QA is taking action to support menopause at work. Here’s what they are doing and why it matters.
Last week on the ‘How to become an age friendly employer webinar’ for National Older Workers Week, Karen Orr, Director of People and Engagement at QA, shared how the company is tackling menopause in the workplace.
It started raising awareness around the issue a couple of years ago, encouraging QA’s employees to be part of the conversation. QA runs webinars to share what it is like to go through menopause and have created a guide to explain both menopause and andropause, giving advice on how managers can help and raising awareness around the symptoms.
The aim of all of these actions is to let employees feel understood, supported and comfortable in opening up about their experience and to encourage them to share tips and worries.
workingwise.co.uk spoke to two employees from QA who both highlighted the importance of having a channel where they can seek guidance and know that they are not alone on their journey.
Natasha, who moved to QA two months ago, says the company’s Teams channel is “a safe space”. She says: “It’s nice to know that QA is talking about it, and they’re supporting it, and the fact they are encouraging line managers to support staff who are either perimenopausal or menopausal. I think it’s absolutely phenomenal and it’s a huge comfort.”
She adds: “I’m very early in my menopause journey and I have loads to come, but knowing that I have a section of QA that I can go to where I can ask questions, or just read what other people are experiencing, it’s a huge weight off my mind and a relief.”
Having a space where people can freely and openly speak and read about menopause can also help younger employees as well as male colleagues.
Cara has not experienced menopause yet, but it is something that it is on her mind a lot. She says: “In my private life, I don’t have anybody to talk to about the menopause or the pre-menopause area, so there’s quite a lot of fear and unknown about what’s going to happen and how it affects people and what to expect for myself.”
However, she knows that she is not on her own at QA, adding: “Being part of that channel allows me to talk about it with other women and I wouldn’t be able to do that if it wasn’t for that group. So, it has given me a community of ladies who I can talk to that I didn’t have previously.”
Knowing that they have a place to go to and a community around them during the menopausal period not only do the two women feel supported but it allows them to concentrate more on their everyday tasks.
Natasha says: “It gives me peace of mind knowing that if I struggle, I know that I can go to my line manager and I’ll get the right support because he’s been made aware of it.”
“It doesn’t matter whether you work for a male or a female line manager, they will know about it, and they will know that they are there to support you and make reasonable adjustments to your work,” she adds.
Having the confidence that they are not alone, and that their struggles and worries are acknowledged, with managers ready to support them, can make a big difference in their daily jobs. Indeed, the fear of not being understood or being penalised can be a big stressor for female employees, which could shift their focus away from their job.
Providing them with the right support means that they will be able to fully concentrate again, as well as feel more comfortable and appreciated.
For Cara, having a supportive team around her has helped in taking away some of the fear stemming from the unknown of the menopause and how to deal with it in the workplace.
“My line manager is a supportive person, he really is, and I know QA is raising the profile of this issue,” she says. “I just don’t know how I would have started that conversation before.”
The idea of having a safe place to go and ask about how other have dealt with that conversation is comforting for her. She also knows that her issues, if she needs to raise any, will be listened to and not ignored by QA.
“That makes me feel a lot more comfortable at work and a lot more valued. I know I’m not just a number, and it’s nice that workplaces are realising that people do have real life issues,” says Cara.
Despite menopause and andropause being issues that affect everyone, they are still considered a taboo by many and there is still a lot of stigma associated with it, which makes those struggling feel ashamed and incapable of asking for help.
However, 2021 has seen a spike in companies taking action to support employees and rising awareness around it, and although there is still a long way to go, acknowledging menopause and talking about is a crucial first step.
Cara says: “It’s really important to break that stigma. I’m a lady myself and I’m embarrassed to talk about it, but that shouldn’t be the case because this is a normal part of life […] So, it’s really great that at QA they are trying to start the conversation about this.”
Natasha shares a similar view regarding the importance of openly speaking about menopause. She says: “It’s one of those things that the more people talk about it, the more comfortable people will be. It becomes acceptable and it’s not, ‘Oh, she’s getting old, she’s menopausal’. Instead you know it will be okay.”