Without a doubt - the best decision a company can make is to ensure it doesn’t lose it’s best talent. Recruiting new people has loads of costs - money, time, staff morale and opportunity cost, so it makes sense to look after people so they return after extended leave.
Which is why more and more organisations are considering their Returnity Policies.
So, erm, what is a Returnity Policy again??!
A returnity policy is a focus on your people returning back from leave - the most obvious leave is maternity or paternity leave, but there are also sabbaticals, study leave, extended OE leave etc. In today's work environment, you should be expecting that most of your staff will want (or need) to take an extended leave period while they are with you. Returnity leave is different from maternity leave because it focuses on re-integrating the person back into your organisation so they can start to feel good and add value to the business.
What kinds of things does a Returnity Policy cover?
Here are a bunch of ideas for making the transition back easier (with a focus on Parental Leave Returners):
I speak from experience here(!) - for new mums in particular it is all about confidence - if they have taken your typical years maternity leave, often parents have lost a bit of their work mojo, so focus on how you might address that. Some ideas:
Project Work. Are there opportunities for your person to do some work while on leave? Are there things they can do that are important but not urgent, so they can look at them when they have time (and energy!). If a person feels that they are still contributing and part of an organisation, despite not being there every day - it can make the transition back easier. Additionally - being a parent is expensive, so if they can earn a bit of money - every bit helps. (Of course you need to make sure that your parent actually wants to do this - but for many people we find that keeping their brain active with a little work is exceptionally good for their confidence and happiness).
Training & Support. Are there things your returner could do to get them up to speed quickly? Good examples are legislation updates which give a snapshot of changes. As you would have an induction plan for a new employee - you should also have one for a returner.
Flexibility in Hours. Returning as a new parent is stressful. Often, your child will get sick in daycare, and there are some days where you frankly feel like you are pretending to have it all together (but are a shambles on the inside!). Organisations can sometimes create flexibility in hours (it could be starting with a set number of office hours and building up over time, or operating a time bank). Flexibility in hours is not a big deal for many organisations, but this makes a huge difference for parents.
Feel good bonus. I remember when I came back from parental leave - I had one suit I could still squeeze into (kind of!), I hadn’t had a hair cut in months and I certainly didn’t feel great about myself. A feel good bonus could be applied to buy a new work outfit, get a haircut or just to go get a massage. Often, going to one income creates financial stresses in a family, and usually the first thing to go is any discretionary spending on things like clothes and wellbeing. The reality is that for many people returning - when they don’t feel great about themselves - they are less likely to do their best work, so a feel good bonus might make a huge difference.
Enable Mobility. For us, that means mobile phones and laptops. It means that our people can still do their job if they haven’t managed to make it into the office. It doesn’t mean that people are made to work in excess of their normal hours, but it enables a bit more flexibility around how they work until they are settled back into things.
Over-communicate Changes. Business changes are going to happen while people are away - it might mean a change in staffing, business focus, systems and processes. Make sure you are communicating any significant changes to your parent - so they know what is happening. There is nothing worse as a returning parent than turning up on your second first day and finding you don’t know half your workmates!
Parking / Transport. At the best of times, this is stressful for all of us! However, a returning parent has increased stress around parking and transport. Could your organisation give the parent a carpark for a month or two, or a transport allowance to help with costs?
Childcare Costs. It is a crying shame that many parents decide to not return to work because the cost of childcare is sometimes more than they will earn by going to work. As an organisation - is there something the company can do to contribute to these costs?
Overall - the key here is to make sure you are communicating effectively with your parent, so you can understand what their stresses and pressures are. One size does not fit all - you might have a Mum who is desperate to get back to work and has great support in place, or a parent who doesn’t want to come back to work (yet!) and doesn’t have much support; so while some set policy is good, it needs to be applied to individual situations.
Let us know if your organisation has any good returnity ideas - we would love to hear them!