We’re trying to bust the myth that stepping straight back to work is a breeze. We know it can be an emotional, physical and financial slog.
Here are our top tips for returning to work.
1. If you are looking for a part time role, forget flexibility. It’s a hot topic with many campaigning. Yet the world hasn't caught up. Sadly, less than one in ten quality jobs is advertised as flexible. Don’t limit your options by only applying for those jobs. Be prepared to get in there, got for the full time ones and negotiate like crazy.
2. Shockingly, other people may not be as interested in your children as you. No one cares about them as much as you. So when you’re talking to employers about work, talk about what you can do and your ambitions. No one needs to hear about your complicated school run arrangements. Have your childcare sorted and work out contingency plans. Be able to answer the “Could you start on Monday?” question with an enthusiastic “Love to”.
3. Negotiate, set and communicate boundaries again and again to everyone you work with. Most of all stick to them. Frame conversations positively. Don't begin with "I can only work..." Talk about what you can do and be clear about your output. Be assertive – you now have hard stops and have to be home. Challenge the culture of presenteeism by being upbeat about what you're delivering, not how late you will stay in the office. Paint your own picture of success and never apologise.
4. Don't bite off more than you can chew. Be aware that your first role back may be a stepping stone. Jane, a former global business director, has a part time job in a school developing their marketing strategy. She's visible, learning and working – plus it suits her current obligations outside of work. And when she’s ready to step up, she can demonstrate the value she’s added and extended her professional newark
5. Having small children is a temporary condition. Yes it can feel like chaos and all consuming but this state isn't forever. Children grow – before you know it they will be independent. Stick it out at work, stay visible. Hang on in there.
6. Beware perfection. How are you measuring your self? Be kind, above all else. You have a finite amount of time and energy. Good enough is fine. When good enough gets the job done, go for it. It’s way better than wasting resources or even worse, doing nothing because you can’t effect a more complex solution. And remember you can usually turn good enough into great later. Rework: change the way you work forever.
7. It’s not just about you. Your family probably needs to do more. Delegate and be specific about who does what and when. Not just the cooking, also the collection of parcels, being in for the electrician, the unloading of washing, the first point of call for school if you’re unable to answer the phone.
She's Back: Your guide to returning to work by Deb Khan and Lisa Unwin and published by Urbane Publications is available from Amazon and book shops.