Fertility problems can affect anyone — regardless of age, race, income, sex, sexual orientation, gender, marital status, and geography. Infertility affects one in six people globally, a number doesn’t include LGBTQ+ couples or single parents by choice who may also seek fertility treatments to form their families. Therefore, many of your employees may be navigating fertility challenges, making this not only a global health concern but a workplace one as well.
Creating a culture of support not only helps those on a fertility journey but can also be a key strategy for recruiting and retaining talent and supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. Below are a few of our best recommendations to help create a supportive culture for employees undergoing fertility care.
Normalize the conversation
Undergoing fertility treatments can be an incredibly lonely time for employees and continues to be a taboo topic in many workplaces — as are other related fertility topics, like egg freezing. In our global fertility at work survey, we found that 79% of people feel uncomfortable discussing fertility openly at work. However, there are things you can do to normalize the conversation:
- Create a culture of openness. Your employees should feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work. There are many ways to achieve this type of open culture, whether that’s by hiring diverse teams, encouraging employee resource groups, or creating safe spaces for people to speak candidly about tough subjects. This type of change won’t happen overnight, but starting off with a few of these initiatives will show your employees that they won’t be penalized or judged for sharing their fertility experiences at work.
- Educate your company. One of the best ways you can normalize the conversation around fertility care is to educate the rest of the company. You can host lunch-and-learn sessions with a fertility clinic or teach your employees how to communicate in an inclusive and accurate way. This type of company-wide education increases empathy and may make employees feel more supported, knowing that their colleagues and managers want to understand what they’re going through.
- Provide resources. Undergoing fertility care can be emotionally, physically, and financially taxing. That’s why you may want to consider offering resources to support employees as they navigate their fertility journeys. This can be anything from access to relationship therapy services to financial counseling. While these resources don’t seem like they have anything to do with fertility care, they can actually help employees better manage their stress and prioritize their wellness.
If your employees are undergoing fertility treatments, they’re likely attending various doctor’s appointments, dealing with personal stress, or perhaps navigating loss or disappointment during the process. To feel supported during these situations, your employees need empathy from people in their workplace. Here are a few ways managers, company leaders, and colleagues can demonstrate empathy:
- Listen. One of the best things you can do for your employees during this time is to listen. Let them tell you — instead of assuming — exactly what they need as they undergo fertility treatments. Then, do everything you can to make those modifications for them. You can also simply be a supportive figure by giving them a safe space to discuss their fears, stresses, and concerns and acknowledging their feelings.
- Allow flexible hours and time off. On a related note, you may want to consider giving your employees flexible hours and time off. This thoughtful gesture gives people the option to set their own hours so that they can work around their appointments or be honest about taking the time off they need. Not only does this provide peace of mind to employees, but it may also boost productivity and reduce presenteeism, which is the phenomenon when employees haven’t taken time off but are less productive due to personal distractions.
- Respect their privacy. Sometimes, fertility treatments don’t go as planned. When this happens, it can be a challenging experience. You should be prepared to support your employees if they want to talk about it but also be ready to respect their privacy if they don’t. Use your sense of empathy to recognize what your employees need in those difficult moments.
For more information on how to be a more empathetic leader and manager, check out our guide on how to be a supportive manager to employees going through fertility and family-forming journeys.
Offer fertility benefits
Of course, the most impactful way you can support employees is to provide fertility benefits at your organization. Given that treatments such as IVF can cost on average $21,600 per cycle, this type of financial benefit is critical. In addition to providing financial coverage as a part of the fertility benefits package, the right vendor should also include additional educational resources and support that can help employees through some of the complex and stressful processes. But not all fertility benefits are created equal. Here are the traits to look for in a high-quality vendor:
- Inclusive. Look for inclusive plans that offer the best fertility care to every employee — not just heterosexual couples or those with an infertility diagnosis. Otherwise, you’re isolating an important part of your demographic. If DEI is a high priority for your organization, your vendor should be able to offer services that reflect those values.
- Global. Your fertility benefits vendor should also be able to accommodate a global workforce. This ensures the vendor scales with your company and can serve as a resource when you expand into other parts of the world. Given that fertility is approached in very different ways around the globe, your vendor needs to have the expertise to work with employees everywhere.
- Comprehensive navigation. Finally, it’s important to make sure your fertility benefit vendor has the capacity to handle all aspects of care management — from connecting employees to the right provider to answering tough questions along the way. This means having a responsive and knowledgeable team in place that has the ability to help your employees during their fertility journeys. This type of support is ultimately what will make your organization stand out from others.
Creating a more supportive environment for those undergoing fertility care doesn’t have to be complicated. Educating yourself and your team about what these journeys involve is a powerful place to start.