Six secrets for a successful return to work
So you’ve aced the interview, accepted the job offer and your start date is on the horizon: now what?
If you’ve had a career break, it’s natural to have mixed emotions about going back to work. Starting this new chapter in your life can be incredibly exciting but you might also feel daunted by the changes it brings, particularly when it comes to family routines.
As anyone who’s ever juggled a job and a family knows, there will inevitably be bumps along the way. Luckily, there’s plenty you can do to make your transition back to work as smooth as possible – for you and your family. Here are our six secrets to help you on your way:
1. Being prepared starts at home
Work out the practicalities at home well before your start date. While a quick survey of the Successful Mums office reveals there are no hard-and-fast rules that work for every family, online grocery shopping, menu planning, batch cooking and getting children’s bags and clothes ready the night before are all near the top of our lists. When it comes to housework, you might consider hiring a cleaner and, if you’ve been doing the lion’s share, redistributing the chores. Include the kids on any new housework rotas – who knows, they might even relish the responsibility and, if not, you can always resort to bribery (we never said we were perfect!).
2. Talk to your children
Sitting down to talk to your kids about why you’re going back to work and what you’re going to be doing can help everyone get on board. “Even very young children can benefit from this,” says Successful Mums’ Jane Knight, a career coach and mum-of-two. “They’ll feel included and, if there’s anything worrying them, you can get it out in the open and help them make sense of what’s going on.”
If you’re going back to a job you love, this is a great opportunity to talk to your children about the importance of doing what you enjoy (though be ready for the inevitable retort of “So that means I should be playing Fortnite…”). With young children, it can also be a chance to introduce the connection between having a job and earning the money you need (or want!) to spend as a family, too.
3. Do a dry run of your childcare
If you’ll be dropping off your children at a childminder, breakfast club or nursery on your way to work, make sure you do a dry run in advance to help you gauge how much time you’ll need in the mornings. If you can, settle children into new daycare settings and routines before you actually return – this will give you the opportunity to iron out any problems in advance.
If your start date is flexible, choose a Wednesday or Thursday for your first day. Having a shorter first week will be less overwhelming for you and the kids, easing you all in more gently. Finally, make sure you have a support network of friends or family in place who can jump in to help out (at least for the first few weeks) if your child is sick and can’t go to school or nursery.
4. Take one day at a time
Accept that it’s going to take you a little time to settle back into working and for everyone to acclimatise to their new routines. At first, it can be tempting to review your decision to go back to work on a daily basis. On a day when your train’s on time, you ace a presentation and remember to eat lunch, that’s all well and good. On a day when the cat throws up on the carpet and your kid remembers en route to school that they’re supposed to be dressed as an Egyptian… not so much. Chances are, you’ll eventually get back into the swing and start feeling more in control, so leave the review for a few months’ (and paycheques’) time.
5. Be positive!
At Successful Mums, our mantra is #thismumcan and we believe that a positive mindset can work wonders when you’re returning to work. If you’re having a wobble or feeling overwhelmed, focus on the positives of restarting your career, whether it’s the satisfaction you get from being valued professionally, the opportunity to learn new things and meet new people, or simply (as many of our grads say) “the chance to be a grown up all day”.
6. Take care of yourself
Mums often put themselves last, particularly when they’re fighting the clock, but you’ll find the transition back to work much less stressful if you’re taking good care of yourself. Aiming to get to bed a little earlier, eating healthily and getting some exercise will all help keep your energy levels up and you’ll feel happier, more focused and more effective at work and at home.
If family routines are getting an overhaul, grab the chance to carve out a little time for yourself, for example by scheduling in a weekly gym visit while your partner is on homework duty. And don’t forget to treat yourself! It turns out that work lunch breaks are just about long enough to grab a cheeky mani, squeeze in some exercise or indulge in a bit of retail therapy. After all, nothing says “new job” quite like a new pair of shoes…
If you’re looking to return to work after a career break, our Back to Work course is packed with fantastic work-life balance tips and practical steps to help you get “work ready”. Find out more here and book your free* place today.
*subject to eligibility