Returning to work after maternity leave can be a big adjustment for any mum and their new family. After mastering a completely new routine of feeding, hushing and sleep time (or lack thereof), it’s common to feel a sense of guilt or unease when heading back to the world of business, colleagues and deadlines. But rest assured, there are a few things you can consider before, during and after maternity leave to help make your transition back into your role a little smoother.
Stay in touch while on leave
The best way to ease back into work is to stay connected while you’re away. While some workplaces allow visits with bub, sending emails to your manager and colleagues from time to time is another gentle way to feel like you’re not too far away. You can also stay in the loop by requesting to receive work-related emails on certain matters, just so you’re aware of what’s going on when you return.
Stay up to date by jumping online and seeing what’s been happening in your industry – on social media, the news, blogs, journals etc. If there’s been any major changes in technology or regulations or you’re seeking an extra challenge or skill, look at the possibility of upskilling at home with an online course before heading back to work. This will keep your knowledge fresh, as well as boost your confidence along the way.
Know your rights
Every company has its own policies and benefits for employees going on maternity leave. Make sure you investigate your company’s position on maternity leave so that you receive the right entitlements. In Australia, an employee returning from parental leave is legally entitled to return to the same job they held before going on leave. If that job no longer exists, they are entitled to return to another position in the same company that offers a similar status and salary.
Maintain open communication
If you can, try and notify your manager well in advance about the date you think you will be ready to return to work so that you can both take time to prepare. It’s also important to be direct with your manager about the work/life balance you’d like to achieve when you return to work.
If you hope to work part-time, remotely from home one day a week or leave the office at 5pm on the dot, speak to your manager about how this more flexible approach can benefit the company. For example, working a few days from home might allow you to instead tend to emails and achieve the same amount of work earlier in the morning or later in the evening. This is an important conversation to have as soon as possible so that your expectations (and your manager’s expectations) are managed.
Look on the bright side
Many women who return to work after maternity leave end up really appreciating and enjoy the social benefits of the workplace. Studies also show that work can boost your confidence and self-esteem. When you are mentally stimulated and kicking goals in your career, you invariably feel a sense of achievement and pride. Prepare to re-enter the workforce by keeping positive about the new challenges that lie ahead of you, and the many ways you can bring your parenting skills to the workplace.