By Leila Lewis, founder and CEO of Be Inspired PR.
As a "mompreneur" with two toddlers and a newborn, the only way I could take time from work and feel at ease was knowing that my team was fully prepared for my maternity leave. Maternity or paternity leave can range from a couple days to a couple months: Either way, it's difficult to leave your pride and joy in the hands of another. Here are some of my tips to preparing your team before you depart for maternity leave:
- Hold a team meeting. This seems standard, but it's a good way to get the team together and emphasize how crucial each individual is to the team as a unit. Before the meeting, have each of your team members send you a quick overview of their tasks. You can move around the assignments based on workload. Then during the meeting, review the tasks that each staff member will take on while you're away. It's important that the whole team visualizes and understands the distribution of tasks so that they know who to report to.
- Start transitioning projects over to other staff well in advance. After you have the team meeting and distribute tasks, start the transition. Allocate time based on workload adjustment, task familiarity and appropriate client introductions. Don't leave this to a few weeks before you're out. Allowing for a smooth transition period where you're still available to answer questions is crucial.
- Create a "cheat sheet" with general practices, FAQs, etc. I created a document reminding the team about upcoming events, any updates, and general practices to follow when I'm out of the office, including replying to emails on my behalf or protocol when corresponding with one of our clients. This "cheat sheet" limits the number of questions and emails that will flood your inbox while you're out.
- Prepare your clients. There is no doubt that your clients will feel uneasy about your absence, regardless of how long it is. But your job is to reassure them that everything will be handled as if you were there. Speak to the strengths of your team and give it to them straight: You'll be on leave, but that doesn't mean they will be neglected. Not only will your team be there to assist with anything, but if they really need you, you'll be available for emergencies.
- Have someone take over your email. It seems scary, I know, but nothing is more overwhelming than coming back to work and encountering a flooded inbox. Set up notifications come on your phone so you can quickly glance at them if need be. If you know your employees can handle them on your behalf, ignore them. Filtering through your email at least once a day will allow you to reply to things that are pertinent to you, while clearing out some time to spend with your family.
Be prepared and trust your team. Maternity and paternity leave is always difficult, but it's necessary to take a break from your stressful work life and enjoy some well-deserved time with your family.
Don't worry that your team dynamic may change after you leave: I've noticed that giving my team the reins gives boosts my faith and trust in them. You may be surprised by how well they do without you there, giving you more confidence to spend time at home as your children are growing up.
Leila (Khalil) Lewis created Be Inspired PR in 2007, the first full-service public relations agency dedicated to the wedding and special event industry.