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Key milestones

Setting up a menopause support group

Louise Furby, senior events, planning and communications manager at Specsavers, on using her personal experience to launch a menopause community for staff

women looking at phone
Pexels/Anna Shvets

1 I started my own menopause journey in 2015, and two years later I found myself experiencing some very tough personal challenges that I knew were beginning to impact my work.

 

The biggest issue was brain fog, which, coupled with debilitating migraines, often left me exhausted at the start of the working day and gradually got worse. I also experienced mild joint pain, weight gain and heart palpitations which, at the time, was incredibly worrying.

One day, feeling anxious and despondent, I did a Google search and discovered the likely cause of all these symptoms: menopause. In the weeks that followed, I attended GP and consultant appointments and began arming myself with information. I also engaged my line manager, and quickly realised that managers and team members were uninformed and ill-equipped to support anyone experiencing menopause. So, as I trawled through the quagmire of information, I now had to find a way to awkwardly inform and educate my (male) line manager. Communication and honesty was key, but the experience left me questioning how well the business was set-up to support women going through this stage of their life.

2 I started being more open about my journey, and this led to a few honest conversations with colleagues.

 

After an enlightening conversation with colleague and friend, Caroline Milliken, we both agreed we needed an outlet: somewhere we could all be honest and open about our menopause experiences, and able to support one another. That’s when MenoTalk was born.

3 Once we had the group established, we realised word-of-mouth was our best approach to get members.

Whilst we worked up a timeline for a wider launch, we began reaching out to specialists in this field via social media platforms and recommendations. Our board sponsor, Kate Brown, along with our director of reward and policy, Ian Glendinning, both supported with advice and guidance whilst we navigated myriad training options.

4 During that period, we began our soft launch to store colleagues and support office personnel.

We used our intranet to introduce the group, engaged our existing members to record short videos and endorsements, and kept it light because a lot of people still feel awkward about menopause. Historically, it’s been all about mood changes and hot flushes, so we wanted to keep the conversation light and engaging to help those less familiar with the topic to appreciate that it’s not that awkward and embarrassing.

My ultimate ambition is to have a menopause network with at least one representative member in every Specsavers store

 

5 As part of forming our MenoTalk group, we asked members how involved they wanted to be.

We use Microsoft Teams for all our MenoTalk activity currently. We asked members to vote on whether they wanted to be an advocate, identifying and driving key actions to support the menopause agenda through in-function representation, a champion, promoting and building awareness of the group and providing feedback to contribute to the agenda and help land key messages across the wider business, or an affiliate - an ally, group member, and supporter of the agenda.

We are conscious that everyone’s menopause journey differs and some just want support and advice, or access to other like-minded people. Three tiers of membership allowed us to meet all our members’ needs, in particular in the early stages of group set-up.

6 We are working towards World Menopause Day 2022 (1 October), and our intention is to have a suite of menopause training materials for our support office, store colleagues, mental health first aiders and MenoTalk members to access.

We are keen to introduce “Meno-Mondays” where we’ll feature webinars, lunch and learn sessions and Q&A panels to give our members self-care advice and support. We want to broaden our membership appeal to members who are not directly impacted by menopause, but who want to feel prepared and equipped to support team members, family members or friends, and of course so that they have the knowledge to recognise the symptoms early, to seek medical advice and help.

7 Our MenoTalk motto is to be United Through Menopause.

We want to take opportunities, to broaden networks, access materials and resources and to support one another to help women through this period, and to retain the workforce at a time when many women are at the peak of their career.

My ultimate ambition is to have a menopause network with at least one representative member in every Specsavers store, and for our menopause training to be mandatory to all new starters. We need to educate colleagues early on menopause, to help remove the stigma and provide a safe and confidential environment for everyone to talk and share experiences. If our MenoTalk group can help prepare and comfort just one woman who is feeling isolated during her menopause journey, we have already succeeded.