According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) it is common for mothers and pregnant women, to work outside of their homes. Overall, 56% of pregnant woman work full time during their pregnancy and 82% of nulliparous women (women who have never given birth) continue to work within the last month before their due dates. 73% of women return to work within 6 months after giving birth. Currently, 40% of employers offer paid parental leave programs, which helps many pregnant women and their families with their job protection, health insurance benefits and wages at a vulnerable time. Employees who take a maternity leave constitute a talent pool that is worth preserving. If companies wish to increase and retain women in high-performing roles, it is imperative to offer flexible work options during and after pregnancy.

Balancing act

From experience, being pregnant can feel like a full-time job itself. That can be a problem if you’ve already got a full-time job! During pregnancy you have to balance work obligations and doctor appointments. Simple everyday expectations like being at your desk and available for impromptu meetings, or meeting project deadlines when you feel like you’re about to be sick can be quite a task.  A healthy pregnancy makes those things easier to balance.  In most cases, being pregnant doesn’t prevent you from doing your job and you will continue to perform everyday tasks without interruption. Nevertheless, pregnant women inevitably experience some physical and hormonal changes during this period and should be careful about daily tasks in and out of the workplace.

Work environment considerations

Throughout my pregnancy, I saw limitations when I could no longer go to the field to conduct walkdowns on my projects. Eventually, I had to further limit where I worked in general, leaving the refinery work locations and transitioning to either Brindley Engineering’s (BE) main office in Lisle or limited to online communication with my co-workers (this all occurred pre-COVID-19). When you have a supportive workplace and are surrounded by people who care, it makes a huge difference during times when you have to change the way you work. BE supported me and other coworkers throughout our pregnancies from day one. BE offered a multitude of solutions that allowed me to continue performing my day to day job, without missing a beat – from the location of where I worked to reducing my exposure to the risks that are inherent at a refinery. Furthermore, BE offered me the flexibility to choose to return to work in a part-time or full-time schedule, which took pressure off of me during an already intense time.  

Return to work or stay home?

This is a question many families face. BE was so flexible that there was no question I could make it all work. Returning to work after childbirth made me so happy. I was thrilled to be back with my team.  There is a lactation room at the BE office which also made me feel included, valued and well taken care of.

When thinking about  returning to work versus hiring someone new to take over my role there are a lot of considerations a company has to consider. For example, I understood better than a new employee the internal priorities, the ins and outs of the BE culture, processes, project requirements. There was no learning curve for me as I had already developed specific skills for the job.  Furthermore, when a woman who comes back to work after maternity leaves, often time she feels committed to the employer in a different way.  Having flexibility and the opportunity to return under excellent, supportive working conditions creates a bond, an affinity for the company.  Finally, providing flexible work opportunities and supporting activities related to childcare can encourage new parents to remain active in the workforce without neglecting their parental responsibilities.

Brindley Engineering offered all of these options during my pregnancy and it meant the world to me and my family. Like I said, being pregnant can feel like a full-time job, having a baby is definitely a full-time job, Brindley Engineering allowed me to do it all.

— Andreina Lopez, Designer, Brindley Engineering