Organisations who want to avoid losing female talent because of menopause are providing menopause awareness training, support and implementing policies and guidance for both staff and managers.
Some organisations go a step further and appoint menopause champions in the workplace.
Managing the effects of the menopause at work is important for both employers and their staff. Every company aims to raise their profile, retain existing employees and attract diverse talent.
By adopting an inclusive and progressive culture, companies will foster trust within their organisation where employees are more likely to stay.
What is the role of a menopause champion?
The role of the menopause champion is typically voluntary. It’s important to emphasise that a menopause champion is not a medically trained person and as such will not be able to give medical advice.
The role of a menopause champion is to support, empathise and understand the needs of their colleagues and the challenges they may face. Each colleague will have a different experience of their menopause journey; some may benefit from reasonable adjustments at work already, whilst others may need more support in feeling that they are not alone, and some might not need any additional support at all.
The champion can create a ‘safe listening space’ which is essential for most of the affected colleagues. There will be those who won’t feel comfortable talking to their line manager, which could be for a number of reasons; their relationship may not be great, they may feel uncomfortable talking to a male or a new manager that they do not really know, or their manager might be absent.
Knowing that someone is there to listen and understand, can make a huge difference to a person’s working life.
Breaking the taboo around menopause benefits everyone. Everyone should be able to talk openly about menopause and know where to find help when they need it.
The conversation is not just limited to those going through menopause…
When it comes to menopause it is important to include male and female colleagues in the conversation. This will open the conversation for others to talk about menopause and should not just be limited to women. Men oftentimes need a greater understanding of menopause and its implications to women at work (colleagues they work with) and at home (their partners/family members).
Menopause champions can organise their support through individual discussions or group sessions. Many employees will feel benefit in sharing experiences, discussing solutions, learning from each other and thus feeling that they are not alone.
Support groups are useful places to signpost for further information and also for managers to learn about what their staff are experiencing. On the other hand, if a colleague needing help with menopause prefers to have an individual consultation that should always be offered to them. Having a trusted and dedicated person to help others going through menopause is key.
How can a menopause champion best support colleagues?
A menopause champion should listen and guide colleagues to find their own solutions.
Things to ask might be:
- ‘What would help you?’
- ‘Would any reasonable adjustments help and what would they be?’
- ‘Would talking to someone in a similar situation help?’
- ‘Would temporary flexible working help?’
Signposting employees to further advice and resources is part of the role. There may be resources both internally and externally such as managers, HR, Unions, GP, support groups, evidence based information and 1:1 consultations with menopause experts such as myTamarin.
Menopause champions should also provide ongoing support by continuing to provide regular support meetings and advocacy support between colleagues and managers/HR etc.
As companies adopt their policies/guidance etc to include menopause, the menopause champion is well placed to influence these using knowledge learned from training and talking with colleagues and through the support groups.
Ideas for reasonable adjustments, dress code, flexible working and time off for appointments are just a few things that could be incorporated into policies. Ideas should always be communicated in a confidential manner, without giving examples or naming colleagues.
It's important for managers to be aware of, and potentially recognise, struggling colleagues. Raising awareness of the menopause by posters, emails, awareness sessions can be done by the champion.
Using certain days such as mental health awareness days to focus on the menopause etc is a good way to get everyone involved.
What qualities should a menopause champion have?
A menopause champion is someone who is well liked and trusted within the organisation. Someone who has perhaps experienced or is experiencing menopause themself. Having empathy, the ability to try and understand how a person feels is very important. And to be sympathetic.
Someone who is energetic, who will continue to be involved and take things forward and doesn’t give up easily. This will be an ongoing role and will develop and evolve over time.
The role isn’t limited to women, there may be someone who is well-liked and respected who is open and has other qualities, such as a passion for helping others and favours an inclusive and positive environment where everyone feels respected and everyone matters.
The person should be able to champion initiatives such as informal meet ups and support groups, and act as liaison between employees and managers. This will require confidence but can also help build confidence in someone.
Will an organisation benefit from having a menopause champion?
It is a good idea to measure outcomes from having a Menopause Champion by auditing qualitative and quantitative data before the role is fully established, then at around 3-6 months afterward and then on an annual basis.
Ideas for Quantitative data, this information could be sought from HR.
- What percent of women work in your company?
- What percent are women aged 45-55?
- What percentage of this group were absent in the last year?
- How many were absent due to menopause symptoms?
- What percentage of this group left their roles in the last year?
Ideas for Qualitative data, Survey your staff.
- How many feel comfortable talking to their line managers about menopause?
- Do they feel supported in the workplace?
- What support, adjustments, resources would be valuable?
The role of menopause champion is a rewarding one, providing opportunities for personal development including leadership, project management and coaching skills. Upskilling mental health first aiders to include menopause within their knowledge base can be helpful, particularly since many of the symptoms related to menopause are psychological and emotional.