As the first employee of Tenzo to go on maternity leave, I was faced with the challenge of creating a new return-to-work plan. With no established policy beyond the statutory one from the UK government, I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, I saw this as a fantastic opportunity to create a plan that would help any employee returning from leave, whether it be parental or health-related, feel welcome and supported.
To gather ideas for the plan, I reached out to my local mum’s network, a WhatsApp group with over 300 participants. I asked them to share their experiences returning to work and to tell me what their companies could have done to make the transition smoother for them and their families. After collecting their feedback, I was able to create a comprehensive return-to-work plan that included the following:
One thing I was not ready to hear before I got pregnant was how my life would completely change (including my professional life). Even if I had everything ready on paper and I had set a date for my return, when the time came to leave my child for a few hours, it was harder than I could ever imagine. This is commonly known as separation anxiety and it can have an impact on both parent and child, especially when returning to work.
By implementing an optional phased return plan that allows parents to gradually build up their hours over the first few weeks back at work, it can have a really positive impact on both moms and babies to get used to being apart, and the children start getting used to their new carers without it being a shock to the system.
At Tenzo, I was given the option of working 3 days a week during the first month, then transitioning to 4 days during the second; and using my annual leave days I had accrued during my leave to still be able to receive my full salary which I am very thankful for since childcare costs can be quite expensive in the UK. I also noticed many moms used this approach at work (or wished their companies allowed them to do so!)
Flexible Working Hours
One of the benefits of working at Tenzo is that we get flexible working hours on a hybrid working model (it’s only mandatory to come into the office on Wednesdays) regardless if you’re a parent or not.
We have adapted to the new normal and have really seen the benefits of providing the team with the freedom to work wherever they can perform their best (either at home or in an office).
In my case, as a full-time working mum, having the flexibility to jump on a call while I was walking my baby to the nursery, or leaving the office early and finishing my tasks just after bedtime on my own terms made things way less stressful and takes away the pressure to “bounce back” to my old 9-5 routine pre-kids.
Since day one (and even before my return), I have been in constant communication with my managers. I used my Keep in Touch days to receive the latest updates from the company and kept an eye on my inbox so I wouldn’t be drowning in emails on my first day back.
From my own experience in Tenzo, my team was always very vocal about how excited they were to welcome me back and likewise, I felt safe to share with them my feelings when things were not going great.
There were times when I noticed I was slower, it was harder to concentrate and I had made a mistake or two in tasks I was doing. It seems like I am not the only one who feels the same. Mom brain – where new mothers might be a little bit more forgetful due to all the hormonal changes after birth – has been recognised as a real phenomenon (something I can definitely attest to!).
So being compassionate, empathetic and understanding is the key. Knowing that the employee might forget some things, and might need a reminder or two on the first week about all updates, news, changes, etc (internal and external) that have happened during their absence. Also, having an open and honest conversation about what the expectations are and plans for their return can help to ease anxiety and boost confidence.
At Tenzo, we realised that returning to work after a leave of absence can be like starting a new job, especially after long leave periods. To help ease the transition, we developed a re-onboarding process in Notion that included reintroducing the employee to the team and updating them on any changes that occurred while they were away.
Some of the items to cross off include:
- 1-1 catch-ups with the team
- Intro with new team members
- Product updates
- Internal updates
- Customer updates
- Handover process
- Quarterly goals
- Library of important links and information
Not only for Parents
Tenzo prides itself on being an inclusive workplace, and although there is a lot we still need to work on, I think we have created a blueprint for the new parents and any employee that returns to work from an extended leave (e.g. Sick leave, Compassionate leave, Sabbatical, etc) and hopefully this is one less thing they will need to worry about when the time comes.
To sum up, this is what Tenzo has implemented for our return to work experience:
- Offer a phased return over the initial months
- Have flexibility around working hours
- Keep an honest and open communication
- Offer a safe environment for new mums: (eg breast pump if needed, a private room for pumping in the office)
- Use of different channels of communication (email, slack, calendar) as reminders
- Re-onboard is very similar to how we would onboard a new joiner
- Kindness: acknowledge the employee needs time and support while they get adjusted
On a personal note, I want to thank Tenzo for the support. Before, during and after my leave, I feel very lucky to work with a company that truly cares about their people.