After four months of maternity leave, picking up your career from when you left off can seem daunting. Here’s how you can have a smoother transition.
Taking four months off from work may be one of the biggest challenges for many working women.
After all, before Baby came along, your longest break from the office had been, perhaps, two weeks long. Even then, remember the amount of work you had to cover in advance before leaving for your holiday, and how much you had to catch up on when you returned?
No wonder you’re feeling jittery at the thought of starting your maternity leave, especially when you’re advancing your career. But there is no reason why you can’t continue to climb the corporate ladder and be a good Mummy.
Read on for tips on how you can integrate back into the office environment seamlessly and pick up right where you left off.
1 Before you go on leave
Have a handover plan in place, detailing how your key accounts and responsibilities are to be distributed among your colleagues.
During your maternity leave, maintain casual contact with them so you can keep updated on work developments.
When you’re aware of what has being going on in your absence – both work-wise and socially – the return to work will be a much smoother one.
2 Organise regular meetings
When you’re finally back at work, plan regular meetings with your team and managers to catch up on the ongoing projects and timelines. A weekly discussion with your boss during the first month will help iron out the kinks and raise any issues. Your proactivity is also a professional move that your colleagues will most probably appreciate.
The first week when you return to work is a crucial one. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and get back on the same page as everyone else.
3 Opt for a phased return to work
If possible, request for a phased return to work. This usually means working for fewer hours or days during your initial return, with a gradual build-up to your original work hours. The arrangement will allow you to ease into the office schedule while still attending to your newborn’s demands.
If your employer won’t allow a flexible arrangement, negotiate to use up your accrued leave during this period. This will not only help to rebuild your work confidence, but will also allow you to strike a balance between family and work life.
If you work in a more relaxed and fiexible environment, you can even ask to work from home in your first week or so.
Don’t be too afraid to take it at your own pace and find the right balance between work and family, with the support of your spouse – and colleagues, of course.
4 Know your rights
Legally, you have the right to return to the exact same role and position you were working in before your absence. However, if your organisation makes significant changes to your role during your leave, analyse the alternative role in detail and assess the circumstances.
If your employer refuses to reinstate your position and job scope, be aware of your legal rights and seek help if you believe you’ve been unfairly treated. Find out more about your benefits and rights at the Ministry of Manpower’s website (www.tinyurl.com/MaternityRights).
5 Select your infant-care options thoughtfully
Should you hire a full-time nanny, domestic helper or enrol Baby in an infant-care centre near your home or office?
Many childcare arrangements require you to book early; some even before your baby arrives. Give ample time for this.
When you’re assured of your little one’s well-being and safety, you’ll have peace of mind at work.
6 Stock up on nursing essentials
An electric pump is worth the investment. Yes, it is expensive, but it will have the job done in a quarter of the time of a manual one.
If price is an issue, you can look into renting a pump, or buying one second-hand.
You’ll need to buy new tubing, funnels, valves and bottles, but these are relatively inexpensive compared to the cost of the pump itself.
You should consider getting extra funnels, valves and bottles for each time you will be pumping. Sterilise them at the start of the day and put each set in separate clean, resealable storage bags.
This way, you can pump your milk within a short period of time without feeling guilty about being away from your desk, while not compromising on sterility.
After pumping, simply detach the used funnels, valves and bottles from the pump, give them a quick wipe with a wet wipe, and put them back in the storage bag to wash and sterilise at home.
"Don’t be too afraid to take it at your own pace and find the right balance between work and family, with the support of your spouse — and colleagues, of course."
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