Welcoming a new addition to the family is a joyful—albeit challenging—time for parents. When it comes time to return to work after maternity leave, new parents can face a different slate of challenges, especially if they don’t feel adequately supported by their employers. Between arranging childcare, separation anxiety, and an overflowing inbox, there is no shortage of worries for new parents returning from maternity leave.
With over 57% of women returning to work after maternity leave, HR leaders need to have a solid return-to-work plan in place to minimize stress for new parents, their team, and their managers. Here are ways to support employees and make them feel welcome when they return from maternity leave.
Have a maternity leave transition plan
Think of your maternity leave transition plan as a toolkit that establishes and outlines everything that needs to happen before, during, and after maternity leave. Your toolkit could include the following:
- Have a written plan: Having everything in writing makes it more accessible and easy to understand. Your plan can highlight new parent resources included in your benefits package and provide a thorough transition outline. Try and think through different scenarios, like if an employee has to extend their leave, so all bases are covered.
- Include a communication plan: Maintaining open communication during maternity leave could be a great way to make employees feel valued and appreciated while respecting their boundaries. It also guarantees that employees know any essential company news like promotions, performance reviews, and salary changes. Before leave starts, discuss the how, when, and why of communicating while they are out.
- Schedule some “keep in touch” days: Maternity leave doesn’t mean going completely no contact. Many managers opt to schedule regular check-ins while the employee is out. Just be sure the sessions are productive, the employee is comfortable with the frequency of communication, and you don’t take up too much of their time.
- Set a return-to-work meeting: A return-to-work meeting is often the first face-to-face meeting after an employee returns from maternity leave, when you put a transition plan in action. Some topics that might come up include project and team priorities, explanation of benefits, expectations, and what the next 30, 60, and 90 days might look like.
The first few days after returning to work are critical for the company and employees, so don’t leave anything to chance. Having an in-depth, well-thought-out maternity leave transition plan is a must.
Welcome messages for employees returning from maternity leave
Sometimes even the best maternity leave transition plans can be poorly executed if the returning employee doesn’t feel warmly received back to the office. Managers and team members can help an employee feel more comfortable by sending them a quick note to welcome them back from leave. Sharing a few templates or samples with the team prior to the employee’s return can make the outreach even easier.
Sample message from managers to welcome their employees back
Subject: Welcome back, Mary!
Welcome back! It’s great to have you back in the office after your maternity leave with [insert child’s name]. [Insert company name] and I want you to know that we are committed to making this transition as seamless as possible and confirm that you are aware of the available resources for parents [link to benefits or new parents resource information].
Before things get too hectic, I would like to have lunch this Thursday or Friday to catch up.
Let me know what day works best for you!
Sample message from colleagues to welcome their coworkers back
Subject: Welcome back, Mary!
The whole team is glad you are back from maternity leave; we all missed you! I am excited to hear more about [insert child’s name] and catch up. I know this can be a tough transition, so if you need any support, please do not hesitate to reach out.
Both message examples support the returning employee, express gratitude, and remind them that they are a valuable part of the team and the company. Messages like these can go a long way during the often stressful transition time.
Other potential ways to soften the impact of returning to work
Growing your family comes with a whirlwind of emotions. Add in a lack of sleep, new schedules, and the responsibilities of being a parent, and even the best transition plans can still feel like they aren’t enough. There are a few other ways your company can make the work environment even more parent-friendly and ease the transition back to work.
Flexible work schedules
A survey of the Best Workplaces for Parents found that employees listed flexible work schedules as a must-have. Supporting new parents with flexible work could look like:
- Setting up a staggered work schedule
- Offering a four-day workweek so employees can better work around their new childcare responsibilities
- Allowing new parents to work part-time after maternity leave as they adjust to balancing parenthood and work
New parents take this delicate topic very seriously, and not getting it right can lead to a negative experience. In a recent survey, nearly 54% of respondents said their workplace did not have a private and easily accessible pumping and lactation or mothers’ room. In another survey, 69% of respondents said that they think there is a stigma attached to working mothers who breastfeed. To support new parents, having a dedicated, thorough office lactation policy is a must. Breastfeeding parents need:
- A clearly marked, easily accessible lactation room
- Dedicated refrigerator space
- Time allotted for pumping
- Off-camera meetings for remote employees who are nursing
Make sure your company clearly communicates the resources new parents can expect, and be receptive to feedback in order to ensure everyone gets the support they need for their unique journey.
Virtual resources for new parents
Raising a child comes with its own set of challenges, and working parents likely need more support than they’re getting. Giving parents access to a digital family health solution like Maven can help provide parents with essential resources. Through Maven, employees have 24/7/365 access to a wide range of healthcare experts, from lactation consultants to mental health specialists to pediatricians, who can support them through the joys and challenges of new parenthood.
Learn how Maven Clinic helps you support employees returning from maternity leave
Maven is the world’s largest virtual clinic for women’s and family health, with resources and programs for new parents’ physical and emotional needs. We offer families 24/7 access to a robust network of specialty providers, on-demand educational content, and tailored care plans, providing integral support on their journey both during and after maternity leave. Schedule a demo today to see how Maven can support your employees as they navigate their family journeys.
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