Managing parental leave in a fast-growth business
by Verity Brown, Managing Director, The Specialist Works

Verity shares her story and provides some crucial pointers to anyone taking or managing parental leave in a fast-growth business

21st January 2022 Read time: 3 minutes Watch time: 48 minutes
Verity Brown is a mother of two. She is also the Managing Director of The Specialist Works, part of the What’s Possible Group.  
 
Ten months ago, Verity had just completed her second round of maternity leave and re-entered the business in her new role. Her second re-entry into the business was a smooth transition, which was certainly not her experience the first time round. 
 
Equipped with her lived experience and battle scars to prove it, Verity joined the What’s Possible Community sessions to share her story and provide some crucial pointers to anyone taking or managing parental leave in a fast-growth business.

Lessons learned

It was awful. After six months back in the office, I was struggling with anxiety and felt like I was failing in all directions,” Verity remembers.

That was Verity’s reaction after re-entering the business after her first maternity leave. An agency is a fast-evolving environment. While she was away, there was an MBO, a new vision for the company established, she had a new manager, and she was assigned a new role (which really was a few roles). Her head was spinning.  
 
On January the 14th, 2017, Verity was the first woman appointed to the board of The Specialist Works. The next day she announced she was pregnant. 
 
The stress of the timing of her announcement overwhelmed her, but once she finally announced it, people were much more supportive than she was fearing. It was a relief.
 
It’s really good to open up these conversations. Talking about family life and that balance, making it acceptable, so it doesn’t feel like a taboo, and it doesn’t feel like a scary, unspeakable element of life. It’s really not,” she said. “You need to let yourself go through that journey. That journey will look different to everyone,”.
 
She says it is vital that managers allow parents to go through this journey (with minimal interference) to have the time and space to evaluate their work/life balance. Once she had completed the journey, Verity decided to cut back to a four-day workweek.
 
However, six months into her re-entry into the business, Verity – a planner by trade – saw the holes in the plans she thought she had made. So, when she approached her second maternity leave, she immediately recognised the need for a living-and-breathing document that would ensure a seamless reintroduction.

The must-have document

Verity sat down for a session with her manager and drew up a master plan answering the following questions:

  • What do I like doing? 
  • What do I want to do more of? 
  • What do I want to learn? 
  • What do I want to stop doing?  
  • What interests me?  

They captured her answers, kept them in a safe place, and then when she returned to work after her second maternity leave, referred to it and let it guide them.

This time, it’s worked. I came back to a new job, a bigger job, and it suited me perfectly, and my transition has felt smooth, and I was able to hit my stride sooner – which is a bit of a win-win,” Verity said.

Verity encourages parents to return to work to intentionally measure what success looks like at work, personally, and as a parent. Setting boundaries and ensuring you service each part of your new life is essential.  
 
Verity concluded her practical guide for parents and managers by providing a checklist of things to remember to make the journey of taking parental leave much more manageable:
 
  • Open the conversation around that stage of life and what it means. Don’t hold on to it as a big secret. 
  • Let yourself go on a journey: Your emotions will change as you go through it. You don’t know who you’re going to be on the other side.  
  •  Map what success looks like now that you are balancing a whole other area of your life.  
  • Plan for change: Leave that document in the business so when the world inevitably moves around you, it’s something to refer to.  
  • Try to make it easier for the next person whose going through this by talking about it and sharing experiences. 
 
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