Going back to work
The weeks in the run up to your return to work will be the final preparation for your return to working life as a WoMo. The best planning you can do now will make things much easier than they might otherwise be. You might be the sort of person who can manage things without too much planning or you might be an over organiser. For those people who are not normally planners, push yourself out of your comfort zone now. This is your moment!
A good set of plans now will really help and you can look back and thank yourself for your own organisation.
You will have nailed down your return to work date by now so diarise it. Write it down, put it in your phone and if necessary put it in big letters on a post it on the fridge.
You may be feeling excited about going back or nervous or any other myriad of emotions. There is no one judging how you feel, and if they are, keep a wide berth for a couple of days till you remind yourself and feel committed to the reasons you are motivated to be going back to work. Think about what is motivating you to do this and as you prepare for your return to work keep the reasons in the front of your mind.
Four weeks before
TIME TO UNLOAD YOUR WARDROBE
Find time to take out all your work clothes, lay them on the bed and try them on. You may be back to your pre-baby weight or you might still be working at shifting a few pounds. Regardless of where you are weight wise, your body may have changed shape a little bit so it is worth checking you have appropriate work attire that actually fits.
Assess what feels comfortable. Sit in it, stand in it, walk in it and confirm you personally feel good in it.
Consider how you can mix and match your outfits to be sure you have a weeks’ worth of clothes for your first week at least. You’ll want to minimise washing and domestic issues in your first week to simplify your time and give you maximum Mummy time when you come home from work.
If you find you need to purchase something new, diarise a visit to the shops. Buying new clothes after having a baby can be an adventure of its own.
Depending on whether you take your baby with you or leave the baby at home, either option presents challenges. If you can, I’d advise leaving your baby with someone you trust and going it alone.
It is a good opportunity to give yourself some time for you, some clear head space to think and the chance to get yourself into your work head. Buying work clothes will allow you to visualise yourself back in the office and recall that feeling of getting dressed for work.
Remember to go for comfort as a priority and buy clothes that fit. Squeezing yourself into a size too small because it’s the size you used to wear may be an added stress in the morning you could do without.
Three weeks before
Meet your office ally
This week make an arrangement to go and see your ally or a friend from the office. Ask to meet them for lunch or a coffee outside the office. Ideally make this trip without your baby. This is your chance to find out all the office news before you walk back through the door. This isn’t necessarily work information about your job, which can wait for your handover, this is the general gossip and background chat that you take for granted when stood at the water machine. This is news on:
- who has left
- who is new
- changes that have been made to the structure of the company
- any new ways of working
- things people have been annoyed about or good exciting news.
This meeting is the first step to reintegration into a world you have been absent from.
Leave your baby at home
Taking your baby will mean the baby becomes the focus of this meeting. You may have already taken your baby to meet your work colleagues. If you haven’t arrange this too but ensure it is separate from this meeting. This meeting should be all about you, what you want to know and be a time when you have space and clarity to listen, focus and chat about working life. That’s a hard task when you’ve got a baby on your knee.
network yourself back in
Networking yourself back into the office may not seem important to you. Imagine arriving on your first day back at work and walking in the door having not been there for a period of time. Imagine how that might feel. If you work for yourself this of course isn’t applicable, but if you normally travel to an office, networking yourself back into the people you work with is worth it.
Optimise the number of people who know you are returning so they know to expect you on the day you arrive. If you just meet with one person, ask them to spread the word of your return date. It will allow people in the office to think about things they need to discuss with you when you come back.
Talking to people in the office and talking about the office will help increase your confidence levels before you get back into the working world. You’ll come across those people who are desperate to tell you the gossip and think they know better when giving you information about the business. You’ll feel better when you know you have already received the heads up.
Two weeks before
Your childcare needs to start this week. Regardless of the type of childcare you have chosen there will be a period of integration. Two weeks before you return to work is a good period for you and your child to try the new arrangements. If you have employed a nanny she should be working with you by now. Make a plan where each day you increase the time you are away from your child.
It is preferable for you to leave the house and physically remove yourself from the premises. Being in another part of your home and hearing your child is not the same as being in the office. Spend this week out meeting friends, going to the gym, going for a walk, drinking coffee or going shopping. It doesn’t matter what you choose to do but keep yourself busy and take yourself out of the house even if it’s for a long walk. You might even go and meet your partner for lunch. Do things you don’t normally do and think about things you’d like to do but will struggle to find time for when you are back at work.
A week before
Practice makes perfect
During this week practice your mornings.
You may only need to do this once but you should literally behave as if you are going to work.
Get up at the planned time, get your baby up.
Get your baby ready, get yourself ready.
Do whatever you need to do to test run your morning routine.
You may think this is a bit nuts, but leave the house and go to work. Take the train, bus, drive or whichever journey is required and test your timings. You may be travelling at a different time of the day than before you had the baby and you need to confirm the timings work.
When you get there you can have a coffee and come home! You don’t actually need to go to the office, but taking the train to the right station and confirming your timings will help you nail down the perfect morning routine. You may find you had too much time or not enough. If it is too much you are probably best placed to stick to it. Some spare time will take the pressure off if it is the kind of morning that things are not going so well. If it’s not enough, get up 10 minutes earlier the next day and try it again. One actual trip to the office will be enough though (or maybe just go for a coffee)!.
By the end of this week you will be ready to return to work. You will have your logistics water tight, you will know what you need to do every morning and you will be in the swing of the morning plan.
The first week back at work
Build your confidence
On the first day back in the office you may feel nervous as you arrive at the building or if you work for yourself your first meeting may feel alien. Take a deep breath and just go for it. Act as it if it is completely fine and it will be! Once that first day or meeting has passed you will feel even more confident for the next one. Your confidence will grow and it will get easier.
If you are going back to the same job you left you will have your job handed back to you hopefully by the person you yourself handed your duties to.
Be open to asking questions if you are unsure what you are being told.
You knew your job before you went on maternity leave but things change. Agree how you would like to receive the information and make a plan for the week. You may want to schedule in meetings with key stakeholders to be sure they know you are back in the business. Try and do this as soon as you possibly can to get yourself back into work mode. Gain control of your diary and ask which meetings you think would be beneficial for you to attend.
There is some good office etiquette to adhere to when you return from maternity leave. Some of this will depend on who you work with, your closest colleagues and the culture of the company, but these are good guiding principles regardless:
Keep the baby photos and videos to a minimum. Very proud parents want to show off their child however, you have had an enormous change in your life; your colleagues have been at work doing the same work you were doing when you left. This is finding the balance between total over excitement to show off your child versus demonstrating you are back now, for work, to do your job.
Ask questions if you are stuck. It’s easy to think you will walk back into your job and pick up all the little bits of gossip from the office. If you sense there is something you need to know – ask. If in doubt tap into your ally.
If your hours have changed, respect those people around you. If you now have an arrangement where you leave at 5pm and you used to be in the office till 7pm because that’s the culture of the business, shrieks of ‘I’m off now to see my baby’ may not be received well. There will be people in your office who do not have children and it can be a challenging dynamic on a team. Be dignified.
Attend the odd team drink if you can. You want to show you are still part of the team even if you don’t make it out every Friday night. Keep your hand in and it will pay dividends. These are the nights when sometimes after a few drinks the inner office chat comes out. It keeps you networked in the office too. If you work for yourself, depending on the job you do, keeping in with the social network may be critical for your job. If your childcare or partner supports you attending these events it will be beneficial.
Write a plan for your last 4 weeks at home before you return to work. List what you will achieve in each week.
When you have left your child and had your first pretend day at work, write down how you feel. Write down any new concerns that may have come up in your mind and how you can manage these feelings when you return to work.
Talk to your child care provider and confirm your communication plan. Ensure you fully understand how you will be informed about your child’s day and list the information you expect. If necessary write this on a piece of paper or an email and share this with your childcare provider to be sure they are clear on your expectations.
3 things to remember
Check you have a work wardrobe
Have a test run of your timings
Remember office etiquette on your return