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4 Tips for Returning to the Workforce After Parental Leave

It’s one of the biggest, happiest changes that can happen in a person’s life: You’ve welcomed a new child into your home! Congratulations on this exciting new chapter in your life that’s bound to be filled with so much love and happiness.

It’s well-established that the United States tends to lag behind other industrialized nations when it comes to parental leave: There is no legal entitlement to paid parental leave and only about 21% of employees have access to paid leave through their employers. It’s becoming more common, but many employers require their teams to use their accrued sick and vacation time for parental leave before they’re eligible to apply for the Family and Medical Leave Act, which provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Some companies allow employees to apply for long-term leave or disability, in which they’ll be paid a portion of their regular salary. Those parents — mothers in particular — who receive maternity leave from their companies typically only have about 29 days of paid leave. To support the fathers who want to be more involved in their children’s lives from the beginning, some companies are providing up to 17 days of paid leave; companies considered a Best Workplace for Parents provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave for paternity leave and 16 weeks for new moms.

While there are so many things to wrap up before it’s time to welcome your new child, there are a few things you can do before taking leave — paid, unpaid or a combination thereof — to help ease your transition when it’s time to return to work.

Talk with your HR department about when and how you’ll return.

In a world that’s been changed by the pandemic, it’s possible your employer can make accommodations to allow you to work a more hybrid schedule, spending some days at home while other days you’re required to be in the workplace. It’s worth asking! Additionally, you’ll want to talk with HR and your manager about when you expect to return and any accommodations you might need (like a pumping room for mothers who are nursing). You’ll also want to ask about any paperwork that will need to be completed and whether there have been any changes to your team while you were away. Talk with your manager as well about what your team is working on and how you expect to get back up to speed as you’re working to balance your new home life with your career.

Talk with other parents.

Being a new parent is a tricky time. All you want to think or talk about is your new child, but there’s also the need to be present and responsible at work. The best way to learn how to navigate this transition is to talk with others who have gone through it. Some companies have employee networking groups to support new parents; it’s a chance for people in the same situation. There’s a lot to discuss and people are often eager to share their stories, tips and advice because you’re all in it together. Other parents will help you find ways to balance the demands of work and home that might feel in direct conflict a lot of the time and they’ll be able to remind you that you’re doing a great job when you feel like things are too difficult to continue.

Set strong, healthy boundaries.

Depending on the kind of work you do, it can be really easy to want to reassert your position in the office and try to bring work home to show that you haven’t missed a step. But that’s a dangerous precedent! You need to balance the two halves of your life now, more than before, and it’s critically important to separate work and home. When you’re at work, be focused on work. If there’s an occasional text or phone call from home with an update on the baby, take a moment to check on it but don’t dwell. If there’s an emergency, your manager will understand, but you need to learn to trust the person caring for your child while you’re at work. The same is true on the other side: Don’t spend all your time at home worrying about what needs to be done at work or what you’re leaving undone until the next day. You can be a great employee and a great parent! You can focus on work at work and home life at home; it just might take a little practice.

Remember why you’re there in the first place.

On difficult, challenging days, it might be tough to remember why you wanted to come back to work. You might question why you took this job. But you did: Whether it was the first one to offer you a job when the job search felt endless, or it’s the company and position you’ve always wanted, or it’s something that was convenient and fit your interests but never really ignited your passion, it’s helped you create the life you have right now. Do your best, at the same time, to think about the positives when things feel challenging. You “get to” be a working parent, with a supportive partner and boss. You “get to” be home with your child when needed because you have a boss who understands and wants to help you. You “get to” do all this because you’re working hard to balance it all out. Trying to focus on the positive can make a huge difference in how you approach everything at home and at work. Coming from a place of gratitude can make things a whole lot easier!


Time to make a change? See what jobs Sterling Personnel is looking to fill!

Take your time and be patient with yourself as you adjust to going back to work while your whole heart is at home with your new child. It’s a big change! You’ll find a way to make it all work.

If, however, you find yourself feeling frustrated, not supported and ready for a change, maybe it’s time to find a new job. Luckily, Sterling Personnel can help! Call our recruiters and tell them a little bit about your background and the kind of work you do. Or go through the jobs we’re currently looking to fill and let us know what sounds good. Either way, contact Sterling Personnel and get a jump start on a new opportunity!