Why returning to work after maternity leave is still a bitter-sweet experience

HR Review’s article on the TENA research out earlier this month shows us that returning to work after maternity leave is just as much of an emotional rollercoaster as it always has been – but is it getting better or worse? 

In this bitter-sweet research, we note that the difficulties of returning to work after maternity leave are very much still present: 52% expressed worry about returning to work and even more concerning, as much as 37% confessed dreading returning to work. 

In our parental-transition coaching we hear how the main worries in the current environment are around communicating and learning to cope with new technology – what are the unspoken rules of being part of a Teams meeting?  Am I expected to be logged on all day?  How do I build relationships with new people I’ve never met?   Do people know I’m back?

Is returning to work after maternity leave getting worse?

Are we preparing our first-time parents well enough for the transition they are about to go through?  The TENA research suggests not:  over 1/3 working mothers find it ‘harder than expected’ to return to work after maternity leave. 

At P&P Coaching we have found that this hasn’t particularly changed due to Covid – it is very common and normal for parents to struggle with the return period, but more so in those organisations who haven’t supported them with coaching, mentoring or manager development. 

Some second or third-time mums are seeing the advantages of returning to work after maternity leave during the current environment

The TENA research found that 31% of mothers said their return to work was easier due to Covid because flexible working is seen as more acceptable; 40% mothers viewed bosses as more understanding towards individual issues.  Clearly the lack of commute for many returners and the ability to be able to pop over to nursery to pick up a sick child has meant that the practicalities and logistics have vastly improved the day-to-day chaos faced by the majority of working parents. 

The advantages of returning now also go further than the practicalities; knowing that we are all openly blurring our personal and professional lives means returners don’t have to feel that they are the only ones trying to keep their houses quiet and distraction-free so much of the guilt has been removed.  Finally, we are all on an equal playing field!

To Conclude…

Returning to work after maternity leave is not getting any better or any worse; just different.  However, what we do know is that for the first time it has become a common experience because we will all be (hopefully) experiencing a return to the physical workplace at some point during 2021.  As parents have already been doing this it may even be a time for others to learn from experienced working parents.

This week’s blog is written by co-founder of Parent & Professional, Helen Letchfield.

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