National Working Parents Day | Return from Maternity LeaveClimalife UK
Business Support Manager, Laura McKeown talks openly about her return from maternity leave in 2021.
Return from maternity leave.... Well that title may as well have said Return from Mars! What a year 2020 was! For a whole host of reasons, but the first thing that happened in 2020 for me the arrival of our little girl.
After finishing work just before Christmas and having a couple of weeks to relax (read: batch cooking, washing all the clothes and trying to read all the parenting books!), she arrived a week before her due date and turned our world upside down.
It's fair to say maternity leave wasn’t how I imagined. We didn’t spend lots of time at baby groups, making friends with other Mums and Dads. We spent most of the time in the house, and a lot of time in the garden looking at the flowers (weeds!), wondering what the news was going to say next. I don’t know whether it was maternity leave itself, having a 10 week old when the country went into lockdown for four months or a whole whirl of hormones and a diagnosis of post-natal depression, but I was desperate to go back to work as soon as I could.
I ended up taking the full year off work with the hopes that, come January, we’d have been able to do some more socialising over the autumn/winter, go to some baby groups and make friends. But the world had other ideas! Two lockdowns later, no more socialising had really been done and it really was time for me to go back to work, and for her to go to nursery.
I came back to work four days a week at the end of January 2021, increasing back to full time hours in March. And wow – has the time flown! I don’t feel like I’ve ever been away!
Coming back from maternity leave was always going to be a strange experience but coming back mid-pandemic was especially odd! I was working from home pretty much full time, in a new role and in a world where everything had changed in subtle, and not so subtle, ways.
I was gaining new knowledge in my role, learning the video etiquette that everyone else had been learning for almost a year (cue the phrase – “You’re on mute!”), and finding my way around our new systems at work. I couldn’t find anything for my first few weeks - all my files had moved and almost everything was on OneDrive!
Actually, being at work came back to me quickly, and the familiar routine was comforting when everything else was still so up in the air. My new role is Business Support Manager which means I look after everything office-related - whether it’s IT, building maintenance, insurances or helping out with HR – as well as spending time on new and exciting projects that can improve our productivity and efficiency. Some parts of this role I’ve not done before so it’s been a steep learning curve but one that I’m enjoying, especially reacquainting myself with the business and my colleagues.
I’ve quickly become the go-to person on Microsoft 365 (I’m not sure how that’s happened!) and am spending time making sure our cyber security procedures are all up to date and functioning like they should. We’ve had to come up with new ways to deliver training on new platforms and systems as we’re still all mostly working remotely, so a Teams ‘drop-in’ session has become a new favourite!
I’ve been working closely with Hannah, our HR & Business Support Manager, since coming back, on some projects to increase engagement within the team, and also on our learning and development programme for the team. With our new systems that came in last year, Brexit and just the normal evolution of business, there’s something for everyone to learn so we’ve been planning relevant training for everyone across the business.
For anyone returning to work after maternity or paternity leave, there will always be a period of adjustment, whether it’s your first, second, third or fourth child, and I think the fact that I have such supportive colleagues at work really helped me. I know if I’m having a bad day because of a lack of sleep, the baby’s teething, or generally feel a bit overwhelmed, there will always be someone to talk to, and if that’s not enough, we have lots of external wellbeing support as well.
Wellbeing has been a focus at Climalife for quite a while. When I started at the company back in 2018, it was one of the first things I was tasked to look at and since then we have put a whole host of things in place including a contract with an Occupational Health provider, creating a Wellbeing Hub on SharePoint, providing a self-care day for all our staff and holding mental health focused events – either internally or with external support.
As we start to get used to being in the office more after so long, there will be an adjustment for everyone and I guess this might be similar to coming back from maternity leave! There’ll be some apprehension, some excitement and some time needed to get used to change in routine. Keeping everyone talking and being open about any challenges we’re facing is key.
At Climalife, we’re all pretty approachable people and I think that makes it easier for people to open up to each other. Being back in the office and having that face to face contact with people will make all the difference to our wellbeing and hopefully, help us all return to the ‘new normal’!