Q. There is always plenty of information about getting prepared to go out on maternity leave professionally, but how do I come back into a leadership role, act professionally, focus on work and not be watching the clock to see what time I can leave to see my new daughter? I am not a kid – I married and had a child late in life, and my role within the organization is senior. Is this a work question, or do I need a therapist?
A. Congratulations on your new daughter. Even senior executives need to focus on more than their work and your concerns about coming back to work show a level of professional concern, and planning, so be kind to yourself. I’ll assume you have arranged child care that you are happy and confident with and will focus on you at work.
Employees coming back from any kind of leave can ensure a smooth transition by getting brought up to speed prior to their first day back, and by making a plan for a successful first 90 days on an old job with a new life situation.
1. Clarify your role. There should be no complications between what your job was and what it is that you will return to.
2. Schedule calls, about a week before your return, with your manager and your senior most direct report to review the critical issues of the day. Outline your primary areas of responsibility and review the status of projects, financial issues, human resources situations and any other major activities that occurred while you were out.
3. Arrange your return date. Be good to yourself, and return mid week. The stress of a full week is something you can do without.
4. Be patient, with yourself and others. With more time demands on your schedule, you may find that your tolerance for less than the highest level of efficiency has increased. Most returning parents end their days earlier than before kids, and get online again at night.
5. Meet with your staff. Your family has changed, and your team will want to share in your joy. You want your team to know that expectations for performance haven’t changed. Reassure them of your accessibility and regain your confidence in their commitment.
6. Arrange another call. Make arrangement to speak with your child care professional during the day. To make sure you don’t hear a baby crying, decide who makes the call and when.
7. Repeat. As you begin to return to making professional contributions and recognize that your daughter is secure, you will begin the transition.
Most often, women find this transition takes quite some time, and balancing the demands of your career and a new baby is a significant life challenge – one which many women do successfully and often more than once.
Elaine Varelas, Managing Partner, Keystone Partners