Regardless of our gender, the likelihood of us not being impacted in some way by issues like menopause is near zero. The age and gender profile of our workforce means that the majority of us will experience symptoms, and that’s before we consider partners, family and friends.

With that in mind, doing all we can to increase our awareness of these challenges and how we can be more supportive to those experiencing them becomes a no-brainer. This post exists to promote one of the ways we’re looking to do just that – and provide some potentially useful information to all on how you can support those experiencing symptoms.

Train the Trainer opportunity:

One way we’re looking to do support colleagues who experience symptoms is to roll-out a training programme for Gateshead Health staff aimed at boosting awareness of menopause. Recently, Jacqui McBurnie, who is the former chair of NHS England’s Menopause Network, commenced her new role as the regional menopause lead for the North East and North Cumbria, and kindly reached out to the organisation about the prospect of holding a ‘Train the Trainer’ session for our staff.

The session(s), which would last 75 minutes and would likely be held by Teams, would aim to equip colleagues to deliver a session of their own, whether within teams, departments, areas or organisationally, and focus on providing an overview of menopause, its key symptoms and where to turn to for useful resources and workplace advice.

We’re now accepting expressions of interest for this course, which can be made through our sign-up form – where you can also share your preferences on when any session(s) should take place so we can try capture as many of you as possible.

Once we have a decent idea of when would work best, we’ll then book a date (or dates) in with Jacqui, and those who have expressed interest will be the first to be offered a spot.

Supporting those experiencng symptoms:

We recently came across some work that Transport for London had done to try to educate men amongst their workforce on how they can support those who are experiencing menopause. When reading, it quickly became apparent that the information and advice within could be useful for colleagues here at Gateshead, because whether as an employee, a line manager or colleague, the likelihood is you’re going to come across someone who is currently experiencing symptoms in your day-to-day routine.

So below, we list seven ways you can be more supportive and play your part in building a more menopause-friendly culture, both here at Gateshead and in your home life.

  1. Educate yourself: Learn about menopause and its impact. Understand that it’s a natural phase which will often impact women between ages 45 and 55, but that symptoms can start earlier – whether naturally or as a result of other influences such as surgery. Knowing the symptoms of menopause might be the key to helping make the kinds of adjustments that make all the difference to someone experiencing them while at work. Reading the guides on our intranet can help you have more supportive conversations on menopause, understand what adjustments might be helpful and more.
  2. Encourage professional support: Encouraging someone to consult a health professional about their symptoms could be the difference between them living comfortably and living uncomfortably, whether through means such as Hormone Replacement Therapy or otherwise. Where appropriate – such as in cases such as with your partner, you might want to offer to attend an appointment with them. Remember, your support matters and can make a difference.
  3. Avoid pressure: Menopause symptoms can be challenging, draining and confusing for those who are experiencing them. Try avoid putting undue pressure on those experiencing symptoms, and instead focus on trying to be patient and understanding. Ask yourself ‘can big decisions wait’. Also, don’t ask how long the menopause will last – it’s very much ‘how long is a piece of string’ territory!
  4. Put them first: Communication is key. It can feel difficult to know how to support someone experiencing symptoms, whether the symptoms are physical, emotional or both. Be tactful but don’t be afraid to ask what that person needs and how you can support them – and be open to adjusting your approach based on their preferences. Menopause Passports are a brilliant tool for considering how this could be achieved in a work setting.
  5. Don’t take things personally: Fluctuating estrogen levels impact hormones in the brain. That means the ‘filter’ that might help say things in a more pleasant or tactful way doesn’t work quite as well. Try not take harsh statements personally, and do your best to avoid snapping back. Remember, this will ultimately pass – if you need to, walk away and start again later. It’ll always be more productve than clashing.
  6. Accept silence: On a similar theme, don’t always take silence as deadly. Menopause can have a profound impact the self-confidence of those experiencing it. Couple that with tough levels of fatigue and it won’t come as a surprise that a quiet night might be preferable to socialising. Redirect your social energy to trying to create a supportive environment. From a work perspective, this might include avoiding putting those experiencing symptoms ‘on the spot’, stepping in to be more supportive during episodes of brain fog or simply encouraging basics like breaks.
  7. Be ready to put work into relationships: For those who experience it, life can be tough during menopause, and so can be relationships. Be there for your partner, even when challenges arise. Changes caused by menopause can take some getting used to – often all that is needed is reassurance.

Remember, you can always find additional resources, support and information around menopause on our dedicated webpage – but there is also a host of additional resources over on the Occupational Health and Wellbeing intranet area from our partners at Henpicked, too!