I have been asked this question a lot by colleagues as well as friends who are pregnant or are thinking about returning to work after maternity leave.
You probably already know my answer to this: whatever works best for you and the organisation you work for.
My tips to get what you want and need
1. Have a plan before you speak to your boss about returning to work.
2. Know your childcare options or arrangements so you know what hours you have to work with. There is no point making plans that sound fine when you are in a meeting but practically don’t work for you.
3. See what others are doing in your workplace and ask them how it works for them.
4. Look at the job you do and see when your busy time of the day or week is. For me, when I was a stud vet and returned to work after having my children, it was the morning so, to continue doing this work, I went back four mornings each week. The majority of my friends have gone back for full days and this works well for them. If I hadn’t been doing stud work, I would probably have done this too. By doing full days rather than half, I believe there are several benefits as once at work you can concentrate on being at work for the normal amount of time and you will have the normal ebb and flow of daily work with both busier and quieter periods.
4. No matter what time you finish whether it’s 1pm or 5pm, there will always be things you have to say no to and there will often be stress when you come to leave your workplace. What sort of team do you have? Is there flexibility in your childcare arrangements? Do you work alone or with others? Can others cover when your child is ill or you need to leave and there’s work to do? What are you going to offer as a trade-off for others helping you out? You need to make it work for you but not at the detriment of your colleagues or your relationship with them.
6. Find out what the options are from your boss. If you think you will want to do something different, be prepared and have a well thought out plan of action. Consider the benefits for your workplace of you working the hours you want to work, and present these to your boss first. Rather than saying how it will benefit you, show them how it will work better for them.
7. Take everything into consideration; look at the advantages and disadvantages of various options.
Sometimes it may seem too daunting and too big an issue to deal with, leaving you feeling overwhelmed. But remember to first put time aside, sit down, breathe and think about what would work best for you and what your options are.
It’s important to know what you want, what your ideal outcome is, so you know what you are able to compromise on and which boundaries are fixed. But it’s important to remember you need to be flexible within those set boundaries so your workplace is also benefiting from your new working hours.
Do you know what is important to you?
Do you want some guidance and practical tools to help you identify what you want from your life and career, and how to confidently make the decisions that are right for you and put yourself back in control?
If you are feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the decisions you are facing and want support and help to break it down into small manageable steps, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org