The menopause affects all women at some stage of their life, having significant and often negative impact on both their wellbeing and working lives. Amiqus’ business manager Liz Prince speaks with Sarah Howell, head of HR at Creative Assembly and Lindsey Shorricks, VP of HR at Dovetail Games about how the two studios are supporting their teams.
TELL US ABOUT THE MENOPAUSE SUPPORT YOU HAVE IN PLACE FOR EMPLOYEES.
LS: Dovetail Games launched its Understanding Menopause programme earlier this year, with a Menopause Policy shared across the studio, along with awareness sessions for both managers, those experiencing or approaching menopause, and more generally those who want to support relatives and friends. A group has also been established which will meet regularly to ensure we really embed the support of the programme. It was important for me that we didn’t just launch a policy and tick a box, but that we rolled something out which was really meaningful and provided the necessary support to all those it impacts.
SH: We have focused on building a set of guidelines which raises awareness about the menopause and how symptoms can affect individuals in their daily lives. With these guidelines in place, we are developing a full policy with key considerations on reasonable adjustments, focusing on flexibility, compassion and providing a safe environment where individuals feel able to talk openly about what they are experiencing.
HOW HAVE STAFF RESPONDED?
SH: Raising awareness has been welcomed with an open mindset and a willingness to learn more. For years, it has felt like matters relating to women’s health have been hidden due to embarrassment and not wanting to feel uncomfortable. The response has been respectful and there is an appetite to learn more. In fact, for sessions we ran during for this year’s International Women’s Day, we had a fantastic uptake from men at Creative Assembly who wanted to hear and learn more. It also worked as a catalyst, for women to have conversations about their experiences with their leads.
LS: It has been really well received by our employees. We had 19 managers attend the manager awareness session and, whilst the majority were male and it could have been a really tough topic, all were really engaged with discussion and questions. The session covered what menopause was and the signs and symptoms to look out for, along with what they could do to support direct reports and colleagues. We also looked at the impact on the business if not supported in the right way, such as increased sickness absence, resignations and employment tribunals.
One male colleague sent this feedback: ‘I think just having that session itself makes a difference – I personally went along not knowing much and feeling that it seemed rather awkward, but that’s completely reversed for me now. It no longer feels like ‘a thing’ and understanding better will help a great deal’.
WHAT IMPACT CAN THE MENOPAUSE HAVE ON INDIVIDUALS?
LS: Menopause affects everyone, not just those going through it. Everyone knows someone impacted whether it be a parent, partner, family member, friend or colleague, and so it was important for us to share this knowledge and support as far as possible across the organisation. Many colleagues have asked if they can share with wider friends and family outside of Dovetail, which is great to see.
SH: All stages and types of the menopause are different, and symptoms can vary from person to person, and range from very mild to severe. Individuals can experience both physical and psychological symptoms and this can impact their comfort levels at work and their performance. If an individual is able to talk about their symptoms at work, they can discuss having flexibility and support from others which can alleviate feelings of anxiety and frustration. For example, they may need to attend more medical appointments or work more flexibly when symptoms disrupt sleep, as an example.
WHAT ARE THREE THINGS THAT STUDIOS CAN DO TO HELP SUPPORT THOSE GOING THROUGH MENOPAUSE?
SH: I’d categorise the main three areas as: training, policy, and community. Provide learning opportunities for your leads as part of absence management training and beyond, which is guided from feedback from your own employees and is inclusive – remember that menopause may affect individuals who are transgender, non-binary, and intersex. Have a clear policy that sets out the company’s expectations, with clear guidance and support channels. Have a community and culture that is supportive, safe and is built on trust – whether that’s the relationship between an individual and their lead, or in groups such as employee resource groups.