Becoming a full-time mum after being a full-time career woman might be one of the most challenging steps in your life. One in 10 women develop a mental health illness within the first year of having a baby, while 88 per cent of parents suffer from stress-related issues, 56 per cent from anxiety and 47 per cent from depression.
Most parents think the companies they work for do not care about them or the parental demands placed upon them by a new baby, so they hide the real reason they decide not to return to work. Three-quarters (77 per cent) would avoid airing a grievance about not having a work-life balance.
When I had my daughter five years ago, my employer did not understand the challenges I faced and refused to allow me flexible working options. I had to leave my job.
Rather than lose a valuable, experienced employee, businesses should look at ways to help mothers transition from full-time work to maternity leave, and then help them make the journey back into the workplace after caring for their child. By doing this companies can reduce absenteeism, increase productivity and build loyalty and trust.
Here are some of the ways employers can help:
- Encourage parents to share their concerns with HR and help them find supportive communities of other parents, whether virtual or physical. It is important for parents to talk about their challenges and share experiences. For example, at buddywith.org.uk, we aim to provide resources, safe connections and access to local support.
- Provide information about potential childcare arrangements. Parents need to be confident in their childcare providers to be productive. There is nothing worse than constantly worrying about your child while you’re at work. Attention is divided, productivity is lowered and stress is increased. The simple step of organising childcare that leaves parents feeling confident can make the single biggest difference.
- Encourage employees to research their local children’s centres. These can be fantastic as they offer many free courses with crèche facilities, including parenting courses and peer-to-peer support groups. They really help show parents that they need not struggle on their own.
- It is important to keep parents intellectually engaged while on maternity leave. Some organisations have skill-sharing schemes, and parents should be encouraged to build on their strengths. If your company doesn’t already have a skill-share scheme, consider setting one up.
- Set up regular sessions on mindfulness and encourage parents to develop ways to stay calm and avoid feeling overwhelmed, especially when parenthood gets really hard. It’s something parents can practise a few minutes each day at home or at work and it will make a huge difference.
By understanding and accommodating the needs of mothers before, during and after maternity leave, businesses can retain experienced employees and build loyalty.
Yuliana Topazly is founder of BuddyWith.org.uk, a supportive community of parents and experts who are there to help each other by offering advice and sharing experiences