So you’ve got a maternity returner during Covid-19. What do you as a Manager need to do to help their transition back to work?
1. Instigate a conversation with Dads too
‘Hang on, I thought this piece was about women returning from maternity?’ It is. But whilst I have your attention I want to make the point that we need to be having these conversations with men as well as women. When a father returns from paternity leave, even if it’s the standard 2 weeks leave, asking how they are getting on, discussing their working patterns, establishing boundaries is essential. After a few months their partner may be returning to work, so both parents will need to work as a team. If we truly want equality at work and home – we need to encourage Dads to feel its okay to ask for more flexibility.
2. Prepare for their return
A few weeks before their return date, check in with the individual to see how they’re feeling about their return. Get in touch with IT and ensure they have the equipment, passwords and access they need to work from home.
There’s going to be a lot to get up to speed with. Knowing where you need to focus can be challenging when you ‘don’t know what you don’t know’. Arrange a few meetings with key people for their first few weeks so that they can get up to speed with developments.
4. Find out their home situation
Discuss the reality of their situation right now. Are they home alone with a baby and potentially other children? Is their partner working inside or outside of the home? This is not a usual working from home scenario so don’t pretend it is. Children, especially small ones need their parents attention. Discuss how this is going to work for them and you whilst creches and schools remain closed.
5. Create realistic goals
Create goals that reflect their home situation. How many hours can they work across a week? What working pattern are they able to do? For example, are they front loading or back loading their day? Are they spreading their work over more days? Using a prioritisation matrix e.g. the Eisenhower Matrix can help you both agree upfront what work they should be focusing on
Using this framework helps ease anxiety as its very clear what needs to be prioritised. This can be reviewed on a weekly or monthly basis.
6. Agree boundaries
Discuss working hours and establish when they will be online. Encourage them (and the rest of the team) to manage their boundaries and to have clear ‘switch off’ time. Try to role model that as a manager too. Looking after your mental health and wellbeing is key to avoiding burnout.
7. Encourage them to connect
Coming back to work without the physical support of your colleagues can feel very isolating and lonely. Encourage individuals to connect with colleagues over virtual coffees. Consider linking them up with a ‘buddy’ – someone who has returned to work before and can help reassure and guide them.
8. Avoid assumptions
Don’t assume what the individual will or won’t be able to do, or what they do or don’t want. Ask questions. Take time to understand their situation and what their aspirations are. Even if this isn’t their first maternity leave – don’t assume they’re going to be fine. Every time is different.
9. Boost confidence
Confidence is often lower when returning from extended leave. Look for opportunities to give positive feedback and cheer them on.
10. Regular check ins
Coming back to work after any type of extended leave can be a rollercoaster of ups and downs. Keep up regular 1:1s and make sure that there is time to discuss how they’re getting on as well as work-related topics. Encourage everyone to use their cameras so you can tune in to how the individual is really getting on.
At Mumager we run regular workshops for women returning to work from maternity leave. We also run workshops for new dads, parents and line managers. All of these can be delivered virtually – so do get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.