For many women, returning to work after having a baby can feel like one of the most challenging times of their career. A new baby brings joy and exhaustion in equal measures. While mothers are adapting to all the new tasks in their new role as a parent, their professional life can feel a world away, and the last thing they need is a stressful return to work. When it is time to return to the office, there are some easy ways for companies to help make the transition a positive one.
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Stay in Touch
Part of supporting returning mothers is maintaining contact with them while they are on maternity leave. They don’t need constant emails or telephone calls, but an occasional check-in is a great way to keep in touch with what’s going on at work without feeling any pressure. If they feel out of the loop when they come back to work, the re-entry can be much harder. Line managers can keep a list of important changes or updates, so that all the essential information is in one document. Another tip is to offer the chance to do some work remotely before coming back to work full-time.
Have a Reintegration Plan
Creating a standard plan for how to welcome mothers back to work is a great way to make sure things go smoothly for everyone. Instead of having to reinvent the wheel each time and put additional pressure on managers or administrators, creating a standard plan for your company will help make sure everyone is fully aware of the reintegration process. Just like the induction period for a new employee, a reintegration plan provides structure and sets the tone for what everyone can expect.
Perhaps the biggest change for working mothers is realizing their priorities and time-management must significantly adapt to include the needs of their new baby. There will be times that things don’t quite work out as hoped. Companies that understand this can help ensure it’s not a disaster when it happens. The key actions of the HR department are to be flexible about hours and attendance at meetings, when possible. It’s a hard adjustment for the mother, who may have been used to being able to stay late to work on a project, but now finds herself needing to leave earlier or come in a bit later, so the more flexibility is given, the happier everyone will be.
Provide a Private and Relaxing Space to Pump Milk
For many new mums, one of the hardest aspects of returning to work is working out what to do about breastfeeding. Studies suggest that breastfeeding has various health benefits for both mother and baby, yet many women find it hard to keep it up when they are back at work. Finding space, privacy, and time to breast pump, and having an easy way to store it, can be hard. Some companies have introduced lactation support programs to encourage and facilitate the process. Not every woman wants to breastfeed, but for those that do, feeling supported by their company to do so is crucial. A calm, quiet, relaxing space is one part of that, and a flexible and supportive attitude on the part of colleagues is important too.
Create a Sense of Community for Parents
Most new parents struggle with many of the same issues like not getting enough sleep, not being able to continue their normal social life, worrying about how to balance everything, and sometimes physical or emotional challenges resulting from the pregnancy. Coming back to work can be a nice escape from some of these challenges, but it can feel isolating to try to carry on as normal when things are tough. Making sure the workplace is welcoming and understanding of parents is crucial for the well-being of returning mothers. A parent-employee network can help, providing opportunities to share resources and connect with other parents. Rather than parents feeling like they can’t mention their challenges, they can support each other through them and offer emotional and practical advice. Kindness goes a long way!
The important role of the employer
A company has an important role in ensuring the return to work goes smoothly for mothers, helping them combine parenting and working successfully. Taking steps like these can make it a positive experience for everyone, which benefits not only returning mothers but the whole workplace.
Author Bio: This article was written by Conor O’Flynn of O’Flynn Medical. Conow has worked with businesses to increase awareness of the importance of helping new mothers breast feed when they are returning to work.