How to optimize the transition back to work after parental leave
While company’s parental leave policies differ, people’s experience transitioning back to work is often similar. Many offices can change significantly from month to month. In addition to workplaces changes, a new carer’s personal life also changes dramatically during their time on leave.
Recognizing that carers need support before, during and after carer leave, companies are offering support options throughout the process. Coaching programs, flexible returns to work and involving team members are three ways companies can ease the transition after parental leave.
Coaches Help Guide Carers
Diane Thrasher, Director of Total Rewards at OnDeck says they are exploring a coaching program for parents returning to work. Coaches walk parents through the process ahead of time, and help them define what’s important when they return to work. OnDeck recently expanded their parental leave and added an adoption reimbursement program. Now they want to ensure that they are providing the necessary support for both the parents and managers who take advantage of these programs.
In addition to a formal coaching program, some companies, like Spotify, are creating an internal buddy system for parents who are back from leave. Isa Notermans, Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Spotify says, “We know that returning parents are not new employees, but they almost feel like a new employee again. People can get caught up on the company objectives, team progress, who's been hired and visions or goals that have changed. Having a point person or a buddy helps people assimilate back into a way of life that is sustainable for them and not so daunting.”
Let Returning Parents Design Their Schedule
At Spotify, parents receive six months of leave, and a seventh month in which they design their own work. Notermans says, “You decide in accordance with your manager the requirements of your role. It can be working from home, it can be part time, it can be flexible schedule. It's not so jarring that you go from one lifestyle to another in a day. We know that there can be a lot of stress that comes with this experience. We want people to ease back into it.”
ustwo offers flexible working for everyone, so it’s something new parents are accustomed to managing. Katja Wessling, Director of Culture & Development at ustwo says, “When it’s time for a person to take parental leave, they would state their needs as everybody does for a project. It's not necessarily an anomaly that somebody needs to go to yoga at five or has a dog that they have to walk in the middle of the day or have kids that they need to pick up. That's something that's very flexible and decided in the team.”
Involve the Team in People Returning to Work
In addition to individual coaching and scheduling, involving team members and managers is an important part of helping parents return to work. Allyson Downey, CEO and founder of weeSpring, surveyed two thousand women for her book on career advancement during pregnancy and parenthood. Her research revealed that 70 to 75% of women were worried to tell their manager they were expecting a baby. Colleagues are often the ones who end up shouldering the burden of work when a parent leaves.
It’s important to ensure that the transition of work before and after leave involves relevant people. Making this time a period of growth for the person taking on new work is a way to ease the transition from an employee perspective. When carers do return from leave, it’s important for team members to be mindful of the adjustments they’re going through.