Menopause support groups – do they work?
For the first time in history, women are likely to be menopausal or post-menopausal for longer than they were reproductive. And as women make up nearly half the UK workforce – and 45% of those are over the age of 50 – it is vital they receive the right support to manage their symptoms, so they continue to flourish at work.
As The CIPD recently stated, “It’s a key recruitment and retention issue; women experiencing menopause are often at the peak of their skills and experience and it doesn’t make sense for employers to miss out on this valuable female talent.”
We know that many people feel uncomfortable talking about menopause which means that some suffer in silence. This can impact their physical and mental health and wellbeing which can lead to people leaving their jobs.
Everyone should be able to talk openly about menopause, feel able to ask for help, know where to go for help, know how to support their colleagues and ultimately feel empowered to take control of their menopause. This benefits everyone, both at work and at home.
So how do you go about running menopause support groups?
A simple and effective way to start the menopause conversation (and keep it going), is to run regular support sessions. This creates a safe space to listen, learn, ask questions, and get the right support. The key is to:
- keep sessions succinct (time is always in short supply)
- ensure each session is full of really useful and practical information
- follow up with factsheets and signposting links to trusted sources
- make it easy for the organiser by arranging the sessions and meeting links
- include time for questions and intersperse with community chats where small groups of people have a safe space to talk openly
- ensure the session is run by a trained professional who has knowledge, empathy and listening skills
How can you evaluate the impact of menopause support sessions?
Having supported thousands of employees in a variety of workplace settings, we know how important it is to evaluate the impact of any intervention.
Each organisation has their own agenda on what they want to measure and how to collect this data. Filling in forms is often the last thing people want to do when they are busy so getting feedback can be a challenge. Here is an example of how one organisation did this and the results of their evaluation which were collected on Google Forms.
TKAT (The Kemnal Academies Trust) is one of the largest Multi-Academy Trusts in the South and East of England with 45 Primary and Secondary Academies in the TKAT Family. They began working in partnership with MenoHealth to raise awareness of menopause, educate themselves and find ways to support each other in the workplace.
Following the completion of the programme TKAT received phenomenal feedback from attendees:
- 82.1% of participants said that 30 minutes workshop worked perfectly for them
- 92.3% of participants said that they would recommend colleagues attend the workshops
- 87.2% of participants said that they would be interested in attending further workshops
They asked which sessions they had found most valuable and if the time of the sessions was convenient. Feedback showed that staff wanted to push the time back by half an hour to allow them to get home and join from there rather than in a busy school environment.
There was a free comment box to say what they thought about the delivery of the support sessions and the answers show how important it is to have the right person leading these who is non-judgemental and will not advise or prescribe but empower everyone to make their own decisions.
“They were very good, exceptionally calm and professional and really kind with the perfect level of humour making me feel very comfortable.”
“They were very supportive about a sometimes tricky subject. Where attendees may have felt uncomfortable or embarrassed, I felt they put everyone at ease.”
“Very informative, great to be able to ask them questions. I felt very comfortable and looked forward to the sessions.”
Having established that the first support programme had been successful, participants were asked to suggest other topics helping to ensure future sessions are relevant.
Finally, respondents were asked to leave an open comment on their overall experience.
“It was refreshing to have these courses run by my employer. Most of my friends, outside of TKAT, have said how lucky we are to have had these. It would be good to see all managers attending this course (or something similar) as a mandatory requirement.”
“I have gained a good amount of knowledge and feel forewarned for things to come and clearer about what’s already happening to me as a 51 year woman – the community feel and empowerment was second to none and I am very grateful to all for delivering such a comprehensive amount of information in a relatively short space of time with all the follow-up information being on hand on a shared drive. Brilliant all round – thank you!”
“I feel normal rather than isolated and more confident to ask colleagues if they have similar symptoms.”
Following the MenoHealth at Work support sessions, The National Institute for Health Research asked their colleagues which sessions met their expectations and 100% of respondents said they did and were given the option to expand on their answers which included:
“I have found the sessions really helpful as it’s helped me identify things as being associated with the menopause that had previously made me think I was going mad!”
“The topics were relevant and it has been so helpful to ask questions that would otherwise have just gone around in my head. It has also resulted in me connecting with colleagues whom I would not normally share this kind of information with.”
They quantified how many respondents felt more confident to now discuss menopause with their line manager and if they were to attend further sessions, which topics would they want to discuss.
“More sessions, it’s great to be informed but also really nice to know you’re not going through this alone.”
Similarly the Workforce Development Team at Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust reported how beneficial the MenoHealth sessions have been:
“Menohealth have provided Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust staff supportive virtual sessions on menopause related topics prior to our Menopause cafes. The Menohealth sessions have helped start and focus the conversation within the café. The Menohealth team are knowledgeable, friendly and care about improving the lives of those suffering from problematic menopause symptoms. Their support pack is available for our staff to access via our unique page on their website. This resource has also been incorporated within the Trusts menopause related support package. We have built a great relationship with the Menohealth team and they have influenced us to continue to build and develop a supportive workplace for our staff affected by the menopause.”
This illustrates the importance of getting feedback to help inform companies about what’s working and what still needs to be done. Menopause support needs to be available consistently and continuously to ensure everyone is empowered to not just stay at work, but to flourish as they reach the peak of their careers.
We offer a unique programme of online workshops and easy exercise sessions to help businesses support colleagues through and beyond menopause, with lunchtime sessions that fit conveniently into the working day. Contact us for more information on how you can help your team to feel empowered and take control of their menopause.
MenoHealth at work programme