Returning to a different world of work after Maternity leave

Emma Smith

Emma Smith
Consultancy Services Manager, Assurity Consulting
11th November 2020

As March 2020 arrived our country (and the world) was sent into chaos with the revelation of COVID-19, and with death rates raising scarily the country was sent into lockdown! 

As a woman on maternity leave this was a terrifying time! Not only had we very young children who we needed to protect from this deadly and unknown virus, but our support network of close family and friends been stripped away from us. And then to add to that, the economic stability of our country was thrown into crisis. This was not an easy time for anyone who loves their job to feel detached and distant, (I must say now I am incredibly lucky that I was one of the lucky ones, kept up to date and involved in major business decisions throughout the immediate pandemic control). But with uncertainty with employment for my husband and redundancy inevitable, it became a very scary and worrying time. Needless to say, maternity leave in 2020 didn’t live up to the dream - instead it became a worrying and stressful time, and not to mention lonely at times too. As lockdown rules relaxed some normality returned, but nothing compared to the pre COVID-19 world. 

I can only speak from my own experience and those of friends close to me, but this pandemic has led to many women retuning to work ahead of schedule for varying reasons or returning to a workplace that is so different to what they knew before. But I believe there are a few simple things to remember from an employer’s point of view, in what has been an incredibly testing time for new mums:

  1. Your employee may well be returning ahead of when they planned. This may be for financial reason or it may well be for their own mental wellbeing. This has been an isolating time for many, and the structure work provides can be of great benefit- keep talking to them. A phone call when they get back to work will mean the world!

  2. Whilst your employee has returned of their own accord, remember that their new baby has lived a very different first part of their life. They haven’t been surrounded by friends and family - they haven’t been handed around to grandparents and left for an afternoon. These babies have been with their parents and only their parents. They haven’t socialised with other children and simple things like they haven’t been fed by others mustn’t been forgotten. You may wonder why this is important, but as your employees return to work, whichever form of childcare they have chosen, it is likely to be a very traumatic time for mum and baby. I can account to this - weeks and weeks of screaming on hand over and even food strike until week five! But this pandemic has only made this emotional journey that much harder second time around for me – the stress and anxiety this brings must not be underestimated. 

  3. Your employee is most likely returning to a very different workplace. You know your people and how they tick - for me returning to a ‘working from home’ environment has been hugely challenging! As an individual who thrives off personal contact coming back to this ‘teams’ and ‘zoom’ culture, it is taking time to adjust to! You know your people and you know what makes them happy in their work life. Whilst their individual circumstances aren’t your direct concern, some empathy to what, has been an incredibly challenging time, will work wonders. Pick up that phone, make sure that you speak with them individually, check that they are OK and have everything they need. Mental wellbeing under these exceptional circumstances has to be a priority for all and some simple steps can be taken to help make this transition that bit smoother. 

#bekind #beunderstanding