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5 smart questions to ask before taking maternity leave

You did it! You’re in the home stretch of your pregnancy and can finally imagine a time when your baby will be in your arms and out of your belly!

Before you head into total nesting mode (and hopefully a long maternity leave), there are a few key considerations to remember so that you can be confident both your job and your reputation will be safe in your absence:

1. Have I made a maternity leave checklist?

Before you even discuss time off with your supervisor, it might be helpful to chat with others who have taken leave to learn about their experiences and challenges. Use their advice to craft a checklist to guide your leave.

Make sure your checklist contains the following:

-Documentation of all your work streams

-Careful identification of who will handle each aspect of your workload

-Knowledge transfer and training time to get replacements up to speed -

-Creation of any necessary documentation and materials for these projects

-Determination of when you will hand over the reigns

-Processes for communication and troubleshooting

-Relevant industry and trends research to keep up while on leave

-A careful plan of return

2. How involved will I be with work during my leave?

Make sure your supervisor, colleagues, and any external stakeholders are informed about your communication plan so that no surprises or confusion arise while you’re out.

Use your leave as an opportunity for direct reports and colleagues to grow in their roles with new challenges and responsibilities.

Create measurable goals so that your presence is felt while also implementing a supervision system for others to evaluate the performance of your team at regular intervals.

Promoting the professional development of others will produce mutually beneficial results upon your return.

Establish clear rules for communication, noting both expected outreach from you (e.g. check ins once per month) as well as boundaries for outreach from work (e.g. the who, how, when, and why).

3. When was my last performance review?

Prior to maternity leave is a great time to capture all of your recent accomplishments and make them known to your supervisor and team.

Try to get face time with any key players before your leave to express your commitment and focus.

You want everyone to remember your value even while you are out of the office.

This is your chance (armed with your handy maternity checklist) to demonstrate delegation, coordination, and mentoring skills as you portion out aspects of your role.

As noted above, devise metrics and goals for others to meet so that you can be a part of the progress during your leave and upon return.

Documenting these achievements can also be useful in case you encounter any discrimination during or after maternity leave.

4. Are my leave payments or vacation days in place?

There is often a lot of red tape to cut through to ensure your maternity leave payments are established, whether they are coming directly from your company, supplemented by a federal or state program, or some combination thereof.

Prior to starting your time off, meet with human resources to review your file and complete any missing forms.

This list of questions is helpful to prepare for your meeting and take action.

Get everything in writing and keep copies of all the forms so that you can be prepared for any disputes.

5. What is my plan for return?

In a perfect world, you would be rested and ready to return to work after your leave.

In reality, whether you want to go back to work or are dreading it, you will likely be exhausted and emotionally conflicted about leaving your baby.

No matter how long you are out, caring for a newborn can take a toll and you want to plan for a successful return in this new normal.

If possible, try to avoid starting on a Monday so that you don’t have a whole week ahead of you.

Even better would be to establish a graduated return that allows you to work part-time as you ramp back up.

Be sure to request flexible work options if none are in place already, as you could be the pioneer that shifts company policies.

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