If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that our collective view of health and wellness has changed. For too long, employee health care has been put on the back burner and dismissed as unnecessary and expensive—something an employer can do without. But in 2022, that’s simply not the case anymore.
Employee benefits are much more than just health insurance and vacation. These include creating a work environment that is comfortable and supportive of your employees’ professionalism and personal life.
Recently, mine startup, a next-generation digital health platform that empowers women through evidence-based menopause education, care and community, has launched Report on Menopause in the Workplace (2022). that aggregated, anonymized data on over 2,000 US employees between the ages of 40-55 and across different racial and ethnic groups. What we found echoes earlier studies of the huge impact of menopause in the workplace, mostly outside the UK, but with surprising new insights.
The report reveals a widespread lack of menopause support in key areas where women need the most help: employers, insurance carriers and provider networks. Although menopause affects women often at the peak of their careers, our report reveals that one in five women have left or considered leaving work because of menopausal symptoms. In addition, 38% of women missed at least one day of work due to their symptoms, with 18% missing more than four days from work in a calendar year. These shocking figures reveal that menopause is the latest women’s health taboo affecting the female workforce.
In fact, the majority of women say they would find menopause support from their employer (62%) as well as their insurance providers (73%).
ItIt’s clear that big changes are afoot when it comes to the modern workplace. The “future of work” is here, accelerated by the pandemic and the realization that companies not only can, but must evolve to actively support the physical and mental health and emotional well-being of their employees. Comforting words, an anemic benefits page on the company intranet, and an unresponsive EAP are no longer enough. This is truer than ever when it comes to the female workforce.
So what can we do to help our employees who are experiencing menopause in the workplace? Here are my takeaways as a remote startup founder, employee, and advocate.
Embrace the transition
People are not stagnant. Our lives are not at a standstill. So let’s stop treating employees as such. Menopause is a major life transformation that is unique and individualized. To support women in your workplace, you must embrace the transition they are personally experiencing.
Talk to your workforce and listen to them. Hear about how their lives are changing and see how you can implement policies that support and embrace their transition. Explore policies that provide science-based education, community, and care that can empower women.
And more importantly, make sure that this adoption of the transition is happening everywhere in your company. Provide employee training, encourage speaking up, organize ERG events and manager training, and fully integrate this into your company at every level.
Create thoughtful privacy
Creating a safe harbor is important. The way employers do this is by providing a confidential direct line to HR, senior management or an independent third party so they can provide employees with educational materials and/or a support group to help cope with the subject with delicacy.
They need to offer tools and options to everyone, rather than targeting any subset of workers, recognizing that it can take employees a minute to feel comfortable talking about menopause at work. But that’s where the culture is shifting and there’s pent-up demand because we at Elektra see it all the time. Some will be more vocal than others. Some will want to see what’s actually on offer before they take the plunge.
Organizations of all sizes can start as simply as educational materials and support groups and grow their offerings through integrated webinars and workshops so that there is company-wide access to a centralized knowledge base or library that employees can access.
Engage with environmental change and plan for the future
It is often necessary to rethink work policies to make your employees feel comfortable throughout the different stages of their lives and careers.
And that change doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking. Something as simple as making the physical environment more comfortable can have a big impact. In surveying our employees, a recurring complaint was that the desks were too hot. We were able to implement a new desk fan policy that alleviated this problem almost immediately. It was an achievable and affordable change that did wonders for the comfort and health of our workforce.
We need to support women during the menopause transition with targeted self-care and healthy habits to ensure employees get the support they deserve at this time in their lives. There are 2.2 million women in the U.S. who enter menopause each year, but the needs of these women are consistently overlooked. And while it’s important to note that no one should expect their employers to have all the answers for people going through personal health transitions like menopause, as employers there is a much greater opportunity to guide and provide employees with materials and resources so they can feel empowered at work and in life.