Guest blog by Deborah Garlick, Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace
This year’s International Women’s Day has the theme of #ChooseToChallenge, with the idea being that with challenge comes change. And I am choosing to challenge the notion that menopause affects half the population. It can affect anyone, whether it’s you personally experiencing it or you’re playing a vital role supporting a partner, family member, friend or colleague. We all need to know about it and we all need to understand what support is helpful.
Menopause in the time of COVID-19
It’s hard to write about anything at the moment without referring to COVID-19, which has clearly dominated headlines for over a year now. With more of us working from home, we’ve heard from employees telling us about the positive and negative affect on their menopause.
On the positive side, it’s easier to regulate their hot flushes being at home and having control over their own environment or not being in a meeting room. In addition, we’ve seen a big increase in the number of people attending menopause sessions online, whether that’s because it’s easier to manage diaries, not feeling embarrassed popping to a menopause session and even those tuning in with their partners, too.
On the negative side, we’re seeing a peak in those reporting an increase in their psychological symptoms, anxiety and worry, lack of concentration. Understandable when you consider the shift to homeworking, maybe for the first time, perhaps home schooling or shielding elderly parents. All on top of concerns about COVID-19 and dealing with menopause. It’s the perfect storm.
Worryingly, we’ve seen a rise in women saying they’ll wait until COVID-19 is over before they talk to their GP about their symptoms.
What do occupational health (OH) professionals need to know?
Occupational Health Practitioner and GP Dr Justine Setchell of Hormone Health recommends that OH professionals read up on menopause to fully understand it and get a good idea of the breadth of symptoms. Her advice is to ‘think menopause’, so while never making assumptions, have menopause in your mind and be aware of symptoms and how they could affect a woman at work. This is particularly pertinent now more people are wearing PPE, which can exacerbate hot flushes. Encourage people experiencing symptoms to talk to their GP and not wait.
Kathy Abernethy, Director of Menopause Services for Peppy Health and former Chair of The British Menopause Society told us: “You could have a long wait if you wait for COVID-19 to be over and the NHS to be back to normal. But GPs are embracing new technology, offering consultations on Zoom or over the phone. For the vast majority, menopause is diagnosed on symptoms so face-to-face appointments are not required. The sooner you get help the sooner you’ll start to feel well. GPs don’t want you to wait either – they’re there to help.”
We’re delighted that the appetite remained strong for talking about menopause in the workplace even during lockdown. Training continued, shifting online with the use of webinar technology.
This International Women’s Day sees the launch of the UK’s only Menopause Friendly accreditation programme. This is designed to accelerate process, introduce new standards for employers to achieve and recognise and celebrate those who demonstrate they’re ticking all the best practice of menopause awareness, education and support.
Whether you’re starting from scratch or have already begun but don’t know what to do next, unique workshops and resources can help you achieve accreditation. If you already have support in place that’s great – the panel can assess you straight away.
So, while I’m choosing to challenge certain preconceptions, I’d like to throw my own challenge out there. I’m going to #ChooseToChallenge all employers to commit to being menopause friendly. Achieving accreditation means you can display your Menopause Friendly badge with pride, and we’ll be holding annual awards celebrations to celebrate these inspirational employers. We all need a party we can all look forward to.
Happy International Women’s Day.