being cross. But no, the truth is it’s a complex time in a woman’s health, a time of transition and for some, it can also be time of great confusion, not just for the woman but for those around her and that also means employers.

Insomnia, hair loss, weight gain, severe muscle pain, brain fog, heart palpitations, memory loss, panic attack, anxiety and depression, headaches and migraine, anger, mood swings, nausea, fatigue, loss of confidence and yes, of course, hot flushes are just some of the more common symptoms that menopausal women must endure on any given day. Just imagine that for a second and how it would make you feel.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from their point of view” said Atticus Finch to Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird.

This is never truer than when considering your workforce and assessing their needs, ensuring that you give the best to your employees and in return you get the best from them.

Over the last few years employers have made fantastic headway in better understating their colleagues – from mental health awareness to the needs of the neuro diverse in the workplace – thankfully, most organisations are more accepting that people are not robots and, in harnessing the talents of their colleagues and engaging more on an empathetic level, they get the absolute best from employees.

So why does menopause, and the issues it brings for women in the workforce, still feel like a taboo subject? Why is it still largely swept under the carpet at a time when women need not only the full support but more importantly, the understanding, of colleagues and the wider organisation.

This isn’t a new phenomenon clearly, but what is new is women’s desire to start the conversation, wanting to let others know, for those around them to become better informed and educated and that includes their employer. Even the royals are wading in, the Countess of Wessex becoming an unlikely spokesperson on the topic. Joining Wellbeing of Women at the launch of the Menopause Workplace Pledge and describing as ‘tragic’ the impact that the menopause is having on women in the workplace and organisations just not understanding how deeply it affects colleagues.

 According to BUPA approx. 900,000 women have left the workplace because they felt unable to manage their symptoms. All that talent, all that experience and knowledge gone because women felt they couldn’t comfortably talk about what was happening to them and their bodies, when all said and done menopause is a health issue like any other.

As you may already know October is #menopause month (hence the blog!)  and it seems like as good as time as any to urge everyone out there to educate yourself over a health issue that will affect, at some point, not only women in your organisation but in all aspects of your lives. Educate yourself not because you have to but because you want to, because you want to better understand and offer support where you can. With knowledge will come empathy and understanding, not just for your colleagues but for the wider community. Understand that if a woman colleague spent all night lying in bed wide awake, feels anxious, can’t remember what she walked into a room for, has terrible joint pain and yes, perhaps having a hot flush (note: ask a woman what this is, its not just feeling hot and can cause much embarrassment when it happens) what can you do to help her? What can you do to accommodate this experienced, valued member of staff to ensure she gets what she needs during this time, and you get to keep all that much needed talent in your organisation where it belongs?

This is a blog about understanding better the impact the menopause may have not only on men (although that would be a good start) but also women who are experiencing menopause and women who have yet to get to that stage. Many are still in the dark about what happens during menopause. Perhaps you don’t feel you’re there yet, that it’s much further down the line so you don’t need to know. Maybe you’re in it but can’t see the wood for the trees and don’t know how to overcome the feelings and symptoms you have. Regardless of your gender or stage of life, here’s some organisations that will help you become better informed to help yourself, your loved ones, and your work colleagues.

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