Infertility is a disease which impacts 1 in 8 people, making it a critical issue in any workplace. Those dealing with infertility experience a great deal of stress and anxiety, which, coupled with the physical strain that often accompanies fertility treatment, can have a substantial impact on productivity, energy, and mental health.
Leading employers are recognizing that infertility should be covered under their benefits plan just like any other disease. Regardless if you offer fertility coverage or not, there are steps every employer should take to effectively support their employees on the path to parenthood.
Vocalize your understanding and support
A supportive, inclusive workplace starts with open communication. Encourage your managers to emphasize understanding and support for medical conditions that may require special flexibility or accommodation on the part of employers. Without singling out infertility, invite employees to discuss with you privately. All of this begins with employers creating a culture that support all employees and their needs and acknowledging that when someone comes into work they aren’t necessarily leaving “home” behind.
The stigma of infertility often prevents people from sharing what can be an already isolating experience. While employees may not always be comfortable sharing with colleagues or a supervisor, it’s important for companies to proactively offer educational resources, support, and communication as part of health care and benefits information. As part of this communications strategy, be sure to provide the option to access information and resources in a private, anonymous manner. You can also include a place for employees to anonymously provide suggestions on education or benefits. Considering sharing resources with:
- Employee communications during certain times of the year (National Infertility Awareness Week, Women’s Health Week, Men’s Health Week, Pride Month)
- Awareness campaigns on company intranet/benefit sites
- Parents to be/infertility support groups
For many, family building is not a linear process. Although employees may not share their infertility diagnosis directly, they may share their need to have a more flexible work schedule or temporary arrangements due to their own (or partner’s) treatment. Allow scheduling changes (or telecommuting) to enable employees to adjust their hours temporarily due to the requirements of a treatment cycle and the frequent, required visits to the fertility clinic.
Organize a support group
Patients going through fertility treatment generally agree that only others going through the same journey really understand. Privately offer to organize a group for discussion and support or, tap into an existing parents’ group, like Trying to Conceive or Parents in Waiting. The group can be open to all employees, anyone with a medical challenge, anyone going through a loss, or just for infertility. Organizing the group restores a sense of control. The group can help fight feelings of isolation and restore perspective, even for those who choose to not identify their specific challenge.
Communicate company resources
If your company has fertility and family building benefits, be sure they are communicated effectively to all employees and included in regular benefits education. Even if your company does not offer these type of benefits, there may be existing company resources that can be especially helpful to address infertility such as employee assistance programs with counseling services, mental health resources, support for grief or loss, or care navigation and support from your fertility benefit provider.
Infertility is not a condition that individuals choose or can prevent, but employers can choose to create and reinforce a culture that supports employees in the most critical moments.