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Sensitive workplace can boost women's comfort

Olympia Shilpa Gerald
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Hygienic toilets with uninterrupted power is needed

When Padma, a telephone operator, looks back on her pregnancy, it is her company's supportive role that she can recall promptly. Be it granting permission for monthly check-ups, allocating an exclusive space for breastfeeding her infant or identifying a room for her to lie down during spells of dizziness, the organisation had made suitable modifications in the workplace to enhance her comfort. “Such sensitivity from the organisation has only spurred me to increase my productivity and improve my performance, so much so that any extra effort from my side is done cheerfully,” she notes.

International Women's Day is a premise for celebrations in workplaces that have a substantial women populace. But if the spirit of the day is to be embodied over the year, introducing suitable modifications in the working environment that are inclusive of women's needs would be the answer to improving health of women employees.

Sanitation is a primary issue for many working women with a dire need for separate toilets that are hygienic, clean, have adequate lighting, ventilation and uninterrupted water supply. “Many women and girls shy away from using toilets at organisations and institutions citing lack of hygiene. This does not brood well as women are more vulnerable to urinary tract infections,” says Deepa Mukhundan, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, ABC Hospital.

Colleges and workplaces are just beginning to take the initiative to set up vending machines and incinerators to make availability and disposal of sanitary napkins easy for women. An in-house medical centre or proximate access to a doctor or nurse can provide a panacea for women-related complaints.

Ergonomic furniture with back support can minimise orthopaedic complaints like spondylitis and back pain. Women confined to desk jobs are vulnerable to turn obese and suffer from related lifestyle complaints like hypertension and diabetes.

With working women unable to spare time for physical activity, a recreational area to workout , play a game or indulge in any form of physical activity for 15 minutes can provide beneficial in the long run, suggest medicos.

“Workplaces need to address post-partum depression as the time after pregnancy is the most stressful for a woman juggling childcare, domestic duties and work,” says Dr.Deepa. “Many women are compelled to quit their jobs as they are unable to care for children in the absence of facilities at workplaces.” A childcare unit with a caretaker on the premises where mothers can leave their infants can reduce mental stress for mothers. Even allocating a space for mothers to breastfeed infants can mutually benefit mother and child.

With most women reserving the three to six month maternity leave period for postnatal care, pregnancy is the time when sensitive workplace policies can come to the fore. Flexible working hours, permission for monthly medical check-ups, a place to retire during spells of illness can go a long way in making the nine month period comfortable.

Sensitivity on part of employers and colleagues to relieve women to satisfy hunger pangs or visit the restroom, both frequent during pregnancy, can also help.

Regular healthcare check-ups, screening for cervical and breast cancer and awareness programmes are also necessary.

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