Maternity Leave and HR Help Desk Solutions

mat-letter-bannerI know this face hasn’t popped up on our blog in a long time, so you might not recognize me, but I work at Dovetail. I just had my first baby and have been on maternity leave for the last three and a half months. On my first day of maternity leave, one day before the baby arrived, I thought, “there’s no way I’ll really completely check out of work for 3 months.”

But that’s exactly what I did.

As it turns out, as wonderful as it is to be a first-time parent, it’s as equally completely overwhelming and exhausting. I was too much of a zombie the first two months to even remember I had a job (that wasn’t taking care of my daughter), much less keep up with it. Additionally, I work for an incredibly family-friendly organization, have very empathetic co-workers and a very understanding boss, who went to great lengths to avoid contacting me. I was 100 percent checked out of work for 14 weeks. It was wonderful.

In my opinion, any parent of a new baby or anyone, who really needs a break for any life event, should be able to completely check out of work until they feel ready to come back. This is obviously easier to do in some positions than it is others.

Human Resources is probably one of the most difficult areas for practitioners to completely check out. Because it’s traditionally considered a cost center, most of the time, staff is pretty lean, and there are usually processes, procedures and knowledge that are stored in the brain of the person in charge of them. Enter HR Shared Services, which is designed to help alleviate this problem by standardizing HR processes and creating a tiered structure.

However, you still have the issue of knowledge management – publicizing the expertise and experience of HR experts in an organized, searchable format – which is necessary for an HR professional to go on vacation or take maternity or medical leave without having to answer work-related questions.

Another reason it’s so difficult to check out, is the inevitable inbox overflow and dig out that has to occur upon your return. Even with minimal contact from co-workers and informing all the partners, customers and vendors I would be out, I still came back to hundreds of emails and found myself following up with team members saying, “did this get done?” or “what was the resolution for this?”. They, of course, had to reply. A big time-suck for all.

In an HR department, when you’re dealing with employee requests and inquiries, this will not do. The absence of a team member makes it very easy for things to fall through the cracks, frustrating the employee and creating unnecessary follow up upon that person’s return.

As I was going through my inbox, I was thinking about how hugely beneficial it must be to have an HR Help Desk system in place for HR professionals that are out of the office for an extended period of time. This is one of the first benefits Jessica Miller-Merrill discussed when she reviewed our software in 2012, thinking back on her own maternity leave experience as an HR Director.

Not only does an HR Help Desk give you the ability to document, share and publicize knowledge for other HR reps and/or employees to search for and answer questions in your absence, its HR Case Management component prevents requests and inquiries from getting lost in a temporarily abandoned inbox. It also prevents the person on leave from having to look through old emails they’ve been cced on and wonder if those issues were resolved. They can look in the HR Case Management system and see what cases, if any, are still open requiring their attention.

I know this post is moving into some sales-pitchy territory, but I’ve never been out of the office for that long, and upon returning I found myself wishing I was an HR professional in an organization that used an HR Help Desk solution.

Being able to take a break from work for several months to take care of other parts of your life is so wonderfully refreshing. Knowing that you have the technology and processes in place to make sure your work is taken care of while you’re out, even better!

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