Health promotion at work (not only) for women

One in three to four women affected are thinking about reducing their working hours due to menopausal symptoms, almost one in five are considering retiring earlier as a result and one in ten women even quit their job due to menopause-related stress. With around 7.5 million women affected by symptoms in Germany, that's a lot of womanpower lost. We can't really afford that. There was something about a shortage of skilled workers, wasn't there?

There are topics that you can't let go of once they are in your head. Women's health in companies is one of them for me. For many reasons. Of course, as a PR agency, we have a fairly high proportion of women in the team at Oseon. We have colleagues on board who are very committed to women's health and equal rights. Femtech is one of our growth areas for the future. I have HR responsibility, I'm a woman myself - and I'll be 50 next year.

(Women's) health in companies as an overlooked economic factor

Unfortunately, the topic of health in the working environment is a tricky one. We talk about ergonomic seating, occupational health and safety, fitness as part of benefit schemes, fruit baskets (really?), work-life balance and yes, also - in general - about mental health. But it rarely gets down to the nitty gritty. Whether gender-specific or not. There is a lack of education, openness and confidence to address problems without hesitation. Who likes to admit when their mental or physical strength isn't up to it? The fear that openly discussing health restrictions could have a negative impact on your career is understandable - but should actually be unfounded. From a purely legal point of view, no one can be dismissed simply due to illness. The fear ist therefore more complex and subtle.

The fear that openly discussing health restrictions could have a negative impact on your career is understandable - but should actually be unfounded.

Manuela Moore, managing partner, Oseon

If not for our own sake and the health of our employees, then at least from an economic perspective, even the last person should realize: In times of demographic change and the resulting labor shortage, health promotion in companies is a necessity in order to keep employees healthy, productive and satisfied in the company. According to the DAK, employees in Germany across all genders missed an average of 20 days due to illness last year. The productivity losses caused by menopause alone due to sick leave, reduced working hours or early retirement are estimated at around 150 billion dollars per year worldwide. What more impetus do we need?

A wide variety of medical conditions can affect performance

Menopausal symptoms are just one example: In a recent study by the Berlin School of Economics and Law (HWR) on the effects of the menopause in the workplace, only around 15% of women surveyed stated that they felt supported by their employers. 78% said that the topic of menopause is rarely or never discussed at their workplace. However, 68% would like to see more open communication. 78% feel that their performance is limited due to physical and mental exhaustion caused by the menopause. Almost 66% suffer from stressful sleep disorders. Around three quarters cite a lack of concentration and increased susceptibility to stress as limiting factors. Around one in three had already been on sick leave or had to take unpaid leave due to menopause symptoms.

What else do we need to talk about? About the burden of women-specific illnesses such as endometriosis, which affects 2 million patients, or breast cancer, which affects 13 out of 100 women in the course of their lives. Disease patterns that restrict professional performance, at least temporarily. Or the fact that women die more frequently from heart attacks than men because the gender-specific symptoms are not sufficiently well known and recognized in time. Or that women are often under too much psychological strain due to increased mental load caused by the double burden of job plus care work: In 2022, women in Germany accounted for 77 million sick days due to mental health complaints. For men, the figure was 55 million. On average, those affected were absent for 32 days. And the list goes on and on.

Options for companies: Understanding working atmosphere, education and support for preventive health care

So what can companies do to raise awareness, promote health and specifically support women? At this year's Copetri Convention, Andrea Biebl, who works as a communicator also on the subject of women's health, shared suggestions for more health promotion in companies. We directly adopted the idea of using a fixed calendar blocker to set an appointment for employees to arrange check-ups for themselves and their relatives - during working hours, of course. And we took Andrea Biebl's presentation as an impetus to make the topic a higher priority ourselves. It is important to promote a corporate culture in which knowledge about health is shared and complaints are not a taboo subject. 

Here are our top tips for more health promotion (not just for women) in companies, which are easy to implement even in smaller teams:

  1. Companies can support preventive healthcare by, for example, reminding employees of check-up appointments, using occasions such as International Breast Cancer Day to raise awareness and actively addressing the topic of health as part of their internal communications.
  2. First aid courses train teams to better recognize medical emergencies and quickly initiate the right first aid measures.
  3. Raising the awareness of team leaders and teams in dealing with potential health problems in the workplace creates a basis on which open discussions are possible whenever necessary.
  4. Flexible working time models and the option of working from home help those affected to organize their work according to their resources and react more flexibly to emotional or physical ups and downs.
  5. Mindfulness training by external coaches trains the team in stress management, ensures greater awareness of their own needs and limits in terms of self-care and promotes the early recognition of stressors in themselves and in the team.
  6. Sneak preview sessions for yoga or the promotion of leisure sports, e.g. through a benefits program, lift the topic of sporting balance to everyday working higher on the agenda.

Having said that: Stay healthy! Have an open ear and understanding for those who are not up to scratch. And if things aren't going well for you: Don't hide away. It's okay to not be okay from time to time.

Bild: Unsplash