Well, I'm back in the office this week after a busy but wonderful maternity leave. I was quite excited to get back at it. As all parents who have taken a parental leave know, coming into the office is often a welcomed break from the chaos of little ones at home.
Practicing law certainly has its stressful moments, but those nutty emotional breakdowns because my two year old wants to wear her flip flops instead of her running shoes (because they match her hair clip better) or because either kid (again) refuses the nutritious love-filled meal that I so carefully made for them can be a little much sometimes.
Like all employees coming back from a leave, I was curious how things would go this first week. I have kept touch with my colleagues and kept up with the law over the last 10 months, but it is nonetheless like walking into a new stage of the job.
Based on my positive experience this past week, here are a few tips for employers to help the transition of employees re-entering the workplace after a leave:
- Make a point of having a senior person (HR, supervisor, etc) stop by to welcome the employee back. No matter how senior or secure the employee is, there is always that lingering worry whether there is still a place for them in the office. One 5 minute visit from the boss can eliminate the air of uncertainty and help everyone hit the ground running.
- If it was a paternity leave, ask about their kids. It was their 24-hour a day job for a period of time, so it is likely something on their mind for the first couple of days. It's important to acknowledge this exciting addition to their life.
- Ensure the employee has the tools to do their job. The IT manager contacted me last week before I started to make sure I was ready to go. It was a great gesture and on Monday, I was able to hit the ground running with my computer, phone system, etc.
- If there were any significant changes in the office, have someone update the employee. In my case, my firm underwent some significant renovations and it was great to have a colleague tour me around so that I could find everyone again.
More than anything, take off the kid gloves - this employee may be missing her or his kids, may still be a little sleep deprived from middle of the night feedings, but they have weathered the challenges and tough hours of childbirth and the long days of taking care of a new human being. The required multi-tasking and non-stop schedule at home usually makes people more focused when they return to work. Breaks and lunches get shorter so that we can get the work done to get home to our kids. Employees are fundamentally the same person that they were beforehand. If you gave your employee tough assignments and big responsibilities before the leave, then continue to do so now.
Aside from the obvious human rights concerns should an employer do otherwise, employers should assume the employee is ready to go, is more capable then ever and has simply been enriched by their new life experiences during the leave.