Welcome women back from maternity leave

[Please note that in this blog post I have referred to maternity leave and used the female prepositions for ease of editing.  I acknowledge that many men take parental leave and face the same challenges; however the vast majority of those returning from parental leave are women, so if you are a man reading this, please don’t be offended]

Some women dread returning to paid work; others can’t wait to get their corporate clothes on again and revel in adult company.  Either way there is always some anxiety about leaving the baby and returning to the workforce.

Ideally your employee will have given plenty of notice of the intended return date and you are ready to welcome them back.  Here are some ways of making the transition back to the office smooth:

Communicate well before the start dateparental leav

Don’t just have an email exchange about the date.  Make sure your employee knows about any changes to the workplace or management that have occurred in her absence – ideally you should have been in regular contact over the period of leave anyway, but if there has been a change in senior management or in the team, make sure she knows.

Welcome them

There is nothing more demoralising than returning to work and to have no one make even a token acknowledgement of the fact that you have been away.  Arrange to have someone meet the employee and bring them to the workgroup.  Make a small fuss – have a cake for morning tea on the first day back for example.

Clean and clear their office/desk space

How demoralising to return to work and find that your office or desk has been used by someone else and is full of random pens, paperclips and not even clean.  Make sure someone takes responsibility to have the space clean and clear so that the first thing they have to do is not getting a rubbish bin and the Spray and Wipe from the kitchen.  Small things matter. Even a new pack of stationery is a good idea.

Organise training

If there have been changes in procedure or systems in their absence, organise training as soon as practicable.  It can be embarrassing to have to ask questions or feel ignorant if you don’t know how to do something.

Show empathy

Be patient and empathetic to the returning worker – regardless of the length of time they’ve been away or their enthusiasm levels to returning to work, it is a different environment, and can also be draining – particularly if the baby is not yet sleeping through the night, or not settling into the childcare arrangement.  These things will change, of course, so don’t assume your co-worker will always be distracted or tired – give them some time to settle in themselves.

What are your experiences in returning from maternity leave?