Becoming a parent is a game-changer. Adjustments to be made. Transitions to navigate. Truly the world is never again the same—particularly for working parents.
By creating, communicating and implementing flexible and equitable parental-leave policies, companies can help new moms and dads ease into their new hybrid roles of caregiver and employee. Altruism aside, that’s good for business, too. Our WerkLabs studies tell us parents who feel supported mean higher retention and job-satisfaction scores across the board.
We recommended The Mom Project partners view parental leave as a three-phase process, one that includes pre- and post-leave conversations and planning. From our research, we know it's not enough to simply offer a generous leave policy. Employees need to feel empowered to take the full leave. That sense of security typically begins with managers and leaders setting the stage.
Stage 1: Pre-Leave
Use this time to go over your company’s leave policy with employees and develop their customized leave plans. Keep in mind that a good plan focuses on more than the delegation and transition of projects and responsibilities. It should also include more personal details such as how/if a new parent wants to communicate with the team while on leave and a checklist of ways a manager can support the parent-to-be. Provide a leave-plan template to help employees prepare.
Stage 2: Leave
The truth is many parents-to-be underestimate the mental and physical energy it takes to adapt to a new family situation. Be a resource and ally. Keep new parents in the loop about major organizational changes and up to date on performance review/promotion cycles while following the communication cadence outlined in pre-leave plans. Keep in mind, something as simple as a delivered meal can go along way in ensuring employees feel valued and supported, even while on leave.
Stage 3: Post-Leave
According to our WerkLabs research, new parents want guidance around priorities and expectations when they return to work. Resources like a welcome-back guide with parent support information and a point person to answer questions can help returning employees feel in the know as they ease back into things. Something else to keep in mind: Many new parents report the third week back from leave is harder than the first two, as expectations to ramp up become more real, and juggling home and family life is still a mystery. Work to be especially supportive and flexible during this time.
Approaching the three stages of parental leave this way will do a lot to optimize the experience for returning parents, their co-workers, and ultimately your company and clients.
Pre-Parental Leave To-Dos
Implement a Manager Checklist—Create a standardized checklist for pre, during, and post leave, with an emphasis on sensitivity coaching to provide managers with the guidance they need to support new parents on their team
Create a Welcome Back Guide—Provide returning parents with an Out-of-Office Summary and a Welcome Back Guide with information and resources related to insurance, childcare, and parental considerations
Implement Parental Leave Education—A critical component in crafting a best-in-class leave experience is implementing "Understanding Parental Leave" education for non-parents so that returning parents feel supported and understood.
WerkLabs's proprietary interview methodology enables us to address these considerations to uncover key insights & prescriptive solutions on parental leave. Our background with The Mom Project further enables us to receive candid, informative feedback that otherwise would likely not be captured by internal surveys or interviews. For more information visit www.werklabs.com