10 Tips for Returning to Work After Parental Leave

By Jennifer Herrity

Updated July 1, 2022 | Published September 25, 2020

Updated July 1, 2022

Published September 25, 2020

Jennifer Herrity is a career coach at Indeed who has worked with job seekers from various industries over the last 12 years. She creates resources to help people navigate career challenges with tools and techniques she has refined through practical experience.

After being away from work for a few months on maternity or parental leave, it can be exciting yet challenging to ease back into the workplace and your new role as both employee and parent. Fortunately, there's plenty you can do to make sure the transition goes smoothly.

In this article, we explain why it's important that you prepare for your return to work after parental leave and provide a list of 10 things that you can do to ensure a smooth transition.


Tips for returning to work after parental leave

Transitioning back to work after parental leave can require quite a bit of adjustment, so it's important that you take the steps necessary to ensure that both you and your baby are ready for the change. By preparing for your return far enough in advance, you can create a smooth transition that allows you to settle back into your role with ease.

Here are 10 things you can do to prepare for your return to work after parental leave:

1. Reconnect with coworkers

It can be extremely helpful to ease yourself back into workplace culture instead of jumping back in on your first day. Checking your email and reaching out to your coworkers for workplace updates can make the transition way smoother and help you feel prepared for your return.

Related: 20 Jobs for New Parents

2. Contact the human resources department

If your HR department hasn't reached out to you about your return yet, call or email them to find out what you need to do before returning to work. They'll be able to help you with things like:

  • Setting an ideal return date.

  • Completing the necessary paperwork.

  • Finding out where the lactation room is located, if necessary.

  • Developing strategies for settling back into a routine at work.

Related: Paternity Leave: Benefits, Concerns and FAQs

3. Schedule a return date

When deciding on a date to return to work, it's wise to pick a day later in the workweek. Though starting back on a Monday could seem like a great option, it can make for a tiring transition after an extended leave. By choosing a Thursday or Friday, for example, you give yourself an opportunity to reacquaint yourself before the weekend, during which you can recoup and address any issues that you experienced with scheduling or childcare.

Related: How Long is Maternity Leave? (With Types of Parental Leave)

4. Communicate with your manager

A few weeks before returning to work, it can be helpful to make contact with your supervisor so that you can learn about office updates, create a plan for your transition and set expectations for your return. For example, you might want to talk through things like if your role and responsibilities have changed during your time away. Additionally, you should ask if there's a chance you could slowly phase back into your previous workload, especially during your first week as you adjust to new personal responsibilities, like arranging childcare.

By openly communicating about your new scheduling needs and creating a transition plan, you can set realistic expectations for your return.

Related: How To Write a Return-To-Work Letter in 5 Steps (With Examples)

5. Set an in-person meeting

Though it can be helpful to call, email or message your colleagues and/or your boss prior to returning to work, scheduling a casual meet-up is a great way to reconnect because it can help you feel like part of the team again. A lot can change during a few months of parental leave, and these in-person or virtual one-on-one meetings in the few weeks leading up to your return give you a chance to find out what you've missed around the office, learn about new projects and reengage with work.

Related: 7 Tips for Returning To Work After Parental Leave

6. Determine whether you plan to pump at the office

If you plan on pumping at the office, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with the process prior to your return. Additionally, you can talk to your colleagues and/or human resources to find out the best places to pump at work. Aside from learning how and where you can pump, it's also important to think about the when.

If you plan to nurse, you can create a pumping schedule and block off the times on your calendar when you'll be unavailable. By doing this, you minimize the chances of unexpectedly needing to excuse yourself from a meeting so that you can pump.

Related: How To Write a Parental Leave Letter (Template and Example)

7. Check your work wardrobe

Before your first day of work, make a point to go through your work-appropriate clothing to see which pieces still fit and determine if you need to go shopping prior to your return. After deciding which pieces of clothing still work, you can organize them in an easily accessible part of your closet to make getting ready a bit easier in the mornings.

Related: What To Wear To Work: Tips for 3 Types of Office Dress Codes

8. Figure out childcare

You are going to need to decide on childcare before returning to work, so spend some time determining whether a family member, daycare or nanny works best for you, your budget and your needs. In addition to thinking about your primary forms of childcare, it's imperative that you spend time developing your backup plans. There will likely be a point in the future when your child becomes sick on the same day as an important presentation, deadline or meeting, and preparing for these occurrences ahead of time can ensure they go smoothly.

Create a strategy for things like doctor visits and sick days when you might have to abruptly leave work. If you share parenting duties with a significant other, decide which of you should be listed as the primary contact for the daycare or nanny as well as who can be responsible for any unexpected pick-ups. Additionally, create a list of back-up caretakers that you can turn to, such as a babysitter, your parents or your in-laws.

Related: 29 Family Friendly Positions for Working Parents

9. Organize practice days

Leading up to your return to work after parental or maternity leave, it can be helpful to do a couple of trial runs of your new morning routine. This allows you to create a morning routine, figure out any issues with it and develop strategies for addressing them without the added stress of needing to get to work on time. You can practice by:

  • Setting your alarm.

  • Getting ready for work.

  • Making sure the baby is ready for the day.

  • Dropping the baby off with the childcare.

  • Driving to work.

Related: 15 Flexible Jobs for Parents

10. Prep the night before

The night before you return to work after parental leave, it's a good idea to spend a little time:

  • Packing your bag for work.

  • Locating your keys.

  • Setting up your coffee.

  • Packing your snacks and lunch.

  • Laying out your and baby's outfit.

  • Prepping the baby's diaper bag.

By prepping your things ahead of time, you can ensure that you don't forget anything and that the morning of your first day back goes as smoothly as possible.

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