Becoming a new parent is one of the most significant and joyful life events. But when it comes to balancing new personal responsibilities with professional commitments, things can get challenging for parents returning from a Maternity/Paternity leave.
If returning to your professional life after leave seemed difficult before, it has likely become a complicated experience due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. A few of our Agilus team members recently returned from their maternity leave & here are their first-hand tips and insights on how to manage returning to work during the pandemic:
What has been the most positive aspect of returning to work from your maternity/paternity leave?
Renee: Feeling welcomed back into my community of colleagues feels great. Returning to work in an industry that is so crucial to rebuilding our economy since COVID and having an organization that has been so understanding of the real challenges of coming back from a Leave, has helped me to transition easily. Bosses and colleagues offering to assist with relearning and sharing workload until I am back up to speed, is just another reason why I am so grateful for the company and role I am in; company culture is everything!
Samantha: A feeling of self-worth and contribution to society has been the most positive aspect of returning. Using my skill set during the day, contributing to our household income and reconnecting with colleagues and clients are other positives.
Kristin: The ability to be more than just a mom – to interact with adults (people who aren’t 1 and 4 years of age!)
What was your key concern when coming back to the new normal post COVID?
Renee: Not knowing what the new work environment and industry looked like. What expectations do our clients have of us and keeping track of the various precautions each client may need?
Kristin: None really – I had a good pulse on what the world of work would look like – I guess my only anxiety has been around what happens if my kids get sick and can’t go to school / daycare. I worry about how I would manage balancing work and caring for them at home for an extended period of time.
What are some tricks to achieve better work+life balance, especially now that you are a new parent?
Samantha: Be productive with the time you have. Stick to your plans and don’t wander. Take breaks because this gives you more energy. Set time for work and quit when you are done to spend time with your family.
Kristin: Time blocking – yes with little ones that’s hard to do sometimes and you have to be flexible, but trying to block time for them, for you, and for work gives you a start and end time to things that makes everything seem less overwhelming. And secondly, having a schedule – I have both my girls on the same daily schedule, which doesn’t change on weekends. Early to rise, early to bed. This gives me time every night to either jump back into work for a bit or do what I need to do, or time to myself to just be me. Either way knowing that after 8pm is my time to do what I need to really helps me.
How has COVID made your return easier or harder?
Renee: It's been a great transition back, being able to spend less time travelling to work and back, provides me much more time with my family. With technology so advanced now, keeping in touch with colleagues and clients has been easier than I expected. The social aspect is of course missing; having a quick walk with colleagues for a coffee, or passing by to say hi, but video chat has been able to assist with much of that.
Samantha: It has been both good and bad for me. For business it will be more challenging to develop relationships with new clients without meeting in person. However working from home is more productive for both my working tasks and to be able to support a family. More time in the day when we cut out long commutes; improved online technology and the ability to connect with team mates across the country.
What advice would you give to parents returning to work?
Samantha: Be positive and use your time wisely. Set working hours and shut off and unwind when those hours are done because you will need to be fresh for the next day.
Renee: Lean into your new role with grace. It takes time to find a new rhythm, for everyone; bosses, colleagues, partner and child. Know your boundaries and limits so as to not spread yourself too thin and be sure to always put you first. Like being on airplane, you need to put your lifejacket on first 🙂 and watch out for warning signs with burnout and fatigue. Adding another full-time role to your life takes lots of energy, organizing, communication, and self-awareness. Things will all find a balance in time. And don't forget to ask for what you need, this is a great time to ask for help until life feels more stable and settled.
Kristin: Enjoy it – I promise you it makes you a better parent to get away from your kids and be something other than a mom for the day.
Returning to work in the new normal as a new parent is a challenge with an unprecedented twist. By using as much help and resources as possible you can transition in a relatively smooth and stress-free manner. Communication is the key - reach out to your team and manager to voice your expected challenges and be open to new ways of doing things. Ask for help from your team supervisor and supporters at home.