When you return to work from maternity leave, you’re going to need some help. It really is challenging to do everything yourself. What you need at work, just like at home, is a support system you can count on.
A workplace support system consists mostly of people within your company who you can count on for both personal and professional support. It may also include people outside of your organization who can give you a different perspective from a different work culture. These people know your strengths and weaknesses, want to see you succeed, are good listeners, and will pick up the phone when you call.
Here’s how to create a solid workplace support team to help you transition into working motherhood.
Recognize a Lot Has Changed
If you got 12 weeks of maternity leave, many things have changed in that one business quarter. Think about the following issues: What policies have been implemented or altered that may affect your work? Who received a promotion or changed positions that you need to adapt to? What new products and services were introduced that you need to get up to speed on?
Also, notice how you have changed. Although your position may not have changed, how you’ll do business may. One of your top priorities is caring for your family, which may affect your decision-making. Before the baby, you may have worked at a fast pace. Now that you're sleep-deprived and maybe pumping breast milk at work, your pace will change. A workplace support system will support the "new you," accept your new pace, and help you accept it as well.
Get Reacquainted With the New You
Whether you’re returning from your first or subsequent maternity leave, you may feel lost and alone with your problems. Incorporating motherhood with work is no joke. There’s a new normal you need to discover with new limits you will hit. Before you begin building your support system, perform a bit of self-discovery.
You probably value the quality time spent with your family, good time management, and an efficient work process. Welcome to working motherhood! You want to work hard so you feel good rushing home to your family. Besides this, though, think about what else is important to you now that you’re a working mom.
Know your needs and wants so you are clear when reaching out to others at work.
Decide Who, What, Where, and When
Use the four W’s to create, build, and grow your workplace support system.
Who do you want to include in on your support team? Select people who have helped you in the past, who want to see you succeed at work and at home, and who understand you well, especially the “new you."
What do you need help with? What areas are you weak in or don’t have time for? What clients aren’t working well with you anymore? What tasks do you really want to delegate?
Where do you need help? Is it at an offsite location? Is a trip that you don’t want to go on? Do you need to meet somewhere for lunch to talk about your transition back from maternity leave?
When do you need your support team to jump in? Is there a time of the day, month, or year you would need them most? Do you have access to a team calendar so you can see who could help and when?
Use Your Strengths to Give Back
Friendship is a two-way street. This goes for relationships at work as well. People are going to give if you are willing to give back. The easiest way to give back is to help with things that you’re strong in. Is it easy for you to calm an aggravated customer? Offer to handle a difficult conference call. Is giving a presentation about your company a walk in the park for you? Then offer your presentation services. Be ready to offer any of your strengths when reaching out to your workplace support system.
Also, be on the lookout to surprise people with your assistance when they need it most. After you're back up and running after maternity leave, you may become a working mom that others look up to. Be available and open to new working moms and dads who may need the same type of support you needed when you first got back to work.
Think of Your System as a Work In Progress
Your needs will change over time, so keep your group fresh. People change companies or start families, and new hires with a fresh perspective can shake things up a bit, in a good way. Plus, your support system will shrink and grow depending on your needs and the availability of others.
Consider it a work in progress. There will be days when you nail it at work and others when you’re lost. But with a rock-solid workplace support system in place, you'll know you can figure things out.