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Preparing for My Maternity Leave at Work: A 13-Step Process

lead content and social media at a global tech company. I also happen to be the only employee focused solely on these two things. I’m going on maternity leave in less than 80 days.

I lead content and social media at a global tech company. I also happen to be the only employee focused solely on these two things. I’m going on maternity leave in less than 80 days.

To set the scene, I’m the type of person who leaves detailed out-of-office notes for a five-day vacation. It started when I worked at an agency and everyone did it. Often, each note was color-coded based on which team member would be responsible in your absence. Didn’t matter if you were leaving for two days or 10.

Today I do it only if I’ll be gone for more than a couple days. Also because I’m the only one in my role, because I love my team and don’t want to feel like I left them in the dark and flew to Europe, and because it gives me such a sense of calm to sign off before a vacation knowing everything is either taken care of or recorded.

I had pre-vacation planning down to a science. Then came a new challenge: maternity leave.

Is it even possible to plan ahead for months away from the office? Especially when your company isn’t hiring a temp? And when there’s a 50/50 chance that things will either be exactly the same or dramatically different when you return? That’s how businesses work, right? Absolutely no change or all the things happening at once.

I didn’t know the answers, but I wanted my transition away from the office and back to be as easy as possible for all involved — including myself. At the very least, I wanted to give it my best try.

Here’s what I was working with:

  1. A handful of responsibilities that aren’t shared with anyone else at my company.
  2. Plenty of responsibilities that are shared with others on the team.
  3. An equally large handful of tools and platforms I use on a daily basis.
  4. The ability to hire two freelance writers to write one blog post each from now until October.
  5. The knowledge that I’ll likely be returning from leave less than two months before the end of our fiscal year (ours ends in September). AKA the time for metrics and performance reviews. Except this year I’ll be away for 1/3 of the year and still responsible for 100% of the results

A little less than 80 days to go, and I’m feeling pretty on top of things. Here’s what‘s happened so far:

  1. Six months before leave: I started planning VERY early. I’m due in April, but I started thinking about leave in October. It felt like overkill back then. Spoiler alert: it was not overkill.
  2. I started by creating a document where I listed all of my responsibilities. I wanted to give myself time to add things as I thought of them. I also started jotting down one-off requests I got from different teams in case they came up again while I was out.
  3. I shared this list with my manager and proposed we divide the responsibilities into “things that absolutely need to happen when I’m gone” and “nice-to-have things that can definitely wait until I’m back”. She agreed.
  4. Five months before leave: While we weren’t able to get a temp for my position, I did get the go-ahead to hire two freelance writers. I started my search immediately. I wanted to hire them, onboard them and give them a few assignments before fully transitioning my coworkers to managing our content program. Thankfully, I found amazing writers pretty quickly.
  5. Four months before leave: I had meetings and calls with subject matter experts from across the company to gather information for future blog posts. I used this to build out a list of content topics to assign out to freelancers.
  6. I submitted a proposal to speak at a content marketing conference that was 10 months away. Because I’m a little bit crazy but also loved the idea of having a big, “I’m back at it” moment post-leave. I also convinced a coworker to submit a second proposal for us to speak together because she accepts me and my crazy ideas without question.
  7. Three months before leave: I returned from the holidays in January convinced I had written a list of post-break to-dos back in December. There was only one problem: I couldn’t remember where I wrote that list. I never did find it. I did, however, set aside an entire day to revamping the organization of my OneNote. What was once a mess of ideas and things jotted down in all the wrong places became a calming system of sections and folders. Just in time for me to really start forgetting things.
  8. I planned out our social media campaign budget and themes for the remainder of the year. Then, I scheduled a training with the two teammates in our office to transfer the social media-related contents of my brain — a good two months before my planned leave. My plan is to have each of them set up a campaign from scratch while I’m still here in case any questions come up.
  9. I researched stories to share on our social media channels from April through the beginning of July and scheduled them, making sure there was plenty of room for new content but also that there wouldn’t be any large gaps of silence.
  10. I asked one coworker if she’d like to oversee our social media channels while I’m gone and we agreed that she’d spend a couple of weeks completely owning our channels while I’m still in the office so she feels totally comfortable when I’m out.

What I still need to do:

  1. Actually fill out paperwork for my leave. Parental leave is confusing when your company doesn’t have its own policy, but that’s an article for another day.
  2. Decide on a date when I won’t be starting any new projects. And stick with it.
  3. Wrap up several projects at varying stages of done-ness before that date.

Of course, this is in between doctors appointments, running on not so much sleep, and all the planning one needs to do before welcoming a little human into the family.

It might not make sense for you, but this is what feels right for my role, my team and my company. And though it might sound like a lot, I wouldn’t change a thing. Plus, starting early meant that I haven’t had to devote extra work hours to getting all of this in place.

I’m so excited to be a mom and I also really enjoy my career. For me, doing everything above means I can fully focus on the former and feel calmer when I eventually do return to the latter.

Writer. Editor. Marketer. Content Strategist. Articles in The Startup, Better Marketing, The Ascent, The Writing Cooperative //

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