While the world has woken up to the menopause conversation, most of that conversation revolves around defining the problem. And when it comes to the workplace, the problems are real. The Mayo Clinic recently published a study showing menopause symptoms cause an estimated $1.8 billion in lost work time per year in the U.S., and $26.6 billion when medical expenses are added.

For women experiencing menopause, unsupportive working environments can lead to major career interruptions. One survey found nearly 20 percent of women in menopause have quit or considered leaving a job because of their symptoms.

In the UK —  despite the government stopping short of introducing legislation to protect the rights of women in menopause —  employers are enacting workplace policies.

The groundswell is growing, and US employers will also be under the menopause microscope as this conversation continues. While there are many ways an employer can support employees in menopause (including adding Gennev as a benefit), a clear policy is an ideal place to start. We brought together a team of HR professionals, medical experts who specialize in menopause, and seasoned executives to give employers a starting point.

When addressing menopause, there are several places to begin. In this guide, we’ll discuss how to consider women in menopause in all your conversations; how to integrate menopause into your existing benefits ecosystem and/or add new benefits and policies; physical improvements you can make in your facilities; and how to start a conversation that goes beyond the HR team.

Integrating Menopause Into Your Existing Benefits Ecosystem

Step one: Consider her

In many companies, we don’t create menopause benefits because we aren’t thinking about women in menopause. Creating a mid-life female persona can help with that. Here’s a sample persona:

  • Mona, a Senior VP in her late 40’s, is experiencing the early stages of menopause, also known as perimenopause. Imagine, for a moment, what it feels like for Mona to show up for work and lead her team through a tough week when she is truly exhausted from not sleeping. Or to experience a hot flash in the middle of a presentation that she is presenting to the CEO. Or how the indignities of mood swings can create challenges for how she interacts with her team. All this, and Mona’s eyesight is becoming blurry as well. Mona feels motivated as ever, yet burdened by the challenges thrust upon her by menopause.

When we present this persona for open-enrollment scenarios, we gain insights into how she navigates through the benefits ecosystem that already exists to support a menopause journey. Her uses may include:

  • Reimbursement of menopause products through Lifestyle accounts. Mona can be reimbursed for cooling pillows, vaginal moisturizer, and sleep support supplements.
  • Health Savings Accounts are a great way to provide a tax-advantaged approach to covering the cost of HRT medications, nutritionist visits, and appointments with menopause trained gynecologists.
  • Mental health support is for all stages of life, but particularly important during menopause. Menopause is on the list of mental health support provided and Mona feels more comfortable seeking care because the stigma has been removed around menopause in the workplace.
  • The hormonal fluctuations women experience in menopause can impact their vision. Mona makes sure to get her annual eye exam because her vision is blurred.
  • The Calm app offered allows Mona to practice mindfulness and stay in the moment to stave off a hot flash or irritability.
  • She is entitled to sick days under the company policy and applicable laws, and can use them for menopause symptoms or doctor’s visits.

And while menopause is often framed around cisgender women, it’s important to note that transgender women can experience symptoms too. To assist in their medical transition, trans women are typically prescribed estrogen and sometimes progesterone, and can take hormone replacement therapy as well. If these therapies are reduced or interrupted, the ensuing hormonal fluctuations can lead to menopausal symptoms like hot flashes. (Just as trans women taking hormones can experience PMS-like symptoms in their younger years.)

Step two: Think about whether some policies or benefits should be augmented, or new ones created

As you go through Mona’s journey, we may also come upon areas where we aren’t supporting her as much as we could. In some companies, we may have the ability to add new policies. Of course, these aren’t one-size-fits-all, but rather thought starters for companies seeking to augment their current benefits. These could include:

  • Dedicated leave: Some companies in the UK are doing this. Companies in the US can consider adding this to their current sick leave policy, or adding dedicated days off. How amazing for Mona to know that her company sees her, and has offered her the option of taking a few days off to recoup much needed sleep.
  • Flexibility: A flexible work schedule, when possible, or arrangements that include work from home may benefit Mona during this time. Consider recommending in the handbook that women experiencing menopause connect with their HR partners, who can help them navigate solutions that may include job-sharing, temporary part-time options, etc.
  • Specialized healthcare benefits: More employers are offering specialized telehealth services, and menopause doesn’t need to be an exception. Gennev works with insurance companies to provide in-network benefits, which are often paid for by a combination of the employer and insurance.

Step three: Train staff

Once you have identified existing benefits and policies, or created new ones, it’s important to train HR business partners, or key HR contacts, in menopause support. Ensure they understand what is in the benefits package and company policies. Gennev offers webinars that can educate HR teams on menopause symptoms, how to respond sensitively to requests and how certain accommodations can help.

Step four: Communicate widely to your employees

If Mona doesn’t know what tools are available to support her, she can’t take advantage of them. Consider adding to your benefits documents or company policies a section specific to menopause, entailing how Mona can take advantage of existing benefits and policies, and including any new ones.

When you present the benefits package to the company, call this out specifically. Consider a slide detailing the benefits and policies that apply to her.

Physical improvements and accommodations

It’s not always possible to improve physical space, but even small changes can be a big help for women in menopause. Some potential steps to take:

  • Review temperature control in your workspace, and as possible, allow employees to make changes, or to work with HR to make changes, in their work area.
  • Consider creating a “cooling room,” where anyone experiencing hot flashes from menopause or other causes can recover privately, or with others experiencing the same symptoms. This room can be kept cooler than the rest of the office. Consider making a mini-fridge with ice packs available. HR can grant access to that room.
  • Provide employees with fans and cooling pillows upon request.

Education and company-wide conversations

Discussing menopause carries a great stigma. Women themselves are not always educated on what’s happening. It’s also important that people managers are prepared to support employees —  not just the HR department.

Consider the following resources for women in menopause:

  • Start an employee resource group (depending on the size of your company). This should be employee-led, but there are models for this at many companies.
  • Provide webinars and other educational opportunities for women in menopause. These can be through a dedicated menopause clinic, like Gennev, or through other sources.

For the company as a whole, some potential actions are:

  • Include a section for existing leadership, or in sensitivity training, on menopause, its symptoms and how to support fellow employees experiencing it.
  • Provide webinars or other training for people managers, like those offered by Gennev, that discuss how to best support Mona.

Make a Difference

Companies today are embracing inclusivity, which comes in many forms – and ages. The most happy and high-performing workplaces proactively support their employees’ well-being, and are generously understanding. Providing support services for women experiencing menopause is not just kind, it’s smart business. Addressing menopause will increase employee collegiality, productivity and retention, and help all employees to maintain the full potential that they strive to achieve.

Author

Gennev Staff

June 23, 2023

Medically Reviewed By

Dr. Rebecca Dunsmoor-Su

Chief Medical Officer

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