Menopause - how do we break the stigma? | Outsource UK
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Menopause - how do we break the stigma?

18th October 2023

Today is World Menopause Day! We caught up with our fabulous Head of People and Menopause Ambassador, Anna Kramer, on how we can better support the incredible women in our lives.

Discussing peri-menopause has been difficult for me. I consider myself an open-book however this is an area of my life that has felt taboo and something I have been embarrassed to talk about, both at work and at home.

A few weeks ago, whilst having dinner with my extended family, our conversation turned to menopause. My nephew’s girlfriend, who is in her early 20s brought it up as she is aware her mum has been going through peri-menopause and was curious to know more. My sister-in-law and I told her a bit about our experiences, which had both similarities and differences. For my sister-in-law she experienced awful hot flushes that came on at any time of the day and would leave her feeling uncomfortable and embarrassed when out in public. She also experienced brain fog and forgetfulness, which again she found upsetting and worrying. For me, the main symptoms that caused me anguish was debilitating monthly pain and migraines. These impacted me at work and I started to feel like I was falling apart. Thankfully my symptoms have now subsided because I was able to get the support and medication I needed form my GP. We both however, still continue to experience mood swings from time to time; from feeling little joy, sadness, anger and frustration. If only we both talked about it earlier!

It was so lovely to have a conversation with someone who understands and has / is going through the same situation. Rightly so there is a lot of information available to young girls about periods and their changing bodies but not menopause, and that is crazy! With an aging workforce it is important that women feel comfortable to share what they are experiencing with their employers, family and friends.

Since becoming Outsource UK’s Menopause Ambassador, I've also found comfort from other women I work with, who are opening up and sharing their experiences. A problem shared is a problem halved and it can be hard to reach out for help. I certainly felt that way and sometimes still do but then I remind myself that if someone else wanted to talk to me about how they were feeling or wanted my help, I would want to be there to support them.

If you are struggling with menopause symptoms it is important to reach out and get help. You are not alone. At Outsource, we understand that every woman’s experience of peri-menopause and menopause is different and we also understand that for some, their menopausal symptoms impact not only their working lives but also their lives and relationships outside of work.

Opening up to your manager or a member of your HR or People Team about something that is so personal may be difficult or awkward but if you are able to, it really can make a difference. It might help you to have a think about how you are going to approach your discussion in advance, here’s my tips:

  • Make a list of your symptoms and how they are affecting you at work: Your employer can make reasonable adjustments to support you, so being able to articulate how your symptoms are affecting you and asking for reasonable adjustments can really help. I was able to work flexibly so on days where I was in significant pain, I could work from home or work hours outside of my normal hours. It really helped.

  • Ask for a one-to-one to discuss a private matter: Whether it is part of your regular one to one or a private meeting, let your manager know in advance that you would like to discuss a private matter with them. This helps to set the scene and will help you feel less awkward about starting the discussion.

  • Explain clearly how your menopause experience is impacting your work: Lead with your list of symptoms and explain how they affect you and your work. This helps your manager to fully understand what you are going through.

  • Offer potential solutions: Think about what options could be put in place to support you. There are many things your employer can and should consider including:

    • Flexible working hours, including later start times, permission to leave at short notice, ability to work at different times during the day.

    • Give employees access to quiet and private working spaces.

    • Option to work from home.

    • More time to complete tasks.

    • Offer a cool the working environment, for example by providing a fan, moving a desk close to a window or adjusting the air conditioning

    • Provide comfort boxes in washroom and toilet facilities where employees have access to free sanitary products and toiletries

    • Allow time off to attend medical appointments that are menopause-related

    • Identify supportive colleagues to talk to.

  • Keep talking – Arrange a follow up meeting with your manager to discuss how you are getting on and how well the adjustments are working for you, or not. By being open you are not only helping yourself, you are also helping your manager to learn what works, so they can help other in a similar situation.

If you really don’t feel you are able to speak to a manager, consider talking to a trusted colleague, senior leader or the manager of another team. They can all help you by listening with empathy and signposting you to the correct resources!

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