Returning from maternity leave during a pandemic
To say that the year 2020 brought about a lot of change for everyone would be an understatement. For me, in addition to the ‘new normal’ that we all had to quickly adapt to, I was adjusting to life as a new mum and embracing all the challenges and surprises that parenthood brings.
As my maternity leave drew to an end, I began to focus on returning to work and looked forward to the sense of normality and familiar routine that I knew it would bring after a year of unknowns. But one big unknown remained. In 2019, I had tidied my desk, turned on my out of office, bid farewell to my colleagues and walked out the front door with the expectation of returning to the same desk, office and colleagues several months later. Only now I would be returning virtually.
"It can be extremely daunting returning to something after a period of absence and trying to pick up where you left off."
I had heard friends and family talk of the likes of Zoom and Teams. I think on occasion I had even inadvertently featured in the background of some of my husband’s meetings with a baby in my arms. But I’d never used these programmes myself and I knew I’d be several months behind my colleagues in navigating this concept of virtual working.
It can be extremely daunting returning to something after a period of absence and trying to pick up where you left off. So much had changed, from the business itself right down to the software we were using as our main communications tool. I wondered if I’d be able to immerse myself as quickly into the business if I was doing it from a distance and whether I’d be able to have that same impact with stakeholders as I would if I was meeting them face-to-face, saying hello on the stairs or simply just by having that visible presence every day.
It took some adjusting, but the support that was in place to help me return to work in ‘normal’ times was just as effective at helping me return mid-pandemic. I utilised the phase-back scheme to gradually perfect my home office setup and familiarise myself with the new way of meeting with colleagues and presenting and sharing ideas, all while settling my daughter into her new childcare routine.
The opportunity to keep in touch throughout my maternity leave had also served to make the experience of returning to work feel much less isolating, and I was offered some new parent coaching too which enabled me to meet with colleagues from around the business who were all facing similar challenges to me.
Despite the vast changes that the pandemic had demanded of the business, the familiarity of Enterprise endured, and it didn’t take long at all to feel settled in and to be reconnecting with colleagues. In some ways, the concept of virtual working has made connecting easier and more streamlined. It’s encouraged a greater sense of flexibility, which in turn has helped me to establish a positive work-life balance suited to working full-time while having a young child.
"The opportunity to keep in touch throughout my maternity leave had also served to make the experience of returning to work feel much less isolating, and I was offered some new parent coaching too which enabled me to meet with colleagues who were all facing similar challenges to me"