Written by Aarthi Arun and published on 14 December 2021.
Returning to work after a break, especially after maternity leave, can be challenging. Here are some expert tips to help make the transition easier for you
Going back to work after a break can be intimidating. From worrying about leaving your baby to working long hours to upgrading your skills, your mind can be full of inhibitions about getting back to work. Adapting to your new role can be challenging, and it will take time. But the good news? It is doable. We will help you make the bold move. Here are some ideas for acing your job after a break.
Before you start your job, think carefully about your priorities. First, think about your finances. Are you the primary breadwinner or can you afford a slow restart by working only part-time? Then, try to answer these questions:
Involve your family members in the discussions and have a word with your manager or the HR at work. By doing this, you can understand how much help and flexibility you can expect from them.
Once you get your priorities straight, let everyone -- including your manager and your family members -- know of the expectations at work such as the amount of responsibility you can take, availability on weekends, travel limitations, and so on. Talk to your manager about the expectations from her side. Check if you're okay with the amount of responsibility. Address any discrepancies, especially your availability for extra hours. With proper goals, you can be confident in your work and avoid any micromanaging from your superiors. Don't forget to keep your spouse on the same page and arrange for childcare.
So, you've set your goals. But remember, they are not set in stone. Today's work culture is fast and changing, so flexibility is important. If there is an urgent business need, roll up your sleeves and get involved. Similarly, when there is a slow patch, take some time off to spend with your family. As with anything in life, balance is the key. Also, don't shy away from helping your team members during times of need. If your organization offers flexible working options, use them wisely. You can use the option when your child is unwell, but not when you want to go on a shopping trip with friends. The flexibility is not your ticket to negligence or poor-quality work. Wherever you happen to do it, take your work seriously and give it your hundred per cent.
Let's say that you're doing a great job, fulfilling everything expected of you at work. Still, there may be times when you're asked to move mountains. What do you do in such cases? Simple. Don't fear to say no. To have a fulfilling work experience, being assertive is the way to go. It's 6'o clock, and you're preparing to leave for the day. Your manager comes and dumps a big file before you leave for the day. If you decide to bite the bullet and finish the work, you're in trouble. You'll end up in the same situation again and again. On the other hand, if you learn to be assertive and affirm that you'll finish the work the next day, you're setting boundaries. But there is a fine line between being aggressive and being assertive. So, use a confident and respectful voice without resorting to anger or rudeness. You can say something like, "I'm almost done for the day, and I don't think I can finish the work now. I see that the work is not critical. I will finish this up first thing tomorrow morning."
Want someone to cover your presentation during an emergency? Or do you need a listening ear for your office woes? Then, make solid friendships at work. As social animals, we rely on others for support and have a sense of belonging. What's more? Having reliable buddies at work can make you happier at work, boost your confidence and improve your performance. So, don't wait, start introducing yourself right away to your co-workers. Also, don't miss the opportunity to engage in work events and get-togethers.
In the hustle and bustle of our routine days, we tend to go on in an autopilot mode without giving any thought. But when you take time to stop and reflect on your day, you can learn a lot about your strengths and weaknesses. Assign some time every day to think about the strife with your co-worker or the bad presentation you delivered. Observe what led to those behaviors and learn from your mistakes. If you master the art of self-reflection, you will improve your clarity of thinking, communicate better, make great decisions, and solve problems effectively.
Improving yourself is a continuous process -- you can't accomplish it in a single day. So, make it a habit to ask for feedback after completing a project. Let your boss know that you would appreciate honest feedback that will help you grow. Ask open-ended questions like, ‘how do you think I should have handled the issue?’, ‘what is your suggestion for managing my time better?’, ‘how can I prepare for my next project?’
You may have been on a break from your official work, but you've learned a great deal in your parenting journey. In your day-to-day parenting, you've learned how to listen to your infant's cues, creatively diffuse a toddler's tantrum, calmly handle sibling rows, or reach out to a defiant preschooler with empathy. Don't let those precious skills go to waste. Creativity, problem-solving and empathy are the hot skills for the 21st Century. Most of your workplace conflicts can be managed with these essential skills.
It is natural to feel short of confidence when going back to work after a break. One way you can bring back confidence is by doing a short course or certification in your area of interest. It doesn't have to be technical skills or work-related. You can upgrade your soft skills such as communication, management, etc. If you're in doubt, you can ask for recommendations from your colleagues and manager. Even learning another language can give you the edge to shine at work. With the Internet at your fingertips, you can choose an online course and save time.
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