return to work

How to manage your maternity or adoption leave and feel confident about returning to work


Alice DarbyshireJul 10, 2019

I’ve recently surveyed over 200 women about their experiences of returning to work. Asking how they felt ahead of the first day back, they said they were anxious, nervous, excited. Is this you? If so, then read on.

Here are 6 tips to feel more confident about your return to work:

1. Talk to your boss about how you’ll stay in touch while you’re off

Many of us know we want to return to work after our maternity or adoption leave and even before we go, we’re nervous about coming back. In fact, 84% of the women who completed my survey felt that knowing how she’d stay in touch while she was off would make a positive difference to her experience. Have a think about how you might stay in touch, how often you’d like to be in contact, who with and what you want to stay in touch about. And then have a conversation with your boss and your team to see how, together, you can make this happen in a way that’ll work for all of you.

2. Share your aspirations for when you return to work

Thinking about your return, 74% of women said it would’ve helped to have a conversation about when and how they might return to work before they went off on leave. I’d recommend keeping any plans ‘soft’, with the opportunity to move things around a bit later, if you need to. After all, you don’t know how your birth will go, or how you’ll feel once your baby arrives. You could also chat about your career ambitions, whatever they look like. This’ll help your boss to plan better for your return and to talk to you if something perfect comes up while you’re on leave.

3. Use your keeping in touch days to get yourself ready to return to work

You can work up to 10 days during your maternity or adoption leave as ‘keeping in touch (KIT) days’. Both you and your employer need agree to them and you’ll be paid your normal pay without it effecting any statutory maternity pay or leave. Get creative about how you use these days to give you what you need. Maybe you can attend a company away day or team social event. Perhaps you can go back to work one day a week for the 10 weeks before your official return to go through the 1,000 + emails that’ll inevitably have stacked up or to get familiar with a new system that’s been implemented while you’ve been away. Think about what will make your return easier for you and ask your boss if you can use your KIT days to make these things happen.

4. Find a buddy at work who’s made the transition before

For most of us, we won’t be the first woman to go on maternity or adoption leave and then come back to work. Seek out other mums in your office and get their tips for how to make it work for you. And if there aren’t any mums then perhaps find a friend who’s up for being at the end of the phone for you. A buddy can give you emotional and practical support about how you can prepare to come back, how to manage others so you can leave the office when you need to without feeling guilty and will probably make you a cup of hot tea too.

5. Know what happens if your child is poorly or your childcare falls through

If you and your partner are both working parents then you’ll have had to figure out the childcare puzzle. Typically, we rely on others to enable us to go back to work. Inevitably, there’ll be days when this falls apart and either you or your partner will need to pick up the pieces. Take time to figure out who does what and when. And agree together who is the first point of call if your little one is sick and needs to be taken home. If that’s you then talk to your boss about this so that they understand when you have to drop everything and run.

6. Dress yourself to feel your best at work, however that is for you

Who doesn’t enjoy an excuse to go shopping? By the time you go back to work, you’re likely to have spent a good 12 months in maternity clothes. And let’s be honest, it’s hard to find maternity clothes that make you feel really good. Perhaps too you’ve not felt able to spend the money. Well, now’s the time. You’re about to get a pay package again and it’s time to treat yourself. What we wear makes a difference to how we feel. Go dress yourself with the attitude you want to have when you step back into the office.

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About the author

Alice Darbyshire

An experienced senior leader, Anna has worked at board level and always in close partnership with CEOs and MDs. She has been accountable for HR and Operations and have owned overall business strategies.

In 2018, Anna became a mum for the first time and in response, have broadened her leadership work to develop support programmes for businesses and new mums who are working together during the transition from work to maternity leave and beyond.

Find out more about Anna.


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