"Resist the temptation to judge their situation as this could preclude them from being transparent and thus less open to getting the support they need ..."
Women are recognised as being integral to all sectors of the economy, and with this comes an increasing obligation for employers to support staff pregnancy and any adjustments that need to come thereafter.
While existing employment and/or HR guidelines are proving to be effective, there is a potential curve ball, in the form of post-natal depression. While post-natal depression is common to all, risk factors that are generally associated with this condition can include previous episodes of depression, a family history, a traumatic birth experience and a lack of support both emotionally and practically.
Symptoms can range from anxiety, sadness, tearfulness and tiredness to a lack of motivation and an inability to think clearly, concentrate or have full memory recall. All of these symptoms may influence their ability to perform and thereby can impact the success and performance your business.
Generally, these symptoms can ease within a few weeks but if they continue after a month or two it is advisable that the employee seeks professional help. If you become aware of a staff member who displays any of these symptoms there are a few simple steps you can take:
- Ensure they talk to someone with whom they are comfortable;
- Resist the temptation to judge their situation as this could preclude them from being transparent and thus less open to getting the support they need;
- Encourage them to get professional advice which they should realise does not always mean medication;
- As far as is practical be open to flexible work arrangements and the possibility of leave;
- Consider temporarily reducing their responsibilities and workload which could in turn lessen stress levels;
- Evaluate if any changes need to be made to their workspace in terms of privacy or the ability to take brief “time out” intervals; and
- Where possible try and facilitate some sort of support network.
In turn, your employee should be aware of the implications post-natal depression can have on their ability to work to their usual standard. They need to appreciate they are dealing with stress, tiredness and that their energy levels and motivation could be severely compromised. In addition, any negative emotions can impact on their colleagues and shared workflow in general.
Emphasis needs to be placed on problem solving, decision making, organisation and planning. This strategy can balance very effectively against the symptoms that are impacting them at the time. Fortunately, proper awareness and support can render post-natal depression manageable.