Returning to work after a break


Lots of people take extended breaks from work, the three most common reasons are:

1. Parental leave (until recently mostly maternity leave)/caring commitments

2. Sickness

3. Career break – perhaps to travel or due to redundancy

These are often decision moments in a person’s life. Whether you are returning to a role after being off for long term sickness (a friend of mine is coming up to a year off work) or starting afresh after taking a break to care for your child(ren) or perhaps another member of the family it can be daunting.

With my first child I took 9 months off, I kept in touch periodically with my colleagues, I even went in for the odd day/half day. I fully expected to return to work as though I had never left, well almost.

What I couldn’t have anticipated were the nerves I felt going back:

 Would I still know what I was talking about?

 Would people still respect me?

 Would I know anyone?

 Could I achieve all I needed to in *just* 3 days?

In one sense nothing had changed. There were people I still knew and they were very welcoming; I slotted into my role of ‘trusted adviser’ and was respected by the majority of people; I managed my time effectively. I did still know what I was talking about – although it took me 6-9 months to believe that I did.

I hadn’t anticipated how tired I would be. In my particular case of returning to work having placed my daughter in childcare I didn’t think about being ill. For the first three months I seemed to have so much time off either being ill myself or having to look after her.

My advice if you are returning to a workplace is to go in and use your keeping in touch days, or stagger your return so you can readjust to work-life balance. If you are returning to work in a new company after a break on one hand it’s easier as you are new to the organisation and so can make the impression you want from the outset with no preconceptions from your colleagues. I would still encourage you to consider how tired you might be, the emotional changes that you may experience and to be kind to yourself in managing your own performance expectations.

I found having a coach really useful to bounce ideas off, to rid myself of some limiting beliefs and to boost my confidence as I made the transition from being at home to working part time to working full time to preparing to leave again.

It was useful for me to evaluate my skills having had time away from the workplace and to understand how the skills I had gained during this time would be beneficial to me in a new role. If nothing else (and there is plenty more) I gained resilience, determination, self-awareness, strength I didn’t know I had as well as seriously up-skilling in my organisational and assertiveness skills.

If you feel you would benefit from talking about your goals, dreams or transitions then please get in touch.

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