Returning to work after having a baby can be like going back to your primary school. You intimately know the environment- the sounds and sights and smells. You have memories there, good and bad. If you are lucky there are familiar faces yet now there is a lot of water under the bridge because your world has seismically changed. In many ways, its familiar but also so foreign and irrelevant to your life at present.
How you feel about a return to work is very much linked to whether the return to work is a desire or a need, how you have adapted to the change in routine, relevance and demands of looking after a little human, the level of engagement in work prior to bub and also how you see work as feasibly being able to be balance within your new world of motherhood.
We are fortunate in Australia to have legislation, which supports a flexible return, to work. Where it’s easy to come unstuck is navigating these negotiations. Here are 5 things you can do to improve the negotiation outcome.
1. Know the legislation. You are entitled to request flexibility and your organisation needs to demonstrate that they have attempted to consider and accommodate this request. Not only are you entitled to flexibility but you are also entitled to request an extension to your maternity leave for a total period of 24 months. If you have another baby in this time, you are entitled to a further 24 months of maternity leave, by law!
2. Be clear on your boundaries. Boundaries are one of the, if not the biggest issue that women face when balancing work and family. It is helpful to have an open mind about what you are willing to take on and what work arrangement you would consider but it is also important to know what is non negotiable in terms of logistics of your family. Many women make the mistake of thinking they can do it all and as a result, fail to establish appropriate and protective boundaries in these initial conversations. This is not a good outcome for you or the employer in the long term.
3. Understand your worth as a part timer. The efficiency factor of part time workers is a true asset to organisations. In essence you become cheaper often doing a 4-day job in 3. Frustrating as that may be in terms of your bank account, it does facilitate an opportunity for you to both work and spend time with your child(ren). As much as you are asking something of your employer, you are also offering something to them.
4. Test whether you can phase back in. Inevitably the adjustment back into the workplace can bring significant disruption to life at home. Adjustment can be painful yet this pain is not necessarily indicative of the future state. It can involve feelings of grief, anxiety, sadness and stress. Being prepared for this but staging an increase in days or building in working remotely and enlisting additional sets of hands to support this adjustment can help this period to be less challenging.
5. Remember a challenge is not always negative. Often we have a linear evaluation of feelings and experiences that are difficult as being negative. How do you judge (either good or bad? ) the following feelings – stress, sadness, anger, frustration? Most people say bad. It is these emotions, which are often challenging as we navigate change, transition or new experience. It is often change, transition and new experiences which are ultimately very positive in outcome. So, remember, just because it is hard does not mean it is not worthwhile.
Managing flexible work arrangements can be challenging for employers but it also provides a cheaper and often more efficient resource. When organisations flex, the loyalty and engagement of employees is most often secured. So think of these negotiations as an opportunity for a ‘win win’ rather than a hat in hand plea. Part time and flexible work arrangements are on the rise, supported both by legislation and technology.
A mother returning to work is not an exception, you are one of a very large contingent and a key part of a productive society.
To get help with a workplace issue or navigating your career, connect with us to arrange an appointment.