I wrote this piece for a publication focused on employee rights and HR. Whilst I know it is focused on the employer, rather than the employee, I do hope it gives you some tips about how best to work with your boss/ line manager etc to make your transition back to work a little easier…
I’ve been off on maternity leave for a while now and it’s not been without its challenges. I started my maternity leave with trepidation; fearful of losing my identity and anxious about not being able to let go of my career. Now, nine months on, it suddenly feels like everything is moving at a million miles an hour and I’m just starting to do my Keeping in Touch (KIT days). It’s scary and exciting all at the same time.
Given KIT days are limited to just 10 days, and of course dependent on whether the parent can secure childcare, it is important for returning staff and employers alike to make the most of these days. In my opinion employers can, and should, help with this to ensure everyone gets the best possible outcome from the time spent in the office. Whilst arranging KIT days sounds simple enough, I have actually heard some real horror stories about them so far (from friends and people contacting me via the blog). There are some simple tips you can follow to help those returning feel at ease and also make the most of their time in the office:
- It shouldn’t be hard: Don’t make it hard for your staff to arrange their KIT days. I have heard so many stories about employers not getting back to their staff about what dates and times are suitable for KIT days and many who haven’t taken into consideration that they need to sort childcare well in advance. Those who are off on maternity leave are already most likely stressing out about returning to work, so the easier you can make these conversations the better.
- Money talks: Agree on how and when they will be remunerated for their KIT days in advance of them coming in. They may feel embarrassed asking how they will be reimbursed, so take this topic into your own hands and make it easy for them. Legislation is a little blurry as to how much one should be paid for a KIT day, so try and be as transparent upfront as possible.
- Make sure the employee plans their KIT day well in advance: Recommend to them that they book meetings in before they return to the office so that their day is orgnaised and runs smoothly. Encourage them to book in regular breaks in between each meeting in case something runs on. You don’t want to burn them out on a KIT day given they will most likely have to go home to bath the little one and deal with nighttime feeds.
- Make sure IT and tech is all set up for them: There is nothing worse than scrabbling around trying to make your PC work the morning you arrive because you haven’t logged on for a while. Sorting out little things like this can make all the difference between a stressful day and a relevantly smooth day for your returning staff members.
- Make them feel welcome: Imposter syndrome can really set in when people return to work after an extended period of time off. Don’t heighten that by making them feel like an outcast or reminding them about how much has changed whilst they have been away. Remind them how valuable they are to the business as much as possible.
- Recommend to your employees that they clear their inbox in advance of their KIT day: If they are required to use email whilst they are on their KIT day, be sure to recommend to them to have a clear out in advance of going into the office. Or if they don’t wish to do this in their own time/ they are too busy to do it, then make sure you factor in some time to wade through the millions of emails they will have received. Give them the time to do this rather than jumping straight into meetings.
- Make them a hot drink: Take it from me, something as simple as making them a coffee will instantly relax them and make them feel welcome. Sounds silly and perhaps obvious, but they will no doubt enjoy being able to drink a whole cup of coffee without leaving half of it to go cold whilst they attend to baby. Also ensure they make the most of having a ‘grown up’ lunch where they don’t have to hand over half their food to their baby. Better still why not shout them to lunch to really make them feel welcome.
- Gently does it: When getting them up to speed, try to ease them in gently. Run through things in order and don’t overload them. Likewise, if they are meeting with clients, make sure you have spent time with them to catch them up in advance. You don’t want anyone to be taken by surprise if your clients throw a curveball their way.
- Don’t cooo over baby too much: Ask them a few questions about their baby to show you are interested, but don’t talk about baby all day. Chances are they just want to talk about normal things for once and leave thoughts of the bambino at home.
- Remember they are still on maternity leave: Don’t forget that they are still on maternity leave. Most importantly don’t let them leave with loads of tasks to do or actions on their ‘to do list’. This day is about keeping in touch, rather than them taking on a load of work.
KIT days are of course optional to both the employee and employer, but in my opinion they are a valuable and very effective method for employees to keep in touch with their workplace and ensure their actual return will be easier. Most importantly, KIT days will make your returning staff feel more confident, remind them of how valuable they are and prove to them that they can make parenting and a career work. This is a big deal for new parents, so please, show your support as much as possible.