Returning to work after any form of parental leave?
Returning to work after any form of parental leave comes with so many emotions and routine changes. Throw in expectations and new boundaries to navigate and there’s a lot to process. We return to a back drop of unhelpful societal narratives. They would have us thinking our careers are over because we’ve expanded our families. And no, we don’t even have time to go into the cultural challenges in organisations do we
HOWEVER…there’s a lot we can have our own back on. There are a myriad of ways you can approach a return to work. I promise I won’t overwhelm you and cram it all into this post. I am going to share some practical ideas though that are pretty universal for returning parents.
It’s time to start asking…
It’s totally understandable to wait for your employer, or more specifically your line manager, to take the lead on getting the support mechanisms lined up when you’re returning from any form of parental leave. But you don’t need permission to ask. I’m not letting line managers off the hook here. They need to play a huge part, but nobody will have your best interests better than YOU. In an ideal world they’d be running towards you with all of this in place, or at least striking up a conversation about what support you’d love. But, let’s not be naive.
So, here’s your list to get the foundations in place…
Am I switched back on?
When you’re returning to work after any form of parental leave, connection plays a significant role. One very practical way it shows up is to be literally connected to the tech / systems you need. It might include things like security passes to get into your place of work if you’re going to an office or equivalent.
I’ve worked with people who have rocked up to the office on day 1, or tried to log in on their laptops, only to be greeted with a ‘computer says no’ kind of response. Literally and metaphorically. It can send people into a spin thinking they’re about the be relieved them of their duties. That’s not a headspace we want anybody to be in, is it?
What is my re-induction plan looking like?
The world can be your re-induction oyster here. It could be training, lining up a buddy or mentor and handover time. Whatever you want to see featured in your induction plan, it’s ok to ask if you don’t see it there!
When you’re returning to work after any form of parental leave, you might feel worried about being treated like a new starter. I totally get that. You don’t want to exacerbate any concerns about not knowing how to do your job (that’s no reflection on new starters, but hopefully you know what I mean!). However, you’ve been away from the workplace for a significant period of time and businesses can be tricky to join. And re-join.
Who am I meeting with?
Stakeholders, team members, new faces, established connections, suppliers…you’ll have your own relevant list.
Going back to my earlier point about connection when you’re returning from any form of parental leave, these diary events can help you out here. Those meet and greets in the early days, catching up with new and existing team pals – all major green flags for getting you feeling comfortable about your working environment. This is something you’d expect to see detailed in a re-induction plan.
What are the goals and expectations?
Let’s bring some clarity over what’s expected of you and what you’re working towards. It might sound obvious but the amount of clients I work with who have very little insight into what they’re working on is staggering.
It’s not always neatly tied up in a role profile or detailed individual objectives straight away, so it’s important to manage your expectations here. If a line manager can’t give them yet, I always encourage them to share team level ones instead. And if they really can’t do that, then functional ones might have to suffice. But detailed ones need to follow pronto.
How are we working at the minute?
You’re looking for cultural insights here. What’s changed and are there any new unwritten rules / ways of working that you need to know about?
In a way it can feel like time has stood still when you’re returning from any form of parental leave. And all at the same time, everything can have changed. To champion yourself and create that sense of belonging, asking for this kind of insight is incredibly important.
It might be about meetings, day to day operations, communication and contact, holiday requests…the possibilities are endless!
What does my first day / week / month look like?
Obviously things change, and you’re not asking for concrete certainty BUT knowing roughly what you’re going to be greeted by with work and meetings makes utter sense in my book. It can flow nicely from your re-induction plan too!
This is about giving a bit of detail so you can plan your time and days in every which way, and to whatever level of planning you need.
The kindest thing you could do for yourself…
You’ll no doubt be able to shape your own specifics when you’re returning from any form of parental leave. At the heart of anything, keep in mind it’s about helping you feel connected and drive a sense of belonging. This isn’t special treatment that you’re asking for – it’s basic needs being met.
It doesn’t need to be a big song and dance returner programme (they can be great of course – have a read here) to put these things in place – they should be for everybody.
So, remember you can ask. You don’t have to wait and you’re not bothering anybody – you’re asking for what you deserve! There are some brilliant returner stories and tips over on the Power of the Parent podcast too if you fancy a listen!