Why maternity coaching makes a real difference

Maternity coach Lucy Dennis from HR experts 10Eighty explains how their maternity coaching works and why it matters.

Baby Sleeping on top of a mother who is lying down


Maternity coaching is not a luxury nor a nice to have perk. It is important because it will help you retain your best talent and bolster your reputation as an employer of choice. In some industries around 50% of the workforce, customers and stakeholders are female. Women really matter to a company’s employment brand, reputation and corporate image. Coaching increases the retention of highly skilled employees within organisations and reduces the costs of re-hiring and induction. 

An ethical, people-centred company should offer this option. The women that we have coached at 10Eighty cite their coaching experience as one of the most positive aspects of the return to work journey. The fact that their organisation has invested in this support is a huge advantage in getting back to effectiveness, productivity and fulfilment at work.

At a fundamental level maternity coaching is an effective and pragmatic way to enable mothers to make a successful return to work. Focus on the positives in retaining talented working mothers, who supported through policy, a buddy system, and coaching enjoy the best of both worlds, being a mum and pursuing a career.

10Eighty aim to provide holistic support for women as they approach maternity leave, allowing them space to explore personal and work-related challenges and goals ahead of their baby arriving. Decisions about returning to work are often complex, and coaching affords a woman the opportunity to clarify her thoughts about her return.

Best practice maternity policies

For the organisation, the issue needs to be addressed in the round; line managers need to be trained in talking to and working with pregnant colleagues. What they should say, not making assumptions, recognising the need to support a colleague who may be anxious, exhausted, unwell, even afraid.

The best advice is to ask questions, take notice of the response and check what is needed to make the workspace a safe and comfortable place.

When planning maternity leave especially for senior women or those with long tenure, it is crucial to include them at every point around cover; there will be anxiety around priorities and loss of control – help them to deal with ambiguity but don’t take away responsibility unless it is requested. Don’t make assumptions about how colleagues feel or what they want, expect or prefer.

Maternity coaching is designed to help each individual achieve clarity around the priorities they need to focus on before maternity leave. Typically we like to start work at the six months stage, to think about what needs to be done in preparation so everything is set up on a sound basis in advance of maternity leave. This ensures a calm and organised lead into parenthood.

The transition phase

We recognise that many women, especially those with senior positions with a team or teams of people reporting to them, may feel they are letting people down, worry that they will be forgotten and that all their hard work will be unravelled. A coach can discuss these feelings, explore what to let go of and what to focus on.

Discussion about return to work may raise issues and new options or opportunities; a maternity coaching initiative can reduce the noise and worry around what comes next. A new mother can feel quite lost, confused and worried about decisions around return to work; with feelings of guilt around leaving the baby. However much you love the job, you also love the child so there may be a lot of uncertainty, and some assumptions about what the organisation expects – coaching helps prepare for those conversations with management about the next steps.

Make returning easy

During the first few weeks of being back at work is when the organisation needs to offer support. Women may feel mentally and physically exhausted, they may need a private space to use a breast pump, they may experience anxiety about their image and professionalism. Coaching can help both returner and manager challenge assumptions about what is realistic, what is important and what can be done to address problems and anxiety.

A buddy or ally system is really helpful at this stage, if it is set up in advance, someone from outside the returner’s own reporting line, someone to share experiences who is also perhaps a new parent. This also provides a safe space to discuss relationships with partner and family, which going back to work is likely to impact.

Returners from leave are likely to worry about whether the company or job have changed and they may also worry about their own priorities. Supporting mothers during the return to work phase on both an emotional and practical level will pay long-term career dividends by enabling women to re-engage with their career development after maternity leave.

Top tips

– Good employers will have a robust maternity policy in place.  I would suggest that organisations allocate budget to run workshops for managers on how to support women in the run-up to maternity leave and on how to navigate discussions about returning to work.

– Ask lots of questions, make sure that the returner knows that their role is secure, that she is valued and that no false assumptions or expectations are made.

Don’t do the thinking for her – your employee is smart and capable. A smooth and effective return to work enhances confidence and productivity, while enabling the retention of talented women and investing in their future potential. Maternity coaching bolsters organisation diversity strategies and boosts the employer brand so the company is attractive to women who want a flourishing career combined with work life balance.

Our coaching app allows clients to review our roster of coaches and search by key word to find coaches who cover their area of concern. The app provides a contact hub to arrange and facilitate meetings and conversation and has an information resource with notes, resources, podcasts, courses and discussion forums. It’s a new approach to organising coaching that fits with modern ways of working.

*Lucy Dennis is a Maternity Coach at 10Eighty, a strengths-based HR consultancy. For more information, please visit www.10Eighty.co.uk.

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