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Why returning to work should be like seeing old friends

Following a number of conversations I've had recently, I feel compelled to talk about returning to work after a break. It was daunting for me amid a pandemic for sure, but perhaps as much for the employer too.


I mean how do you cover everything that has happened in the time apart. Some of it organic and nuanced, some so long ago that they don’t remember.


I like to think it should be much like when you see that old friend after a few years, and things just fall into place, right? Sometimes yes, absolutely, but it’s not by accident.


Leaders who have spent time thinking about the person returning are far more likely to achieve successful and stress-free returns. People Management Magazine found that fewer than 1 in 5 women felt confident returning from maternity leave and I was one of these!



As an individual take control


The most powerful invitation I have recieved was to “ask for what you want”. It was in a training course, but I feel it's pretty useful in many situations.


I guess though it’s ultimately company dependent, however as my coaching clients often conclude “there’s no harm in asking”.

Ask for what you want, they may just say YES! Y

It’s true. Your leaders cannot read minds. Finding a way to ask for what you want will help you transition back more comfortably. This is where coaching can come in, helping you to unpack what it is that you do want.


Be a great leader


That being said, as a leader do spend time planning and managing an individuals return. Expecting someone to leave one day, then return after a long period and without exploring this with them, to me, seems crazy,


Plan for a person’s return – what might they need? and when you don’t know, ask.

Anticipate a period of readjustment, so plan for it. Expecting them to pick up where they left off from the moment they start back is at best unhelpful. Consider what has happened, what impact has it had (is there are upskilling needed) and who is the best person to get them up to speed. This will go along way to alleviate some of the inevitable anxiety of returning.


When we see age old friends we never expect them to know everything that's gone on. We take time recalling our key moments and make allowances for when they may put their foot in it about a partner, promotion or loss, knowing that they just did not know.

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