The menopause is stealing your talent! The worst part? It’s avoidable with some practical adjustments. Here’s how.
It’s High Time to Stop and Think About the Menopause
We’re hearing more and more about the menopause and the devasting impact it’s having on women’s lives – with many suffering in silence, leaving the workforce, and even taking their own lives.
It’s not just individuals that are suffering. Businesses, including contact centres, are losing some of their best employees right at the top of their game, as well as seeing a knock-on effect on their staff morale and retention figures.
That’s why we’ve spoken to several experts to find out how contact centre managers can put the menopause firmly on the agenda.
Why Is It So Important to Support Women Through the Menopause?
In a nutshell, supporting your colleagues through the menopause is about keeping brilliant women, as well as transgender and non-binary people, in their chosen line of work.
It’s about making small changes to show support and understanding, so they can better manage their symptoms in the workplace.
It’s about making small changes to show support and understanding, so they can better manage their symptoms in the workplace in the short term and – longer term – come out the other side of the menopause with their careers on track.
It’s a long-overdue shift too, as highlighted by the UK Parliament ‘Menopause and the Workplace’ inquiry:
“A 2019 survey conducted by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that three in five menopausal women – usually aged between 45 and 55 – were negatively affected at work and that almost 900,000 women in the U.K. left their jobs over an undefined period of time because of menopausal symptoms.”
Read that again… 900,000 left their jobs! When we start to think about the high costs of hiring and replacing people, and layer on productivity losses too, it’s just common sense to put more time and investment into supporting women through this transition.
To find out how to calculate your own attrition rate, read our article: How to Calculate Attrition Rate – The Formula
How Can the Menopause Interrupt Call Centre Life?
The menopause can be accompanied by a spectrum of over 40 symptoms and affects each woman differently.
Far from a one-size-fits-all approach, one in four women have life-changing symptoms, one in four have no symptoms at all, and a further two in four have some symptoms that can be managed with lifestyle changes.
So how can you support your colleagues going through the menopause and keep hold of your best talent through this transition in their lives?
Quick Wins! 8 Small Changes That Can Make a Big Difference
When managers take steps to adapt the working environment to help women better cope with their symptoms, everyone wins.
Here are 8 small changes that can be made at relatively low cost:
1. Switching Seats
Every office has hot and cold spots. If you can get a better understanding of where they are, you can have a positive conversation about where someone might prefer to sit.
This can make a big difference to how comfortable a woman is across the working day, particularly if they’re experiencing regular hot flushes.
2. Create a Safe Space
Another idea is to set aside a space for anyone experiencing mood swings, hot flushes or any other overwhelming symptom, where they can go without judgement until they feel back in control.
(Note, this is not about sending someone off to the first aid room, or to hang out with the filing cabinets. This should be a dedicated, calming area.)
If you are looking for inspiration, read our article: How to Create a Quiet Room in Your Call Centre
3. Offer Free Sanitary Wear
Providing sanitary wear in your staff toilets can help women in the event they are hit by an unexpected irregular period. This has the added benefit of being appreciated by all women in the contact centre too.
4. Have a ‘Plan B’ for Every Call
Putting a pre-agreed process in place for transferring a call in an emergency (for example, a sudden hot flush or mood swing) can give someone a much-needed safety net and peace of mind to do their job.
Knowing they can simply say “I’m just putting you on hold and transferring you to someone else” and not have to worry about the consequences can offer some reassurance that there is a back-up plan if they need it.
You could also offer to switch them to another channel, if they’re struggling to manage their symptoms on a live call.
5. Flexible Working Hours
For someone who may be suffering from insomnia or night sweats, and possibly will be feeling better at different times of day, adjusting their shifts accordingly to suit their current needs can be a massive help.
6. Providing Cold Water
Making cold water available on the call centre floor can help with hot flushes, as well as anxiety – as a sensory shock can help ease an anxiety attack.
7. Ask What They Need
It’s about offering appropriate levels of support and asking what would be helpful to them. Don’t make assumptions. Their version of help could be as simple as getting a fan for their desk.
8. Signpost to Counselling and Coaching
Line managers can only do so much. It’s also important to make women aware of other supporting services such as counselling and coaching that they can access if they need to.
When investing in such measures, it helps to think about disability inclusivity and the “drop curb” effect. Essentially, that making reasonable adjustments to help specific people has benefits for everyone.
For example, dropping a curb for wheelchair users also benefits people with pushchairs and skateboards.
Add Menopause Awareness to Your Manager Training Programme
It’s equally important that you provide resources for managers too – both men and women. This will put them in a good position to support their teams as and when they need to. They can then discuss the topic with their teams and pass on any resources and learnings as well.
It’s also important to emphasize to them that any training isn’t just about being a better manager, it’s about helping their wives, mothers, sisters, and friends through the menopause too – by having that increased awareness and sympathy.
Start the Conversation… and Keep It Going
Above and beyond formal training courses, it’s also important to make a conscious effort to talk about the menopause, so the subject isn’t seen as taboo.
Openness is key! People must be happy to talk openly about the menopause to encourage women to come forward to talk to their managers about whatever support they might need.
People must be happy to talk openly about the menopause to encourage women to come forward to talk to their managers about whatever support they might need.
This shouldn’t just be a conversation for World Menopause Day but should be on the agenda all the time. Yes, it may be uncomfortable at first, but by talking about the uncomfortable, you help to make it a more comfortable, open topic.
These types of conversations not only help to reduce the stigma, but can also help facilitate the sharing of information, so women have a better understanding of their own symptoms and available support too.
You could even set up a Meet4Menopause Group, as Joe Henderson, Head of Learning and Development at Retail and Commercial, Wessex Water, suggests:
“We have a variety of working groups and support initiatives, and one of our newest is our Meet4Menopause group. They meet regularly to support and share ideas, and recently set up a stand in our team member lounge where they invited people over to take part in a quiz and find out more about the menopause.”
Another way to keep the topic out in the open is to support and promote charities that focus on women’s health, actively fundraising for them with bake sales and more.
Individuals Also Need to Be Proactive and Take Some Responsibility
However, it isn’t just the responsibility of the business to look after its female employees going through the menopause, individuals need to take responsibility too.
It’s no good for anyone if an already-anxious woman turns up to a meeting with a blank bit of paper. Instead, try to encourage women to have a clear idea of what they need beforehand.
It isn’t just the responsibility of the business to look after its female employees going through the menopause, individuals need to take responsibility too.
For example, you could point them to the Mind website, which has some great wellness action plans to help frame conversations around what they can do for themselves, what their manager can do, and what they think they might need from the business. This can all lead to a productive meeting with actionable outcomes.
Managers also need to try and encourage women to be open about their symptoms with their colleagues. As hard as it can be, being very open is one of the key ways to raise awareness.
For example, not being afraid to say “Really sorry, I’ve forgotten what I was saying as the menopause has just hit me with brain fog” in a team meeting. It all helps to normalize the conversation that the menopause happens and not without impact.
Businesses Can Also Offer Medical Support
Businesses can also look to offer medical support to their employees, as part of an extended wellbeing package.
For example, picking up the cost of a female testosterone prescription, which isn’t currently available on the NHS and/or fast-tracking employees to a specialist menopause consultant – instead of leaving them with an uncertain wait of up to two years to see someone through the NHS.
Onwards and Upwards…
Not only that, but many job adverts now include mention of their menopause and wellbeing policy to help attract talent to their business.
However, the UK still has a long way to go to give women the proper support they deserve – consistently – to help them through the menopause, whilst keeping their careers on track. What positive changes will you be making?
With special thanks to the following people for making this article possible:
Vicki Hodges, Emotional Health Coach at The Pause Place
Joe Henderson, Head of Learning and Development at Retail and Commercial, Wessex Water
Kate Usher, Menopause & Gender Equity Consultant at Menopause in Business
Fiona Furman, Communications and Engagement Manager at AB Agri
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