What’s more difficult than making the shift from being an employee to a new parent? The transition from being a new parent to a working parent. Most employees agree that the period at the end of parental leave brings many anxieties: about the baby, about child care arrangements, or changes at the workplace while you were away, etc. An effective way to soothe these anxieties and smoothen your re-entry: planning the transition back to your workplace.
Two broad areas affect this transition – the immediate ways of working, and long-term career plans. Here are a few cues to managing them:
Ways of working
Often, employees hesitate to ask organizations to accommodate their special parental requests. But experts suggest speaking with the HR for flexible time, part-time, or work-from-home options, and exploring ‘returnity’ arrangements. But don’t let the discussion center only on your needs. Mel Barrett, director at Tandem Partners and mother of three, suggests discussing about returning to work with a focus on the role. Highlight:
- The benefits of your proposed working arrangement to the organization;
- How you will handle challenges, such as a sick child or an emergency ask at home;
- How key tasks will be carried out in practice.
Kate Sykes of Career Mums, an organization that helps parents transition from and to work, advises talking to a colleague who has already made this transition in the same office. Another key tip: bring better focus to work, because the quality of your work matters more than the quantity. And to ease the transition, soften the separation from baby duties. Practice the new routine a week or 10 days before you actually rejoin office.
Long-term career plans
According to a survey, 38% employees felt that maternity leave had a negative impact on their career development. The most affected areas: career progression, promotional opportunities, exposure to challenging projects, and position or seniority. How to tackle them?
- Have open conversations with your employers;
- Address any biases they might have towards parental leave;
- Build your work and career plan collaboratively with your employer before you go for maternity/ parental leave.
Request for support such as comeback coaching, mentorship, and learning and development opportunities. Besides expecting support from your organization, invest in your growth yourself. Above all, build career adaptability. As your life changes with the responsibility of parenting, envision a career path that is fulfilling and yet helps you take charge of things that matter.
Parental leave can be an advantage, when you use it effectively. Not just to care for your child, but for your career too. The time and distance from work can help you think fresh and build a professional edge on your return.