Careers expert Amanda Augustine tells you how to make that change as smooth as possible.
It can be tough going back to work after the birth of a child. Not only are you still adapting to your role as a father, but now you’re also expected to be a productive employee — even though you’re likely operating on a meagre amount of sleep.
Whilst every dad will face his own set of challenges when returning to work, there are some ways to make the transition back from paternity leave smoother and less stressful.
Your transition back from paternity leave will go more smoothly if you work out a plan with your manager and colleagues ahead of time. This includes determining how your responsibilities will be covered in your absence, how you’ll resume them when you’re back, and what new duties (if any) you might pick up upon your return. If you manage other individuals, be certain to arrange a point person they can turn to for support. Ideally, work out this plan at least a month before your partner or the birth mother is expected to give birth; especially as it’s not uncommon for babies to be born a week or two before their due dates.
By communicating your plan to your colleagues and manager, you’re setting the expectation that you’re committed to your job, while also acknowledging that you may need some flexibility upon your return as you transition to being a working dad.
It can be overwhelming to return to a full, five-day working week after being on paternity leave. Instead of returning to your job at the start of the week, consider coming back on a Wednesday or Thursday so you can ease back into your routine. This will help you resist the temptation to attempt to catch up on everything the moment you’re back from paternity leave.
If your company has resumed working on site, you might propose staggering your return to the office. For example, you could propose a hybrid setup for a certain period of time and build back up to commuting to the office full-time. In addition, many employees can work up to 20 days during their Shared Parental Leave. These are called ‘shared parental leave in touch’ (or SPLIT) days and can be a handy way to stay connected or build up to your return to work.
When you return to work, be prepared to set up some new boundaries as you’re discovering what works best for both your family and your career. For example, you might need to adjust your working hours so you can leave in time to help pick up your child from nursery. If you’re working from home, you might block off some time in the afternoon to give your partner a break and bond with your child, and then resume work late in the evening when the house is quiet and you can better focus. However you end up adapting your schedule, be sure to clearly communicate these changes to your boss and co-workers.
In addition, look for ways to reinforce these boundaries, such as enabling working hours on your online calendar to let everyone know when you’re available for meetings.
Whilst it’s important to set boundaries, it’s unrealistic to assume you’ll be able to maintain them 100% of the time. Your goal is to find a balance that works for both your family and your employer. For instance, if you’re asked to stay late a couple of days one week whilst your group is working on a big project, you can request to come in late or leave early the following days to make up for the lost family time. This kind of give-and-take demonstrates that being a father is important to you, but your work is also still a priority as well.
Remember, having a child will change how you approach your work and your life. Some days you may be hyper-focused and full of energy, whereas others you may start off the day feeling drained and unmotivated. Set realistic goals for yourself and acknowledge that not every day will be your best day as a father or an employee. There’s a learning curve — whether this is your first child or your third — and you’ll discover what works best for you over time. Keep these tips in mind as you’re preparing for the birth of your child and the transition back to work afterwards is certain to go more smoothly.
Amanda Augustine (pictured above) is the resident careers expert for TopCV, the largest CV-writing service in the world. With 15 years of experience in the recruiting and career services industry, she is a certified professional career coach (CPCC) and resume writer (CPRW), helping professionals improve their careers and find the right job sooner. Follow Amanda on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for her latest advice.