The obvious reality is that health requirements of women and men are different, yet this is something that’s been (for far too long) overlooked in the workplace. As a result, many women have switched employers, moved to part-time hours, turned down promotion opportunities or retired early – all of which cause businesses to lose valuable talent.
But attitudes about women’s health are, fortunately, starting to change, with many firms now saying they have specific strategies in place to deal with such issues.
Indeed, at the recent REBA Women’s Health in the Workplace breakfast – an event that brought together employers, academics and organisations from the charity sector to raise awareness about the importance of supporting female employees’ health – 25% of delegates said they have a specific women’s health strategy in place, while a further 14% planned to introduce one in the next six months.
The REBA event also uncovered some of the biggest challenges experienced by the attendees, with menopause (26%), gender pay gap implications (22%) and women’s mental health, including post-natal depression and peri-menopausal anxiety (19%), all highlighted. Additional issues cited included childbirth and parental support, as well as fertility and conception.
No need to reinvent the wheel
The good news is that small workplace interventions can actually have a positive impact on women’s experiences. For example, simply ensuring that any existing policies cover everyone, and encouraging more conversations to start about women’s health to raise awareness, are both really good starts.
Let’s not forget that creating a culture where awareness of such issues is raised doesn’t just benefit women. Men too in their professional roles as line managers and colleagues, or in their personal lives as fathers, partners and brothers stand to reap rewards from these conversations.
By creating a workplace culture that encourages conversations about women’s health, organisations can better support their female employees and boost their male employees’ confidence when dealing with such issues.
Practical steps employers can take
REBA suggests some practical steps for employers to take to help better support women’s health in the workplace:
- Create a dedicated breastfeeding room for new mothers
- If employees need to wear a uniform, consider whether it is practical and comfortable for women
- Consider repurposing the first aid room to provide women with a place to go if they’re experiencing symptoms and need time out
- Health assessments could be changed to include gender-specific tests
- Encourage senior leaders to share their own stories advocating women’s health
- Offer flexible working arrangements
- Ask female employees what workplace interventions would better support them
- Provide access to information about symptoms and treatments, perhaps utilising content from Employee Assistance Programmes.
It is refreshing to see women’s health in the workplace is being discussed more and more. It is important that changes throughout a woman’s cycle and in later years are highlighted to employers so they can offer any additional support required. The more people understand the ‘ups and downs’ that form part of a monthly cycle and the menopause, the more it will help to strengthen relationships in the workplace and, more importantly, increase and strengthen productivity within the workplace environment.
Rebekah has worked for Premier Choice Group since 2009, and today develops our consumer client base. Working within a strong team of consultants, Rebekah maintains a high service level set out for our clients whilst building and retaining sound relationships throughout the company’s portfolio.