It’s not unusual to feel ovewhelmed when you return to work back after maternity or parental leave. Going back to work after maternity or parental leave can feel pressurised. You may have been away for twelve months, and got used to the “new normal” and the rhythm your family works on. When you go return to work at the same employer, the sense of familiarity can give others a false sense of security – whilst everything seems the same on the surface, things naturally will have moved on. New colleagues, systems, clients, and processes can appear after a couple of week’s annual leave, let alone 12-months away with your bundle of joy!
Often, one of the ways parents want to manage this transition back to work is through flexible working; either temporarily or as a more permanent fixture. There is an unrealistic expectation (by some) that flexible automatically means part-time, or that part-time means less pressure. This is not the case. A common issue that clients come to me with is that they are having to do the same job in fewer hours. Often, businesses reject a flexible working request (for a variety of reasons) and before you know it, you are back in an environment where the pressure is on yet you can’t stay behind in the same way you did before you became a parent.
The conversations around flexible working, productivity and wellbeing are an ongoing one, so today I want to concentrate on the things YOU can control. My top tips for work-life balance when you return to work.
Watch the clock
Make sure you know how many hours you have in your working day. Not just your contracted hours, but how many working hours you have (so take away meeting, lunch breaks) and be realistic about what you can do in that time. This will prevent you from overcommitting and allow you to set expectations when others control your work-load
Know your numbers
What are the measures of success in your job? How will you know that you are achieving what you need to do? Get clarity when you are back so you can measure your success but also find out straight away what is expected and take the opportunity to discuss if this is a realistic and achievable expectation with the WORKING HOURS available to you.
Learn to say “No”
Or not yet. Everything assumes THEIR piece of work is the most important. Challenge when things are needed and highlight when you would be able to complete something
Get some breathing space. When you first go back to work, ask for a return to work induction. A change to get up to speed with what has gone on, meet with colleagues, read any documentation (including meeting minutes which can really help!) or shadow people.
It’s not the end
Don’t forget that a “No” from a flexible request is not the final step. Best practice expects that the company handles the request in a “reasonable manner” which can open up conversations for a compromise position. Also, you can apply for a change every 12 months. Is there a way you can trial a new approach without the commitment on either side?
Remember you have a choice. You are not obliged to stay at the employer indefinitely. If you ask for support or time to settle back in, then maybe this is a wider reflection of the culture of the organisation. Is this somewhere you want to be longer term? There are lots of supportive companies in the UK that are open to flexible working and working parents. Just follow this link to find them.
If you would like to join a group of like-minded working parents, then find my Facebook Group “The Balance Collective with Clara Wilcox”.