Editor’s Note: This is the final installment of Knocked Up Ninja, read part 1 and part 2. In addition to being 2015’s OfficeNinjas All-Star, author Karina Young is now a new mom! Join us in congratulating Karina and her new baby girl.
As you enter your third trimester, there are a flurry of thoughts and feelings running through you. You’re excited, nervous, anxious, and maybe even surprised that you aren’t going to be pregnant forever—a baby is coming. While you have tons of at home projects you’re wrapping up over the next few weeks, it’s important to make sure you also have your work wrapped up so you focus more time and energy on you and baby.
One of the biggest things you’ll need to prepare for at work is who will take over your duties when you are on leave. Whether it’s a colleague or a new hire, there are some things you can do to make the handoff smooth and easy for both of you.
Be Confident in Finding the Right Person
Before you start your search for who can help while you’re out on leave, do yourself a favor and figure out exactly what you need help with in your absence. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What responsibilities can be handed off to someone else on your team?
- What responsibilities are most urgent?
- What big projects will this person be overseeing?
- What things will you need a new person to help with? How long will they stay? How much training time will they need?
- What’s the timeline for your leave?
Once you’ve answered these questions, create a solid game plan and present it to your lead, so they know you’re serious and prepared. This way, you can get faster approval and begin your new hire search (if needed).
It’s important that you are confident in passing the baton over to your temporary substitute. If and when you do interview potential people, you should look for someone better at your job than you. It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s a great piece of advice I myself was once given and it honestly works. Hiring someone you’re confident can fulfil your job’s responsibilities and duties above and beyond can ensure an easy handover and less stress for you.
Document Everything You Do (and How)
Like many other Ninjas I know, I have a tendency to be a one-person brain trust filled with lots of information and random facts that enable me to keep the office running. Although it makes us Office Ninjas seem amazing—because we are, duh—it’s not very practical in terms of growth and creating new opportunities for ourselves. To make training your substitute easier on both of you, take the time now to create good documentation around what you do and how you do it. My top three rules for documenting are:
- When writing what you do, direct the instructions for someone who knows nothing about your work. Imagine describing your task to a kindergartener and that’s the level of detail you need to give.
- Create a thorough list of everything you do. Your first draft of duties will include all the big things you know you’re responsible for, but over the next few days as you start to do something in office, ask yourself, “Is this on my documentation?” Even things as small as checking the mail or planning office parties can have nuanced details that you’ll want to share.
- Keep adding to it! Up until my last day in the office, I was making adjustments and edits to my documentation. Things change, random tasks come up and it’s always easier to take five minutes now to write it down then to try and do it later.
Prepare for Your Last Big Projects
As you prepare to head out of the office, make a game plan of what big projects and things you want to accomplish before you go. Now, look at that list again and pretend you only have half the time to do it in, then reprioritize the tasks. The reason for this is simple—you have no control over when you’re actually going to go out on leave. You may plan to work until your water breaks, but the baby may decide to show up three weeks early or you may be ready to leave sooner than you thought (which is totally fine!). If you keep your task list small and simple, you can leave the office without feeling like you didn’t accomplish everything.
That being said, a big project may come up that you know you won’t be able to complete—and that’s okay. You don’t have to turn it down; just don’t do it alone. We ran our company’s annual reviews during my final three weeks in the office and I made sure to have someone running the project with me so that in case I left early, they would know how to continue it without me.
The Home Stretch
This is it. You are in the home stretch (sometimes it literally feels like that) and you are about to become a parent! We’ve gone through a lot of to-do’s over the last few months and hopefully you’ve had the chance to take care of yourself, understand your parental leave policies, change into some comfy shoes, and find a fantastic sub to keep your office in check while you’re out. The last and final task you have to do? Stop worrying about work. This journey into parenthood is a life-changing experience that will demand your full presence. Don’t waste any time and energy thinking about work once you’re out of the office. Say this mantra with me, “They will survive. My leave is about me and my baby.” Repeat as needed and happy parenting!
It’s been almost 4 months since I went on maternity leave and I’m still amazed that that much time has gone by. There were days I thought would never end, but somehow the weeks flew by and here we are! Taking care of my daughter has been an incredible and humbling journey. Looking back at my preparations for this time, I know that taking time for myself and setting healthy boundaries with my work set me up for success while on leave. I have not logged into my email once since she was born and I don’t plan on logging in until I go back in March. My manager and coworkers are completely supportive and encourage this behavior, which makes it easy for me to keep the focus on my family.
I’ve met a lot of moms recently and I’m often asked how I was able to take so much time off. I’m constantly surprised how little other women know about their state maternity and family benefits. I encourage any soon-to-be parent to do your research, talk to your employer and make a plan. Many moms are unaware of the differences between State Disability and Paid Family Leave (aka Baby Bonding) benefits which could mean more money in your pockets (yes, please!).
Being an avid people pleaser and busy body, I wasn’t sure how I’d adjust to life as a parent and if I could actually keep away from my work. I can tell you now that you don’t have much of a choice and I mean that in the best way possible. Once your child comes into your life, a switch goes on (and many other goes off) and you suddenly are a parent. There’s no gentle learning curve or training period, it’s right then and there and you have no choice but to engulf yourself in the most incredible job in the world. This takes being a ninja to a whole new level.
Thanks for following me along this journey of balancing my soon-to-be motherhood with ninjahood! We’d love to hear from other moms and dads on what made your time in the office better before baby arrived.
How did you prepare yourself and your team for you leave? What did you wish you would have done? Share your stories with us in the comments!