Use a 3 Step Plan to Prepare for Parental Leave


So you’re having a baby, or thinking about having a baby. Or deciding when a baby may be in your future. Adding a tiny human to your family is exciting but nerve-wracking personally, and professionally. This is multiplied ten-fold if you manage a team.

You face the pressure of ensuring your team is covered and in a comfortable place for when you leave, yet you also need to be protective of your own precious time.

It’s true what they say.

Time flies so much more quickly than you think it does. So you want to make sure to use each moment you are there well instead of feeling guilt about leaving a project with loose ends.

Protect your family time by having a plan in place for everything before you leave because when a baby comes along needing night feeds, you won’t want to be losing any more sleep.

The months leading up to delivery can be exciting, but also a time of tension for your team. They may be nervous about you not being there.

To make the process a little smoother, we’ve put together a list of tried-and-true ways of helping to make your parental leave more comfortable for everyone.

Cover your bases of negotiation, if necessary

Not everyone is lucky enough to have a company, or nationwide policy for parental leave. If you are not sure what parental leave you are entitled to, or what policies your company has in place, take some time to dig into that before announcing your good news.

Create a checklist of the things you still need to do to ensure you have your bases covered. Make sure to get everything in writing if necessary.

Once these logistics are in place, you can share your news with your team or the company as a whole. Make sure everything is set in stone before you announce anything to your team.

June, a Customer Success Lead at Vantage says she treats parental leave the same way as finishing any role at an organization.

June-Avila-parental-leave“I think it’s good to provide as much notice as possible, while of course balancing your own needs for privacy in terms of when to share the news. In Canada, many organizations will hire for a maternity leave position (a contractor who fills in for the year) so some time is needed to organize that.“

Consider any specific requirements your company or country’s government might require.

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Make a list of everything you do and delegate it

The best way to ensure your team is supported is by making a list of all of your responsibilities (both for your team and outside of your team), and arrange cover.

This should include small things such as being the one responsible for turning off the lights at closing time or as large as managing a partnership with another company.

Once you’ve got your list down, make a note of the best people to cover the tasks. Remember, delegation isn’t just a way for you to cover your responsibilities. It can also serve as a teaching and developmental opportunity for your team.

Try to assign responsibilities to people who you think would enjoy them. If there is no one on your team you think would be a good fit, consider members of other areas of the company —  it is a great time to assess if tasks should still fall under the purview of your team at all!

If you find a task that’s not a good fit for anyone on your team, but would be a great fit for someone in another team, say engineering, you should be divesting your team of the task.

Take this opportunity to discuss if you’ll resume the responsibility when you return, or if the person covering for you should carry on with it. TJ Stein, Director of Customer Experience at MeUndies recommends you put some thought into this.

TJ-Stein-parental-leave“Choose someone who can handle day to day activities and also represent your function across the organization. Having great organization and communication skills is a must. Don’t pick the first person you think of to handle a responsibility. Assess if they are a good fit to cover the role and have time.”

After penciling in coverage for each of your responsibilities, talk to the person to ascertain their willingness to cover for you.

Once they’ve confirmed, create a Google Doc or another shareable, open resource you can then give to the company.

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This will be the reference for both inside your team and for the company if they have questions while you are gone. Include the dates that you expect to be gone, set out the responsibilities and the team member handling them, and list who people can ask common questions to while you are gone.

Just before you go on parental leave, send an email to each person who agreed to cover a responsibility for you, and include the Google Doc for reference.

Allow your team to voice their concerns or frustrations

Sharing the document will open you to feedback both from inside of your team and out. Allow your reports to the time to express any concerns.

Common concerns may be that the person taking over your one-on-ones is nervous about their interpersonal relationships with other members of the team. This is important for you to know and consider as it may affect their ability to complete the task, and their confidence in you as a leader.

Make sure you ask for employee feedback, rather than assuming they will give it to you—some people may think they are imposing on you, rather than helping.

Check out!

This probably sounds like a lot of work, when all you want to think about is getting your house ready for your impending tiny overlord. But having a plan in place will help protect your time while on parental leave, and will set your team up for success while you are gone.

Once you go on parental leave, try to check out as much as you can. It will do nobody any good for you to hover over Slack waiting for things to go wrong.

All of the preparation you put into place will help protect your time and ensure your team won’t run into issues while you are gone. Trust that your team will be okay, and that you selected the right people to cover your responsibilities. And until you return, enjoy your time with your baby!

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