Coming of Menopause Age: Facing Wellbeing in the Workplace
On moving from an accountancy background into wellbeing:
It was a natural progression and lifestyle. When I was in management consulting, I worked in Canada (where I’m from originally), at a firm where I spent 80% of that time living out of a train, a plane, a bus, a car, a hotel, you name it. I had no routine, my work hours were crazy. I struggled with my health and wellbeing and finding my way. When I moved to the UK, I took the shift and instead of prioritizing work over myself, I'm prioritized my health and wellbeing and see what that means for my job. I started to learn really quickly that the more that I prioritized myself, the faster my trajectory was. My productivity went up, my alertness went up, I had that headspace. As I started to see those shifts, I fell more in love with the process of what health and wellbeing looks like for other people and for myself and how I could then help others in the work environment. I started having the conversations internally and landed the role looking at the health and wellbeing strategy for the consulting practice for Deloitte in the UK.
On her day-to-day role as Head of Health and Wellbeing at Ocado:
It's very varied and the structure looks different in every organization, because wellbeing will sit in different places. No day-to-day looks the same. Generally, the things that I look after are things like response to business change, and what that means for our people and how we support them. That could be things like external situations like COVID or the war on Ukraine, all of the things that impact us as an organization, and how we're then being reactive to that. The next is the proactive side, which is looking at the day-to-day, how do we support our people? And what's the narrative around the things that we support? Do we have the right mechanisms in place to enable this level of psychological safety where I feel like I can bring my whole self to work. The sense of if I'm in a crisis, or I need support, I know where to go. It's important for us to understand that as organizations, we employ people, and people are whole people. They're not just your workers that come to work to do their responsibilities that they have and that's becoming an increasing expectation of organizations.
On resistance to menopause policies in the workplace:
So menopause is a great example. There's a line at which organizations think what's the line that we cross or don't cross? At what point is it an employer's responsibility versus an employee's responsibility? I think that that's probably the resistance to it, are we getting too close to someone's life? Versus that's actually our onus and responsibility. The other thing is some of them may not really fully understand the impacts of what can happen through menopause. And when it comes to the menopause, I'm probably one of those people, right? I remember the topic coming up quite a bit at Deloitte and we were working with a demographic of individuals that were mainly millennials and Gen-Z kids. So for me, I thought it wasn’t relevant because we need to be focusing on this younger demographic and I kind of just brushed it under the cover. It wasn't until I watched a TED Talk that I really understood why we need to be looking at it and what that means for senior positioned women and the lack of visibility of senior women at the table. I think that some of that ignorance still exists in businesses where they don't get it and don’t understand the severity.
On how your experience at Ocado with resistance to menopause:
We’re on a journey and we’ve made massive strides on things like mental health in the last 12 months. Menopause is one of those things, where a year ago, we were able to at least open up the conversation, and we are in the process of determining what our policy is going to be, and what our approach is going to be. We've spent the last eight to nine months, working with parties in the business to create and develop policy, and interventions that actually makes sense for the people in our business and people are starting to feel comfortable. Are we 100% of the way there? No. But are we on a journey to hopefully get there? Yes, I think so. I do think the organization is very committed to making sure that we are opening up that conversation.
On whether a hybrid working model benefits menopausal women:
Based on the experiences that I've had with those I've interacted with? Absolutely. If they're having a hot flash, if they need some space, they are in a space that is more comfortable to them. They're not dependent on what the central temperature in a building is. They're not reliant on whether I can get to the bathroom fast enough. They're in the security and safety of their own walls. So in some capacity, it does definitely help but I counter that with if you think about some of the the mental aspects of menopause, the anxiety, the second guessing etc, that might become a detriment, because when you're at home working, you're isolated. Are you around the people where you might need to get some of that surety and reassurance? No. It's almost like a 50/50. In some cases, it's going to work really well, for some women, and for others it might not because everyone's experience is going to be different.
On the andropause:
I work in an organization that has a more male dominance. I also work in an industry in health and wellbeing where all the statistics will show that men are the ones that struggle the most, when it comes to things like their mental health and their physical health. They're least likely to seek support from a doctor, and then they have this added on top of it. And it's interesting because it doesn’t get enough airtime. I always tell the story that in my personal life, I am an ethnic minority female, so in many cases, everything that could be on my mind, as I go through life as an ethnic minority female, is pretty much on the top of the agenda for every organization. Whereas my husband is a middle aged white male and so everything that he might need is slowly falling off that agenda, which is really disheartening to watch when representing inclusion. My view is it's about widening the table, it's not about taking the seats away from others. And so the conversation should be: how can we elevate that conversation of andropause or even draw awareness to it?
Top tip to take away:
You need a way to check in with yourself every day. Rank how you're feeling on a scale of 0 to 10. 10 being absolutely amazing, 0 being the opposite. Give yourself a number and ask yourself what you need to give to yourself to be able to move up a number. Then commit yourself to give yourself that one thing that can help move the dial on that scale. It doesn't take a lot to actually just check in, you can give yourself five minutes and it could be as little that.