I’m 30 weeks pregnant, which means its countdown time! Not just until the baby comes, but more urgently, countdown until I have to leave the job and cross my fingers that the maternity leave planning actually worked.
How do you plan for maternity leave?
#1, you have to inventory what you do and who you do it for, and get past the shock value of how freaking long that list is.
#2, you have to say who is going to have to pick up the slack, and get past the guilt of abandoning coworkers to scrounge up extra time and energy to fill in your gap.
#3, you prepare your clients well in advance to let them know that a plan is in place, and get past the hand-wringing that will undoubtedly come with stress and worry and imagining all the things that could go wrong.
* * * * *
I work at a small firm, which means: (a) there aren’t a whole lot of bodies to pick up the slack, and (b) our margins are smaller, meaning we can’t just go out and hire a bunch of FTEs or temps to do the gap-filling (like you can do a hire-a-veep for 3 months anyway).
I need to come up with The Plan. I’ve never done this before. What is The Plan supposed to look like? Well, having been on the other end of people going out on parental leave with poor planning, I know what I don’t want.
- I don’t want to leave people without the background knowledge and materials to do the work well, and I don’t want to leave them without resources to find help or answers when they come across something they don’t know.
- I don’t want clients to feel like there’s a vacuum of knowledge or personnel support once I leave.
- I don’t want junior people to feel like they’ll be taking a step back in professional development once I get back, after they’ve stepped up and gained great experience by filling in for me.
So The Plan needs to address:
- Carving out sufficient time to train others and collect materials and resources for them, and communicating the professional development opportunities available to junior staff through this process. (But adequate support and advisors have to be there for that to be successful.)
- Presenting clients with the new project teams and doing calls and work together over the next two months to get clients comfortable and giving them a level of confidence that others at the firm can do the work reliably. (Ahhhh, but that last word is the key, isn’t it?)
- Having a vision for what project teams and roles/responsibilities will be when I return. (What I call “the black box” since I have no idea what that vision is.)
And TA-DA!! A successful maternity leave plan. P’shaw, piece of cake!