In June 2023, the labor force participation rate for women in their prime working age (ages 25-54 according to the data) reached an all-time high of 77.8%. Crafting benefits and a supportive work environment for women at every life stage can help create an inclusive and equitable environment, which enhances job satisfaction, productivity and retention. In a recent Talking Benefits podcast episode, I interviewed Dr. Lana Saal, CEO of the VitHealthity Group, about women’s health in the workplace—why it’s important, why employers should care and how to implement some solutions right away.  

With over 25 years of expertise leading successful strategic solutions in benefits, health promotion, behavioral and mental health, nutrition, weight loss, fitness, stress management and tobacco cessation, in addition to her current work in creating benefit solutions for navigating menopause, Dr. Saal was a perfect expert to take us on this journey of women’s health in the workplace. We discussed emerging trends in women’s health that organizations should be aware of.  

Mental Health

Dr. Saal stressed the importance of mental health care for female employees, especially women who are in childbearing years. She shared that the number of those experiencing postpartum depression, anxiety and stress is exorbitantly high (one in five mothers). Developing mental health resources for women is an essential component of keeping employees healthy, happy and productive.  

Creating an environment where women and their families feel valued in the workplace throughout all life stages can help the company, organization and, of course, the employees themselves.

Menstruation and Menopause

We’ve been hearing more and more about menstruation and menopause benefits to help support working women. The impacts of menstruation and menopause can oftentimes be unpredictable, so leading with flexibility and being accommodating are great ways for employers to show support.

Dr. Saal shared that menopause impacts 30% of the female population at any given time. It can last eight to ten years, after which women experience the effects of postmenopause.

“This is a huge impact on the life and livelihood of women because there are a lot of women who will actually leave the workforce because the side effects and symptoms make such a negative impact on their health,” Dr. Saal mentioned.

 Employers taking a proactive approach to providing menopause benefits should ask employees what the organization can provide and what could help.

“Even something as simple as having complimentary feminine hygiene products available is a very small investment that can make a big impact,” suggested Dr. Saal.

Family Planning

It’s essential to provide flexible benefits to help employees with all facets of family planning (e.g., fertility treatments, adoption leave and expanded parental leave). Dr. Saal highlighted that the challenges of fertility, maternity and parenting impact not only women but also their loved ones/partners. Expanding these benefits for everyone in the household is a win-win for everyone.

For example, Dr. Saal mentioned the importance of sleep benefits for everyone but especially new parents who could greatly benefit from access to sleep coaches and other resources. 

Cancer and Chronic Disease

For women and their families who are dealing with cancer or chronic diseases, it’s important for employers to help employees feel as though they’re valued and that they matter. Dr. Saal suggested training managers and supervisors on available resources and benefits, so employees can hear about these options in different ways during critical times.

Just being willing to work with employees when facing these challenging times—having that care and compassion—will make a huge difference for the employer and their productivity.

For all of these benefits, “the power of showing someone that you care and care about them and care about their families is absolutely invaluable,” said Dr. Saal.

Listen to the full episode and check out Dr. Saal’s keynote address at the upcoming Women’s Well-Being at Work virtual conference. It takes place on August 14 and is free to everyone.

Don’t miss a single episode! 

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Anne Patterson

Associate Director, PR and Communications Favorite Foundation Product: Foundation Community. It’s like LinkedIn but only for Foundation members. They can post questions, share best practices, etc—all with fellow members who also live and breathe employee benefits. Benefits-related Topics That Interest Her Most: Mental health, diversity, equity and inclusion, behavioral decision making, family-forming benefits, payroll audits. Personal Insight: When she’s not busy keeping up with her two little ones, Anne finds joy in home renovation and décor, haiku writing, watching Jeopardy, crafting charcuterie boards, and bicycling.

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