Returning to the same job after parental or maternity leave is a strange one. Everything is so familiar yet different. I remember sitting at my desk, after 53 weeks at home my with two girls, and struggled to recall my computer and phone access codes. What made it worse, was the fact I had forgotten where I had noted them down, then subsequently hidden them! However, the fact that I wasn’t “due back” to work for a few days paid off. It meant I could reintroduce myself to the job. After all, a year out is a long time. I got my maternity return induction.
If your little one was anything like mine, they weren’t sleeping through when I returned; my eldest was five and half months when I went back, my youngest was nearly 12-months old. We all know the impact that lack of sleep has on our facilities. Why are we putting pressure on ourselves to carry on as if NOTHING HAS CHANGED? This is the elephant in the room when it comes to returning to a company you know after leave. There is pressure all round that you will just slip back into your role, as if the gap hasn’t occurred.
I challenge you to think differently; just think about the changes that can happen in an organisation after a few weeks away on leave. Yet, you are expecting to just pick up where you left off after months away. So, if you are due to return to work soon, or you have recently returned and need a way to reduce the feeling of overwhelm, then ask for parental leave induction.
What is a return to work induction?
Remember when you started the job? You should have received an induction that gave you a background in everything you need to know about the role. A maternity leave induction is another version of this; designed to get you all caught up on everything that has happened since you have been away. Because, last time I checked, you aren’t a mind reader!
Now, you may or may not have had “Keep in Touch” (KIT) days; however, as I have heard from my clients, how these are used are very varied! Even if you have used these, use the time to have an induction! I recommend at least the first week should have elements of this in it; I am aware that some roles won’t have the capacity for you to go off grid, so use these areas to develop the content of your KIT days or ask for this information in advance!
I hope that you have a back to work meeting with your Manager scheduled in at some point; but these are often only an hour in length and involve discussing your working hours rather than an update on the role and the company. Have a think of the key people/ roles that you interact with, and make sure you can spend some time with them during your first week back.
What do you need to know? Brainstorm what is important for you to catch up on. It could be projects or policies that were up in the air when you left, restructures or new business deals. If you are struggling to remember, then simply ask your colleagues and contacts “What has been going on?” What they choose to tell you can also open you up to information you may not have considered!
Make sure you are clear on what you want out of your career for the next 12-months and make it clear what the measures of success/KPIs are for your role and department now. This is also to let people know what YOU want out of your career, not what they are assuming you want.
I hadn’t touched Excel for 12 months when I was last on my maternity leave; it is no surprise that some of my technical skills were a little rusty! You are going to need to re-engage parts of your brain that you haven’t used in a while, but the information is still there – just harder to reach. Getting back in touch with this skills and knowledge may come simply practise, for others it may take more formal training. Bear this in mind!
The key to a smoother, more confident return to work is owning it. This is a job that have done before, you just haven’t done it for a while. Reintroduce yourself to it, take the initiative by being clear about what you need to make an impact quicker. Then share with your Manager and colleagues. Feeling in control will help, trust me!