Along with the excitement of preparing for your baby may come anxiety about your job. While you're home with your newborn, how will your work get done? Will colleagues who take on extra responsibilities grow to resent you? When you return to the office, will it be easy to pick up where you left off? For a smooth transition to—and from—maternity leave:
Cover your tasks
Don't assume that your job will be adequately covered in your absence. With the help of your supervisor, designate co-workers to handle your assignments, and spend several weeks familiarizing them with your duties beforehand. "Divvy up assignments so that no one feels too burdened," says Ellen Bankert, former director of corporate partnerships at the Center for Work & Family, at Boston College, "and hand over a clear workload."
To keep the lines of communication open while you're gone (without inviting an avalanche of calls), you may want to let pinch hitters know that you'll be calling in once a week.
Meet and greet
Chances are your co-workers will be excited to see your baby—so bring him in toward the end of your leave, when he'll be better able to travel. Choose lunchtime or the end of the day to avoid disrupting business, and don't wander around, stopping into everyone's office. Set a specific place—a lounge or a friend's office—and if colleagues have time, they can drop by. "Limit your visit to a half hour," says Bankert, "so you won't overstay your welcome."
Hit the ground walking
Just as you took time to make the transition out, give yourself a chance to ease back in. Don't try to take back your entire workload at once. The first few weeks after Jill Temkin returned to the office from her maternity leave, the New York City mother met with co-workers frequently so they could bring her up to speed. Then, instead of interrupting their work, she let them finish it up and hand it back in the same organized manner in which she'd given it to them.