We know that returning to work after a long period of absence can be challenging. Whether you’re returning from parental leave or from a period of illness you will be juggling new elements of your life, emotionally, logistically or maybe financially. The added pressures of returning to work can have a huge impact on your mental health, and often causes people to assess whether they are in the right role, with the right employer.
New parents in particular have been letting us know about the challenges that they face, when juggling life with a new baby and new responsibilities, whilst getting back into work and feeling like a valuable part of the team.
One new dad shared how challenging he found it after three months of shared parental leave: “It was a special time for our family but it passed all too quickly and it was soon time to return to work. I had perhaps mistakenly thought it would be like my last paternity leave with my first child or like coming back from an extended vacation, so I have to say returning came as a bit of a bump. The first thing that struck me was a sense of uselessness. All the client projects I had worked intimately on for months had moved on and all those tasks that I had so efficiently handed off to colleagues were now under the perfect care of someone else.
“The other issue was ‘the routine’. With the new arrival, the morning trip to work turned into a race across one of the busiest underground networks in the world, in parts with a toddler in tow, and a constant stream of “sorry I’m running late” texts to my team, followed by a similar mad dash back home again in the evening. I felt that I was letting colleagues down, that my personal life was adversely impacting my work life and that I wasn’t pulling my weight. All of these problems feel amplified when you are sleep deprived and stressed and it is easy to let it all get on top of you.”
This challenge of struggling to find a healthy work life balance is common among new parents and can result in stress and anxiety. We’ve found that an effective way of supporting people’s mental health and wellbeing when they return to work is giving them flexibility on how and where they work so they can balance work and family without guilt or imposter syndrome. We value the diversity that a rich variety of lived experiences can bring and know that supporting those returning to work also means retaining our top talent and delivering the best service for our clients.
While we’ve been offering Return to Work Coaching for a number of years, our newly automated process sends an email to anyone returning from any parental leave or long-term sickness, explaining that we’re here to support them and making the offer of coaching. They’re then matched with internal coaches who are interested in supporting people through life events that they’ve experienced themselves. All our coaches are trained to a high standard to make sure they’re able to offer the best support, overseen by our Development Manager, Danica Thorpe.
One of our colleagues explains the benefits of Return to Work Coaching after time off for mental ill health: “After returning to work in April 2019 after a four-month battle with my mental health, I was lucky enough to continue my transition coaching relationship. This has been invaluable in helping to rebuild my confidence and belief in myself. It is wonderful to decipher what’s going on in your subconscious mind when you are asked the right type of coaching questions. This has inspired me to get into coaching myself.”
One of the Directors in our Audit practice shares how difficult she found returning to work after having a second child, and how instrumental Return to Work Coaching was to her: “When I came back to work it was more of a shock than I was expecting. I was ready to jack it all in, I couldn’t cope. I felt guilty all the time from leaving the girls, felt like I was not up to my job anymore – I was just totally lost. I felt like a rubbish mum, rubbish wife and useless at my job. I should have been all smiles, I had two fab girls who I adore.
“When I was first recommended the coaching I was skeptical, what was a coach going to do? Perhaps it would be easier to leave and try something else? I was wrong. The coaching helped me to vocalise my thoughts – turning them from a jumbled mess in to a clear structure. I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel, which was just a huge relief. This clarity put the control back in my hands. Yes, I still have guilt and I miss the girls terribly sometimes, but I can rationalise it. To me this is key, we are all different and we have different situations around the challenges of balancing our family responsibilities. Everyone has advice but you need to work out what you want, what drives you to do what you do, and what support you need to make that possible. Coaching is one way to help work out that balance. I am now one of Grant Thornton’s coaches and, for the main, I coach return to work parents. Any long-term absence or change in homelife can have an impact and coaching is one of the options available to support you.”