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5 tips for returning to work after maternity leave

5 tips for returning to work

As regular readers will know, I’ve been on maternity leave since January, working on The Parent Project. During that time I’ve still been blogging and writing for my Otobos clients on a part-time basis, supported by my wonderful family, and my new book, Shortcuts to Success, was published. But now it’s time to take it up a gear and get back to work properly.

Here are my 5 tips for returning to work as a project manager after maternity leave or a career break.

1. Arrange a handover

If you had someone cover for you while you have been away, make sure that you get a proper handover with that person. Don’t let your cover person leave too soon. Keeping your cover person on when you return to work is a cost for your company, so expect them to want you to do as short a handover as possible. However, two weeks is good, if you can negotiate it.

Use the handover time to get them to introduce you to any new project stakeholders or team members and to review the status of your projects.

2. Process your paperwork

Returning to work involves paperwork (doesn’t everything?). If you have worked your Keep In Touch days during maternity leave (in the UK you are entitled to 10 days of paid work without losing your maternity benefits – these are KIT days), then get your KIT paperwork in so you get paid.

Work out your holiday allocation as you’ll probably be returning part-way through the holiday year. If you were entitled to accrue holiday or to any paid leave during your time away, do the forms for that too.

Many people return to work part-time after maternity leave, so if this is a consideration for you, get your request for flexible working in as early as you can. This gives your manager plenty of time to review your case and make a decision about whether they can support your request for flexible working. Remember, in the UK your manager has an obligation to consider your request but they are not obliged to accept it.

3. Accept that your projects have moved on

As much as you’d like to slot right back in where you left off, that isn’t going to happen. Your projects have moved on, so accept it. Some of your projects may even have finished, and you could have missed out on the project closure or even the celebration!

That might leave you worrying about what you are going to work on next. You might be picking up a project in progress, or starting completely new work. Either way, you’ll have to get your head around the fact that your old project teams might not need you anymore.

4. Trust your skills

If you are returning from maternity leave, it can feel like a crisis of confidence. After all, you’ve been out of the workplace for anything up to a year (and in some countries it could be even longer). In that time some days your biggest achievement has been making sure everyone is up, washed, dressed and fed. How will you cope going back to the office? Will you remember your passwords? Or even your own phone number?

Trust your skills. For the last 9 months or so you’ve been project managing a family in transition. You can do your job – you have been doing it, albeit with different stakeholders. So chill. The office will have you back with open arms and you’ll fit right in.

5. Take it easy

Your priorities have changed. Whether it was a career break or maternity leave, you aren’t the same person that you were before you left. Whether you return to work full-time or part-time, be kind to yourself, your partner and your family. Take it easy and manage your return to work as a gradual transition.

What other tips do you have for people returning to work after a break? Let us know in the comments.

 

Background credit: Zinzibar

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Adam Blackie

    Great article.

    I know that a team can also be apprehensive about a returning employee. The have been getting on with projects and are used to the autonomy. How will this change?

    • http://www.otobosgroup.com Elizabeth

      Adam, thanks. So far my team have been OK about me returning! At least, they haven’t said anything to me… It is something important to consider, especially if opportunities for promotion have come up for them and they aren’t in the same roles as they were when you left – they’ll want to know that you’ll treat them appropriately given their new responsibilities.

      I’d be interested to hear other people’s take on this too.

      • Laura Brandenburg

        Elizabeth, I think it’s great you are hosting open discussions on this topic. I get this question all the time from my readers. I feel like I started preparing for my maternity leave 3 years before it ever even became a possibility. Writing and creating a new business model helped me create a part-time work-at-home option that leaves me lots of flexibility, but that’s not an option for everyone.

        As far as returning to work, I think it’s important to take time ahead of leaving and upon return to invest in relationships with your stakeholders, management, and project team participants. Like so much of what we do, if you have strong individual relationships a lot of other challenges get smoothed out.

        • http://www.otobosgroup.com Elizabeth

          Thanks, Laura, those are good tips. I too have gone down the part-time work-at-home option which, a few months in, seems to be working out OK although my family and I still have some thinking to do about the long term. I know it’s not an option for everyone but so many business models are changing that I think this is likely to become more and more common as people turn to portfolio careers instead of a job for life.

          One thing I’m struggling with though (being part-time) is investing that time in relationships. Do I do the job, or do I engage in the chit chat? It’s a balance of both but I know my time at work is so precious that I have to really focus and get through my tasks. But without the relationships, those tasks become more challenging! This is a problem I never thought I’d have, but I suppose the answer is to realise that relationship building is work, even though you don’t get to tick a task off the task list when the chat is done.

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