Making maternity leave seamless

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Returning to the office after months of maternity leave can seem like a daunting task and prepping for the leave can be stressful.

How will things go on without you in the office? Will a coworker take over your tasks or will the tasks accumulate waiting for you to return? How do you prepare your colleagues that depend on you for your absence?

The Network chatted with Baton Rouge Area Chamber Senior Vice President of Marketing Kelly Bienn, who had a baby last year, for tips on how to take a seamless maternity leave.

Start communicating early. 

Bienn says to start talking with bosses and colleagues early on as you prepare for your leave. As to who to break the news to first, Harvard Business Review suggests telling your boss first before sharing the news with your colleagues. That’s not news they’ll want to hear secondhand.

Make a plan. Or maybe several. 

To help stay organized for her leave of absence from BRAC last year, Bienn made an overview plan for her maternity leave and a “sprint plan” for herself. The leave plan was an organized document that broke down her responsibilities and job duties to dial her colleagues into her work life. It has notes on who was taking on the responsibility of a task, how to get it done and who could help. She topped the plan with “leave logistics,” a timetable that listed when she would start working from home, her due date and when she was returning.

The plan lists recurring meetings she normally attends and projects that are on her plate, with timetables for each one so that her colleagues were dialed into her work life.

The sprint plan is a checklist. Bienn crafted hers for her last two weeks at the office. It lists tasks that need to be done each week before she goes on leave.

Plan check ins. 

To help get back in the loop for returning to the office, Bienn planned for staff to begin checking in with her each week two weeks before she returned to work.

Also, when prepping to go on her maternity leave, a senior member of the team began attending her regular work meetings about a month out to familiarize himself with the “knitty gritty” and the projects she was overseeing so that he could advise staff members when she was gone.

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