Early this week, I published a letter from a manager who had a low performer, who happened to be pregnant. In response to that, I got someone on the other side of the table--a pregnant woman whose work has fallen off because of the pregnancy. She writes:
I have just read your recent HR post regarding a pregnant woman who is under-performing at her position. This has triggered a few questions from myself.
I am in my first trimester of my pregnancy, the past 3 to 4 weeks have been hell, (that's putting it nicely!) I've struggled with work, as I'm based from home most of the time my lunch breaks tend to last longer than they should and my start times probably aren't quite as punctual as they should be. I'll put it bluntly, I'm exhausted and I feel like utter rubbish.
I'm scraping by and performing the bare minimum of my role, but compared to post pregnant me I'm severely under-performing and I'm aware of this and don't know how to stop this downward spiral. I'm sure it will pick up...eventually.
My managers and HR are aware that I am pregnant, and my boss seems very understanding. My concern is I will be due to work away from home for 4 nights a week, from next week. So my extended lunch time nap's won't be possible. I don't feel although I want to call in sick (even though I could sleep all day!) but I also don't want to feel like I am dragging the company down.
How much reasonable changes can I expect during my pregnancy? And what is the best thing that I can do to highlight this struggle with my managers and HR?
This case is profoundly different from the previous one because prior to the pregnancy, she was a good performer. But now she feels terrible. While many people are aware of the end of pregnancy woes, the first trimester can often be the worst. While you generally feel sick and are exhausted, other women get severe vomiting known as hyperemesis gravidarum. This can land you in the hospital, dependent on IVs to survive. (Kate Middleton, the Dutchess of Cambridge, suffered from this in all three of her pregnancies.)
So, what do you do here?
Well, the first thing is to report the pregnancy to your boss and HR. While the law doesn't require that you report it, letting them know does two things: first, it triggers sympathy and understanding--especially if your boss has been pregnant herself and knows what it's like. Second, it gives you the protection of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
What does the Pregnancy Discrimination Act do? Well, it basically says that if they provide any accommodations for people with other disabilities (light duty, reduced workload, flexible schedules, etc.) they must provide the same thing for a pregnant woman. Some pregnancy-related conditions can, in addition, trigger the Americans with Disabilities Act.
You can ask for accommodations and if they are reasonable, then the company needs to comply. What you're doing now is reasonable--taking a longer lunch so you can get a nap in there.
In this case, be honest with your boss. If you can't do the four nights away, speak up now. It's better to work through it now than to go and find out you can't do it. As with the ADA, you have to do the core functions of the job in order to be protected. So, if you absolutely, positively can't do this and it's a core function, a temporary leave of absence may be the best route.
You can also suggest that you continue working from home, and if that's reasonable, it's probably the best solution. But, speak up and don't be afraid to ask for what you need.
Most people are happy to bend over backward to accommodate a pregnant woman who is normally a strong performer. And hopefully, you'll feel better in the second trimester.