The menopause is another reason women want flexible working
The massive shift to remote work during the pandemic provided an opportunity for women to reimagine work. So what do women want?
They want a seismic shift in the culture of work: they want real opportunity to advance and for companies to prioritise flexibility, employee well being, as well as diversity, equity and inclusion.
Yes, a significant percentage of male employees want these things too. But women employees want them more. And they’re prepared to leave their companies in unprecedented numbers to get it. Overall what they want is a more humane workplace that’s a better fit with the realities of womens’ lives.
Menopause is a natural transitional point in every woman’s life, not a step backwards in employment potential or professional capability. Menopausal women represent the fastest growing part of the UK workplace, and there are over 3.5 million women experiencing symptoms of menopause at work.
Most women will experience menopause at some point, and while not all women will experience symptoms, three in four will. These symptoms can range from mild to severe — from crippling insomnia to brain fog, fatigue to hot flushes, mood swings to anxiety.
Research by the UK’s Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found that three in five working women between the ages of 45-55 experiencing menopausal symptoms say their work is impacted. 65% of more than 1,400 women surveyed said they struggled to concentrate, 58% said they experienced more stress and 52% felt less patient with clients and colleagues.
Further to this, 30% of women said that they had taken sick leave because of their symptoms — with 25% of those not being honest with their line manager. A report by Bupa and CIPD in 2019 found that 900,000 women in the UK had left their jobs because of symptoms disrupting their working lives. Many said that employers not offering policies to support them through menopause influenced their decision to leave their employment.
It’s clear that it is in an employer’s interest to break the taboo around menopause — in the same way that companies are supporting employees’ mental wellbeing and offering miscarriage leave — by creating a safe space and developing policies that support employees through this natural process. Ignoring the needs of these women is not only ageist, it is bad business. It puts companies at risk of losing out on an important pool of experienced and talented employees.
There are some examples of employers who are ahead of the curve when it comes to creating supportive workplaces for women going through menopause, even though there is no legal requirement to do so, yet. Many organisations have already adopted a progressive approach, including the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan who has introduced menopause leave for staff at London’s City Hall.
Leading the way also are companies such as HSBC UK, Sainsbury’s group, Next, Aviva, ATOS, Southeastern Railways, Carnival UK and many NHS trusts and universities which are all following best practice and seeing the benefits of how quickly a once taboo subject can be normalised.
Other companies like Vodafone, Diageo, Aviva, Santander and Channel 4 have implemented their own dedicated menopause policy. As well as introducing training and awareness programmes about menopause for all employees, these companies are offering extra support around sick leave, medical treatment and flexible working.
It’s a win-win situation for employers to provide meaningful support through the menopause transition. Flexible employers who demonstrate a genuine understanding of a supportive culture and a work/life balance are winning the war for talent.
Those in the media space should look to companies like ITV; its goal is to be the most flexible employer in media. It currently has several open roles, which all offer hybrid remote working as a matter of course. Or cast an eye over several positions available at Virgin Media or opportunities at Sky — employers which are providing the flexibility that women need to progress in their careers.
These are businesses which are moving away from the traditional view on what a typical working day “should” look like and want to empower employees with greater autonomy when it comes to how, where and when they work.
To do this, everyone will need to move to an output-focused way of working — one that is rooted in outcomes rather than hours online, meetings are taken, or emails returned. Managers must learn to judge the result, not just the path taken to get there — only then will we unlock greater freedom and flexibility for women.
But like most things in life, you need a balance. Hybrid working isn’t one size fits all. The process needs to be tailored to different people’s needs. Undoubtedly in-person meetings with managers and peer workshops generate that kind spark that’s so important for innovation — like continuous improvement and problem solving. These best practices help integrate employees into a work culture fit for the future of work.
As faster changing women leave slower changing companies for better opportunities, a great shakeout is coming. Companies that embrace new models of working will benefit. Companies that push a return-to-the-office that looks like a return to the past will not. Because if there’s one thing that’s clear, it’s that women aren’t interested in going back.
If you’re longing to craft a career that suits your life, perhaps it’s time to investigate new horizons and plan your next steps accordingly.