A new video by Prega is going viral. Of course, the times are changing and so we are now talking about being sensitive to the needs of women employees who are pregnant. But have a closer look and think about it – do we know how to draw the line between being sensitive and being patronizing?
The first time I was pregnant, I was working in a full-time role. I continued to work full-time throughout my pregnancy and after my baby was born, till another 1 ½ years. When I saw the Prega video I wondered what exactly had worked for me at that time. What was I expecting when I approached my manager with news of my pregnancy? Getting pampered was not on my list of expectations from my organization.
The infrastructure support whether it comes to ergonomic chairs, footstools and comfortable work-stations are good-to-haves. But what is it that is a must-have? That is what the organizations need to ask themselves.
To be honest, most women do not want the organizations to re-create their homes or make second homes in the office premises. When we think of it practically, it can be a challenge to do that, especially in large organizations. They might have several women employees across locations who might be pregnant at a given point in time. But, what the organization can have is – sensitization programs, to mentor the managers on understanding that their women team members can manage their pregnancy and work commitments, effectively and simultaneously. Or mentoring that helps managers to face their unconscious bias about treating employees who are pregnant, differently than the rest. Or supportive policies, that create offices in homes ( and not the other way round) through effective work-from-home or flexible working hours, options. Any of these might have a better impact especially when it comes to retention of these employees since they are long-term and sustainable measures that impact general work climate as well.
When you are pregnant and working, you do not want your organizations or managers or colleagues to treat it like an ailment to be worried about or a situation where you want your workload to be reduced. You want them to be aware that you have the ability to continue with the same workload, pre-maternity as well as post-maternity. What you simply need is to be empowered by them, on being able to pace your work as per your new phase.
You need empathy, not sympathy. You need the same level of confidence that they had prior to your pregnancy, about you meeting project timelines. Pregnancy is a natural process in a woman’s life and there are huge physical as well as emotional changes during it. One needs a sensitive manager whose understanding of the situation is more mature, than just simply translating that as the employee’s need to be pampered at the workplace.
Can a pregnant employee continue to receive additional responsibilities from her manager with the same confidence in her performance, as was the case prior to her pregnancy announcement?
Can she be included in all business discussions, work travel plans and events, unless she opts out of those?
Can she be sure that her manager will still tell her about the promotion planned for her, when he or she gets to know of her pregnancy
Can she be certain of not being bypassed for business-critical projects that she is a fitment for, when she rejoins work after maternity leave?
If the organizations and their managers can say a resounding Yes to these questions, they are doing what a pregnant employee really expects from them – with or without a footstool!
By Simran Oberoi
Simran Oberoi is an independent HR Consultant in Bangalore, with HR Advisory, Knowledge Development and Research expertise of over 13 years, in Rewards & Compensation, Diversity & Inclusion, Talent Development, HR & Social Media. She has worked with consulting firms like Hay Group, Aon Hewitt and PricewaterhouseCoopers in the past, in India as well as Asia-Pacific leadership roles. Simran is also a keen baker – you can find her recipes at https://ovenderfulhealthybaking.wordpress.com/