The transition from a full-time mother to both a full-time mother and an employee is challenging. The emotional impact this can have on a new parent has the tendency to raise internal dilemmas as to whether or not to return to work at all. However, often than not, for financial reasons new parents are keen to dive back into their role and continue with full time work. Contributor Rachel King, Marketing Director – Breathe
Unsurprisingly, an extended break from employment can take its toll on the confidence of those returning; self-doubt and anxiety are among the multitude of emotions new parents will be confronting. There’s a high risk that they will feel alienated at work after such a monumental life change and being out of the loop for so long, and there’s a brand new routine to get your head around. It involves nursery pick-ups, childminder check-ins and functioning on a lot less sleep than usual. So it’s important this is all factored in when they return.
Therefore, employers must tailor their approach to the workplace transition accordingly if they hope to retain some of the best and most experienced minds.
Thoughtful working and flexibility
No matter what the situation is, employers must be mindful and considerate of the new challenges these employees are facing. The best and easiest way to do so is by offering flexible working arrangements. It makes the most business sense and is the least costly to invest in.
For parents returning from a period entirely focused on their new child, the concept of reintegrating can be very daunting. KPMG have taken this into consideration with their initiative of offering flexible working for three or four days per week, or reduced hours working a shorter day with school holidays built in as leave — meaning a slow re-integration into work processes and culture.
Continual compassion and refresher courses
It goes without saying that all organisations irrespective of their headcount should have the capacity to be supportive of new parents during the first stages of their return to work. Providing assurance of flexibility and compassion is what ultimately means people will stay loyal to a firm; there will be occasions where new parents will have to leave work early or start a little later and it’s important they feel they can do so without scrutiny, excessive monitoring or judgement. Demonstrating that you trust the people who work for you is invaluable as it cultivates such trust and most importantly, a balanced relationship between staff and management.
After a period of extended leave, training on new technologies, systems and policies will be necessary to make sure everyone is on the same page. Sometimes anxieties around being left behind in this respect will add to the overall stress for a new parent returning to the workplace. And it can also be accountable for some wanting to cut down hours to part time.
Tailored benefits for staff retention
One approach to making the transition back into the workplace easier is to offer a selection of tailored benefits. Treating each case on an individual basis by offering adjustable perks will not only allow new parents to adapt to their new schedules and work around their unique requirement, but demonstrate flexibility and compassion as an employer. Providing discounted childcare or private family healthcare plans, for example, are enormously beneficial and attentive perks for new parents to subscribe to.
Aside from directly associated family benefits, there are other approaches that large firms have taken to sweeten the deal. EY looks to tackle the impacts of returning to work on mental health by implementing several initiatives to support new parents, including one-on-one coaching sessions to prepare them for the turbulent leave and return process, whereby three sessions are offered before, during and after maternity/paternity leave.
Not all firms enjoy the seemingly unlimited budget of big corporations, but a basic level of attentiveness and compassion around the process is what workers are in desperate need of. Keep in touch days are another great way to maintain communication during maternity/paternity leave, and these cost nothing to implement.
Investing in your people is always the foundation of business success. Those returning from leave will have potentially dedicated years of service to the company and hold precious skills and experience that are difficult to replace. For these reasons it’s crucial to communicate appreciation and thanks to these employees and accommodate them during their reintegration into the company — or risk losing their wealth of knowledge as a result.