The return to work is a tough transition for many parents. At 12 weeks, infants and their parents are still figuring out their new normal – especially feeding and sleeping. Supporting parents and their little infant to transition smoothly back to work doesn’t have to be a minefield. Here are some simple tips to support your employee.
Allow your employee to have a stair-stepped return
A stair-stepped return allows your employee to tactically take back the reigns in the office. Be strategic about what work your employee can take charge of when they first return on a reduced schedule – it could be something they love to do, something they excel at, or something that lets them balance parenthood and work. Are there work responsibilities that can be managed working from home, or during hours that are outside the normal 9-5. Collaborate with your returning parent – this needs to be a joint decision so discuss what would work for them and their family.
Define the deliverables
Be clear on what your returning parent’s deliverables are. Make sure you are both aligned on the outcomes that should be achieved during the stair-step return. Have your employee focus on achieving these outcomes, rather than worrying about working a traditional 9-5 workday. We know it is easier said than done but encouraging parents to take the opportunity to work when it works best for them (during naps, before kiddos wake up or after they’re in bed), will pay off in the long run. Remember to just stay focused on those deliverables you both discussed.
Foster honesty in your team
There may be times when your parent has to nurse or feed during a virtual team meeting. Encourage them to be honest with the team, and share that they have a new baby and they may hear him. It is not uncommon for TiLT to have a little team member join our calls and most people totally get it! In fact, it can be super empowering and highlights your organization as a people-first organization.
We can’t say it enough…communicate, communicate, communicate. Communication between you and your returning parent is key to a successful return. Check-in a lot! Talk about what’s working and what is not. TiLT encourages managers to check in weekly for the first 4 weeks and then at least monthly for the first 3 months. This helps you both be proactive; you don’t want things to simmer or get to a boiling point if it is clear that it is not working early on or things need to be adjusted. Ask your employee to be honest with you – what’s working or not working for them and what’s working and not working for you and/ or the team. This allows you to both be heard and work together to create a win-win solution. Assumptions are extremely dangerous and most often breed ill will. Overcommuncation will dramatically lessen the risk of assumptions, negativity, disengagement, and potential resignations.