Returning to work? Don’t settle for leftovers


For many women, the decision to return to work after having a child can be focused far more on how many days they want to work, rather than what they actually want to do and what they ultimately want from their career.

“If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is a compromise.”

— Robert Fritz

But approaching your return to work after parental leave without considering your career objectives can leave your manager to assume that you’ve lost your ambition. Especially if you haven’t kept in touch.

There are of course many “push” factors that make women feel they need to position the number of days they work as the non-negotiable – unaffordable childcare, cultures that value facetime over output, a lack of flexibility and of course a minefield of unconscious biases. But when you reposition your flexibility request as secondary, and articulate your employee value proposition first, you’re much more likely to not only get the part-time arrangement you need. Not to mention an acknowledgement of your contribution, quality work to perform upon your return, and a confidence boost too.

Here are our some of our tips for negotiating a successful and part-time return to work:

  1. Reach out well in advance of your return to work to explore, in consultation with your people leader ,how you might use some of your keeping in touch days to reconnect with your workplace and find out about any changes to your existing role.

  2. Reflect on your previous role – likes and dislikes – and start to redesign your role with a focus on your likes.

  3. Check your new role aligns to your professional vision. If you’re not feeling the love for your role, it’s a great time to redo your professional vision and tap into your imagination. Make sure you don’t limit your potential to what you can see has been achieved before. The more energised you are about your work, the easier the juggle will be.

  4. Build your employee value proposition and a proposal for working flexibly, and know your rights.

  5. Communicate with grace. That is, approach your return to work meeting with your manager as a two-way conversation. Listen to their concerns so that you understand them and can address them. But be prepared to speak up and ask for what you need, and call out both conscious and unconscious biases.

  6. Draw on the Grace Papers community and experts if you need that extra support.

Don’t just settle for the leftovers of everybody else’s ‘don’t have enough time to get done’ list. Choose the path you want to trek and empower yourself to live the life you choose.

If you’re returning to work, make sure you have registered for our Return to Work with Confidence five step program. Return to work and thrive, not just survive.