Though we’ve come a long way from the time when it was near impossible to be both a working professional and a working parent, unfortunately in 2018 there are still mums (and dads, of course) who are forced to struggle with balancing the two.
So, as a working parent, what do you need to watch out for to make the transition away from the office, and subsequent return, as smooth as possible? And how can HR teams ensure both you and your team are sufficiently prepared?
Having only recently returned from maternity leave myself, and given this is a matter particularly close to my heart, here are my top tips for employees about to make the jump.
Go through the maternity/paternity leave policy
The first step is to check your employer actually has a maternity leave policy in place. If no such policy exists, it’s a clear signal they don’t care about those individuals with plans to start a family.
Emotionally intelligent employers have the presence of mind to know just how detrimental this can be if it isn’t handled correctly. Not only can it compel people to jump ship to competitors, it can also be a major obstacle when attempting to hire young talent.
Take as much time as you need
You should never have to apologise for that last-minute trip to the hospital or for working at home that little bit longer than originally agreed. Employees suffer a lot of anxiety from being perceived as having ‘checked out’ or lacking in focus when forced to prioritise a personal commitment at short notice, so making them feel guilty for it is even harder to stomach.
HR teams need to make it clear no apology is ever necessary. Stress should never be a reason for missing crucial hospital appointments. Not only is that a dangerous path to wander down, it reduces in-work productivity too.
Make sure you Keep In Touch (KIT)
Just because you’re on extended leave away from the office, doesn’t mean you’re no longer part of the team. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of your Keep In Touch (KIT) days to stay close to your team. Employees can work up to 10 days during their maternity, adoption or additional paternity leave if they choose to do so.
The last thing you want is to feel isolated. Having my CEO repeatedly tell me how much he couldn’t wait for my return really helped dispel any fears I had about coming back, but not everyone is lucky enough to have such a supportive boss.
Think beyond the 9 to 5
Returning to work doesn’t just mean you have to stop being a committed parent. Mums and dads often hold back asking for a more flexible schedule. Be it the days, the hours or where you work, remember it’s your legal right to ask.
Research conducted by flexible working experts Timewise in 2017 revealed that 87 per cent of the UK’s full-time workforce either currently work flexibly or would like to do so. Evidently, it’s not only parents who are openly calling for this, but UK workers across the board too.
I was lucky. My transition back to the workforce was made as seamless as I could have hoped for. But worryingly, many new parents are still forced to navigate the inflexible policies adopted by old-fashioned employers. Hopefully initiatives like Mother Pukka can act as an honest forum for parents to share views and advice on this matter.
No one should have to suffer with the dreaded guilt that can be associated with becoming a mum or a dad. It’s a landmark life event, which should be nothing but cause for celebration.
Katherine Sale is director of operations at Croud