Congratulations—you’re in the final stretch! You’ve made it through the physical changes and challenges that accompany pregnancy, all of those appointments with your OB, and now you’re just a few weeks away from your last day in the office.
With your maternity leave just around the corner, now is a great time to make sure you’ve got it all covered, especially in case the baby decides to arrive early. Here is a checklist to give you peace of mind and help ensure that you’re leaving on a positive note.
Finalize your communication plan
Your communication and maternity leave plan will list your key stakeholders that you need to meet or speak with. It can detail who you will stay in touch with, the important topics for each, expected leave and return dates, and for some, your preferred method for communication while you’re out (e.g. email, text, voicemail).
Specify your availability during leave and how it might change over during the time you’re away. It should include what information you want to receive, and when/how you want to receive it. For example, you might tell a colleague that you will completely disconnect for the first month, then in the next 2 months you can be reached via text, only in the case of an emergency, in which case you’ll respond by the close of business.
This is a personal decision without a right/wrong answer—the most important thing is to be clear so that everyone knows what to expect.
Handover plan review
Ideally your handover plans will be in place already. Even so, it’s a good idea to have a final review to make sure nothing has been missed, and to resolve/document any outstanding issues, especially if there have been late changes to projects or objectives.
In it, make sure you’ve detailed each task and who’s going to cover it in your absence. This may include an internal and external contact list for each item. Connect with the people who are covering your work to make sure all of their questions are answered, that they understand what is expected of them, and that they’ve got all the information they need.
Final conversations with key stakeholders
You want to leave them with a positive impression of you, feeling connected, and understanding your commitment to the business. Make a point to schedule meetings or calls so they are set in people’s calendars. If you can’t do this, grab time where you can and document your notes and questions for them to review in more detail afterwards.
You might have specific topics to discuss, but in general you need to ensure each contact is fully informed and comfortable that your handover plan has been implemented. They need to be clear on who is covering your work and their points of contact while you’re away. If you’re in a client-facing role, make sure your clients understand how their needs will be met while you’re gone.
It’s a great idea to emphasize that you’re looking forward to your return to work, even if that seems a long way off. When you speak with your manager or other potential sponsors, you can even re-state your future career aspirations so they know your career is a priority. This may be the last time you talk to some of your key stakeholders before you go, so take the opportunity to shine and demonstrate your executive presence with them. You want to stay top of mind as they consider future developments and projects while you’re on leave.
How are you going to deal with work emails? Will you redirect them to the account of one individual or put up an out-of-office message with alternative contact details? Of course your plans for on-leave communication will have an impact on these messages. Also, you need to consider access to your work computer, apps and phone. Some companies terminate access while you’re away on leave.
Speak to HR to confirm your arrangements
Your HR representative is likely to have been a key contact already, so it’s a good idea to initiate a final meeting with them to discuss your plans and make sure all of your paperwork is in place. Be sure you understand your parental leave benefits, your payment while on leave, paid time off, etc.
Your HR contact will be helpful when you return to work and in the continued development of your career. In addition to your manager, they’re well placed to know about key initiatives that might be suitable for you on your return, so make sure they understand your plans and also your career aspirations.
Arrange for a performance review with your manager, even an informal one. This is a great opportunity to review your achievements to date and to look to the future. Take the initiative to ask for this and set it up if it’s outside of the regular evaluation timeframe.
Review the objectives you set for the year and your achievements against them—it’s important to discuss your successes and have them recorded. The detail and success of your handover plan should also be highlighted here as this often takes a lot of time and could have impacted your original objectives.
Treat this review like any other, so also discuss your development plans and goals for the future. Make it clear that you’re coming back and are already thinking about your return and your career goals. Discuss the broad areas of work that you want to focus on and what you want to achieve professionally.
Be proactive in discussing what your manager can do to keep you on others’ radar and make sure you’re in the mix when they’re discussing upcoming projects starting around the time of your return.
Request an update file
Ask if your manager would be willing to create a file of things to share with you when you come back. It can include organizational changes or other information you should be aware of upon your return. This is an easy way for your manager to keep track of what happens during your leave and it allows you to focus on your new baby without worrying about what you’re missing.
Thank-you to those covering for you
It’s nice to express your thanks to the individuals in advance for covering your work. Some suggestions include a handwritten note, taking them out to lunch, or a sincere verbal expression of appreciation.
By following this maternity leave checklist, you’ll be able to go out on your leave with the confidence of knowing you’ve managed the transition professionally so that you can focus on the time with your new baby.
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