World Menopause Day 2022

Encouraging open conversations about the menopause in the workplace

On World Menopause Day, Clare Emberson Pratt, MD of Emberson Group talks about the importance of having open conversations about the menopause within the workplace, and how encouraging flexibility and freedom makes life better for everyone.

Emberson 18OCT ArticleIn the workplace, three-quarters of mid-life women have menopausal symptoms. A quarter have severe symptoms. And the biggest travesty of all? One in 10 women leave the workplace due to menopause symptoms. No woman should ever feel forced to give up her job or career because she feels she has no other choice due to menopausal illness.

We, as businesses and employers must act. When women leave the workplace due to the menopause there are no winners. The personal cost to a woman’s loss of identity and confidence, as well as the financial and mental health implications, doesn’t bear thinking about. And from a business perspective, the scale of the loss of the combined experience to industry is immense. We need more general awareness about the menopause in the world of work to help employers and employees.

I first experienced symptoms at the age of 42 and didn’t know what was happening to me. And it appeared, neither did my GP or health professionals I consulted. I was too young and, despite being tested from head to toe, neither changes in hormone levels nor the menopause was ever mentioned. There was virtually no available information, and no one talked about it. When I started to feel like I had early onset dementia I knew I had to do something about it.

As a result, I’m very passionate about normalising the talk around menopause in our organisation among women and men of all ages and encouraging openness and trust around this topic. And I’m constantly looking for new ways we can help and support women in the workplace during this time of their lives. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but some of the following have helped me and others I know who are experiencing similar symptoms to me.

The importance of exercise

The theme of this year’s World Menopause Day is cognition and mood. For me exercise is key to helping me to manage both of these. I run a couple of times a week, take part in Funky Fit classes and have started going to the gym.

I make a point of scheduling these in my work calendar so everyone can see them. Partly so I’m not doubled booked, but also if I’m completely open about what I’m doing and when, it will encourage others to feel comfortable doing the same.

Anecdotal evidence has long suggested that exercise in healthy adults enhances creative thinking.  As we in Emberson are creative to our core, this is fundamentally important to us.

Indeed, the philosopher Henry David Thoreau said in 1851: “the moment my legs begin to move my thoughts begin to flow – as if I had given vent to the stream at the lower end and consequently new fountains flowed into it at the upper.”

And a study in December 2013 [1] focused on ‘The impact of physical exercise on convergent and divergent thinking’. It found that divergent thinking (the ability to come up with ideas of equal merit to solve a problem) was improved after exercise in fit adults. Although not conclusive, the study also found that the same adults’ convergent thinking (the ability to select the right course of action from the ideas created) was particularly enhanced after exercise.

In our industry creative thinking and coming up with solutions is our lifeblood so anything we can do to enhance this within our people is to be encouraged.

Flexible working

We know a lot of people find it really difficult to fit exercise into their already busy lives and that’s not helped if they don’t have flexibility in their work hours or environment.

At Emberson we have a people-first approach, and we treat our people as the adults they are. Our people are free to work from wherever they feel most comfortable and to work when suits them.  So if going for a run or doing a spin class on a Wednesday at 11am is what they know they need to do to perform at their best then they are encouraged to go for it. Pop it in your diary and just go.

This approach makes good human sense, but also good business sense, because if our people are happy then ultimately our clients will be happy too.

My journey through this new phase of life is definitely a work in progress. Yes it’s very tough at times, but at other times, I’ve found it quite liberating and this is because it has me to spend a bit of time on me and that’s got to be a good thing.

[1] [The impact of physical exercise on convergent and divergent thinking’ Lorena S Colzato, Ayca Szapora, Justine N Pannekoek, B Hommel December 2013]