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7 Ways HR Can Reduce Workplace Stress for Pregnant Employees

Posted by Patrick Ball on 14 Apr 2015

How HR can be helping working moms-to-be manage stress during pregnancy.

From the big announcement to maternity leave, being pregnant at work can be rife with stressful situations for working moms-to-be.

In fact, a new Care.com poll revealed nearly half of working women (47 percent) reported being scared to tell their boss they were pregnant. Driving that fear is the fact that, in 2015, women are still struggling to climb the corporate ladder, and pregnant employees and working moms are still getting passed over for promotions.

It’s not hard to imagine the pressure to lean in a little further at work to prove your commitment during pregnancy – and before going out on a weeks- or even months-long maternity leave – can be tremendously stressful. Especially when you consider all of the other sources of stress that come along with preparing for parenthood. 

So that’s where HR and business leaders come in. By supporting your working moms throughout their transition to parenthood – from pregnancy through the return from maternity leave and beyond – you’ll establish a family-friendly company culture and improve your retention of female talent.

And you can start by helping working moms-to-be manage stress during pregnancy. Here are seven ideas to get you started:

  1. Offer Flexibility
    Many employers will offer informal flexibility, such as a “clear-it-with-your-manager” approach, when it comes to permitting work from home days after maternity leave or allowing a pregnant employee to duck out for a mid-day appointment with the doctor or to tour a day care center. However, employees can be reluctant to take advantage of these options out of concern about appearing less committed to their jobs.If you formalize flexible work arrangements – for all employees – it empowers employees to take advantage of the flexibility you’re offering and eliminates the risk of interdepartmental resentment if policies aren’t applied evenly. Knowing they have the freedom to meet their medical and family needs can be a major help to pregnant employees when it comes to stress management.

    Learn more about Making Flex Work Work for You

  2. Market Your Work-Family Benefits Effectively
    In addition to posting flyers in your bathroom and FAQs on your wiki page, integrate life-stage marketing into your benefits communication strategy. The more you can remind employees of the programs and supports most relevant to them and their families, the better equipped they’ll be to manage stress and meet their work-family needs. An example of life-stage marketing? Send some tasteful literature about employer-provided child care assistance benefits along with a small gift acknowledging your employee’s pregnancy.
  1. Encourage New/Expectant Parent Support Groups
    Many companies have found that new parent support groups are valuable when it comes to supporting working moms in their transition back from maternity leave. So why not extend the logic to pregnant employees?The group might meet once a month, but also have a working parent welcoming system in which a buddy is assigned to each returning parent (yes, dads too). And remember, it will be important to consider carefully the role HR should play in these groups. Being able to have open and honest conversations with colleagues who’ve shared their experiences can be invaluable for new and expectant parents. It’s important to let the employees drive these groups, while HR serves in more of an advisory capacity. 
  1. Set Up Comfortable Mother’s Rooms
    The breastfeeding-bottle debate can be stressful enough for an expectant mother, without the extra stress of worrying about pumping in a supply closet – or worse – when she gets back to work. If you go beyond the minimum requirements, then your pregnant employees can keep their breastfeeding discussions to whether nursing will help their babies get into Harvard.

    Read more about Pumping At Work: What Nursing Employees Need from Their Employers

  2. Support a Holistic Family-Friendly Culture
    When it comes to helping a pregnant employee manage workplace stress, her manager and team can be the key to success. Consider celebrating these milestone moments – maybe even throw an office “sprinkle” for the working mom-to-be. Because doing so establishes that you prioritize having a family-friendly company culture and shows your pregnant employee that you value her as a person, which could make her more likely to return from parental leave as a loyal, engaged employee.

    Find out How to Hire for Cultural Fit 

  3. Have Transition Plan
    Establish an easy-to-replicate and adapt plan for the transition to maternity leave, including a checklist and timeline for turning over projects. Helping guide employees’ transition to leave, while ensuring coverage is in place during their leave, will help manage stress for both the working moms-to-be and their teams.

  4. And a Re-Integration Plan
    Establish a reintegration plan similar to your transition plan prior to leave. Leading employers have found support systems, such as flexibility to work from home one day a week or new parent support groups within your workforce, help parents reintegrate to the workplace after their leave. Feeling confident in their ability to reintegrate following maternity leave could help to remove one layer of uncertainty about the future and alleviate an employee’s workplace stress during pregnancy.

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