Women in the Workplace
Menopause in the UK Workplace: A Vital Conversation for Inclusivity-Minded Employers
Menopause, often considered a private matter, is increasingly becoming a critical workplace issue in the UK. As a company dedicated to designing workspaces that are pleasing to all of our clients as well as the environment, we organised a small gathering of industry professionals to discuss what can be a sensitive topic and what they are doing to support this segment of our workforce from a design and a human resources perspective.
Understanding the Impact
The topic of “menopause can affect the entire office” came up many times during our get-together. It’s not merely a women’s health matter; it’s a workforce issue that affects individuals, productivity, and workplace culture.
Around 3.5 million women aged between 50 and 65 years are employed in the UK and women, (who will all eventually experience this) represent nearly half the UK workforce.
Women are also staying in work for longer; in 1986 the average age of labour market exit was 60; by 2020 it had increased to 64. Women in this age group are often highly skilled and experienced, typically at the peak of their careers, and are role models for younger workers, However, we also are seeing many of these women feeling forced to retire because of menopausal symptoms.
Worryingly, a quarter of staff have considered leaving work due to these symptoms. It’s vital for employers to acknowledge and support them during this transition.
Creating a Supportive Environment
So, what can workplaces do? The most important thing is to talk about it. Our discussion brought up some very good points to consider to promote a more inclusive workspace.
Encourage open and supportive conversations about menopause. Ensure that employees feel comfortable discussing their needs and challenges.
Offer flexible working arrangements to accommodate menopause symptoms such as remote working. Being flexible could also include understanding when a walk and some fresh air are needed.
Simple things like providing cold drinking water, placing lockers near to WCs and showers, providing sanitary products in WCs as well as adjustable temperature controls. During menopause and perimenopause it is common for a woman to skip or have irregular periods. This can lead to an unexpected and potentially embarrassing situation at the office.
Designing to Accommodate
When considering the layout of an office, designing a relaxing space where one could take some quiet time away from distractions, or to regain composure would be incredibly comforting to a woman experiencing menopausal symptoms. Some of the symptoms could be hot or cold flashes, or a drastic change of mood.
Train managers and staff about menopause to foster understanding and empathy. Women during this time of life often loose some confidence in themselves as their bodies change. Some physical symptoms are a slower metabolism, so possible weight gain, or dry skin or thinning hair. It is also important to be aware that often women are having difficulty sleeping and are dealing with memory and mood changes. Empathy and understanding from a manager can go a long way.
Implement wellness programmes that focus on physical and mental health. These programmes can include exercise classes, mindfulness sessions, and access to counseling services.
Reducing Employee Turnover
When employees receive the support they need during menopause, they are more likely to remain with the company, reducing turnover and keeping a valuable part of the workforce.
Menopause in the UK workplace is indeed company-wide issue. By addressing it openly, offering support, and implementing wellness programs, businesses can create a more inclusive, sustainable, and efficient work environment.
Special thanks to our contributors:
Simah Aslam, Workplace Design Manager, Abrdn
Hazel Houliston, Senior Design Manager, Natwest
Leigh Fyffe, Head of Estates & Facilities Transformation, Royal London
Laura Wiegratz, HR Director, Gravitate HR
Morag Dearsley, Design Associate, Form Design Consultants