Having a baby is one of the most wonderful moments in peoples’ lives. However, for working women, this step in life can create a lot of uncertainty for their future careers. In most cases, employers are asking new mothers to go back to work too soon without providing them with any support. This prompts many women to quit after they’ve had a baby and robs companies of valuable workers. So how can a company offer great support for new moms and ensure they come back to work stronger than ever?
Increase maternity leave
In the United States, paternity leave has increased by two full weeks, which is great for all fathers out there. However, in the same country, the length of maternity leave hasn’t changed at all—it’s 10 weeks and that’s that. And when we consider that an average recovery from a c-section lasts for at least 6 weeks, it doesn’t leave much time to cover other things motherhood entails. In Europe, women on average get 20 weeks of leave, and in Bulgaria, this number reaches amazing 58.6 weeks. It’s necessary for employers to go beyond the law and allow their female employees as much maternity leave as they need to not only recover from childbirth but also adjust to their new role as mothers.
Better parental benefits can definitely benefit mothers, but also be good for the company in the long run. Things like paid maternity leave paid daycare, backup child care reimbursement or on-site childcare can not only help businesses retain valuable workers but also attract new talent. Some companies allow new mothers to choose their work hours or even work from home. A few days per week, new mothers (and fathers) can work from home or choose a shortened workweek.
Other benefits for working mothers that businesses should consider are:
- Flexible spending accounts for dependent care
- Help with child care costs
- Programs for new moms
- Better flexibility with work hours
- Prioritizing projects
- Paid sick leave
Communicate with new moms
One of the best ways to support mothers in the workplace is to allow them easy and fast communication with supervisors and human resources and encourage them to discuss their changing needs. New mothers face a lot of challenges, the first one being postpartum depression. It’s smart to discuss with employees what is postpartum depression and how it manifests itself. Be accommodating in every way and offer compassion and understanding. It’s also very thoughtful to keep mothers in the loop by sending them notifications on important work milestones, new tasks, changes in the office and office culture. Returning after 10 or more weeks from being away can cause a lot of anxiety when you don’t know what’s been going on.
Allow gradual return to work
After several weeks of being at home, coming back to work can feel like a messy train hit you right in the face. This transition from not working to working can be even worse for first-time mothers. Allowing new mothers to work from home during the first few weeks of adjusting or giving them part-time hours can be a very beneficial thing for both mothers and businesses. It will prevent any confusion and eliminate the feelings of being overwhelmed. Companies like Pinterest allow a four-week program of a gradual return to work for new parents where they can choose to work part-time yet receive full pay.
Provide adequate space for pumping
It’s well known that breastfeeding has great benefits for the child, but it also helps mothers create a stronger bond with their babies. However, pumping at work can be very awkward and can deter mothers from continuing to provide their babies with breast milk. This often pushes parents to opt for a formula that usually doesn’t contain all the necessary nutrients and antibodies. But if you create a peaceful and private environment for pumping, mothers can continue to provide their children with milk and prevent many health issues in babies and breastfeeding mothers. Users of such spaces can relax, recuperate and catch a breather before returning to work.
Create a parent-employee group
Many new mothers after finishing maternity leave, report great feelings of the pressure of having to prove their worth to the company. According to research, working men are often valued based on their potential, while working mothers are rated according to their past performance, being constantly compared to their pre-baby successes. This practice can create an unwelcoming environment for mothers returning to work.
To prevent the divide and build a healthy environment for all employees, it’s a great idea to create a group of working parents where they can connect, share ideas and experiences, share resources and find a friendly space. This group can help parents balance their work life and home life and allow them to work together to help stay on track. Instead of having to hide issues like picking up kids from daycare or struggling to prepare meals, they can find carpool solutions and create meal prep and planning tips.
These practices not only motivate women to become mothers but also allow them to have the best of both words—a loving family and a successful career. By supporting mothers in the workplace, you’ll retain valuable talent and help raise a new generation of successful people.