One of the major demographics shifts over the last decades has been the rise of women in the workplace. With women making up nearly half the workforce, there are more working moms than ever before.
For new moms, returning to the office after maternity leave can be difficult. But there are steps that you and your workplace leaders can take to make sure your transition goes smoothly.
Make sure your office has a dedicated pumping room
Many new moms are still breastfeeding when they return to the workplace. Under the Affordable Care Act, employers are required to allow women to pump breast milk in the workplace. The law requires that women have reasonable break time and access to a private space that isn’t just a bathroom. If your office doesn’t provide a lactation room, consider speaking to your organization about creating one. All an office needs is a space with an electrical outlet and nearby access to hot and cold water. Of course, many offices offer more than that. Google’s lactation room, which features hospital-grade breast pumps, privacy curtains, footrests, fridges, magazines, tables, sinks and more. It even has whiteboards where moms can leave each other notes and post photos.
Work with your manager on flexibility
Life happens, especially when you’re a parent. Your baby gets sick, your childcare falls through or you need to make a trip to your OB. Often, working parents need some extra flexibility.
Having the option to work from home when needed can be a lifesaver. Talk to your managers about using a laptop, telecommuting or setting aside weekly work from-home-time.
Another option is to plan phase-back hours with your organization to help ease your transition back to the office. Phase-back hours are part-time with full-time pay, according to U.S. News and World Report, and can help moms get back to work while still having time for themselves and their babies.
Be a childcare advocate
Finding reliable childcare can be stressful—and expensive. Make sure you’re taking advantage of any reimbursement your company offers for childcare. In 2014, 39 percent of U.S. workers had access to employer-sponsored childcare reimbursements, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
If you’re very lucky, your office might offer on-site childcare, either for full-time care or as a backup in case your childcare falls through. They are often less expensive than average daycare and are much more convenient for breastfeeding moms. Companies that offer on-site childcare have an easier time recruiting and retaining talent, according to The Guardian, but only 7 percent of companies in the U.S. provide this service. If you work for a large company with lots of parents, consider advocating to develop onsite childcare, which can reduce turnover and boost employee engagement, according to Fast Company.
What other steps can new moms take to make it easier to head back to work? Share your ideas in the comments section.