Want to make a good impression on your manager and employer with a maternity leave plan, as you prepare to go out on maternity leave? Jewelyn Cosgrove, a brilliant mama from my May 2015 Mindful Return Course, explains why a maternity leave plan is a great idea for a mama-to-be, and how to craft one your employer will love.
(And get the Mindful Return Maternity Leave Template here!)
I’m a career-driven momma-to-be. Of course, when you have a career, one of the biggest stressors you encounter as you prepare for a new baby is planning your leave. I know experiences vary widely depending on where you work and the nature of the job. But hopefully sharing my plan with you will help you consider how best to develop yours.
By taking the Mindful Return Course, I focused a lot on handling mommy-hood. But at the back of my mind, I was concerned with how to manage my career along with my new role.
We’ve all heard the horror stories about how going on maternity leave can impact pay and advancement – I desperately didn’t want to “lose out.” As I listened to other mothers, I came to the conclusion that keeping my employer’s needs in mind before I left could make my leave more restful and less stressful. I wouldn’t be worried about my work, I knew my employer wouldn’t resent me because we had planned together how to manage my assignments, and it would be clear I take my work obligations seriously. A well-done maternity plan can achieve all of these things.
I crafted my own maternity leave plan for my employer. I tried to be thorough and opted for a more formal approach to lay out my priorities in a way that kept my company’s in mind. Your maternity leave has a significant impact on your supervisor, coworkers, and direct reports. The more you can prepare them for your departure, the more you remind them of their value. And the more seamless your transition will be because everyone is prepared.
A comprehensive maternity plan needs to keep three things in mind: (1) your responsibilities at the office, (2) how you want your leave to be handled, and (3) how you want your transition back to work to be managed.
These areas are all important for you to think about in advance, so you can help your employer plan for your absence in a way that makes you comfortable. Most importantly, it lays out expectations for your leave on both sides of the career equation, giving you the space you need to adapt to your new life and your employer the chance to manage your absence in a way that meets their needs.
Here’s How I Tackled My Own Maternity Leave Plan
(1) Before going on leave. I provided my employer with a list of projects I would complete in advance of my departure. I front-loaded these projects so that, for the most part, I could complete the vast majority before the baby arrived.
I also provided a list of my ongoing tasks that would need coverage in my absence. I have no direct reports. But if you do, you might take the liberty of recommending coverage of your duties to specific workers. If you’re like me and don’t have a direct report, just be sure your plan provides a complete list of your responsibilities so nothing is missed. Then you can let supervisors handle the details.
(2) Maternity Leave Itself. Next, I focused on my actual leave. It was important to me to plan precisely when I would check back in to get an update on projects before actually coming back.
I stated in my maternity leave plan that I would check in after week 10 (I plan to take 12 weeks) of leave to begin my preparation for getting back to work and that I would not be available for any work-related correspondence in advance of that date. Laying out a plan for when you will check in manages expectations for your employer, but it also gives you a target to come out of your mommy-daze. For me, it provided a timeline to focus on my new baby and know when I would get back to my career.
(3) Returning from Leave. Finally, I made my pitch for my return, both in the transition back to work, as well as long-term. My office allows for teleworking. So I utilized existing policy to request that my transition back into work include a few days of telework to reacquaint myself and catch up on projects with fewer potential interruptions. I also requested ongoing telework accommodations so my husband (who also teleworks a few days a week) and I could manage daycare drop-offs and pick-ups without also timing those with a long commute.
Ultimately, if you have the inclination to ask for flexible hours, teleworking, or a compressed schedule – you have to actually ask for it! Most work places are beginning to think more creatively about satisfying the needs of good employees who just happen to be parents – don’t miss out on a chance to provide value even through this huge life change.
Throughout my plan, I kept in mind my employer’s needs. I didn’t over-ask, and I addressed obligations directly throughout. When I presented it, I was open to discussing the details – particularly around coverage of my responsibilities and any adjustments to the schedule that may be necessary.
Much to my surprise, my employer LOVED my plan. My boss immediately signed off. And my HR director raved about how holistic the approach was. I credit the fact I made my leave turn-key for them for its easy acceptance. I knew my office culture and had a pretty good sense of what I could ask for without going overboard. Showing my respect for the corporate culture, utilizing existing policies to their maximum benefit for myself, and making sure they knew they, as an employer, were being respected and considered within my plan… well, it worked to my advantage!
Jewelyn Cosgrove is a soon-to-be mom and can’t wait to meet her little one in September 2015. After settling in to mommy-hood, she plans to return to her role as Associate Director of Federal Government Affairs for a national trade association in Washington, DC.
Want more practical tips on working parenthood? Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave.