Returning to Work After a Career Break? Here’s How to Avoid Overwhelm

There are many reasons for taking a career break, maternity leave, parental leave, sabbatical, health reasons or extended training. Going back to the workplace can create mixed feelings. While you might be excited about the challenge, it is perfectly natural to feel a little nervous, and no matter how long you previously worked there, feeling like the new kid can be daunting. Here are some tips for returning to the job but avoiding overwhelm, and successfully nailing those first few days.

Understand Things Change

From office politics to personal relationships, find peace with the concept of change. Depending on your reasons for the break, you might find checking in periodically while you are off. Ensure you are still receiving group emails and newsletters. Those on maternity might find popping in with the baby is well received and this time give you a chance to get the lay of the land and see what has changed. If you have a work husband, wife or bestie – grab a back to the office drink a week or so before and catch up on what has been going on in your absences.

Check-in with the Boss

Good companies have return to work plans for this scenario; if not, you can create this together. Schedule a meeting before the return date on your time to show you are interested and keen to make sure that your return works for everyone. Some people amend their hours on return, and if you are going back part-time, make sure you both have expectations laid out. It can be hard to accept sharing a role or having alternative tasks to accommodate your new hours.

The Dry Runs

There are two dry runs you can do, depending on your circumstances. First, have a trial run if you are returning from maternity leave. If the baby goes to grandparents or nursery, arrange a ‘taster’ session. This includes getting to the childminder on time, with everything you need packed and ready to hand over. You don’t want to be late on your first day because you underestimated being back on the clock. Secondly, use this childfree time to go over your role. The skills you had are still there, and no matter why you took time off, you will have picked up new ones along the way. So be confident in yourself. Imagine what a day in the office will look like, remember the processes and let the excitement build.

It is OK Not to Be OK

Finally, it is ok if going back is scary. That’s normal, and most people feel the same, so don’t be afraid to reach out to colleagues for help. If you have forgotten a process – ask; if you aren’t sure whom to contact – ask! The mental health movement is very prominent in every workplace, and understanding has grown, so do not struggle alone.

– Recognising that returning to work after a career break can be daunting, this practical post will share strategies for avoiding overwhelm, making the transition and feeling confident in a new role.