Getting back to work after maternity leave can feel quite daunting, and one of the main things commonly experienced by new mums is self-doubt in the workplace. There are many reasons for this lack of confidence including a lack of familiarity, but equally speaking there are a number of plausible reasons why you shouldn’t be so hard on yourself; maternity leave means you will have spent a substantial amount of time in a completely different routine (mentally, emotionally, physically), will have a new set of interests, a new identity, and maybe dealing with separation anxiety. In today’s post, I will be sharing ideas on ways you can help build your self-assurance just before you return to work as well as within the first few months of being back.
There is absolutely no need to cut yourself off from your job or your colleagues during your maternity leave. Once things settle at home, make an effort to reach out to your colleagues, or if you can, go into work and introduce your little one. In this climate, you may have to remain socially distant, but the welcoming reception you will receive will trump all of that, and help you feel more encouraged to return to work.
Occasionally, keep up with industry news, log in to the staff intranet or WhatsApp group if you have one, and see what’s being shared around. As long as you are not actually doing any work, staying in the loop with the business is a great way to ease any lack of familiarity that may creep up once you return to work, especially if you plan to go back to the same job or the same industry.
Keeping in touch (KIT) days
In the UK Employees can work up to 10 days during their maternity or adoption leave, which does not affect the employee’s right to maternity or adoption leave and pay (1). These are completely voluntary, and things like pay, hours, and tasks will have to be agreed upon beforehand.
Arranging something like this with your employer is a good idea because not only can you get a briefing on any changes (people, business objectives, change of address, mergers, etc) within a low-risk setting, but you can also use these days to access things like training seminars, appraisal interviews, volunteering opportunities, or any activity that is carried out for the purpose of keeping in touch with your workplace.
Even if you only work for a couple of hours it will still count as one of your KIT days.
Another good thing about KIT days is that they can be used to work part-time to hopefully ease you back into your working life, or even as a makeshift “probation period” to help both yourself and your employer review this working arrangement.
Speaking to your team
Once you find yourself getting back into the routine of working, it will not be unusual for you to experience new challenges (both internal and external). It is very important to talk about the issues you are facing; informally at first to a trusted colleague, then if you still feel uneasy, you can explore HR or any other person that helps manage staff.
Another thing to bear in mind is that sometimes your colleagues may be a bit shy or unsure about how to approach you, or they may be so worried about saying the wrong thing that they end up not saying anything at all, which can make you feel isolated or alienated. One way around this would be to probably initiate small talk or address the elephant in the room by just naturally making conversation. By doing this, it helps people interact with you more and lets others know the topics you are more than happy to talk about, resulting in a more fruitful relationship, and work experience.
Keep your friends close
Keeping your friends close is going to be one of your biggest tools, these friends that you have made may not necessarily still work at the same company, but they have been around you at work and know and trust your value as an employee. They will keep you in the loop socially, they can continue to advocate for you when you are on maternity leave, may recommend you for a role that is family-friendly or closer to home, or even be that cheerleader you need during your early days back. Cherish these friends, as their support will be invaluable to you as you continue with your career. And remember, you were awesome at your job before you had your baby, so you defiantly still have it in you to continue being awesome.