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Being the highly organised person that I am, as I excitedly await the arrival of my first child, I also needed to prepare for my maternity leave. Finding the simple balance between work and personal life can be hard and difficult at the best of times, let alone throwing a baby and maternity leave into the mix. I know for me, I am settled in my role and feel like I’m achieving my goals, only now my goals are changing as I start to prepare for my new role, parenthood!
Like me, your initial thought may be “where to from here?”. Working out a plan of attack and being clear on your expectations, and that of your business, is important before starting, and then returning from maternity leave. This will allow you to transition out and back into the workplace without hiccups or headaches. We have enough to worry about with a new baby, right?
It’s never too early to plan your return from maternity leave. The more proactive and organised you can be, the better.
Here are some of my tips on how to manage preparing for maternity leave:
- Create a plan for transitioning your work over
Nine months sounds like a long time but in the world of work, it’s gone in the blink of an eye. Before you know it, you are in your final weeks of work with a project list as long as when you started.
I am lucky in that my work is being shared amongst my existing team, so I’ve had a long time to train and handover work. You might have only a few days or weeks. Whatever the situation, it pays to be organized. Make sure in the lead up to your leave date you are aware of your priorities and projects. What has to be done before you leave and what can you handover? I have been meeting weekly with my manager and team to review my projects and key tasks, which means we are all on top of the priorities. If like me you are a little bit of a control freak, handing over tasks can sometimes be a difficult concept to grasp. But we can’t do it all, so we have to identify what absolutely has to be completed by us, then transition the work over to the right team member, with enough detail, to allow the handover to become a smooth process for both parties.
- Don’t fall out of love with your job
I love my job. If you are like me, I have taken time to build strong relationships in my workplace and now I am leaving. Not forever, but for an extended period of time. What do we do to make sure we keep connected? Make sure your team members are aware of how and what you’d like to be communicated with while on leave. This might include being kept up to date with social functions, making the time to visit your team members during and out of office hours, and generally keeping in contact. Although it is tempting when you’re away from the office to not think about work and shut off, it is important for you to stay in touch and a general understanding of what is going on at work, to ensure a smoother transition back into your role when the time comes. Although you have worked there before, you don’t want to feel like you’re new again and having to rebuild the relationships that you had already established. I know that I will be invited to all social functions, bub and I will be welcome to drop into the office whenever we like and that I’ll keep up-to-date through our team group chats on messenger. The small things will allow you to still feel a part of the team.
- Research your options
Not all of us will want to return to our pre-baby hours. Having a supportive manager and team members makes flexibility in the workplace easier. Before your finish date, make sure you have discussed with your manager the options that suit both you and your role. You don’t need to agree on an option at this stage, just know what is available. You might like to consider the following options:
- changing your hours – reducing your hours, working your hours over less days, or even converting from full-time to part-time or casual;
- working from home – having the flexibility to work from home for part or all of your tasks; and/or
- job sharing – sharing your role with other team members to take the pressure off your return
When having these discussions, I’ve tried to focus on the best way for me to be able to fulfil my role, so that my manager knows that work is still a priority for me. I want her to know that I will have the support (partner, childcare, family, etc) to return, but I also want to make sure I understand how to handle unexpected situations like, what if my child is sick or has an appointment.
- Look after yourself
Every pregnancy and birth is different. Just like every baby is different. Whether it is your first like mine or your fifth (are you mad?!?), we need to understand that it doesn’t always go to plan. If things don’t go as you expect, it is important to keep communicating with your manager, and leave all options open. Make sure you look after your own wellbeing, as the lead up to going on leave can be stressful. We already have a little person inside zapping all our energy, we need to listen to our body and work in a way that doesn’t leave us exhausted or stressed.
Transitioning from employee to full time stay-at-home parent can be a difficult concept to get your head around. It will be easier to focus on the baby if you make sure all systems are in place and you’ve done all you can to make sure you are leaving your team members with the tools to continue as normal. There is no right or wrong, it is about finding what works for you and your employer. Good luck!
Taylah Driscoll joined the Inspire HQ team in early 2017 and she now is an Executive Assistant and manages the customer service experience while providing executive support to the team. Taylah has an extensive background in customer facing roles and understands and appreciates the importance of building lifelong relationships with Inspire HQ’s client and job seekers. She has a passion for helping people achieve their career aspirations. Find more useful information and advice at www.inspirehq.com.au