Reboarding Employees After Parental Leave: What Not to Do

Reboarding Employees After Parental Leave: What Not To Do

Perhaps the most common reboarding experience (prior to the pandemic, at least) was the one tailored for recent parents. Parental leave is a common form of absence, with more and more countries beginning to offer both maternal and paternal leave. So it’s fair to say that, no matter the stage your company is at, you will soon be experiencing a situation in which recent parents will be away from the office for months.

And when recent parents are ready to come back to work, they can’t very well be expected to pick up right where they left off. A lot has changed in their lives over the past several months, and odds are that office culture is feeling like a bit of a distant memory. So, of course, a reboarding program is in everyone’s best interest.

Now, we’ve already published a post about how best to reboard returning employees. But here’s another one about what NOT to do when reboarding employees returning from parental leave:

DON’T be caught without a plan

As is crucial with any reboarding program, the most important step in ensuring success is to plan accordingly. Which portion of reboarding will be done virtually, and which portion will be done in person? What topics will be covered? Will there be any formal presentations? What flexible arrangements will be made to accommodate for new schedules?

It is quite obvious that employees post-parental leave can’t just be thrown back into the office. So when planning for their return, make sure that all arrangements have been made weeks in advance. If there will be any digital modules, it is best to have these up and running at least two weeks before the return date. And if there will be any in-person events scheduled, have the date and times set (and shared with the returning employee) well in advance.

Now, if you’ll just excuse us for being cheesy, we just had to: when it comes to reboarding, failing to plan is planning to fail!

DON’T expect perfection

It’s likely that recent parents returning into the office will feel as though they are starting a new job. They will need time to readjust to everything, get the hang of office workings once again, reignite office relationships, and do so while constantly worrying for another human being.

As much as they might want to have it all and do it all, make it known that no one is expecting them to. Take the time, during reboarding, to just be human. Go beyond permitting, and encourage them to take it one step at a time rather than trying to immerse themselves fully. Try encouraging them to dedicate specific weeks to specific goals, or arrange team-building activities during office hours to allow for effective time management.

Your role here is twofold: Don’t expect perfection, but also make it well known that you would prefer not striving for perfection.

DON’T isolate

Part of returning to the office is getting reacquainted with new and old colleagues alike. After spending months on end tending to a newborn, recent parents might find it difficult to reestablish professional and friendly connections. When reboarding new parents, it is therefore important to do so in a manner that encourages support by placing them within a team.

Reestablishing work relationships isn’t just good for the employees returning from parental leave, but also for everyone involved in the office. Work teams are only as good as the employees they consist of and the efficiency of their communication, so it make sense to re-acclimate everyone else to the returning employee as well as the returning employee to everyone else. So, at every stage of the reboarding process, make post-parental-leavers feel that they have a support system.

Building alliances can also be important in making the returning employees feel that they are a valued part of the team. By giving them the tools and the support mechanism to succeed, businesses can ensure a smoother transition back into the workplace.

DON’T opt for a cookie-cutter schedule

Just as every employee is different, every new parent might have different needs when first returning to the office. When planning reboarding program, make sure to take into account seniority levels, the departments with which the returning employee will have to liaise, and flexibilities of time that will need to be taken into account. Giving a personalized touch to the reboarding program will not only make your returning employee feel valued, it will also set them up for success.

This is also a good step to consider what additional assistance the post-parental leave employee might require from the company. Will they need to work from home several days a week until their child adjusts? Will they need childcare assistance? Try offering several days of reboarding from home, or perhaps exploring in-house childcare support options.

DON’T block communication

As is obvious by now, perhaps the most vital aspect to parental reboarding is ensuring that there is plenty of communication between the returning employee and everyone else. Make sure communication channels are open on a team-level but also on an HR level as well as a higher management level.

Facilitating open communication will mean that returning employees feel comfortable in approaching you if there are any issues or if they need additional assistance. This is a great way to prevent burnout at the initial stages, and it’s also crucial in boosting employee morale. Not everything has to be planned to the T, and by leaving room for communication you are also expressing that you are flexible to accommodate for employee needs.

DON’T overbook

And finally, a quick tip: For the first few weeks at least, avoid overfilling your returning employee’s schedule with meetings and reboarding activities. Overbooking can lead to burnout while eliminating the possibility of flexibility, and is overall a bad idea.

Instead, try working with the employee in building their new schedule, and encourage them to avoid taking too much on too quickly. Balance formal activities with informal socializing/networking, and reiterate once again that you are there to help and to accommodate for their new needs.

These are the 6 things to avoid when reboarding employees after parental leave. But just as every employee is different, so is every company – so feel free to adjust as needed!