Career Corner: how parents can stay engaged in the world of work
New parents returning from leave often find the transition back into the work place to be stressful or challenging, whilst parents on extended leave or a career break can quickly feel very disconnected from their professional lives. Two experts offer their advice on these challenges and how to stay more engaged.
Feeling anxious about returning to work? You’re not alone. Helen Cowan from the consultancy Aziz Corporate explains how many returning parents across the UK worry about this transition and how employers can do more to support them:
"When thinking about returning to work, typically up to half of parents feel apprehensive about the prospect, with many admitting to having sleepless nights, according to a recent ‘Maternity & Paternity’ survey of UK working parents by Aziz Corporate. Many are concerned about the willingness of their employer to be flexible, their own professional confidence and how their colleagues will perceive them on their return.
Employers tend to fall far behind spouses/partners, extended family and friends when it comes to offering support during the return to work. Many companies are failing to recognise that after a period of leave and the life-changing arrival of a child, the majority of parents aren't feeling as confident, keen or networked as they once were and as such are unlikely to hit the ground running without help. Many are missing simple opportunities to ensure parents are prepared and supported on their return to work.
Communication between employer and employee is a significant challenge during parental leave. This communication can be discriminatory, short-sighted and lacking in even basic empathy. Over 50% of parents surveyed described communication with their employer during parental leave to be “satisfactory” at best, and this was often only due to the employee's keenness, network and, crucially, confidence to take the lead in establishing and maintaining discussions:
“My manager failed to respond to any of my calls or emails regarding my return to work. I enlisted support of HR who also received no response from repeated efforts to make contact…very stressful and I came close to resigning.”
However, the good news is that employers can make small changes that will have a significant impact on their employees’ engagement and productivity as they return to work, by:
- Proactively asking parents what they need to make their return a success
- Finding a better balance between the formal HR communication and the informal, friendly discussions about the return to work
- Offering options for the role the individual might return to
- Offering an independent coach/mentor to help the individual think through career options and the balance between work and family life"
Are you currently out of the City but want to stay connected with the world of work? Louise Webster, founder of Beyondtheschoolrun.com, proposes ways of achieving this:
"Often when you are no longer ‘part’ of a company, its values, its routines, it can feel like a huge disconnect and that the only option is all or nothing. And yet the area in between, particularly for parents focusing on combining caring for their children, can be hugely liberating and have lifelong benefits for your career and your families. Here are few suggestions on staying connected:
- Find your place on your social media journey – share what feels right and authentic to you. Don’t hide, people will enjoy watching you grow and will learn from you creating a new way
- Collaborate with others who are working in the same way around you – if you are looking for ‘work’ engagement amongst your schoolgates community, look for it and bring it together.
- Keep your Linked-in profile regularly updated - and share opinions and your developments. If you feel passionate about blogging, write and share your views, findings and experiences.
- Share your skills to keep them fresh (volunteering) and keep searching for new ones. Take up speaking opportunities, challenge and stretch yourself in ways you may not have done in your previous role.
- Re-skill yourself in the place and time available to you – there are some amazing vlogs and inspirational leaders who you can access from anywhere around the world, such as Marie Forleo and Brendon Burchard.
- Focus on your own personal growth, wellbeing and fitness so you feel strong and ready whenever the time comes for you to connect fully again or in whichever forms.
Becoming a parent can bring greater awareness and compassion for the world, if this inspires or ignites a passion within you then start to explore and share it with the world. Amazing how the working world will then connect with you – when you connect with yourself".
Helen Cowan, Maternity Coach at Aziz Corporate - a consultancy that provides leadership development and executive coaching for senior leaders specialising in everything from personal influence, impact and presence to maternity coaching and courageous conversations.
Louise Webster, Founder of Beyondtheschoolrun.com - the place to inspire, engage and connect parents with their skills in the hours available to them.
Released On 2nd Jul 2016