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It’s Time to Talk Miscarriage + Work

November 19, 2019

‘Back To Work After Miscarriage’ evening on 19th November aims to break taboos

Listen + Learn Research, the social insight agency has found that the anxiety and uncertainty people feel about returning to work after a miscarriage is widely discussed on social media but not in the workplace, wider media or wider world.  This needs to change, having open conversations and recognising the loss, to break the taboo, can provide much needed support.

People are turning to social forums, communities and feeds to find a safe place to ask questions about how to cope. To speak honestly about their emotions and fears, without feeling “weak”, “a failure” or worrying about others’ reactions. It’s also a place to share hope and inspiration with others.

Discussing miscarriage in the workplace is an awkward, stressful situation to navigate. The sensitive, personal nature of miscarriage feels jarring in the professional sphere, for all involved.

The research found that;

  • The social anxiety around talking about miscarriage is exacerbated in the professional sphere. Talking is difficult for those coming back to work, their colleagues and managers. We lack the language, norms, and etiquette for tackling it.

Taking time off to heal and process the loss is an anxious topic and major source of stress and fear of asking for the time to grieve. There’s confusion about entitlements, how long is ‘ok’, how to ask for time off, is it “sick leave”, “personal time”? But it’s clear this is critical for many, alongside a (mostly lacking) supported return to work.

  • Those going back to work worry about being treated differently by colleagues. They fear being pitied or gossiped about.  Or that talking about their experience or hearing happy baby news from others will trigger their emotions and tears.
  • But they also don’t want it to be an awkward taboo, an ‘elephant in the room’. They need to have their experience acknowledged, their loss recognised and legitimised. The situation is more complex if the pregnancy hasn’t been announced (pre-12 weeks).
  • For managers and colleagues. They don’t know whether they should talk about it. They don’t want to cause upset, don’t know what to say, or how. Those who are pregnant or have children can feel guilty and it can make it hard to announce future team baby news.

What is clear from the research is that deciding to talk about a miscarriage openly at work is a big decision, one that brings its own fear and risk. But one that can’t be ignored.

“People fear and feel uncertain about having the conversation at all, we see this reflected in the many questions on social about if and how to tell your boss. There’s often a feeling of uncertainty about how to start the conversation; they worry about breaking down during it, or the negative impact that might result. The ‘12-week rule’ exacerbates this. “ added Jeremy Hollow, founder of Listen + Learn Research.

“If we talk about taboo subjects openly, even if it’s raw and sometimes painful, then we can take the first step towards tackling them in an open and sensitive way in the workplace.” said Nicky Palamarczuk, founder of Back To Work After, an evening of inspirational talks that sees industry leaders talk about life-changing moments they’ve been through and how those moments have shaped who they are and how they work.

To start the conversation Back To Work After Miscarriage will take place 19th November 2019 at One Alfred Place, London, starting at 18.30. It will feature Katie Lee, CEO at Lucky Generals, Lucy Cutter, Activation Director at Kinetic, Jordan Berkowitz, Creative Business Partner at Google and Katy Lindemann, strategist and writer. All speakers will talk frankly about how they went Back To Work After Miscarriage. Tickets are available at Event Brite https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/back-to-work-after-miscarriage-tickets-77144185335 and all proceeds go to Tommy’s.

“We spend so much of our lives at work and it should be a safe place that we can lean in or out of during life-changing moments, depending on our personal needs. My Back To Work After Miscarriage event will feature four speakers who dealt with work and miscarriage in very different ways. One speaker had a miscarriage then went into a pitch meeting, another told everyone in the office.” said Nicky Palamarczuk.

There is clear anxiety for some to return ‘too soon’ with struggles and worsened mental/emotional health as a result. And a fear of taking longer off, with concern about career limitation and risk. Taking more time can trigger absence reviews, disciplinary, and even dismissal procedures.

Both Nicky and Jeremy are in agreement. We shouldn’t wait for a miscarriage to happen to people. We know it does and will and we should recognise it for what it is and we should find ways to enable easier conversations between those who are affected and their managers and colleagues.

If you would like to hear more about this work or other ways that social insight can help with challenging and sensitive research needs, please chat to Jeremy or find him here and here. To learn more about the event and how you can take part of get involved please follow Back to Work After.

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