Returning to work from any leave can be overwhelming. Coming off a parental leave is particularly challenging due to the increased demands on your time and the changes in your priorities.
Some of the stressors that are experienced when returning to work will come from inside the company. For example, you may have worked for an organization with old-fashioned, male dominated views. Some of these executives may have a bias against young professionals having children and needing extended time off. Or you may be returning to seventy-five hour-a-week jobs and know that this workload will be impossible to resume and continue with success.
Some of the stressors will come from within you. For example, on returning to work, there may be new people, a shifting culture, and you fear feeling left out. Or maybe you feel like you have “baby brain” and need a confidence boost before moving back into a corporate role. You may also feel guilt for leaving your newly expanded family and the pressure of measuring up to the seemingly perfect super-parents around you.
The challenge is that making the choice to work, finding this balance between career and family, and successfully making the transition back to work, will look very different from person to person. But with the proper tools and supports in place, going back to work can be not only manageable but a very positive experience. Having experienced these transitions myself (twice) and working with clients who have very different scenarios and experiences, the #1 piece of advice I have for anyone returning to work after parental leave is:
Create a Transition Plan
Whether going back to the same position (or same company in a new role), or thinking about a totally new career, this plan will guide you to a successful “back to work” experience. Ideally, this plan will be developed prior to re-entry and include:
- Detailed description of the role you will be filling and how it has changed while you were away.
- An updated org chart and introductions to any new faces.
- Any training/education that you may have missed and will need to catch up on.
- Details regarding performance management and how you will be included in the organization’s bonus/evaluation systems this year,
- A map of your time and priorities, including what, if any, arrangements you would like to negotiate for with your employer (i.e. flex time, work-from-home opportunities).
- Strategies for how you will manage your home responsibilities with your new schedule.
There is much more involved in successfully reintegrating than a simple “back to work” date on the calendar. Work and home are not meant to be separate parts of your life, and creating a balance that allows both sides to flourish takes thought and planning. Consider engaging a career coach to guide you through this proactive exercise and ensure you have a successful transition back to work.