When an employee returns from maternity leave, there is usually some sense of relief from their manager. The employee is back, responsibilities that they have delegated can now be returned, and work can proceed like normal.
However, for the returning employee, this can be a difficult time. They’re tired, stressed, and getting very little sleep. They may not like the way they look, and they probably haven’t worn “real” clothes in weeks. If they’re like me, they spent the first day drive to work crying, feeling guilty, and already missing their baby. But now, they’re expected to walk in the door and get back to work.
So how can you, as their manager, help with this transition and retain them as an employee?
4 Tips to Retain Employees After Maternity Leave
- Be understanding. Yes, they may be happy to return to a job that they (hopefully) enjoy, get into a routine, actually sit down, and start having adult conversations again, but now they’re away from their newborn baby for 8+ hours at once. For me, that was the longest amount of time that I had been away from my baby and I was all of a sudden expected to do it for five out of seven days a week.Understand that it may take the individual a bit of time to get back into their normal routine, but trust that they will. They may need to take time out of their day to use the wellness room, or step away to make a phone call.
- Be flexible. There are going to be times that they may need to leave work early, or unexpectedly. No one really prepares you for how often your baby might get sick, come down with a fever, or needs to leave daycare. And then there are the “24 hour rules” where your baby can’t even return to daycare until they’re 24 hours fever/symptom free!
- Don’t overwhelm them with meetings and updates. Yes, they’ve probably missed a lot; they’ve been out several weeks! But you can’t expect to get them up to speed on everything in one day. This will take some time. Prioritize what’s most urgent or important and update on those things first. Some things can wait, so give them time.
- Check on them. Even for those 2nd time, 3rd time, 4th time moms… Everyone assumes it gets easier each time. That’s not necessarily true.
I remember my first day returning to work after having my daughter. I was scared. I literally felt like I was leaving my baby with strangers. Sure I had met the teachers at the daycare, but I didn’t really know them. After I had my son, I thought my second time returning would be easier. It wasn’t; it was just as hard. This time I knew the teachers and I trusted them, but now I also knew everything that I would be missing working 40+ hours per week, and that made me really sad.
I vividly remember my first day back after having each of my kids. The first time, January 5, 2015, my manager and nearly all of my coworkers checked in with me throughout the day. They wanted to see how things were going and make sure I was ok. My boss even encouraged me to leave a little early to go pick up my daughter from daycare. The second time, October 17, 2016, two people did. I remember exactly who they were and how much that meant to me.
Now don’t get me wrong; don’t take it too easy on them. They are still expected to get their job done and perform. And I’m not saying all of these tips will make returning to work easy for your employee, but they will help. They will let the employee know that they have a manager who cares about them, not just the work they produce.
Kiley Clausen joined Celebrity Staff in June 2011. Since then she has held various positions ranging from a staffing assistant and recruiter to operations assistant. She has been the Celebrity Staff Operations Manager since 2014 and oversees the day to day operations of our Omaha, Lincoln, Des Moines, and Kansas City offices. She manages a team of several individuals who are pivotal to the organization. She enjoys being a part of the staffing industry and finds that no two days are the same. Outside of work she loves spending time with her family, including husband Justin and two kids, Harper and Hayden.