We believe one silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic was that organizational leaders experienced how many parents (especially mothers) struggled with managing both their work-from-home jobs and child rearing duties. According to the Labor Department, 2.5 million women have left the workforce since the beginning of the pandemic –many of them because of the overwhelming and conflicting demands of their work responsibilities and family duties.
Employers are now faced with the reality that they have lost top talent during the pandemic. This last year has proved that if working women are forced to choose between their career and family, they will often choose their family, leaving companies worse-off when it comes to talent and diversity.
One of our goals through New Moms’ Healthy Returns is to provide guidance and resources to help HR professionals better support working parents to help attract and retain talented employees. We believe that if organizations invest in their new parent employees from the very beginning they will gain more in terms of loyalty, retention, productivity and satisfaction. Beyond that, if you continue to support your employee with family-friendly policies and programs to ensure their success, they could turn into a passionate advocate for your organization and culture.
To help HR understand the working mother experience, we have put together a Return to Work “Zones” printable resource. This guide was written to help employers understand what type of support your new working mom needs as she navigates her first year back to work, and what kinds of benefits you can reap from that employee later on as a result. Every new mother is different and may spend more (or less) time in each zone, but we think it’ll be helpful for you to understand what type of support is typically needed along the way!
Zone One: This zone reflects the first few months after having a baby, when women begin the transition back to work. This is a very critical time when the most support from your company is needed. Research has shown that 43% of women leave the workforce within 3 months of having a baby1 so this stage is a key opportunity for HR and management to offer much-needed support. Among our recommendations is to make sure lactation policies are up to date and well communicated to employees, and that managers are trained and prepared to communicate with their returning employees and attend to their unique needs.
Zone Two: The second zone is typically when most new mothers breathe a sigh of relief that they have gotten through the difficult transitional months going back to work! HR should keep the new mom engaged, be sure to keep lines of communication open, and inform her of any Employee Resource Groups or mentorship opportunities she could join. And be sure to ask her for feedback on what the organization could be doing better!
Zone Three: Once the new mom has made it into the final zone, they are likely feeling very comfortable with the balance they have struck in managing their career and parenting duties. Employees who are happy with the support they have received in the first two zones may become one of your biggest assets and advocates. Imagine them mentoring other new moms, and sharing what a great culture you have. Consider asking them to review your parental benefit policies – they will know firsthand if they hit the mark, and where key improvements might be made. By zone three, you have a loyal, satisfied employee that can help you further develop your family-friendly policies and culture!
We understand companies have their plates full with organizing the parental leave and subsequent return of new parent employees, so we hope that this resource can help you understand and determine the type of support your new mothers need as they head back to work. Thank you for supporting working women and their unique needs as valuable, breastfeeding employees (and advocates)!
Berry, et al. CDC. Becker’s, Harvard.