If there’s anything the pandemic has taught us, it’s that our collective view on health and wellness has changed. For too long, taking care of an employee’s wellness was put on the back burner and brushed off as unnecessary and costly—something that an employer could do without. But in 2022, that’s simply no longer the case.
Employee benefits are far more than just health insurance and time off. They include creating a work environment that is comfortable and supportive of your employees’ professional and personal lives.
Recently, my startup, a next-gen digital health platform that empowers women via evidence-based menopause education, care, and community, released a Menopause in the Workplace (2022) Report that aggregated, anonymized data across over 2,000 U.S. employees between the ages of 40-55, and among different racial and ethnic groups. What we found echoed earlier studies on the massive impact of menopause in the workplace, predominantly out of the UK, but with surprising new insights.
The report reveals a widespread lack of menopause support across key areas where women should receive the most help: employers, insurance carriers, and provider networks. While menopause impacts women often at the height of their careers, our report reveals that one in every five women has left or considered leaving a job due to their menopause symptoms. Furthermore, 38% of women have missed at least one day of work due to their symptoms, with 18% missing more than four days of work in a calendar year. These shocking numbers reveal that menopause is the final women’s health taboo impacting the female workforce.
In fact, a majority of women stated that they would find menopause support helpful from their employer (62%) as well as their insurance providers (73%).
It‘s obvious that big shifts are underway when it comes to the modern workplace. The “future of work” is here, hastened by the pandemic and the dawning realization that companies not only can but must, evolve to actively support their employees’ physical and mental health and emotional well-being. Comforting words, an anemic benefits page on the company intranet, and unresponsive EAP no longer suffice. That’s more true than ever before 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 suggestions as a remote startup founder, employee, and advocate.
People aren’t stagnant. Our lives aren’t stagnant. So let’s stop treating employees as such. Menopause is a major life transformation that is unique and individualized. In order to support the women in your workplace, you need to embrace the transition that they are experiencing personally.
Talk to your workforce, and listen to them. Hear about how their lives are changing and see how you can enact policies that support and embrace their transition. Look into policies that provide science-based education, community, and care that can empower women.
And more importantly, make sure that this embracing of transition is happening across the board at your company. Provide employee education, encourage speaking out, host ERG events and manager training, and fully integrate this into your company at every level.
Create thoughtful confidentiality
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 address the topic with sensitivity.
They should offer tools and options to everyone, versus targeting any subset of workers, recognizing it may take employees a minute to feel comfortable speaking up about menopause at work. But that’s where the culture is shifting, and there is 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 being offered before they reach out.
Organizations of any size can start as simple with educational materials and support groups and evolve their offerings through integrated webinars and workshops, so that there is company-wide access to one centralized knowledge-base or library to which employees have access.
Commit to environmental changes and plan for the future
Oftentimes, it’s necessary to rethink work policies for the sake of making your employees comfortable throughout the different stages of their lives and careers.
And this change doesn’t need to be a huge undertaking. Something as simple as making the physical environment more comfortable can make a big impact. When surveying our employees, a reoccurring complaint was that desks were too hot. We were able to implement a new desk fan policy that almost immediately relieved this issue. It was an attainable and affordable alteration that did wonders for the comfort and health of our workforce.
We need to support women during the menopause transition with guided self-care and healthy habits to ensure that employees are getting the support they deserve at this point in their lives. There are 2.2 million women in the U.S. who enter menopause each year, yet the needs of these women are being constantly overlooked. And while it’s important to note that no one should expect their employers to have all of the answers for people navigating personal health transitions such as menopause, as employers, there’s a much bigger opportunity to lead and provide employees with materials and resources so they can feel empowered at work and in life.
Alessandra Henderson is the CEO and cofounder of Elektra Health.