Coding Conversations: Figuring Out Work-Life Balance and Paternity Leave
March 29, 2019
Editor’s note: LinkedIn Engineering is dedicated to solving complex problems at scale to create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce. This challenge provides our engineers with the opportunity to build their technical skills as they make this mission a reality. In this series, we’ll talk about the career development of the people that comprise our Engineering team. Recently, one of LinkedIn’s VPs of Engineering, Chris Pruett, took time off from work following the birth of his third child, and he subsequently reflected on his experiences in an article for Thrive Global titled, “Why Taking Full Paternity Leave Was the Best Thing I Ever Did for My Family — And My Career.” Below, he shares advice for how to approach an extended leave from a professional perspective.
One of our values here at LinkedIn is that relationships matter. This not only includes how I interact with my coworkers, but also my family and friends. We believe that maintaining a positive work-life balance is essential to bringing your best self to work. Sometimes, however, that balance can be difficult to achieve, and requires you to be intentional with your time and responsibilities. I recently wrote an article for Thrive Global, “Why Taking Full Paternity Leave Was the Best Thing I Ever Did for My Family—And My Career,” where I focused on the family aspect of my paternity leave.
As a VP of Engineering here at LinkedIn, it wasn't easy to walk away from the workplace for all those weeks. A lot of planning and prep was involved, and I wanted to share my experience in this post for others who may also be thinking about taking extended time away from the office. I hope these tips will provide a smoother transition for others and their teams.
Before the break
The two major components of preparing for an extended leave of absence are communication and delegation. Before your last day in the office (preferably a few weeks in advance in the case of parental leave—you never know when the baby will actually arrive!), communicate expectations for your leave with your team. Make sure they understand the timeline for when you’ll be gone and how much you will be “unplugged” (pro-tip: completely). Identify a few key stakeholders who can contact you in case of an emergency, and make a plan for what that scenario would look like. On a more tactical level, make sure to set an automatic email reply, decline all meeting requests, and mark the time you’ll be out on your calendar. I also strongly recommend disabling push notifications and badges for work applications on your phone.
The other important part of preparing for leave is delegation. For each of your responsibilities, complete the sentence: “I’m comfortable with X being responsible for Y, provided that Z provisions are in place.” To make the transition as easy as possible, all parts of that sentence should be kept clear and straightforward. As a manager, this can also be a great evaluation of whether you’ve built your team in a way that it doesn’t depend on one person to function smoothly. That’s important not only for events like paternity leave, but also for maintaining a positive work-life balance on a regular basis.
While you’re out on leave, make the commitment to yourself and loved ones to truly unplug. Trust in your team that the communication channels created and the delegation that occurred in the weeks leading up to your absence are running smoothly. I realize that can be easier said than done, but consider that you’ll likely be creating opportunity for other team members to grow and develop their skills in your absence.
After the break
In returning back to your daily work routine, it’s important to understand that some things may have changed while you were away. Take the time to get re-grounded in business priorities and catch up on any shifts in strategy or direction. While taking in these changes is important, be sure to also maintain a forward focus on the current state of the team and projects—don’t become too wrapped up in what happened while you were gone.
On a personal level, take the time to reconnect and catch up with what’s happened in the lives of those around you, such as your direct reports and other colleagues. If you’re a manager, other team members may have stepped up to take on new responsibilities. Recognize that your leave may have created transformational opportunities for others, and continue to nurture their growth once you’ve returned.
I’m truly blessed to be a part of an organization that recognizes the value of relationships and encourages time away with loved ones. Being with my children and wife through this transition has played such an important part in my being fully present at both work and home. A special thanks to all my wonderful team members and leadership team for helping me throughout.