Welcoming a new baby was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. We were fortunate in the fact that we had lots of time to plan for our new bundle of joy. Here are a few recommendations that really made a difference for me:
Train your backup early. Even if you are part of a team, identify those tasks in which you specialize or the systems you utilize more than others do. “Shadow training” is priceless, as live calls allow your backup to not only hear how you answer requests, but also to understand the various ways customers may phrase a question. Whoever is covering for you, whether a temporary employee or someone you’re cross-training, should shadow you, listen to live calls, and get a feel for how you interact with your clients and customers.
Remember, pregnancy is not a simple timeline. Several doctor’s appointments will be necessary, you may need to drop back to part-time work, or event bed rest as your delivery date approaches. Thus, the sooner you can train your backup, the better.
Speak with your Benefits department. Find out details about short term disability (STD) benefits and coverage as early as possible. Pre-tax vs. post-tax STD will mean real dollars once you utilize the service. Planning on using STD while on maternity leave? Find out whether the plan has a pregnancy related waiting period, and if the plan requires you to use all available paid time off (PTO) before paying out benefits. There might also be an unpaid elimination period after Bedrest/Delivery that you should take into account.
Understand your options. Research the benefit of the Earned Income Child Tax Credit (CTC) vs. Pretax Dependent Care. Some may earn too much for the full CTC benefit. Decide first, so that your first paycheck upon return will have correct deductions.
Make a comprehensive budget. Not only will you need to budget for the time you are out of the office, but also for the weeks during which you are paying back premiums or “arrears” from your paycheck. Give the Benefits department a call once you know your expected return date for an estimate. Be sure to budget your time as well; don’t underestimate the value of time spent healing, bonding with your newborn, and establishing your new family routines and roles.
Take the time to find a new routine. Be generous to yourself and set a slow pace. Ask management if it is possible to work from home or reduce your hours for a few weeks after your return to work.
Accept help when it’s offered, if it makes sense for you; don’t try to do everything on your own. Just as other parents may be great resources for advice, recommendations and affirmation, especially for first-time parents, other members of your department can support and assist you as you return to work.
Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs) like Staff One HR can help your company implement training and policies to facilitate smooth transitions for maternity leave, disability leave, vacation time, seasonal workers, and more. Contact the author directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.