5 Things To Expect When Returning To Work After Parental Leave
By Natalie Wilson
December 17 2020 - Getting back into the flow of the office after returning from parental leave is hard and takes a little while to get used to again. You've been out of sync with the office and your coworkers for a number of months and you're now returning back to your old job, but as a new person - you have new priorities and concerns compared to when you were last sat at your desk. It is an incredibly overwhelming experience and one which you should try and make as smooth as possible.
Returning to work is also bound to be full of questions: should you ease back into work slowly, or just jump right in at the deep end? How do you rebuild the relationship with your coworkers and managers? And, perhaps most importantly, how do you get the emotional support and encouragement you need for easing back into working life?
After being home with a new baby, getting back into work is a transition which is unlike any other. Everything has changed since you were last there and your daily routine is likely now focused entirely on your new baby, alongside the probability that you're getting much less sleep than you are used to. Feeling guilty about leaving your baby and feeling unprepared for the return to work are completely normal feelings, but this doesn't make it any less overwhelming. If you're planning a return to work after parental leave, here are 5 things you can expect.
Your Original Work Schedule Will Change
Making the transition back to work is never going to be easy, but there are some aspects which you can prepare for, making you more likely to feel less stressed and overwhelmed. One of these aspects is making changes or adjustments to your working schedule. Ask your workplace if you can start by coming back for a few days a week, rather than starting straight back full time if you would prefer, or look into the possibility of working from home a few days a week, if this is something your workplace offers.
Some parents feel that, by asking for reduced hours or adaptations to their work schedule at first, this makes it seem like you are less capable to do the job you were hired to do before you left. If this is the case, talk with your employers about how they can support you whilst you find your feet the first few weeks, as you'll obviously be taking a lot on.
You May Need To Be More Upfront With Your Employer
Probably not on your first day back, but try to schedule in time with your employer during your first week back. Let them know that you're excited to be back, but how the realities of your life have changed slightly since you were last in the office and that it might take you a week or two to find your feet again.
However, you also need to ensure that they know you are still committed to your job and the workplace, but that you need to know how to make this new situation work for you both. The more control you have over your work moving forward, the better, so think about things such as early starts to make up for leaving a little earlier or let them know which projects you'd be excited to work on in the near future.
Do Some Practice Runs
Returning to work from parental leave will involve a whole new daily schedule and likely be made up of different priorities. If you do a few practice runs of your new schedule in the weeks before you return to work, you'll be much more prepared for your first day back than if you were to give your new schedule a try the morning of.
Practice getting up and having to get both you and your baby ready for the day ahead, as this might involve taking them to a caregiver whilst you and/or your partner is at work. Avoid going back to work the same day your baby starts going to nursery or being cared for by a family member, as your emotions will very likely be all over the place and you'll be unable to focus until you see them again later that evening.
Understand That You Will Miss Things
If you are a new parent, then this will be particularly hard for you in the coming months as, obviously, you want to be there for every milestone your baby goes through. However, you need to understand that there may be some things that you miss, such as the first time they roll over, start crawling or say their first words.
Whilst you can't be there for everything, it's really good if you prepare your baby and their caregiver for any impending milestones. If you know your baby is getting ready to start weaning, for example, then be sure to pack things such as coverall bibs and baby cutlery to help them when you not might be there, and to lessen the mess!
Adjust Your Expectations
In the early days of returning back to work, you'll likely spend some time thinking about the best ways you can readjust yourself in a professional capacity. Focus on the things which make you different and unique from your coworkers, and consider the ways that you can modify these special attributes to suit your new work/life situation. The best thing you can do is reset your expectations so that you don't find yourself struggling to fit a role that you once had, as this will just cause feelings of stress and like you can't do your job, which you absolutely can, but just in a new capacity.