9 Best Practices When Returning From Parental Leave
All new parents at Johnson & Johnson are eligible for a minimum of eight additional weeks of paid leave during the first year of a child’s birth or adoption. And while the ins and outs of returning to the workplace may be the last thing on your mind, it's a good idea to develop a game plan for your return. Here are nine tips to make that transition as smooth as possible.
Create a Logistical Plan—and Practice It
With a new addition to the family comes a new morning routine. So plan out your new process, and be sure to practice it a few times before returning to work so you know what to expect. A few trial runs, while the stakes are low, will give you the opportunity to make tweaks depending on what works and what doesn't. You should also write morning packing lists for you and your child. Adhering to regular wake-up and feeding times can make things easier, too.
Katie Molteni Muir, HR Leader, Quality & Compliance Enterprise Functions at Johnson & Johnson, said the abundance of mom-oriented amenities at Johnson & Johnson makes her logistical planning easier—no matter where her schedule takes her. "I sometimes travel between sites as part of my job," she said. "So I made good use of the nurture rooms at multiple Johnson & Johnson sites when I was pumping."
Keep Your Supervisor in the Loop
It's a good idea to connect with your supervisor before your first day back at work—after all, you probably have a lot to catch up on. Set up a casual chat so you can get status updates on everything from reorganizations to strategic priorities. By absorbing new information in smaller chunks, you'll avoid being overwhelmed and be able to hit the ground running when you're ready to return.
Stuart Todd, Senior Manager, Global Strategic Insight, explained that his manager took a proactive role from the outset. "Right off the bat, my manager was supportive," he said. "He took me through the end-to-end process."
Similarly, Mary Catherine Redfern, Senior Executive Search Principal Recruiter, Johnson & Johnson Corporate Services, said she kept an open dialogue with her manager throughout her maternity leave. "My manager encouraged me to take the time I needed to get acclimated back into the day-to-day workflow until I felt 100% ready to take back accountability of my team and clients," she said. "I felt totally supported—it was as if I was a new hire."
Make Time With Co-Workers
You should set aside 30- to 60-minute catch-ups with each of your team members and reports during your first week back. This will help you re-establish communication and interpersonal relationships, give you visibility into anything you missed and allow you to set expectations for the months to come.
You also might seek guidance from co-workers who have been through the experience. "The Yammer group of moms returning to work has been so helpful—it's been a great source of information," Katie said, referring to Johnson & Johnson's internal social media and chat platform. "Many colleagues who have gone through this transition have shared advice with me."
Bring Your Baby to Work
Co-workers might have already seen pictures of your baby in emails or on Instagram, but they probably can’t wait to meet the newest member of your family in person. And you don’t have to wait until parental leave is over to introduce everyone to the newest member of your family. Stopping by the office with your baby will not only lift your teammates' spirits, but also help them recognize your new reality.
Take Baby Steps
Rather than going from zero to 60 on your first day back, talk to your manager to see if you can ease into your transition. For starters, consider setting your start date for a Thursday, rather than a Monday, so you don’t shock your system with five consecutive days in the office right off the bat. And if your company has resources and policies in place to support work-life balance, be sure to take advantage of them.
For Katie, the resources available at Johnson & Johnson have made all the difference. "There are tons of resources to help you return to work," she said. "For me, the biggest benefit is having my daughter in the on-site day care at our New Brunswick campus. The teachers and the staff are all excellent, and if she's sick or I want to stop by, it's just a quick walk across the street."
Merge Your Work and Home Calendars
You may not love the idea of combining your work life and home life, but by merging your personal and professional calendars, you can easily determine when you need to move a meeting for a doctor's appointment or schedule childcare because of a presentation. Plus, if you’re breastfeeding, be sure to block out time for pumping or feeding.
At Johnson & Johnson, we make that a little bit easier—as Lauren Carson, HR Leader with Janssen Strategic Customer Group, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, recently found out. "I've benefited from Johnson & Johnson's breast milk shipping program when traveling for work," she said.
Remember to Communicate
Be clear (and don't equivocate) with your co-workers: If you're leaving work every day at 3 p.m. to pick up your child from daycare, communicate that clearly to everyone who needs to know. Hide that fact, and they might erroneously think you've suddenly become disengaged. The reality is, you've got additional responsibilities now—but even when those responsibilities take you out of the office, you're still hard at work and committed to your team's success.
For Amanda Ciocci, Manager, Candidate Experience, that hasn't been an issue at Johnson & Johnson. "People here are fully supportive of your time away and welcoming when you return," she said. "The team support after being away for four months has been great. Everyone recognized and respected the importance of that bonding time."
It pays to take care of important tasks early in your day, since you never know when you might have to head home early. Prioritizing and handling things this way will lower the likelihood that you leave behind a thousand loose ends. Be shrewd about the projects you take on in your first weeks back, and don’t be afraid to delegate or say no based on your availability.
In Amanda's experience, that kind of flexibility is essential for new mothers returning to work. "The ability to have a flexible work schedule is what has enabled me to continue working as a mom," she said.
Don’t Forget to Take Care of Yourself
It's always important to care for yourself physically as well as emotionally—and even more so when you're returning from parental leave. If you’re having trouble getting sleep, consider investing in a white-noise machine or asking your partner to take care of late-night wake-ups and feedings, especially in the beginning. Ups and downs will be inevitable. But make sure you’re being kind to yourself, so you can be kind to your child in turn.
Join Johnson & Johnson Today
At Johnson & Johnson, we're committed to supporting mothers and fathers across every stage of their journeys, and so we've got best-in-class parental leave programs, policies and resources in place to back them up.
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