Returning to Work after Maternity Leave?
The thought of going back to work after maternity leave is a time of mixed emotions for many mothers.
For some, it’s a worry. For others, they feel it’s the long-awaited, defining moment of re-establishing their own identity again. For most, it’s a lot from column A and a little from column B. Should we just get on with it? Or should we be diving a little deeper, I wondered.
Career Coach, Hillary North, has 18 years’ experience working with a global professional services firm. Hilary has seen first-hand the challenges women can face as they return to the professional world after maternity leave or a career break.
Hilary has now established a coaching business that specialises in helping professional women return to work or go it alone & start their own business. Whether you’ve had a baby or taken a career break, the transition can be hard.
Hilary tells us why…
What are the challenges women face when returning to the professional working world?
Returning to work after maternity leave or a career break has always come with its challenges.
……..Whilst your professional environment hasn’t really changed in dynamic, your entire world has shifted. I have seen first-hand how women put pressure on themselves when returning to work. They want to hit the ground running, but their confidence can be low, their priorities may be different, and they may not always be aware of their options.
…..Most importantly I find quite often they have not given themselves time to think what it is they really want, so they return to their previous role & hours (often, long) whilst juggling family life & childcare commitments. Unsurprisingly, they end up feeling frustrated and unfulfilled.
Why do women come to you for coaching?
The primary reason women come to me for coaching is because they are lacking in focus and clarity, – they want to have direction and a clear action plan.
………There are many pressures that might push a woman to return to work after a child or career break: they love their job and miss it, they need to pay the bills, and, or, they promised themselves or their employer that they would go back.
……….The clients I see are incredibly capable and competent women, but in many cases, they just don’t know where to start. They need help with working out what they really want; be it returning to full-time work, going part-time or starting their own business.
……….By having coaching they are giving themselves permission to think and for once – focusing on themselves. To be able to share their ideas & concerns with someone can be a huge relief and coaching provides a totally non-judgemental supportive environment in which to do this. I really enjoy the coaching that I do and I want other women to feel the same about their jobs.
What can coaching help them to achieve?
I believe coaching can help people be successful & achieve what they really want out of life whatever their goals, through my programs and break-through sessions we work through many different areas relevant to each client.
………We look at their goals and how they can achieve them, we look at their mindset which is often the biggest challenge my clients face and it can really hold them back, so we address how we can remove mind blockers, and we put an action plan in place so they have a very clear focus and they feel supported throughout.
What are the options for women returning to work?
So, these days there are many different options, you don’t necessarily have to return to your old role or your old hours. Employers have acknowledged that returners want nothing more than to be taken seriously, with the opportunity of career progression and challenging roles. Therefore, we are now seeing ‘returnships’ and back-to-work connect schemes being offered by many companies.
………Homeworking and flexi-time contracts are easier than ever to implement. Some examples of the options I’ve come across:
Returnships & Connect Schemes
Returnships and back-to-work connect schemes are being offered by many companies in order to better support those returning to work. These schemes are normally short term, paid contracts which may lead to an offer of full-time employment – but initially provide support to the returner. Many schemes can offer coaching and mentoring as well as the all-important technology refresh.
Working from Home
Many employers now support working from home, combined with a few days in the office. With Skype, Zoom and conference calls at your fingertips, there is no reason to miss a meeting or be disconnected from the workplace.
Compressed hours allow you to work your full-time hours, but over fewer days. Whilst this may not be for everyone, it can work well for those with limited childcare options.
Flexi-time allows you to work your assigned hours, without confining you to 9-5. For example, you might be expected to be in the office from 10 am-4 pm, but can shuffle your day forwards or backwards around those times.
Job sharing is simply sharing a job role with a colleague. Employers are recognising this option as a great solution – 2 employees sharing the job of 1 person, allowing work and hours to be split. Benefits and salary are divided in line with the split workload.
What should women be doing before returning to work?
I know I’m repeating myself but it’s all about making time for Mum.
………As hard as it is with the pressures of home life, they need to give themselves time to think. They prioritise everyone else but when it comes to their return to work, their focus needs to be on them, what is going to work for them, what hours they want to work, – what options does their employer offer them, could now be the time to start their own business?
………. It can be hard working through all of this on your own – so get a coach or a mentor, join an online support group, but make that investment in yourself.
……….Finally, don’t forget your KIT days (Keeping in Touch days) whilst on maternity leave, these days are a great opportunity to head into your workplace & reconnect with colleagues, catch up on what’s been going or refresh on any training you are required to do. During these days it’s worth taking the time to chat with your HR department about your return options.
If you’d like to know more about returning to work, getting your professional confidence on point and how a career coach could benefit your return to work – check out Hilary’s website.
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