Preparing for Maternity Leave: 8 Tips to Ensure a Smooth Departure
Here are eight things you can do to ensure that your boss and co-workers are ready to delegate your responsibilities for the next few months.
Preparing for maternity leave can be a challenge. Not only are you getting ready to take care of a new bundle of joy, but you also have to tie up the loose ends in your office. After all, you don't want your co-workers to be overwhelmed after your departure.
"Consider having a meeting [or at least a conversation] with people who report to you, to let them know what to expect while you are away, and with people who you deliver to, so that you can plan ahead of time how to make your absence a smooth one," says Jennifer Martin, a business consultant and work-life balance expert in Ojai, California. "Don't forget to do the same with customers, clients and vendors you interact with," says Martin.
Here's a breakdown of eight things you should do to prepare for your maternity leave:
Six to Three Months Before Your Due Date
- Tell Your Boss
At this point, you will be past your first trimester and you'll likely have started to tell others of your pregnancy. It's important that you inform your boss as soon as possible so that she has more time to prepare an effective plan for either bringing in a temp or training some of your co-workers to take on your responsibilities. According to Martin, "Let them know how important it is to you that your work is handled professionally and in a timely manner while you are away." She also suggests that you "find out what your supervisor's primary concerns are about you taking time off."
- Find a Day Care
Though it might seem a little soon to start looking for child care for your newest family member, it's important that you do this early so that you won't need to scramble to make a plan at the last minute. By taking the time to find the perfect day care during this trimester, you can spend 100 percent of your maternity leave focused on your baby.
For more information, check out The Day Care Guide: Day Care Options.
Two Months Before Your Due Date
- Create a Timeline for Departure
Meet with your boss to create an outline of how and when different tasks will be accomplished. "See if you can collectively create an action plan so that things go as smoothly as possible during your leave," says Martin. "You can certainly improve the chances of a positive outcome when you have a plan for what will happen before, during and later, upon your return."
- Document Everything
Create thorough notes and guideline documents that outline the systems you use and all your daily tasks. This type of documentation will provide whoever is taking over for you for the next few months the information he needs to do your job with minimal guidance.
30 Days Before Your Due Date
- Train Co-Workers or Your Replacement
One of the most important things for you to do before your maternity leave is to train the people who are taking on your responsibilities. Be sure to give them the opportunity to try tasks on their own so that they'll feel confident in their abilities while you're out.
- Set Rules About Contacting You While You're at Home
Take the time to make a decision about who may reach out to you while you're on leave and what type of issue would be important enough to warrant that type of contact. If there are certain types of crucial meetings or events that you would like to still be involved in while you're on maternity leave, you should discuss how you could take part by phone, video conference or some other means of communication.
Right Before Your Maternity Leave
- Automate Everything
Make sure that you set up a clearly stated out-of-office response for your emails and business voicemail with the crucial information of whom to contact in your absence and when you will be back. If you need (or want) to access your work while you're away, you should make sure that you're familiar with your company's remote login process or cloud-based platform.
- Thank People for Their Help
It's your boss and co-workers who will pick up the slack while you're on leave, so it's important that you acknowledge their flexibility and show them some appreciation. According to Martin, you should be particularly "considerate of those who will be taking on more work while you are away, usually without extra pay or consideration. It will be the best thing you can do for everyone involved."
Do you have any other tips to share about preparing for maternity leave? Tell us in the comments below!
Want more tips? Read 11 Things to Do Before Maternity Leave.
Laura Richards is a Boston-based freelance writer and the mother of four boys, including a set of identical twins. She has written for numerous publications and is the president of On Point Communications. Her articles can be found on her blog, Modern Mothering.
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