You might think that waking up a quarter of an hour before your first meeting is cutting it fine. But when you’re 12 weeks pregnant, running on disturbed sleeping patterns, and unable to drink a morning coffee to get ready for the day, every second matters. This is an experience thousands of pregnant people across the globe experience every single day.
As a people-first company, ensuring people are able to have the flexibility to plan work around their own pregnancy is essential.
Because, in many ways, being pregnant while trying to maintain a career is a feat of physical endurance. Thankfully, things are now far more flexible than they were just a few years ago, thanks to the movement towards remote work.
To find out what the real-world impact of remote working is on promoting equity during pregnancy, I sat down with three of Chattermill’s finest: Zaida Isaacs, Data Engineering Operations Analyst, Callie Richardson, Senior People Experience Manager, and Danielle Mitchell, Senior Customer Success Manager.
Read on to learn more about their experiences.
How has remote working helped you share your news on your own timeline?
Danni - Having experienced my first pregnancy in an office environment and my second remotely, the sharing part is VERY different.
I had a complicated pregnancy the second time around, and so it was a huge relief to be able to keep my news to myself until I felt comfortable sharing it, and only to those I chose to tell – rather than having everybody in the office and all of my clients witnessing my pregnancy progressing day by day!
However, I didn’t experience the same excitement/count down the second time around, especially on my final day before maternity leave – definitely something to consider in supporting remote pregnant colleagues – they deserve a good send-off into motherhood!! (probably an internal note there!)
Zaida - When I fell pregnant with my son, I was office-based, and there were a few parents in the team, so it was relatively easy to share the news. I had my son, and we moved back to South Africa shortly before my maternity leave.
When I announced my second pregnancy, I was employed at Chattermill. It was just before the Covid situation happened, and it was really easy for me to share in person as I was confident my news would be well received and supported.
Callie - Immensely. I was quite ill during the first trimester, and I’m not sure how I would have coped commuting into the office and trying to act like my usual self – the frequent sprees to the facilities would have been a real giveaway.
Something I didn’t anticipate about pregnancy was the anxiety that comes with the first 12 weeks with the risk of pregnancy loss, particularly if you’ve had a difficult time conceiving.
Being able to work from home to help manage my stress was a real help in managing my mental health surrounding this. I’m fortunate to be in a company and team where I felt comfortable sharing my goals to have a family (which sadly isn’t always the case for many women), but I did have a lot of fear of sharing bad news if it came to it.
How has remote working helped in your day-to-day life during pregnancy?
Zaida - In the first trimester, I had really bad morning sickness. Because of this, my energy levels were very low. So to be able to avoid an hour and a half commute, and to avoid feeling sick/being sick on the tube, remote working was a blessing for me.
In my second and third trimesters, remote working allowed me to go for a daily walk, and that definitely helped my energy levels by keeping active.
Callie - I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve said, “I don’t know how pregnant women who have to be office based for all these years have done it!”
I was very ill – I had a lot of trouble with smells and nausea and had very little energy for the first few months. I did go into London once during this time and was so nauseous from the motion on the train/tube, it would have been torturous to do this five times a week.
With my low energy levels, working from home was also very beneficial for my productivity. I could balance my energy and workload much better than I would have if commuting in.
The fact that so many women cope with these symptoms while being office based, worrying about the perception of their performance, and feeling like they have to hide the huge life-changing transition that they’re going through is hard to think about.
How has remote work helped you with your future plans for childcare/day-to-day life with your family?
Danni - It’s been hugely helpful! Firstly transitioning back into work was so much easier this time as I’m only 5mins away from Belle’s nursery, so I felt so much more comfortable that if she was upset or unwell, I could get to her quickly (rather than a long commute back from the office).
Also, because I’m so close to the girls’ childcare, I can work far more efficiently rather than waste time sitting in traffic trying to collect/drop them off – I’m at my desk within 5 mins of saying goodbye!
Callie - We’re in a very fortunate position where both my husband and I work remotely, and we’ve been able to plan slightly staggered schedules to minimise how much external childcare we will need once I return from maternity leave.
I love that remote work is helping us to equal-parent in this way. I’m also grateful to have the flexibility in my hours and the understanding from my employer around school drop-offs and pick-ups that will help remove some of the stress.
Zaida - Being a mum of two young kids, I feel it's the only way I can manage to juggle schedules, pickup times and illness, which with kids happen quite often. My son attends primary school, and my daughter is at nursery. As my son’s school ends quite early, I am usually taking an early lunch to do that and working remotely allows me that benefit.
How has remote work helped you with your career plans?
Callie - Unfortunately, when I was growing up, my hope to have children one day hugely affected my career decisions.
Most of the guidance I was given around career paths centred around what child-friendly benefits industries tended to have, what the time off was like, and whether I’d be able to support my children and pick them up from school.
Most regrettably, I was often told that I shouldn’t be too ambitious because the further I climbed in my career, the less available I would be to my children and family.
This is clearly a very outdated mindset, and I am so happy to have shaken it and found better advice. The shift to remote working since the pandemic has made an enormous impact on what I saw as possible for myself and my future family.
I’ve been able to move to an affordable area without worrying about a lengthy commute. I always thought I would have to sacrifice working in an exciting company if I ever moved out of a city to support my family, so to have the ability to continue working in an exciting London-based tech company has been a dream.
Most importantly, remote working has made it easy for me to envision a life where my career is not limited, and I don’t have to sacrifice being there for my family to pursue it.
Zaida - With the pandemic, remote working became our new norm, and many companies had to adapt to this new way of working. As a mum, I feel this has really counted in our favour. The fear of asking for flexible working has been removed, and it made me realise that I can be a working mum and also be there for my kids. Ultimately, remote working works!
How has remote work helped you prioritise your prenatal care?
Danni - It was so much quicker and simpler to attend all of my prenatal appointments as I only live 5mins from the midwife, rather than an hour round commute to all appointments. It was also easier to talk privately on the phone with the midwife when needed.
Callie - Being remote and having the ability to make appointments in my local area has been a lifesaver! It can be hard to get appointments at ideal times, so I really appreciate having the flexibility to do so without the stress of getting to and from the office afterwards.
Some of the appointments and tests can be anxiety-inducing themselves, so removing the stress of commuting and big calendar adjustments is a real help.
I have friends who are also pregnant but office-based, and they find it quite difficult. Several have had to use holidays to attend appointments, particularly if they aren’t feeling comfortable sharing their news with their employer yet.
Zaida - It made it a lot easier as I could attend my midwife appointments, and sometimes while waiting for my appointment, I could do a little bit of work, which made the anxiety that goes along with waiting in those waiting rooms of a hospital a bit easier. Some of those appointments do take a lot of time (like the Glucose Test), so working remotely helped with those.
How has remote work helped you prioritise your self-care?
Danni - Remote working was great during the later stages of my pregnancy as I could use my lunch break for some pregnancy yoga or gentle stretches at home. I also wasn’t totally exhausted from commuting to the office and to clients!
Callie - I’m currently in my second trimester and can only imagine how happy I will be to be able to work from home in the third, but there are already things I really appreciate about working from home for my self-care.
A big one for me is around food and my nutrition. It’s been so great to be able to have access to my kitchen and fresh food to get a great variety of the things the baby needs. I’ve had a fair bit of anxiety about what I shouldn’t eat during pregnancy, and I find it hard to find food on the go that is freshly prepared and doesn’t have any pregnancy no-nos in it.
It would be a long commute for me to the office, so I’d also be worried about how long my lunches went unrefrigerated. It’s also been really helpful to be able to get comfortable with my pregnancy pillow on the sofa when I’m tired or achy rather than sitting in an office chair for the whole day – I don’t think I could cope!
Zaida - In all honesty, my self-care in my last trimester was basically taking a nap during my lunch break – especially in those last few weeks. The exhaustion was real for me towards the end, and I feel that helped me massively with managing my energy levels.