It’s hard to picture your participation in the professional working world while you’re sitting on your couch wearing a milk-stained shirt, scarfing down your 4th granola bar of today. To get you from where you are (couch) to where you’ll be after maternity leave (endless meetings, amiright?), we recommend a visit to the office before your first day back to help bridge the reality gap. Here’s our guide to making that office visit as productive as possible.
Pro Tip: change out of your yoga pants or at least swap them for clean ones before heading into the office.
Say hi before you have to
Schedule a visit. Your coworkers miss you and they probably would love the opportunity to tell you about the latest exploits, client antics, and inside jokes while passing around your adorable deliverable from last quarter. It’s also nice to be able to show them your new identity as a mother and share some of your recent experiences too. Hopefully, the visit will make you feel energized as you remember how valued you are at work.
- Assess your pumping situation. If possible and applicable, pop into the space allocated for you to pump. Take note of the cleaning and storage resources, temperature of the room, privacy features (or lack thereof), outlet access, and seating arrangement. Reach out to HR with any questions or concerns and don’t be afraid to ask for additional resources.
- Schedule your return date. Finalizing the date will motivate you, your family, and your colleagues to prepare for this transition. Pro tip: we recommend going back on a Wednesday or Thursday, if possible. The first week back will seem impossibly long for you, your partner, and your baby; make it a short one if you can.
Explore expectations and realities of the return
Meet with your manager. A couple of weeks before your return, connect with your manager to go over specific expectations, schedules, or accommodations you need. Although each of our circumstances are unique, we recommend being honest about your plan for juggling your work with your baby’s needs. Here are some suggested topics:
- Childcare arrangements. Does your pick-up/drop-off schedule change your in-office time? Sick policy, vacation days, etc.
- Your ramp plan. Do you have a schedule or a project that you’ll be diving into when you return? What has changed, if anything, in your role
- Schedule. Is there flexibility in your schedule during the first few weeks to accommodate different arrival or departure times? Can you work from home (if applicable) occasionally? Can you ease back into travel by joining external meetings via videoconference or other means?
- Pumping schedule. If you plan to pump when you return, share this with your manager so they are aware of why you may be unavailable for 20-30 minutes 2-3x per day.
- Your enthusiasm! Remind yourself what you like about your job or the opportunities that working affords you and mention your excitement and commitment to your manager.
Be assertive. Be honest. Be proud.
We’d need more hands to count the amount of times we’ve heard managers say that their working parents are their most productive employees. Don’t be discouraged if you’re going to need to be the last one in and the first one out for awhile. Chances are you’re getting the same amount, if not more, done than your colleagues. Keep an open dialogue with your manager about your needs. You may be surprised how accommodating your work will be; they know a good one (you!) when they see one.