By Emma Nicholson, Acting IoD Diversity and Inclusion Ambassador
There are website articles and somewhat negative stories of perimenopausal and also menopausal symptoms. Night sweats, hot flushes, headaches, weight gain, brain fog, reduced libido, possibly depression - to name just a few of the complaints!
The menopause can happen at any age for women aged between 45 and 55, and, for some women, even earlier. The ‘perimenopause’ is the phase leading up to the menopause, when a woman’s hormone balance starts to change. For some women this can start as early as their twenties or as late as their late forties.
So how can this affect you? How can you become prepared if it is due to happen to you? The menopause can go on for a number of years,. It’s not like a pill, or a dose of medicine can fix this immediately – this could be a long haul and not just a few months. So, I’d like to share some of this research with you.
Someone you know will be affected by menopausal systems. It could be a colleague, a mother, a daughter, a wife, a boss, or yourself and having the right support at work and knowledge of where to access resources and information is important.
However, it’s not just females that are affected but men, and women need male allies, particularly in the workplace. And if you think that a man doesn’t experience menopausal systems, think again! I was surprised to find out that men can experience the andropause, otherwise known as male menopause, experiencing similar symptoms to women on the menopause.
The NHS describes the male menopause as a condition where men may become depressed, notice their libido is reduced and experience systems similar to the female menopause, such as hot flushes, irritability and depression, fatigue, sweats, reduced short term memory and reduced muscle mass.
Now this is not really known, and many men may grit their teeth and just get on with it, oblivious to what their real symptoms are. A lifestyle of too much alcohol or smoking might contribute to this and also a decrease in testosterone in male bodies.
GP’s recognise that this condition exists, despite some maintaining that the andropause isn’t real. If you are a man and do experience these symptoms, then it is advisable to see your GP for advice and treatment. This may affect men who are more senior, just as it does women who are in their late career stages.
Directors and line managers need to be prepared! Does your workplace have any information to support your employees on the menopause, any resources, any lunchtime webinars or HR support? The role of line managers and directors is crucial in supporting women experiencing menopause transition. Effective management of team members with menopausal symptoms that are impacting on their work will, according to the CIPD, “help you to improve your team’s morale, retain valuable skills and talent, and reduce sickness absence.”
The menopause can affect people’s confidence and therefore it can be very daunting talking to someone who has no knowledge or awareness of the menopause. The CIPD advises that the more supportive and knowledgeable you are about the range of menopausal symptoms, the less likely that women will feel embarrassed to approach you as a line manager or director and discuss how the menopause is affecting their health and their work.
Having a female ally in the workplace within HR will also help with support. In some cases, menopausal symptoms can be so serious that they affect a person’s performance at work and can lead to sickness absences. In this situation, the CIPD notes that - it’s in everyone’s interest (you, your employer and the employees) to discuss potential adjustments that could help the individual perform to their full potential.
The CIPD have useful factsheets to support employers and employees on the menopause. In addition, I’d recommend having a look at some of the resources below on menopause to further your knowledge and in particular have a look at the menopause in the workplace website: https://menopauseintheworkplace.co.uk/what-we-do/.
For women the menopause can be a bumpy road at home and in the workplace - support those you know that are experiencing menopausal symptoms and having a challenging time by developing your knowledge and awareness.
The menopause is a health condition, it should no longer be taboo in the workplace.
Sign up to our event IoD Yorkshire & North East - Managing the menopause and andropause in the workplace on 10 November to hear from a panel of speakers all around this important topic.
Sign up here
www.daisynetwork.org.uk (support for premature menopause)
https://thebms.org.uk – (British Menopause Society)
https://amp-theguardian-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/amp.theguardian.com/society/2021/may/19/financial-sector-takes-part-in-survey-about-impact-of-menopause (The Guardian article)