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Susan's menopause at work: "to me, the menopause was a bit of a joke – hot flushes and becoming invisible"

Are you in danger of losing 50% of your organisation’s most experienced employees?

A year ago, Susan flew to make a pretty routine presentation to colleagues in Europe. Although she knew the material inside out, she suddenly stopped speaking in the middle of a sentence. “I genuinely couldn’t remember what I was supposed to say,” she remembers. “Even though the slides and my notes were in front of me, I had absolutely no clue what I was talking about, or what to say next.” Embarrassed and worried, she feigned illness and handed over to a colleague.

For the following few months, her inability to concentrate grew worse and worse. Instead of functioning in her role, she spent more and more time writing herself notes to remember routing information and tasks – even then, she frequently forgot key responsibilities and found herself unable to communicate effectively. Worse, she became so emotional that after a few instances of bursting into tears in front of her team, she gradually adjusted her open-door policy and began to communicate electronically instead of holding her regular meetings. Staff were confused and worried, and morale began to slide.

After confiding in a colleague, Susan saw her GP who confirmed that she was peri-menopausal – a diagnosis that she found both relieving and concerning. “I genuinely thought I was going mad – early-onset Alzheimer’s or some kind of mental breakdown. To me, the menopause was a bit of a joke – hot flushes and becoming invisible. I had no idea it could affect me so badly, or my ability to function at work.”

25% of women have reported menopausal symptoms so debilitating that some women would rather sell their homes then continue the challenge of working in an environment that is unsupportive of the menopause. Symptoms such as chronic anxiety, forgetfulness, loss of confidence and debilitating brain fog mean that some women working during the menopause – for some one-third of their working life – is untenable.

And yet, many organisations do not have a menopause policy in place. Post-Brexit, recruitment is a key concern. Employers are starting to examine alternative recruitment streams as the numbers of EU workers looks set to fall. Women returning to work – in other words, peri- and post-menopausal empty-nesters – will be a very rewarding demographic for most organisations to target, but if your organisation doesn’t recognise and support menopausal women, you’ll be at a real disadvantage.

Looking for help on how to implement a menopause-supporting culture at your organisation?

After the sell-out success of last year’s event, BFI is running a follow-up conference on how to support menopause in the workplace on 1st July 2020 in London. There will be an outstanding series of real-life case studies as well as legal and medical advice from the British Menopause Society.

REGISTER your place and find out more here: www.bfi.co.uk/menopause-conference-2/