5 min read
Well, it’s my first day back at work after a year off on maternity leave looking after my second daughter (that's Ruby on the left, Liv on the right). You might think that I’d be really daunted and a little nervous (and I would have every right to be), but this time around I’m just eager to get going and take on some new projects.
The reason I feel that way is because it’s a bit like I never left.
Sure, I’ve seen more Pampers than project plans over the last 12 months, but I’ve been able to stay connected to Reward Gateway and our mission during the last year, and that has really helped me to transition back to being a full-time working mum.
This isn't that dissimilar to communicating and connecting with a remote workforce. Helping your people to stay close to your mission if they aren’t based in the head office is really important, too.
Let’s take a look at what else you can do to keep your parents engaged while on leave:
Be direct about how frequent communication should be
Every parent is different, some want to completely switch off from work and not hear a thing about it until the day they return. But for me, I like to keep one toe in so that I’m aware of our company’s progress and can get up to speed quickly the minute I’m back.
This is my first piece of advice if you are thinking about how to engage people who are on parental leave.
Have an open conversation with them before they go on leave to understand if, and how, they would like to be contacted while on leave.
Some people might not want to know the day-to-day updates but would really like to know if there is a big change at work. If that’s the case, how will you contact them and do you have their personal email address or number if that’s how they want to be reached?
It’s important to remember that people are most likely still in contact with some of their colleagues from work, so they will hear if a change is happening. Remember your employees on parental leave (or any long-term leave) are more likely to feel a little more vulnerable and unsure during times of change at work. If they are happy to be contacted, make sure their manager reaches out, explains what is happening and is available to answer any questions they may have.
Don’t create a communications black hole
Secondly, make sure to leave your communications channels open to access on leave. Our internal communications platform is accessible at any time so I was easily able to read our CEO’s weekly blogs and read other interesting blogs and updates from my colleagues. For instance, though I wasn't at boom!Fest (what we call our global all-hands meeting that shares important business updates), I could catch up on it easily as I needed to.
At Reward Gateway we also use Slack, a messaging system, to communicate across the business. I made a choice to stay on certain channels so that I could keep up to date with key announcements. I also stayed in our RG Parents channel. This is a great resource for connecting with other mums and dads, and we discuss everything from weaning and potty training to great family days out.
Introducing a communications channel or forum for parents is a really great way to engage and connect your people, and makes us feel a little less alone when the little ones wake up again at 2am!
But remember, as I said before, everyone is different and some employees want to switch off and completely immerse themselves in life with their new arrival. So it’s equally important to respect that if that’s what they want. In which case, just make sure that they are well supported and have an appropriate onboarding experience when they come back.
Centralise communication and important information for weary parents
Another way to help parents settle in when they are back is to make sure it’s easy to find the most important updates in one place - new parents are exhausted, and we don’t have the energy to go on a hunt for the latest news!
I’m currently catching up on a year’s worth of weekly product updates which are all stored on our employee experience platform, boom!. By the end of the day, I will know every development that we have made on our products and for our clients over the last 365 days because they are short, sweet and easy to find!
Embrace and support a flexible work culture
It goes without saying that having a flexible work culture is so important to support working parents. Coming back to work and knowing that I can work from home when I need to and still do the school/nursery runs a few days a week means everything to me, and it is definitely one of the reasons I don’t feel at all daunted about coming back to work.
Finally, kids matter to parents (a lot) and if they matter to your people, then they should matter to you too. Make kids a part of your employee engagement strategy and you will have some very happy parents.
Recently, I brought my daughter into the office during half-term for one of my "keeping in touch" days.
Whenever we have one of our kids come to the office our brilliant Experience Manager makes a real fuss and they love seeing their name and picture up on the big screen as they come into the office, as you can see!
Our amazing Culture Team also runs kids’ days around Christmas and other holidays, where the little ones come in and get involved in some crafts and activities.
So, to summarise, spend some time thinking about how your business wants to approach parental-leave. Make sure it can be flexed to suit different people’s needs and wishes.
Keep communications channels open and available for those who want it and make sure parents (and their offspring) are part of your engagement strategy - we can’t promise the kids will be better behaved than the dogs in the office though!