At Blue Beyond, we generously give each other 16 weeks of paid time off for the birth of a child. It’s not something our company does for us; it’s what our community of colleagues and coworkers does for each other, as we lean in to support team members through this important phase of life.
This year, I’m one of five women on our team of ~45 who has taken maternity leave. Think about that — that’s over 10% of our company in one year. This is particularly challenging in a small company like ours. And even more so during a year when our team nearly doubled in size due to a record period of growth.
During my maternity leave, I had so many moments of immense gratitude and tears of joy: for having that kind of focused time with my newborn, for the care packages from the team while I was away, and for the outreach of genuine compassion from my colleagues. But what has stood out to me most is how much team-wide growth and learning emerged in the wake of supporting each other through this time, and how much stronger we are as a company because of it.
When folks are out, there’s still work to be done, and we’ve always had the mindset of “how can we make this a development opportunity?” vs solely “how can we cover the work?”. Maternity leaves are a fantastic way to allow others to step up and in to new skill sets in a planned environment.
As I was prepping for leave, I knew it would be important to document the processes, cadences, and important nuances of one of our largest accounts. What I didn’t expect was how useful this exercise was as a forcing function to future-proof this engagement. Prior to this, I had much of the institutional knowledge in my brain, but to scale and let others step up and in — this was a beautiful example of how critical it is to capture this important information about any given account.
Preparing for multiple people to be out for four months requires deep trust. Trust that the client relationships will be maintained, that the quality of the work will remain high, and that despite the uncertainties of known-quantities, we’ll make it through to the other side and be better for it.
With every leave, every client handoff, and every deliverable, I can feel the strength in our team and trust in each other growing. It’s not always easy for our clients to transfer the hope and trust of our work to a new team member, but I’m always amazed and grateful for the new opportunities it brings and the reach of possibilities that comes with new perspectives.
Is it hard for a team or company to manage a maternity leave (let alone 5)? YES! It’s not an entitlement — it’s something that’s earned, that’s worked for, and pays dividends in so many ways. Some of those are immediate, resulting in a newfound confidence or individual growth, and others are so far reaching that we can only see the ripples fade in the distance.
Caitlin is an Account Lead at Blue Beyond. For more than a decade she’s partnered closely with clients to develop and lead initiatives related to employee engagement, organizational communications, culture building, and strategic leadership alignment.