Supporting new parents when they return to work can be one of the best ways to maintain a strong, vibrant workforce. As a manager, you play an important role in easing the transition for these employees. 

Manager Makeover: Supporting new parents back to work

Supporting new parents when they return to work can be one of the best ways to maintain a strong, vibrant workforce. As a manager, you play an important role in easing the transition for these employees.

Understanding the pressures new parents face when they return to work is one of the best ways to help ease their transition back to work. Does your organization have a lactation room or a private space available for nursing mothers? Will your employee need schedule adjustments to ease the transition back to work during the first few weeks? Are new and expectant parents aware of resources your company offers to help with finding childcare support groups for new parents and other parenting resources? Resources like these can relieve stress and increase the returning employee's peace-of-mind and productivity at work. Check with your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to see what supports are available for new parents and make sure your employees are aware of how to connect with these important resources.

Debra Gilbert Rosenberg, a licensed clinical social worker and the author of Motherhood Without Guilt, discusses the struggles working parents face in a new podcast for Ceridian LifeWorks. "Nowadays," she says, "working fathers and mothers are experiencing many of the very same kinds of pressures and feelings and frustrations. And they feel like they're being pulled in opposite directions. When they're at home, they feel like they should be at work, and when they're at work, they feel like they should be at home, and that's now becoming much more common for both men and women."

Rosenberg notes that new parents returning to work need encouragement and support from their employers. As a manager, understand that there will be a period of adjustment as new parents learn to manage work and family responsibilities. A new parent returning to work may feel excited to be back on the job, but also exhausted, guilty or sad about being away from her baby, and worried about practical matters like child care. Offering flexibility and support throughout this phase can help ease the transition.

Communicating with your employees throughout a parental leave and during the return to work process is essential and can lead to higher retention and employee engagement levels. Here are some suggestions:

  • Keep in touch with your employee during the leave. Check in from time to time to let the employee know that out of sight isn't out of mind. Call or send email notes and show an interest in the changes in the employee's life. Keep your messages brief and upbeat. "How are things going? Everyone on the team misses you and hopes you and the baby are doing well."
  • Offer support. One of Ceridian's retention strategies is to support individuals in their adjustment by offering the services of its EAP Ceridian LifeWorks. When working with employees returning from a leave, it's important that managers consider the changes that may have occurred in the organization and/or the employee's job and develop a plan that includes managing your employees through these changes. Consider, too, the changes in the employee's life. Reminding new parents to take advantage of EAP and work-life resources, including counseling or coaching and online resources, can be invaluable. The EAP offers invaluable resources for managers as well.
  • Be prepared to be flexible. Your employee may want to extend her leave if possible, or try a flexible work option such as flextime or telecommuting. A new father may wish to take a parental leave; does your company offer this to new fathers? Be prepared in advance for such requests. Find out about your department and company scheduling practices for employees returning from leaves of absence. What are the criteria for deciding when various options are offered?
  • Try to give equal support to new mothers and fathers in managerial and nonprofessional jobs. Send the message that your organization wants to help all new parents succeed at work, no matter what their jobs are, as long as work duties, company policies, and wage and hour requirements permit.
  • Find out about resources for nursing mothers. A nursing mother will need periodic breaks and a clean, private place to express milk during the work day. She will need a secure place to keep her pumping equipment, and a refrigerator in which to store expressed milk. Encourage her to ask human resources (HR) or the company nurse what amenities are provided for nursing mothers. Be sure to be supportive and flexible if the employee needs time for breaks to express milk.
  • Check in frequently with an employee returning to work after a parental leave. Find out how she or he likes being back at work and if they need additional support to stay productive.
  • Support the decision if your employee chooses not to return to work. The decision to quit a job to care for a child is an intensely personal decision that may leave career considerations a distant second. However, as a manager it's important to support this choice and to keep in touch with former employees. In this way, you keep the door open to the possibility of this trained employee returning to your organization in the future. And, you help represent your organization as a supportive and caring culture.

To learn more about additional Ceridian resources that can support new parents as well as experienced parents in your organization, visit the Employee Assistance Programs page on