Going back to work after having a baby is pretty daunting. Whether you’re headed back exactly 12 weeks after having a baby (or less, in some cases) or are able to take more time off, it’s a lot emotionally and mentally to go back to work, care for a baby, attempt to fit in self-care and all the other odds-and-ends you do during the week. (We’re reaching for our coffee even as we type out this article!) That’s where flexible work schedules come in.
If you’re going back to work and are interested in pursuing a modified schedule (working from home some days, part-time work, etc.), we have some tips for approaching that conversation with your boss.
Know Your Rights
Before we get into tips for having these kinds of discussions with your boss, we strongly recommend you get all the details about your rightful parental leave from a federal, state and company standpoint. Your company’s policy, in particular, can shed some light on if/how they will be open to an adjusted schedule when you return. In some cases, flexible work schedules are part of the overall employee policy and are clearly outlined.
Define What You Want Before You Talk to Your Boss
When you’re in the middle of maternity leave, it can be hard to think about what the right schedule is for you and your family. If there is an option for some flexibility at work, here are a few ways you can approach an adjusted schedule:
- Jennie, mom of one, went back to work after three months. For the first 10 weeks back, she worked four days a week at the office with one day off. Then she worked four days a week in the office and one remote.
- Julie, mom of one, works for a company that has a policy of phased return to work which allowed her to start working two days a week, then three, then four, the five.
- Emily, mom of two, works three days a week as a therapist but works a longer day so she’s able to still see a fairly full load of patients with two days at home.
- Caitlin, mom of one, works in HR and works from home three days a week. On the days she goes into the office, she works 7:30 am – 3:30 p.m. so she’s able to handle pickup at daycare.
Talking to Your Boss
Once you’ve determined what might work best, it’s time to sit down and talk to your boss. Before heading into the office, it’s important to prepare how you’ll frame the conversation ahead of time. Before scheduling the meeting, think about what you’re going to say, have mock conversations with your friends and family, or write it down on paper. Sometimes in the midst of a conversation, it can be easy to forget to include all the important info you had prepared, and this method makes sure your sleep-deprived mind doesn’t skip over anything.
We recommend outlining the following in your proposal:
- This is so, so personal to you, but it’s mainly business for them. That is not to say that your workplace is not filled with compassionate, caring individuals, but the primary concern from the employer’s standpoint is how the workload will be handled and, if not fully handled by you, figuring out who will be able to pick up the slack.
- Detail how and when you’ll get work done. For example, if you frequently have in-person meetings, how will they be handled if you’re working from home? You could schedule meetings on in-office days or request they be done via video call. Or, if you’re looking to work adjusted hours, confirm that you’ll schedule all meetings before you leave the office at 3:30 p.m. and then will be back online after your child goes to bed.
- Keep in mind that flexible work doesn’t mean you don’t need childcare. If you are working from home, for example, you will still need childcare to ensure you’re able to complete your work as efficiently as possible.
- Promote your accomplishments. Much like when you have a review at the office, this is not the time to be shy about what you’ve accomplished while with the company. Take a moment to remind your boss of your dedication to the company, successful projects, and commitment to your job following maternity leave.
- Have the conversation face-to-face, but put it all in writing and be sure to detail all of the above. We recommend sitting down with your boss to discuss all of the above, if possible. Afterward, though, you should put it all together in an email to your boss and HR; it’s always a good idea to have a written record of what was agreed upon.
Making the transition back to work is never easy. Above all, know that everyone’s return to work journey looks a bit different, and one person’s flexible work schedule is not the same as another’s. No matter what you decide, your choice is what’s best for you and your family.
When I’m not hanging out with my three-year-old and husband in Brooklyn, I’m busy writing stories for Mamas Uncut and managing PR + Marketing for Magnolia Bakery, based in New York City. On weekends, you can usually find me at a local park or playground pushing my daughter on the swings, “researching” the best almond croissants in Park Slope or launching into impromptu family dance parties at home, the sidewalk or, every once in awhile, a restaurant bathroom. I’m still trying to master the whole parenting thing, but I have learned that copious amounts of coffee, humor and humility are involved on a daily basis.
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