This next set of tasks is harder to time correctly, since babies don't typically arrive on schedule, even if you have an actual delivery appointment, like I do. These are the tasks I'd like to do *just* before I go out on leave, so I can minimize what I need to take care of just after the baby is born and I'm in a haze of no sleep-nursing-crying-diapering-recovering from birth.
1-2 Weeks Before Parental or Maternity Leave Begins:
- Ensure your work transition plan is in place - Remember that transition plan you worked out in Part I? Now's the time to do a trial run so you can help your coworkers while you're still around. I like to transition the tasks completely by 1-2 weeks before my due date in case the baby shows up early.
- Email stakeholders about transitioning projects and your upcoming schedule - Let everyone you work with, internally and externally, know who's taking over your projects and when you'll be out. Give them a rough idea of when you'll be back (I like statements like "late February") and you might want to let them know you won't be checking email or voicemail during this time.
- Update and submit performance review documents - If you're going to be out near review time, it's worth taking a pass through your documents and having them up-to-date so you don't need to do it later. It's easier to write them when your work memory is fresh (and not sleep deprived!).
- Submit any lingering expense reports and insurance reimbursements - If you've got outstanding paperwork, take care of it now, as you will either forget about it on leave or won't want to do it. Or, by the time you feel like you can handle it, it may be too late. Also, it's free money! Note that Flexible Spending Accounts have submission deadlines or you lose the money, so get all those taken care of as soon as possible.
- Take home all food and valuables from your office - You don't want scavengers of the rodent kind or the sticky-fingered-human kind lurking around your stuff while you're gone. Plus you won't want to eat that 4 month old Powerbar when you return, do you? Take irreplaceable photos and service awards too, if they have high sentimental value to you. You never know what might happen in your office while you're gone (moves, someone squatting there, etc.)
- Take home any plants from your office or make arrangements for them to be watered - I'm not a plant person, but if you are, convince a nice coworker to water them, or take them home. Otherwise, you will come back to sad, dead plants, and returning to work is already hard enough without that!
- Write down all email lists you’re on and unsubscribe from unnecessary ones - I work in an email-heavy environment, so I need to manage the flow when I'm out or my mailbox will fill up and become a GIANT mess while I'm out. I copied the list of everything I was subscribed to, and then ruthlessly removed myself from the rest. Also unsubscribe to any newsletters, etc that you signed up for but don't actually read.
- Set up email rules to delete most messages so your mailbox doesn’t get full - this is a personal choice, but I knew I did not want to be reading work email on leave, and also knew I'd be tempted, with such easy access on my Smartphone. So I set up a rule to delete anything NOT directly TO me, and not marked High Priority.
- Set up your Out of Office message on your email and let people know if you’re deleting email - Many email clients will let you draft your "Vacation" message before you actually turn it on. Spend a little time on this and detail who's picking up your projects, when you'll be out, and remind them you won't be checking emails or voicemails, and in fact, will be deleting everything unless it's marked as High Priority (or whatever rule you decide to use). I personally DO NOT include my mobile number or home contact info on this, because I don't want to be contacted unless in cases of dire emergency. Others feel differently.
- Set up extended absence greeting on voicemail - Many voicemail clients will let you set up your "vacation" greeting in advance before you turn it on. Let people know you will not be checking voicemail and who they can call instead.
- Give mobile number and personal email address to your manager - For major emergencies, it's good for *someone* trusted to have your home contact info. Either your manager or a trusted coworker can fill this role. Make sure your wishes are clear - that you don't want to be contacted unless it's the absolute last resort, etc. Really think about what you want in this situation and err on the side of caution. Personally I found that keeping my contact info easily accessible (on the whiteboard in my office, etc) made it *too easy* for coworkers to call with questions, especially in the first few weeks I was out, which was the hardest for me to cope with.
- Write up a note for your office door saying you’re on leave - again, this is personal preference and depends on whether you get a lot of people stopping by to find you. Some people think it invites theft, but if you take home all your valuables and label the other equipment, you should be fine.
- Write down the phone number for HR so you can notify them when the baby is born - in many companies, you need to notify HR within a certain time period to *officially* start your leave, set up Benefits for the baby, etc. Keep this number handy somewhere. Also do a little research on what else you need to do for benefits once the baby is born.
- Cancel automatic withdrawals from paycheck - if you are lucky enough to get paid maternity or parental leave, you may not want to continue certain withdrawals, like parking, meal cards, bus pass etc. Stop all these services and keep a list of which ones you'll want to resume when you return.
- Back up everything on your main work computers - of course you're already doing this, right?? back everything up to an external hard drive, DVD, or a central network location that you can access when you return. You just never know what might happen when you're out. Sometimes computers just die a sad, quiet death.
- Write down your Windows BitLocker, machine local administrator and domain/network passwords - I know, this is horribly bad security advice, but if you really, truly, check out while you're on leave, you may forget these passwords and not be able to log in when you return. In some cases, the only way to fix this is to reformat your computer and lose everything. So write 'em down and keep 'em safe.
- Find a coworker willing to pack up your office if there’s an office move while you’re out - in my workplace, office moves are pretty frequent. If I'm out for 20 weeks, chances are we'll move at least once during that time. Find someone who can pack up your stuff. Help them out by removing all extraneous junk from your office and taking it home. Now's a good time for a good cleanup anyway.
I'll post the next section in a week or two, which is Things to Do Right After Your Baby is Born. I created a handy downloadable checklist for the whole thing, for the impatient folks out there. It's my first experiment with Google Drive for shared downloads. Let me know if you have trouble accessing the files.
Parental Leave Checklist Downloads:
Download the Word version (.doc)
Download the PDF version (.pdf)
If you find this helpful, please contribute to my Starbucks chai fund :)
Thanks in advance!