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8th February 2018

Maternity Leave: It’s Doesn’t Have To Be A Leaders Nightmare

Attrition is one of the major costs that businesses face, and employees having children certainly plays its part in increasing this figure, however this doesn’t have to be the case.According to YouTube’s CEO, Susan Wojcicki,

“When (parent company) Google increased paid maternity leave, the rate at which new mothers quit dropped 50%.”

This put attrition in line with their normal level.

However, don’t be fooled to think the only way of enticing new parents back to work is with financial benefits.

There are plenty of ways in which you can remain important to a new mum without adding any cost on your bottom line.

So, here are my four ways to support women on their return to work after childbirth.

Start Before They Leave!

Your role as an understanding employer/colleague starts well before your mum-to-be leaves to have their baby.

Don’t discount them before they’ve gone!

This is a tricky one as you never really know when the baby is coming. Although it may make business-sense to take someone off a project that will continue into their maternity leave, this may not be sending the right message.

Many women start to feel worthless in their roles – feeling that their colleagues are treating them as if they have already left. Of course, there is the flip side to this; some women start to feel overwhelmed as they enter the end of their pregnancy and require extra support.

The important thing is to treat each person as an individual and to take the lead from them where possible.

Recognising our value and contribution is so important to us as humans, so it’s vital to ensure your people feel like they’ll be missed and that their job is secure when they leave for maternity.

Communicate, Keep In Touch and Team Build

Having a baby – whether it’s your first or fifth – is a major life event.

Likewise, your work is a major part of your life, so it makes perfect sense that one should be involved in the other!

As an employer or colleague, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open throughout this maternity time.

Take an interest, send a card and communicate!

At Inspire Me, the team is a close-knit community, so I had visits and gifts from every member of the team!

In fact, I had my boss and colleague with me the evening my child was taken into intensive care.

Now understandably, not all workplaces are like this, however that doesn’t mean engagement of this kind can’t translate to larger organisations.

Myself and my partner received cards and gifts from his colleagues and flowers from head office.

Although these gestures may seem small, they do wonders for engagement and morale!

On the flip side, I’ve got friends whose managers didn’t contact them in the twelve months they spent on maternity!

Understandably her relationship with the organisation has been irreversibly damaged.

An outcome which could have been avoided!

Remember, culture comes from the top down.

Should you be mobilising your team/middle management to take more of an interest in the people they lead? Well, yes! You can aid this by creating opportunities. and empowering them to take an active approach to look after wellbeing.

They can identify who needs support and when.

Teambuilds are a drop in the ocean, financially, and can go a long way in padding out work relationships.

This can be anything from a large-scale team building activity, led by a values-driven organisation, to just a catch up over a meal with your team.

Remember to be inclusive and invite your employees on maternity leave to these engagement activities and even strategy days.

It helps to keep them connected and will make the transition back into work smoother.

Make Your Leaders Coaches!

Are you a business leader? If so, ask yourself, ‘are your line managers coaches’?

Are you a line manager? Do you feel equipped to coach your people?

If the answer is no, then you’re missing a trick! Research for this blog, along with all my experience in business, points to the exact same thing.

If your people feel valued and understood, their productivity, engagement and loyalty will soar!!!

Pregnancy and maternity leave is just one of the many prevalent times in which this comes to light. So how can this be achieved? The answer is to look at your people’s personal development and invest in emotional intelligence training.

At Inspire Me, our emotional intelligence training has had some amazing results.

We have seen results including a 7% rise in sales in companies that have invested with us in the personal development of their people.

Consider It A Win-Win

Life for parents – particularly those with small children – becomes a series of phases.

As a leader, it’s important to accommodate this. The option of flexible working hours, working from home, and staggered starts, can quite literally be a game changer for returning parents. Don’t forget, this is a win-win.

Although at first glance, a colleague asking to use two days of their holiday allocation a week during their first month back at work, may feel like a cop out, the likelihood is they’re getting minimal sleep and wish to only be in work when they can perform at their best.

It’s a win-win!

If there is the option for them to work some of their time from home (meaning they have more options with childcare), make it happen.

By allowing someone to expand their comfort zones at their own pace will hugely ease their back-to-work transition!

This will enable them to be far more productive and you, as their colleague/employer, will reap the rewards!

Be Prepared For A Tough First Week

Before you welcome your colleague back, don’t forget to discuss their back-to-work circumstances.

Open the conversation on childcare, breast feeding and work-life balance. As an employer/leader, it’s important to be aware of the new stresses and strains that are on your returner and be prepared for a tough first week in which your new mum will be adjusting to a whole new life style.

Remember, for some parents, coming back to work will be their first time away from their baby.

If appropriate, you could suggest they keep their phone on them at all times and let them know they’re welcome to check up on their child as much as they wish.

If they’re still breastfeeding, you’ll need to provide a comfortable and private space for them to do so and a fridge for the milk to be stored in.

Whatever the decisions and circumstances of your returner, assure them that they’re valued and that you’ll do what you can to support their parenting choices.

Finally, your new mum will need some time to get back into the swing of things.

Be patient, be supportive, be accommodating. You will find this goes a long way!

The bottom line is that even with the best will in the world and the most attentive leaders, you may still lose a valued member of your team after maternity leave.

Don’t beat yourself up!

There are plenty of external factors at play that often make it unwise for a parent to give up full-time care of their child in those early years.

I, myself, have always loved work!

I was so excited about returning that I came back to Inspire Me a month early! Even with this kind of enthusiasm I still experienced a massive push/pull when it came to being apart from my baby!

This is why companies must go the extra mile to embrace and understand the diversities of their people!

And finally, if someone leaves for the right reasons, don’t be surprised if they apply for a position with you at a later date.

Thanks for reading!

Philippa Atkins | Inspire Me Team Member
Written by

Philippa Atkins

Relationship Manifestor & Creator of Joy

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