All this talk about the royal baby got me thinking about how many times I had to cover for someone on maternity leave. Even Kate Middleton has people that need to cover for her. If you’re honest with yourself, you dread the day they deliver. It can be hugely stressful and challenging. But I learned you could get through it by following a couple of simple rules.
1. Don’t wait for the water to break before making plans. Let’s face it, you’ve known for at least 5 to 6 months that the big day was coming. Have your employee start a daily or weekly log of her activities. If you have peak times, make sure she includes those in the log. At about the 8-month mark, review the log and make sure she included the people she interacts with on a regular basis.
2. Break the task into manageable groups. It’s much easier to delegate a piece of someone’s job than asking someone to do two jobs. Because inevitably, the person doing the second job is likely to be you. But by segmenting her tasks, you can spread the workload so any one person isn’t overburdened.
3. Assign a buddy to the mom-to-be. This is especially important if your pregnant employee is in sales. Depending on your sales cycle, you need to make sure she includes a teammate on her sales calls towards the end of her term. That way, any pending sales can continue to move through the cycle. Make sure you divide the credit between both people. If she’s not in sales, it’s still a good way to keep on top of pending work.
4. Communicate to impacted parties. Make sure your employee notifies everyone she works with who her back up will be while she’s gone. You can go over the log she created in step one to make sure you don’t miss anyone. Also, make sure you have a list of her clients (internal and external) so no one is overlooked. For critical issues or customers, make sure you’re the back up and they have your contact information.
Having someone gone from 6 weeks to 6 months can create a huge burden to not only yourself, but the rest of your staff. And if you’re like my former employee, taking a leave of absence means you're cut off from the server and can’t work from home. But if you don’t wait until she goes into labor, you can manage through without much pain.