Everyone remembers how their boss reacted when they told them they were expecting. And how their organization managed it. It can be either something you muddle through or an experience that builds relationships and makes a team stronger. How do you make sure it’s the latter? 
 
It’s a question more and more organizations are asking and it’s the core aim of my new book, ‘Working Parents-to-be’ – to help everyone involved recognise the challenges and to provide them with the tips and tools they need to feel more confident and equipped to overcome them. 

Before they go on leave 

Set the tone – an open approach from the start helps everyone, making it much easier to tackle challenges like understanding policies, sharing the news, arranging cover, planning when to start parental leave, and even discussing how long that leave might be 
 
Talk about contact – discussing what, if anything, you want to stay in touch on during parental leave, when it would be helpful to have these conversations and who should be on point means that once on leave, the boundaries are really clear for all involved 
 
Think ahead – to the conversations you can have now that will help make conversations later a lot easier, like ensuring you discuss performance and aspirations before leave starts to give you a benchmark and help avoid assumptions being made and talking about what kind of flexibility might be needed and starting to think about how you could make that work. It can also be helpful to think about KIT days and annual leave and how to make best use of these tools.In this blog, I want to share some of those tips from each of the key stages – before someone goes on leave, while they’re away, and on their return to work. 

While they're away 

Stay in touch – both in line with your contact plan but more than that to avoid anyone feeling left out of any key promotion discussions / team changes / social events etc. And perhaps most importantly when it comes to any changes to working pattern on their return, talk first – do the paperwork later. The outcome is much more likely to be a happy one. 
 
Co-create a return plan – very few people return after exactly 52 weeks to the same role on the same basis anymore. And the good news is, there are lots of tools that can help make re-joining the team a better experience for all – KIT days, ramping back up slowly, using up any excess accrued leave in a way that works for everyone, to name a few. This takes thought and planning – and most of all a joint effort to talk it through and come up with a plan. 
 
Think ahead – yes, again. This time though think about how to make the first day / week / month go really well. What might have changed, new people, new priorities and so on, what new needs to be accommodated (like breastfeeding), key dates to be aware of, and even simpler things like ensuring tech is set up. 

On their return to work 

Use this time wisely – prioritize re-connecting and take advantage of the benefits of fresh eyes (with experience). It’s also an important time to keep a close eye on workload and ensure opportunities for learning and development are not de-prioritized (especially for those on a new working pattern). And again, take a moment to have another conversation about aspirations, and the importance of maintaining a profile 
 
Keep talking – especially if there’s a new working arrangement in place. Give yourselves the opportunity to deal with small issues before they become bigger ones. Just because someone is coping well in week 1, it doesn’t always mean they will be in week 6. 
 
Consider the positives – becoming a working parent isn’t just about ‘time lost’ and playing catch up. It tends to develop and enhance skills which are very useful in the workplace and are not often given the credit they deserve – it’s personal but many working parents find themselves much better at time management (and so more productive, often on work hours with stricter boundaries), more empathetic to their colleagues and clients, and with a newfound perspective that enables them to be more effective in how they problem solve. 
This is of course, a whistle-stop tour. If you haven’t yet had a chance to watch the recent F2F conversation with Jane, you can hear me discuss the tips on the first stage in more detail as well as what inspired me to write the book. 
 
And if you’d like to buy a copy it launches on the 4th of June but is available for pre-order now – and you can take advantage of a special offer for friends of Trapeze and get 25% off and free P&P (UK only, £2.50 outside the UK) by using code ‘Trapeze25’ on www.practicalinspiration.com. Alternatively, you can find it on amazon (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Working-Parents-be-parental-return/dp/1788605993) and at all other good bookstores. 
 
If you’re a business looking to bulk buy and gift to employees becoming parents and their managers, get in touch with me (details below) or my publishers at info@practicalinspiration.com. We can even arrange for a personalized page inside the front with a message from you CPO / HRD / CEO at minimal extra cost. 
CATHERINE OLIVER is a Diversity and Inclusion Advisor who specializes in helping organizations from start-ups to the largest listed companies support working parents and their managers. She became a parent herself during her 20-year corporate career and, inspired by the experience, founded Sky’s parenting network. 
 
Please enter your email address in the box below if you’d like to hear more about upcoming webinars. 
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