Making the decision to return to work after maternity leave is an important, serious and potentially uncomfortable choice to make, and one that could be life-changing. The prospect is fraught with challenges, and can even feel like starting a new job! ‘What if I don’t fit in with the new team?’ ‘Am I dressed right?’ ‘Do I remember how to do my old job?’ The quandaries can be nerve-wracking.
No matter how many years of experience you bring back to the table, the playing field changed when you weren’t looking. Colleagues who continued at work are more on top of industry trends, ideas and have developed new skills. Old clients and old friends may have moved on.
Here are 10 tips to get back in the groove without getting overwhelmed:
1. Be open to change. Things will have changed and accepting this fact rather than resisting it will make your transition easier and smoother.
2. Keep in touch. Even before you return to the workplace, stay in touch with industry buzz. Read trade magazines, follow experts on social media and participate in online forums and discussions. Whenever you can manage the time, attend a weekend conference or reach out to former colleagues over the phone or email to bring yourself up-to-date with current situation(s).
3. Get organized. On your first day back in the office, arrange a formal meeting with your immediate supervisor and make a simple bullet-point list of your tasks. Taking action on work items in decreasing order of priority will help get urgent matters out of the way, reducing stress and giving you a better idea of how to structure your workweek so that you are neither overworked nor left idle.
4. Jump into the deep end. There’s nothing like getting your hands dirty immediately to get into the swing of things. The more you delay direct action, the more your mental block will grow, and so will the pile of demands on your desk. Don’t procrastinate. Stick to your deadlines and follow up on questions right away.
5. Take baby steps. Begin small. Break down large and complex tasks into smaller chunks of manageable items. A task that looks insurmountable at first becomes achievable when done in logical stages.
6. Focus and be disciplined. Stick to deadlines and avoid distractions. No quick inbox refreshes or going on social media sites.
7. Talk. Share what you are doing with your colleagues so that any potential for error is detected and flagged sooner rather than later. Colleagues may have suggestions and tools to do a task more quickly or efficiently, saving you time and trouble.
8. Ask for help. Reach out to colleagues to get support if you have questions about a task or project. Just bear in mind that others have their own jobs to do, so keep queries to a minimum.
9. Reward yourself. As you complete each item on your to-do list, tick or strike it off. This helps you feel a sense of accomplishment and acts as an incentive to get more done. Work with concentration for a couple of hours and then take a break. Get some fresh air or make yourself a cup of tea. Remind yourself that your professional skills have not diminished during your hiatus.
10. Make every minute count. Put your coffee break to good use by having an informal catch-up with colleagues. The human brain retains more when data is delivered in a relaxed, dynamic atmosphere rather than, say, a five-page memo.
Be productive and creative, and say hello to a stress-less comeback!
Devyani is a software professional, freelance writer and mother of two.
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