8 Steps To Maternity Leave Success

8 Steps To Maternity Leave Success

Today marks the start of my maternity leave from work. At one stage it felt months and months away, and then in the blink of an eye the weeks flew by and I was finally waving goodbye to the office and the city. After already having experienced maternity leave once previously, I feel like I have the gift of hindsight and experience on my side and so have been feeling relatively relaxed about taking another extended period of time out of the office and my career again. Having learnt quite a few lessons the first time round about what worked well and what I would, and therefore have done differently, I thought I’d share my 8 steps to maternity success.

Keep Your Timelines Flexible

Legally your employer can’t ask you to confirm or even indicate how long you plan to take out on maternity. But in practice managers and even colleagues may end up asking you how long you plan to take out. It’s up to you whether or not you share your plans around how long you want to take maternity leave for, but if you do, try to leave it relatively open and flexible. So share the range of time you think you may possibly be out for rather than a specific amount of time, for example; 10-12 months. That way you give yourself some flexibility if things change, or if you change your mind part way through maternity leave and neither you or your employer will feel like you’re changing or moving the goalposts based on earlier conversations.

Decide How Much Contact You Do or Dont Want

It’s good practice for employers to follow the employees lead around how much contact they want whilst they are out on maternity leave. Some employers will have this written into their HR policies and maternity guidelines, whereas others may leave it down to individuals and their managers to agree. Either way, it’s useful both for yourself and your employer if you initiate and guide the conversation around how much or how little contact you’d like with your manager, your team and the organisation. Some people choose to have little to no contact until the three months before they have to indicate their intention to return to work, whereas others may choose to periodically check in with their manager and/or attend key team events or meetings. It’s really useful therefore to have a conversation around how much or how little you’d like to keep in touch so that you can set really clear boundaries before you leave.

Ask For Maternity Coaching

Lots of employers now offer maternity coaching for expectant parents, parents that are adopting and even dads taking shared parental leave. These sessions can be really useful, particularly the first time around when you may be feeling anxious about leaving the workplace for an extended period of time and are not sure what to expect. Maternity coaching can hugely vary in terms of what you may be offered depending on your organisation and whether they deliver this themselves or outsource to specialists, and what type of package they offer. For example, during my first maternity leave with a previous employer I was offered a couple of group maternity coaching sessions with other women from my organisation who were going on maternity leave at a similar time. This time round with my current employer I have had access to one on one coaching sessions which are tailored to my individual needs. Both are great and are definitely useful for helping you talk and think through how to manage your transition out and potentially back in to the organisation.

Have a Performance Conversation With Your Manager

One of the most important and best things you can do before you head off on maternity leave is to have a performance conversation with your manager. Depending on how structured performance management is in your organisation you may find that this naturally happens. But if it doesn’t, it is worth arranging to have one with your manager. Whilst it may be the last thing on your mind before you head out its worthwhile both for you and the organisation, to document what you have done and delivered during the portion of the year that you have worked. That way, when it comes to your return into the organisation it will serve as a useful reminder, particularly if during that time your manager has changed or a new opportunity has come up that you or your manager want to explore.

Connect With Your Key Stakeholders

Similar to the way that its important to have a conversation with your manager before you start maternity leave, its prudent to do the same with any key stakeholders that you have. If it is likely that you’ll return to your organisation after maternity leave, you want to make sure you position yourself for all eventualities. Organisations can change and move on very quickly. Departments can restructure, managers can leave, teams can change, and the world that you come back to could look very different to the one you left. With that in mind you want to make sure that you give yourself the best range of opportunities to consider on your return and this is where your stakeholders can come in very useful, particularly if they are influential. So it makes sense to have a conversation with them before you leave to remind them that you will be out of the business for a while but will be returning. What you want to achieve from this conversation is to make sure that they don’t forget you whilst your out, think of you if any opportunities come up and can be called on if you need other options to consider when you are getting ready to return.

Find A Work Buddy To Keep You in The Loop

Theres always one person in your team or organisation that you naturally click with, and soon you become unofficial designated tea or coffee break buddies. That person that you vent to or let off steam when you’re having a particularly stressful or busy day at work. The person that you could be, or are actually friends with outside of work. These are great people to keep in touch with whilst you’re out on maternity leave. Get their personal contact details before you leave if you don’t have them already and keep in touch with them with the occasional text here and there. They are your eyes and your ears whilst you’re out and can keep you up to date with anything significant that is going on in your team or organisation so that you are not caught by surprise when you return, and can give you a heads up on any opportunities that come up whilst you’re out that you might want to be aware of.

Arrange Coffees

One of the nicest things to do in preparation for heading out on maternity leave is to arrange to have tea or coffee with people who are in your team, or people who you have worked with and really enjoyed working with. It’s a nice way to connect with your more informal network before you leave. Again, you never know what changes are going to happen whilst you’re out and these are likely to be the people who will remember and recommend you if an opportunity comes up whilst you’re out or think of you if they move on.

Get Familiar With Keep In Touch (KIT) Days

As part of maternity leave you may be entitled to 10 paid Keep In Touch, or KIT days from your employer. These are optional and can be used at any time during your maternity leave, but it often makes sense to use these towards the end once SMP kicks in or stops to give your salary a nice little boost. You can use them however, whenever and for whatever you want, although its usually a good idea to agree upfront with your employer how you might want to use them. For example to join team away days or to meet with your manager and key stakeholders before you return to work, although its equally fine to use them throughout maternity leave if you want to keep in touch with your team throughout your maternity leave.

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33 Comments

    • June 4, 2016 / 12:22 am

      Thanks lovely! Another teacher made a similar comment this week. I probably should have said that this might vary depending on role/industry! Either way, I hope there are at least a couple of things in it that are helpful regardless of job πŸ™‚

  1. June 3, 2016 / 9:28 pm

    Also a teacher so not sure about the key stake-holder parts! Some good tips though πŸ™‚ I have had two maternity leaves and they went by so quickly! #BloggerClubUk

    • June 4, 2016 / 12:17 am

      True, these might vary for some types of organisations, but hopefully a few of these are helpful πŸ™‚ Trying not to think about how quickly the time might fly by having already had one maternitt leave under my belt!

  2. June 4, 2016 / 10:52 pm

    Sounds like things are quite different in your country than here, where we can’t be flexible and can only have a certain number of weeks leave heh.
    Great list though, it is good to keep in touch so when you’re ready to return you’re not completely like a new employee and lost on everything going on.
    #KCACOLS

    • June 7, 2016 / 11:06 am

      Its definitely much harder in the states! I cant imagine being limited to having the type of time off that you guys have over there. Hopefully that might change one day πŸ™‚

  3. June 5, 2016 / 1:28 am

    I’ve never heard of maternity coaching but it sounds like a great idea and I’m sure it’s very helpful. When I was off I kept in touch with friends from work and attended firm functions to stay in the loop. I didn’t end up going back to my old job but I think making the effort was still very worthwhile. Hope you have a wonderful maternity leave! #KCACOLS

    • June 7, 2016 / 11:07 am

      Its really is great. Its a relatively new thing here in the UK and I think its more likely the larger organisations that tend to offer it at the moment. It sounds like you did some great things to keep your finger on the pulse though! πŸ™‚

  4. June 5, 2016 / 9:57 am

    Oh such a great post with some really important tips. I think the temptation can be to fully immerse yourself in being at home with your baby but as you point out that won’t help you when you return. Some great ideas for what you should do before you leave and then when you are on leave. I especially like the idea of having a work buddy who keeps you in the loop. I think that is key! πŸ™‚ Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday
    Emma recently posted…Green People Sun Lotion ReviewMy Profile

    • June 7, 2016 / 11:10 am

      Thanks lovely. I think if you can still keep in touch with the organisation in some way, its quite useful, especially if you are very career driven. I have to admit, once I left the office on my first maternity I didnt really get back in touch much for the first 6 months at least but it actually worked out quite well. Its definitely about figuring out what balance you want to have on maternity leave and then going from there πŸ™‚

    • June 7, 2016 / 11:12 am

      Thanks lovely πŸ™‚ I’ll definitely be making the most of it second and probably last time round! KIT days are really useful if you can use them, particularly just for getting a little bit back into the swing of the commute and figuring out how the nursery/school runs will all work. Good luck witht he transition back, hope it all goes smoothly!

  5. June 5, 2016 / 4:11 pm

    Great tips – I’ve never heard of maternity coaching before. I think having it all written down about how generally ace you are before you leave is also a brilliant idea. #KCACOLS
    Sarah recently posted…Easy Peasy Pancake RecipeMy Profile

    • June 7, 2016 / 11:16 am

      I think its relatively new in the UK workplace. I’ve only really come across it in the last three/four years, but it really is great if you can get it. Especially the first time round. Writing a bit of a record of the things you did before you left is definitely a good way to remind yourself of all the things you did that you would have probably forgotten about by the following year!

  6. June 5, 2016 / 5:27 pm

    Great informative post. I went back part time on extended hours which worked for us. And revaluated after each additional kiddie πŸ˜‰ #KCACOLS

    • June 7, 2016 / 11:16 am

      Thanks lovely, glad you think so. I think its a great idea to revaluate after each child, something we’ll definitely be doing too!

  7. June 7, 2016 / 12:46 pm

    Great read! Lots of good advice. I would imagine keeping in touch would help. #DreamTeam

    • June 14, 2016 / 2:18 pm

      Thanks! KIT days can definitely be helpful, especially in the months leading up to your return to work..

  8. June 7, 2016 / 1:54 pm

    This is good advice, when it comes to my time again going off on maternity leave I will definitely put more boundaries in surrounding work just so that both myself and the workplace are better informed and know what to expect. This is a good guide for anyone seeking to place structure into their maternity leave #dreamteam
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    • June 14, 2016 / 2:17 pm

      Thanks lovely. I think it definitely helps to put very clear boundaries in place before you head off on maternity leave. I hope others find it useful too πŸ™‚

  9. June 7, 2016 / 9:03 pm

    Very concise post and full of useful info! I never used my kit days with my 2nd mat leave, oops. Thanks for sharing with us lovely #bestandworst
    Helen Gandy recently posted…I Want Botox……so what!My Profile

    • June 14, 2016 / 2:16 pm

      Thanks lovely, glad you think so. Hopefully its useful for other mums and dads out there too πŸ™‚

  10. June 7, 2016 / 11:56 pm

    Great tips! It must be quite daunting being away from the office for so long. Personally, I would prefer to be kept in the loop but I can understand why some people choose not to be
    Thanks for linking up to #BloggerClubUK πŸ™‚
    Debbie

    • June 14, 2016 / 2:14 pm

      Thanks! It can feel like such a long time out. I think if you plan to return and want to continue to climb the career ladder then it makes sense to keep in touch and in the loop, but its definitely not for everyone!

  11. June 8, 2016 / 10:54 pm

    Lots of great advice for how and what to do when. Its so daunting because it can seem like so much to think about, especially when “fuzzy mummy head’ kicks in and its hard to concentrate on too much other than baby. Its a great list you’ve put together.

    Mainy x

    #KCACOLS

    • June 14, 2016 / 2:08 pm

      Thanks lovely, glad you think so. It can be a little overwhelming or confusing, but hopefully this helps mums and dads navigate maternity leave better πŸ™‚

  12. June 9, 2016 / 4:43 pm

    Great post lovely, it can be so hard to figure all this stuff out and strike the right balance. Thanks for linking up to #TheList x

    • June 14, 2016 / 2:07 pm

      Thanks lovely! Hoping this will help some mums and maybe even dads out there planning to take maternity leave in the next few weeks or months..

  13. June 12, 2016 / 9:29 am

    Some great tips that will be really useful to anyone approaching maternity leave. I think I went into things quite blindly, and it was a case if if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Thank you for linking up to the #DreamTeam
    Annette, 3 Little Buttons recently posted…#DreamTeam Linky 6My Profile

    • June 14, 2016 / 1:58 pm

      Thanks, I hope readers find it useful! It can be a bit of a maze so hopefully these tips help. I definitely felt a lot more organised second time round following this approach πŸ™‚

  14. Agnieszka
    August 2, 2016 / 7:27 pm

    Great post Emily. I am in HR so coach and advise leaders on this kind of stuff however it tends to be much harder when it is you who is going on mat…! Very useful

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