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Google's 'Bungee' Program is the Key to Preventing Colleagues from Hating Maternity-Leave Takers

Yay! You’re pregnant. You’ve told your boss. You’ve gotten the green light from HR to take maternity leave. Now, just who the heck is going to fill your spot?

It’s a question that plagues plenty of women before they head out on leave. Hiring temps from outside the company can be risky. Will they know your company’s programs and protocols? Will they get along with your teammates? But dividing up your workload amongst your co-workers can be a recipe for disaster. No matter how much they love you and are happy to step up to the plate, they’re often drowning in work themselves. More work, is, well, more work.

What’s the best way to take your leave so that you’re confident your work is getting done properly, and that your team won’t hate you when you return? Google might have found the answer to that question, according to Bethany Poole, the company’s director of ad marketing.

When she was out on maternity leave with her second child, she utilized the company’s Bungee program, which allows a full-time Google employee to take a different role in the company for several months to cover a leave of absence, with the expectation that the employee will return to his or her previous team when the bungee is complete.

“I had a big team. I really didn’t want to leave it. I built it from scratch; I wanted it to be successful. So I recruited a friend of mine who basically covered that for six months,” Poole said recently at the Galvanize conference hosted by women’s career website Fairygodboss.

The friend, who has three kids herself, has also covered for five other executive women while they were out on leave, Poole added.

The upsides? Moms who go on leave can choose a fellow employee they feel confident will do the job well and mesh with their team, and the employee who’s covering the job gets a chance to build skills in a different area of the company. It’s a win for everyone. Now, companies like Hootsuite are expanding their own programs—meant to allow employees to rotate and try new positions—so that expectant moms can find suitable fill-ins while they’re on leave, according to CNBC.

For Poole, the Bungee program was a game-changer. “My first leave, there was no backfill, because we couldn’t find somebody we could hire from outside. My male colleague covered both jobs, and it was awful,” she recalled. He didn’t get promoted and ended up leaving the team, she confessed. “Bad for me and bad for him.”

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