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  • Management 101: Welcoming New Parents Back To Work
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    Polina is People Director of Unruly and has spent a decade building, hiring and retaining teams at the world’s largest advertising companies

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    Coming back to work as a new parent, whether it’s your firstborn, second child or third is always a novel and challenging time that involves figuring out how to balance work and family and what to prioritize first. As employers and workplace leaders, it’s important we provide a supportive environment and feedback loop to welcome moms and dads back into the work world and encourage their development and growth within the business.

    Working mothers still want promotions, they still want to lead a team and they still want to be challenged in their roles and have personal development and growth. They may have multiple priorities to juggle now, but this doesn’t mean that work isn’t a key focus. On the contrary, for many new parents, work becomes an increased focus due to the need for job stability and security.

    Here are five tactics that employers can incorporate into their management tool kit to welcome new parents back into the workforce.

    1. Offer flexibility in working hours. New parents, and in my experience, mothers in particular, may want to present the appearance that when they are at work they are completely focused on work, but that is just not the reality when their baby is still only 12 weeks old. As a manager, be open with your direct report about how she is managing the 9-to-6. If she needs to send reports later in the evening, or if she starts answering emails earlier in the morning, be flexible and accepting of nontraditional work hours. Encourage a new parent to be open about their work hours rather than feel like they must get everything done between 9 a.M. And 6 p.M. And hide the other responsibilities on their plate.

    2. Encourage “walking meetings” for remote workers with little ones. Encourage your direct reports who are working remotely with a new baby at home to grab their carrier or stroller and headphones and hit the pavement when meetings or conference calls allow. Often, newly back-to-work parents don’t want it to appear like they are slacking off, so they feel like they need to be glued to the desk. Be supportive of a new parent taking a meeting outside of the house and show you trust them to get their work done while still taking care of themselves and their children.

    3. Understand the nonnegotiable in caring for a child. New mothers may feel uncomfortable about pumping, nursing or their baby's feeding schedule when returning to work and the time it takes away from video calls. Encourage parents to block their schedules in advance so meetings can’t be booked over these necessary activities. Alternatively, normalize pumping, nursing and feeding so working parents who are able to can do this during one-on-one meetings with the camera off. Having a conversation about it, rather than avoiding it, will give a new mom confidence that you understand she isn’t slacking off when she is signed off or out of sight.

    4. Set clear boundaries. Welcome a new parent back to work by asking what their new boundaries are. What is their hard stop time in order to release the nanny or pick up from daycare? Do they need adjusted work hours to manage work and a baby at home? Have a candid conversation about new comfort levels of taking on leadership roles and additional projects. Some parents will want to jump right into things, while others may want to ease in more slowly.

    5. Support delegation. Every time you say yes to something, you are saying no to something else. This has always been true but is even truer after becoming a parent. There are only so many hours in the day in which team members can get things done, so whatever project, meeting or call you say yes to that you don’t actually need to be a part of, you are limiting the opportunity to do something else. Encourage new parents to delegate, ask for help and say no when their impact has a higher ROI elsewhere.

    Any new parent will feel supported and encouraged to grow within their role and the business with a supportive welcome upon their return back to work. And most importantly of all, don’t forget to celebrate on the first day back.

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