How we’re coping with the Menopause at CRN West Midlands
How do we survive it…?
At CRN West Midlands, via our Wellbeing programme, we’ve been lucky enough to have a workshop developed specifically for us, to have a safe place to discuss symptoms, share as much or as little as we like about what our own experiences are and talk about any therapies; medicinal or herbal which have helped us combat our symptoms. Our group was the first one, and as a result of the workshop a Google Community Group was created to post information and share hints and tips, about anything and everything related to the menopause that we thought was worth a share. In addition we have a chat group where we can post at any time if we just want a bit of reassurance or to sound off about something and it works essentially as a support network.
Having initially successfully engaged a small group of our staff who believed they were at some stage of the menopause, we realised we still needed to do more.
Having had the opportunity to attend the World Virtual Menopause session in October 2020, I was lucky enough to take part in a workshop run by Julie Robinson, founder of MenoHealth.
I emailed Julie after the event and so began a discussion about how she could potentially support our workforce with information and guidance about the menopause. Courtesy of the change in working practices due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were all now working from home, and so Julie offered us some virtual lunchtime Mini-Meno sessions, each one a different themed topic with a discussion lead by Julie and an exercise session.
We were able to also invite staff from our SupraNetwork in the East and Eastern CRN Networks, so as a whole Midlands area, we could offer these sessions to any staff who were interested in attending, regardless of their gender or whether they were menopausal, perimenopausal or just interested.
We averaged around 20 participants at each live Mini Meno session (which is a good response to a Wellbeing workshop in our experience), and shared information with staff after the event. These proved extremely beneficial and we received an overwhelmingly positive response that staff found these sessions met their expectations by 100%.
We found two clear stand out themes; our staff want more awareness in the workplace of what the menopause is, how it affects them, and strategies in place for how they want to be supported to enable them to carry on working in order to perform their jobs effectively. And they overwhelmingly want this to be supported by their line managers.
Secondly, they want a safe space to make contact informally with colleagues. They want to make connections with other colleagues who can empathise and understand, and a place where they can ask questions, seek re-assurance and get the advice and guidance they need.
I took steps to further engage with the Wellbeing leads from our SupraNetwork, and spurred on by such positive feedback from the Mini-Meno sessions, we know we want to focus on these two areas.
We want to actively engage our line managers to have an understanding of what the menopause is and how, as an organisation, we can support our staff effectively. We don’t expect them to be experts, but we do want them to have an understanding, some empathy and the confidence to signpost their staff to appropriate resources and sources of help and support.
We want our staff to have access to a space dedicated to the topic – this is looking more likely to be a designated webpage linked to our Wellbeing resources, which will host advice and guidance/policy documents, but also resources we find ourselves from our own experience or research. This also puts the emphasis on self-awareness and staff taking some responsibility for researching their own symptoms but in a less formal way, and with no judgement.
We want to encourage an informal virtual cafe for anyone who wants to connect about the menopause. We want to produce a short instructional video and make it available to any staff to access in their own time and in a safe space, with links to further information or an option to speak to someone within our Network should they wish to do so.
And finally, arguably most importantly, we want to keep the conversation going and normalise the topic of menopause. We know we have younger female colleagues who are interested in finding out more information in order to educate themselves in advance, rather than just ‘waiting for menopause to happen to them’. We’ve also had interest from staff keen to support family members currently experiencing menopause.
We found from group discussions that women are still not feeling supported enough by their healthcare professionals (GPs, Nurse Practitioners etc) to either know in advance what to prepare for, or equally when presenting to their GP with menopausal symptoms, they feel let down by a lack of knowledge, awareness and support.
We now understand that, ‘fore-warned is fore-armed’ – you will still need to find out this information for yourself, and build up an approach to your menopause for yourself. However, the more knowledge you have, the more strategies in place, the better your menopause experience will be. And what a great acknowledgement of that, to know you also helped support colleagues and friends through that process.
We are a female dominated workforce, and we know the majority of our workforce will experience the menopause in some form at some point, so why not ensure they are safe, supported and aware before it happens.? We are part of the NHS, our job is to protect patients, but we need to protect ourselves first and foremost in order to be of service to others.
With this in mind, and to give us time to develop our own strategies we are currently working with Julie to run a further set of virtual Mini Meno sessions to enable us to build on the success of our previous sessions and most importantly, continue to engage our staff to feel confident and supported when discussing the menopause.
To address the demand for a suitable support and exercise programme for busy women – both at work and at home – MenoHealth have launched a 10 week programme of support, education and exercise sessions. 15 minutes covers the main questions and talking points of menopause of menopause such as weight gain, brain fog, hot flushes and HRT. This is followed by 15 minutes of easy exercises you can do at your desk without changing into exercise gear or getting hot and sweaty.
Contact us for more information on how you can become empowered to take control of your menopause.