A Word On Pregnant Women, Coworkers, And Work-Life Balance

Such a simple concept. Why is it never practiced? [Photo courtesy of renjith krishnan at freedigitalphotos.net]
Such a simple concept. Why is it never practiced? [Photo courtesy of renjith krishnan at freedigitalphotos.net]
I cannot emphasize to everybody enough that it’s very important to take care of your personal health. And when it comes to the workplace, maintaining a proper work-life balance is critical to doing so.

Employers: Your employees are human beings outside the workplace. They have other things in their lives that are important to them. They have events that are critical and that pop up on short notice. You have to respect the fact that, for them, certain things are more important than providing customer service, making sales, or sitting in meetings.

Coworkers: Understand that you guys are all in this together, and you must help each other maintain a proper work-life balance. Because all that s*** in the previous paragraph? Your employer is going to ignore it. Oh, they’ll tout it on the company intranet and some posters on the break room wall, but it’s faker than the time I told that annoying customer to have a nice day when I really wanted that customer to jump in front of a moving train.

I know it’s not actually going to happen, but I would love to see a world where people in the most prosperous country in the world put their mental, physical, and emotional health before the well-being of an employer that would dump them in a second to reduce costs by 0.03%.

Your Not-Labor Contractions Seem Painful

One of my coworkers–a teller–is a pregnant woman. A very pregnant woman.

Late enough in her pregnancy that I look up at the teller unit every time I hear a child crying.

And late enough in her pregnancy to start having false labor contractions.

Her not-labor thingies have been getting bad enough that she keeps having to call out. And when she is here, she’s doubling over in pain.

The other day, while we were in dual control, I asked her if she was giving birth on the spot. When she laughed and told me that I would know once her water broke, I checked the floor underneath her for puddles.

As well as put on my gear for just in case I have to deliver that baby from across the room. [Photo courtesy of vectorolie from freedigitalphotos.net]
As well as put on my gear for just in case I have to deliver that baby from across the room. [Photo courtesy of vectorolie from freedigitalphotos.net]
But after that, I got pretty pissed off. You see, I was the only person that bothered to ask if she was okay. We were verifying ATM and sorting/counting the money collected from the tellers so we could sell to the vault, and we had to keep stopping so that she could collect herself as she was in such intense pain.

My issue with our coworkers wasn’t that no one seemed to care. It’s that–no wait, that was exactly my f***ing issue. Other tellers were just skipping along, doing things like dropping keys on us to put away in a separate key drawer or to put something else in the vault, or telling the pregnant one to take care of this or that before leaving. No one bothered to stay and help out and put a few extra minutes in to complete some minor task that would have allowed this teller to leave a little bit early so she could rest and recover. One teller was just skipping along, a big smile on her face because it was the end of the day while the one doubled over in constant physical pain had to pick up the slack for Ms. Proudly Lazy.

It just annoyed the f*** out of me.

Management was also giving her a hard time throughout the day because she kept stopping every so often to go get a drink of water. Not every five minutes, but “every so often”. I’ve no idea how often “every so often” was, but it’s not like she wasn’t on the teller line taking customers. She was, while in her fake labor contractions half the time. She had told management that her doctor said she needed to drink plenty of water otherwise her something something something uterus lining something something something baby stuff something something she needed to drink plenty of water so that her health and/or her baby’s health was healthy or whatever.

Water=healthy baby and momma.

Despite being fully aware of the situation, management was constantly on top of her for the sin of drinking dihydrogen monoxide. Why? Because “how does that look to the customers” is why.

My manager and assistant manager were also discussing whether they should keep scheduling her. Understandable since she’s been calling out a lot lately. But the manager is getting annoyed because she can’t function at the same efficiency as she did before she was pregnant.

But like, guys, c’mon. It’s a pregnant woman who spends half her day in labor and the other half of the day performing labor. She’s doubled over in pain half the time. I understand why employers don’t like to deal with pregnant women, but you still keep scheduling her to work. Instead of having her on a teller box until the moment her water breaks, maybe just let her go on disability or start her maternity leave early.

With the way my branch’s management is, I could imagine her going into labor while she’s in the vault doing cash shipment under dual control, and they still wouldn’t let her stop what she’s doing and coming out even with the baby’s head sticking out of her vagina.

Work-Life Balance In The Service Industry

I think I’m just impressing my frustration of not being able to switch certain days to take care of something needed to do onto the whole thing with this pregnant teller, but this really annoyed me.

I’m always at that damn bank ten hours a day or more, and things still don’t get done. This isn’t just me; half the platform has the same problem. But seeing a pregnant woman so callously ignored–with one of the other tellers dumping working on her while smiling and saying how she was “getting the f*** out of here”–pissed me off.

It also made me think of the importance of work-life balance and how we’ve come to marry ourselves to our jobs. We stay longer hours, we work during our lunch breaks, and we are on call after the day is done.

I know it’s bad in every industry, but the service industry has a particular issue in that they compete to provide the most bats*** crazy hours to their customers. Speaking of which, employee well-being is often put as a lower priority to customer experience. Is a service employee sick or has something important to take care of during the day? Tough! If that employee’s not there, the customer might have to wait on line a whole five minutes extra!

Even worse, we may not have a Lobby Leader! Greeting people at the door is the vital link between customer experience and retail banking, right!?

Between a culture of increased submission to your job (I imagine being due to us having a job crisis less than ten years ago) and an ever growing shift over the decades to a service economy (where companies compete not on hard results, but on providing impossible-to-deliver emotional satisfaction through increasingly unrealistic operating hours and white-glove service for low-revenue customers), work-life balance is slowly going away. This means increased health problems due to chronic stress, strained personal relationships, and poorer performance on the job.

As a society, we can’t just sit around and shrug it off. We can’t say, “Well, that’s how life is. Sometimes you have to roll up your sleeves and do some hard work every now and then.” Of course hard work is required in life, but we don’t want to be like Japan. Their insane lack of a work-life balance has led to so many people literally working themselves to death that the phenomenon has earned its own name: karoshi. CBS News reports Karoshi was the result of over 2,000 suicides and 96 heart attack and stroke fatalities in 2015 alone, according to a Japanese government survey.

I wonder if this will be coming to the US soon.

I don’t have a comprehensive solution for reversing this trend that I’ve noticed. I don’t have a comprehensive set of bullet points for how to improve your work-life balance. I can only stress the importance of it.

I can only tell you that you are the only one that cares about you. You are the only one that cares about your personal health (physical, mental, and emotional), your relationships with your friends and family, your outside hobbies and passion projects, and even your career growth. Yes, your career growth. Your employer just wants you to shut up and perform whatever task you’re performing for less compensation than you should be receiving. A fulfilling and promising career–one that provides personal satisfaction and pays you what you’re worth–is something that your employer could care less about.

I still vividly remember when my bank gave me a reminder that I need to retire early. They got on my a** because I called out sick one day. I’m not surprised they’re treating her this way.

She needs to take care of that baby. She needs to make sure the bank understands that she may need time off here and there to bring the baby to doctor’s visits and the like, and just to take care of it (she’s a single mother). She needs to get her family involved to a reasonable degree. She needs to shop around for a good term life insurance policy to make sure that baby is taken care of financially in case anything happens to her, as most employer life insurance coverage is minimal. And she needs to consider finding a better paying job so that she can afford to take care of this baby.

And if you have a child or a family to support, then you probably have to do the same.

Readers–What do YOU think!? Should more consideration have been given to the pregnant worker, or should she be expected to work the same as everyone else as she did agree to come in to work? As far as overall work-life balance, are we headed towards karoshi or am I just whining about having to do hard work every now and then? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Disclaimer: That last link is an affiliate link. It leads to PolicyGenius, a popular online insurance broker that can help you get the best deals on life insurance. If you have dependents and you have only your employer’s life insurance plan (or worse, none at all), then you need to get on that now. Buying insurance through that link earns me a small commission at no cost to you.

Comments

  1. says

    To answer your leading question: Yes you’re whining about having to do hard work every now and then – but that is your genius as well. If she’s that far along, perhaps her doctor should prescribe limited duty which (in my managerial days) would have required accommodation. But regulations may have changed since then. Good advice on the balance in life.

    • ARB says

      Charlie,

      Well, at least I know now that I’m the whiny type.

      She actually went out on disability the other day. She had sent a doctor’s note. The manager believes she just asked the doctor to write the note because she didn’t want to come to work anymore. As for the regulations, I’m not really sure. As a not-pregnant-woman, I’ve never really looked up the laws on that.

      Thank you for your comment!

      Sincerely,
      ARB–Angry Retail Banker

  2. says

    Thanks for speaking out on behalf of pregnant women. Women often try to work as hard as before pregnancy, but yes, we occasionally have to drink water and rest to prevent premature labour. Shocker.
    Part of our society’s insanity is not wanting to accommodate this–but guess what happens if she delivers a premature, unhealthy baby? That’s right, she and society pay even more.
    If she speaks up, she gets called a whiner. So thanks for helping her and speaking out. It means that *you* get called a whiner, but that’s a small price to pay for the world being made a slightly better place.

    • ARB says

      Melissa,

      You’re welcome. I’ve been called worse that a “whiner” in the workplace, as my big mouth has gotten me in trouble before. Check the aptly titled article “Is This Bank F***ing Kidding Me!?” for details.

      The anti-labor society of the Industrial Revolution hasn’t gone completely away. Not to the degree we pat ourselves on the back for. We’ve slapped a fresh coat of paint on everything and claimed monumental change, but has there been as much as we think? Sure, we aren’t sticking our hands into dangerous machines for a nickel a day, but we still put our health, our relationships, and everything important in our lives for the good of the employer. And ironically, we suffer financially for it. We work longer and harder and for less, and now we even allow our employers to control our lives outside of work! A factory owner from 150 years ago would be proud.

      Thanks for dropping by!

      Sincerely,
      ARB–Angry Retail Banker

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