` Three things you may not know are impacting your people’s mental health: menopause, fertility, baby | Reward and Employee Benefits Association (REBA)
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13 May 2021

Three things you may not know are impacting your people’s mental health: menopause, fertility, baby

With offices reopening, this summer should be full of optimism. But for some, it will fill them with dread. Long before Covid-19, the UK workforce was already facing a mental health pandemic, with 54% of days lost due to work-related stress, according to the Health and Safety Executive’s work-related stress, anxiety or depression statistics (2020). The past year has only made matters worse.

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But, have you thought about the mental health impact of these key life journeys: struggling with fertility, becoming a parent and going through menopause?

These natural life stages have a big impact on mental health. They can trigger emotions of loss, increased stress, anxiety and insomnia. They did before Covid-19, and will long after the pandemic too. Here’s how they could be affecting your colleagues.

Fertility

  • One in six women who lose a baby in early pregnancy experience long-term symptoms of post-traumatic stress.
  • A lack of clarity around workplace policy or guidelines can result in stress, anxiety and job pressure for those taking time off work for fertility treatment.
  • 90% of men and women dealing with fertility issues report feeling depressed, whilst 43% say they have felt suicidal, found Fertility Network UK’s survey on the Impact of Fertility Problems (2016).

Baby.

  • One in five new mothers experience a mental health issue during the perinatal period, as well as one in eight partners, found the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Maternal Mental Health – Women’s Voices (2017) research.
  • Sleep deprivation, extreme fatigue and a loss of pre-baby identity are real issues for new parents.
  • New mothers who struggle to breastfeed are more likely to suffer postpartum depression, found the National Centre for Biotechnology Information’s Early breastfeeding experiences and postpartum depression (2011) study.
  • Job security issues associated with parental leave and returning to work (mothers have been 47% more likely than fathers to have lost their job or quit during lockdown), according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies’ survey: Parents, especially mothers, paying heavy price for lockdown (2020).

Menopause

  • In additional to hot flushes, the psychological symptoms of menopause include brain fog, memory loss, anxiety, low mood and insomnia.
  • Hormone fluctuations, stress, body image and symptoms can have a negative impact on emotional and mental wellbeing during menopause.
  • 20% of those who experience symptoms of the menopause consider leaving their job, often as a result of their symptoms, found CIPD’s The Menopause at Work (2019) report.
  • Those who have learnt to better manage their menopause symptoms whilst working from home are more likely to suffer back to work anxiety after lockdown.

Your people need you

“The pandemic has affected everyone, but even more-so those who are in low paid jobs, who have worked from home in small spaces, unable to pay for extra childcare support and unable to pay for private healthcare,” says Linda Gillham, counsellor and Healthy Minds Lead for digital healthcare benefit, Peppy.

Employers have a crucial role to play. You can help support the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of your people by providing holistic support, benefits and initiatives that get to the heart of the issues, before they become a mental health crisis.

Gillham offers her insight into what employers can do to help:

Support major life journeys

Organisations should look at offering support for specialist issues that commonly impact mental health, such as fertility, pregnancy, early parenthood and menopause. Peppy, for example, is a digital healthcare benefit that offers tailored physical, mental and emotional wellbeing support rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. Being external from the organisation, helps to create a safe, confidential space where employees can truly open up.

Watch out for warning signs

Learn to identify when someone is struggling. Warning signs include: working long hours and not taking breaks, increased levels of sickness, changes in mood, being late to video meetings, being distracted, uncharacteristic performance issues, overreaction to problems and even disruptive behaviour.

Set boundaries

Particularly now, when a lot of us are working from home, setting boundaries has never been so important. Set boundaries such as no-meetings-Fridays or diarised lunch hours to reduce the burden on people when they’re feeling under pressure.

Offer blended working

HR teams could consider offering blended working and a phased reopening as we return to the office. This allows people to mix remote work with time in the office when they feel comfortable to do so, and returning to the workplace gradually, rather than suddenly.

Flexible working arrangements are also an excellent way to reduce pressure for those who are having to take time out of their working day for appointments relating to fertility, pregnancy and menopause, whether these are in-person or virtual.

Share your experiences

On a one-to-one basis, HR managers may benefit from showing a little vulnerability themselves. For the first time in our lives, we are all in the same boat with this pandemic. By sharing our experiences – whether about lockdown or about becoming a parent – you can help build trust and an open dialogue with your colleagues.

Creating a culture of openness is especially crucial today, as we readjust to life as normal after the pandemic, but it will also help you support your team through major life journeys now and well into the future.

This article is provided by Peppy.

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