4 Tips for a Smooth Maternity/Paternity Leave

Leanne Buehler, Ph.D., Managing Partner & VP of Consulting SolutionsEmployee Engagement, Experience-Driven Survey, LeadershipLeave a Comment

In our previous blog, Kyla Holcombe shared her experience of being on maternity leave. Her blog got me thinking – maternity leave is not just about the person going on leave. It also can affect one’s team, supervisor, customers etc. When you manage a team and one of your direct reports tells you she is going on maternity leave, it sparks a reaction. For me, it goes something like this (in this order):

1. Holy cow! Congratulations! I am genuinely so happy that you are going on this amazing journey of parenting.  What a blessing…

And then…

2. Oh. My. Goodness. How are we going to cover the work while you are out?

As Kyla’s supervisor, I reflected on what she did to make her time away go so smoothly. Here are a few tips I hope will help those planning to go on leave…

Give Your Supervisor Advanced Notice of Your Leave

Of course, the timing needs be right for the individual going on leave but providing your supervisor with as much notice as possible that you plan to be out is tremendously helpful in the planning process.  In some cases, it may be easiest to cover existing responsibilities within the existing team, but in others it may require hiring a temp or a new team member. Or maybe some projects can wait until the person returns. Knowing the timing for the leave early gives everyone the best chance of making sure coverage is in place.

Be Proactive About Covering Your Work

Kyla did a great job identifying the right people to help on her projects while she was out. Several months before her due date, she started a document of the status, key contacts, and next steps for all her projects. Because she was so organized and everything was so well-documented, the team was comfortable and prepared to step-in whenever baby decided to arrive.

As a supervisor this was incredibly re-assuring – the status of our projects evolves daily and we never want a client to feel like we missed a beat. Because Kyla had such an up-to-date and efficient way of ensuring everyone knew where things were at, it made it easy to celebrate her pregnancy and jump in when needed.

Let Key Contacts Know You Will Be Out

Another simple but extremely helpful thing Kyla did was to let all her customers know she would be on maternity leave and who would be caring for them while she was out. As her due date arrived, she started copying those who would be covering the project on emails so we were always up-to-speed on the latest conversation. I admit I didn’t read all the emails in detail, but it was very helpful to look back on them while she was on leave so I could be consistent with how she was leading the project.

Let the Team Know How You Are Doing

Everyone needs extra support from their work team at some point, and in my experience most people are more than happy to make space for a family to have quality time during critical milestones.  I have found this is even more true when you feel like you have a glimpse into how things are going… Kyla kept us in the loop by sharing an occasional picture of baby or a text of how things were going. This gave our team a special connection and appreciation for the experience she was having. Of course, every person and team is different in terms of the right level of sharing, so awareness for doing what is right based on the situation is important. (But we love those baby pics!)

It’s my honest belief that when workplaces support employees in living the life they want to live, they are more likely to be committed and bring their best effort every day.  This is true when it comes to maternity/paternity leave.  The more working parents and employers share their stories about how they are successful in doing so, the better.

What strategies have you seen work well to support those out on maternity/paternity leave?