Going back to work after maternity leave can be difficult, but as an employer, there are some powerful ways you can help ease an employee back into the job. New parents have many responsibilities to juggle, such as caring for a sick baby and breastfeeding in an office environment, all while coping with fatigue from many sleepless nights. By showing understanding and offering flexibility, you can help your employees feel valued and empowered to make a successful transition back to work. And remember, the transition that employees face when returning to work after having a baby doesn’t just apply to moms, but to new fathers and partners, too. Here are a few things that you can do to help smooth that transition.
Provide Breastfeeding and Milk Production Accommodations
For new moms, maintaining milk production can feel like an insurmountable task in an office environment. BenefitsPro reports that less than half of breastfeeding moms who work can find private places to express milk, other than bathrooms. Make sure your new moms have private places and plenty of break times for milk production and/or breastfeeding. While this should be best practice for any company, it may also be a requirement—the Affordable Care Act requires that businesses with 50 or more employees provide a private space and reasonable break times to express milk. WomensHealth.gov offers a useful list of examples and ideas to help you make these accommodations a reality in your workplace.
But this isn’t just something that benefits your new moms and dads: it benefits your business too. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says that providing these accommodations will give you a 3:1 return on your investment, via lower health care costs, fewer sick days, lower turnover and greater productivity.
Allow for Flexible Work Schedules
Caring for a newborn baby is hard work. That’s why you need compassion and flexibility when it comes to helping your new parent transition back to work. Some companies provide nap rooms for new parents who suffer from frequent sleepless nights. Others offer flextime and work-from-home options in situations where the baby is sick or a daycare is closed. Some employers even partially subsidize daycare. According to CNN, some businesses now offer a phase-back-to-work program where new parents work 50 percent of their scheduled hours the first week and then 75 percent the second week, both at full pay.
If you’re willing to be flexible with your new parent, you’ll likely see increased morale and loyalty, which can save you a lot of money in the long run by avoiding high turnover rates. Make sure you explain the flexible options thoroughly, so your employees are aware of all the benefits available to them.
Offer Counseling Options
New parents deal with brand-new sources of stress as they try to juggle their job and parenting commitments. Going back to work after maternity leave may make new parents feel guilty for leaving the baby or just overwhelmed. Moms can also suffer from postpartum depression, which can worsen if untreated. Keep an eye out for the symptoms of postpartum depression, which can include feelings of hopelessness, irritability, concentration problems and withdrawal from friends and family, among others. Postpartum depression can catch a new parent by surprise, so be flexible and make sure your employees know that you are happy to give them time off if they ever need counseling to help them get a handle on all their responsibilities and unexpected emotions.
The most important thing you can do for returning parents is to let them know that you’re flexible and compassionate. It takes time to readjust to the workplace after such a powerful life change. So be patient with your employees and try not to expect too much too soon.
What have you done to help employees return after taking maternity or paternity leave? Is there anything new you’d like to start doing? Let us know on Twitter.