Top tips for getting back into work
Returning to work after maternity leave can be a daunting experience for many women, but with the right approach and sufficient planning, both at home and with your employer, the transition needn’t be a hard one. It is more than possible to establish a flexible working agenda, to the mutual benefit of both employees and employers alike. All that is required is a degree of understanding on the part of not just the individual returning to work but their employer and their colleagues.
It’s important to remember that flexible work is no longer a taboo, not everyone seeking flexible work is a mum – there are dads, retired individuals and city high-flyers who want to work in a different way. Recent research indicated that two-thirds of men consider flexible work an important factor when looking for a new job. Increasing numbers of innovative employers are changing their approach to finding new talent, and are focusing more on output achieved, than time put in to get there. Here are our top tips if you're looking to return to work.
Assess your situation and understand your true motivations for returning to work, consider the financial and emotional implications surrounding childcare, and what arrangements you’ll need.
Find dependable childcare
There are numerous options and it’s important to find what is right for you. Nanny shares, childminders, nurseries and au pairs are all workable solutions. It’s sensible to also have a backup person in case things don’t go quite to plan. Look for a safe, stimulating environment and qualified caregivers. Ask other mums, neighbours, your NCT friends and co-workers for recommendations. Check caregivers’ references and trust your instincts.
Talk to your employer
Clarify your job duties and schedule so you’ll know what’s expected of you after you come back to work. You might ask about flexible hours, telecommuting or working part time. It is crucial that you take responsibility for your own ‘outputs’ and effectively manage your employer’s expectations. Often employees are worried about broaching the topic. Don’t feel put out but instead demonstrate your understanding of the needs of the business. This will ensure your employer can see your dedication and allow them to recognise what is important and realistic for you.
Even a few months out of the workplace can leave you fearing that all your skills and experience have deserted you. You need to re-connect with the ‘working you’ and the people who valued what you did in the workplace; contact colleagues and work friends, invite your old boss for a coffee and try to attend away days or appraisals. You are entitled to 10 ‘keeping in touch days’ during your maternity leave without it affecting your maternity pay. Overall, I advise adopting a mindset which sees setbacks as challenges to overcome.
If you follow this advice, you'll be less likely to crash and burn on your return. It does also help to have a ‘can do’ attitude. And finally, remember you’re not alone; more than 80% of employees – men and women – are parents. Good luck!