Managing your maternity leave

October 3, 2016 Investment Executive

By: Beatrice Paez

Working moms face immense pressure to gracefully balance work and family responsibilities. Returning to the workforce after maternity leave can be particularly challenging.

Readjusting to the business environment and getting back up to full capacity will take some time, and you may need colleagues to pitch in and help with some of your responsibilities.

“It takes a good six to 10 months to feel fully back up to speed,” says Kim Thompson, senior vice president of advisory services at Credential Financial in Vancouver. “But your core skills as a leader and how you approach your work don’t leave you.”

Regardless of how long you’ve been away from the workforce, it helps to have a supportive workplace. Many financial advisors are fortunate to have a relatively flexible work schedule, says Jeet Dhillon, portfolio manager with TD Wealth Private Investment Counsel in Toronto. And that allows you to plan your meetings with clients to suit your schedule.

Whether you’re planning a maternity leave or about to return to work, these tips will help you make a smooth transition:

> Establish a communication plan
Before you take your leave, outline a plan for the way things will be handled in your absence. For example, you might delegate a point person and leave reminders or notes on client files. Having a system in place will ensure that your clients are taken care of.

“I worked very closely with my associate and team members so that the plan was solid from all angles,” Dhillon says.

Dhillon treated her maternity leave as an extended vacation. Out of personal preference, she ramped up her workload before leaving, tying up any loose ends.

Dhillon had an advisor who could fill in and an associate her clients could turn to, but she left mainly straightforward tasks for them. She made herself available via email and phone should any unexpected issues arise.

> Notify clients before your departure
Schedule time to meet in person or talk over the phone with clients about your plans.

Try not to let the anxiety of informing clients overwhelm you. “Letting them know your plan is important,” says Dhillon. “Nobody likes surprises, and a lot of my clients were very happy about the news.”

> Set reasonable expectations
When you return to work, find a comfortable balance that works well for you. Don’t overstretch yourself on the home front or at work to prove your commitment.

Dhillon struck a flexible arrangement when she returned to work following an eight-month maternity leave. Initially, she worked part-time, two to three days per week. She focused on her existing clients and refrained from taking on more until she was back full-time.

Even though Dhillon cut her maternity leave four months short of the usual 12-month period, she found time to ease into her familiar routine while allowing her baby daughter to adjust to daycare.

Moreover, there may be other areas — outside your career and family life — in which you can lower personal expectations, says Thompson: “Maybe I don’t run as often as I used to. Other things have to give.”

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