Remote Return from Parental Leave: 5 Areas to Focus On
“How can I best navigate a remote return from my parental leave?” is a question I’ve gotten a lot lately. “On the one hand, some things are easier. Like not needing to pump or say goodbye to my baby during the day,” new mamas tell me. “On the other hand, I feel guilty when I hear my baby in the next room.”
And oh, the isolation. I personally felt incredibly isolated during the return to work after leave. And that was pre-pandemic. I can only imagine what a struggle it is to find ways to connect in helpful ways with other working parents right now.
To focus on the topic of how on earth to manage a return from leave while also being in a remote (or perhaps soon-to-be hybrid) environment, I’ve invited Christine Anastasia to the blog. Christine is a Working Mom Coach and mama of 2 and lives in the Greater Boston area.
Here are Christine’s 5 key categories to focus on as you plan your return to work after leave.
If you’re about to experience a fully remote return from parental leave, chances are your many worlds are directly colliding. You are a caregiver. You’re a chef. A household manager. The maintenance person. You’re a partner. And a mom or dad. You’re physically there. You get the idea. Most of all, you’re a logistical magician.
Taking all of these roles into consideration during your return will help you understand the nuances that come with making decisions around working remotely. Focusing on the following 5 areas will also help you to build boundaries and supports to create routines and schedules that foster wellness, motivation, and less burnout.
5 Areas to Think About Before Your Remote Return
1) Childcare (nanny, babysitter or daycare provider outside the home)
Consider: Every parent experiences working remotely differently. Depending on your home and where you work within it, you will be “intersecting” with family life more than if you were “in the office” or if your kids were at daycare. It will be important to decide what feels right to you in terms of always hearing your baby, or perhaps experiencing fewer distractions by sending the baby to an outside daycare provider.
(Also check out Mindful Return’s Childcare Roundup: 9 Posts to Help Guide Your Family’s Next Right Decision)
2) Managing Boundaries of Working Hours vs Family Time (“Off the Clock”)
Consider: When you return back to work from maternity or paternity leave, it’s important to communicate clearly and frequently with your boss and colleagues about your “working hours” versus the time when you are not available. These conversations should happen early and often, and they should take into consideration issues around delegation, workflow, and the timing of team meetings.
3) Building a Schedule with Your Partner
Consider: Conversations and negotiations about who does what at home need to occur on an ongoing basis. Here are some questions to consider working through with your partner:
- Are you both working remotely? What does the best remote work space set-up look like for you both?
- Does it make sense to stagger the work day hours or keep them similar?
- What does your morning routine look like? Is it best to have a buffer?
- When is the bedtime routine, and who will handle what?
- What time of day is your “energized” period for getting work done? When is your partner’s “energized” period? (Maximize your childcare coverage in that time. Build your work around that time.)
- Does your partner travel? Do you? How will this affect the division of responsibilities?
- What flexibility do you each have at work? Working alternate hours? Working reduced hours? Now’s a good time to explore all of your options.
(Also see Mindful Return’s Periodically Re-Assessing the Household Division of Labor.)
4) Taking Care of Your Wellbeing During a Remote Return
Consider: If you are managing a remote return to work after baby, it will be important to develop some concrete plans for taking care of your own wellness. Ask yourself (and then block your calendar!):
- Do you go to the gym?
- Do you enjoy walks outside?
- Will you take a lunch break out?
- Will you use a co-working space?
- How will you build in time for self-care when working remotely?
When you are working fully remotely, even if you have lots of Zoom meetings and interaction via chats, I know from experience that it can feel isolating to be on your computer all day. Building a routine that incorporates your self-care and wellness will be helpful for you to establish a good routine and find motivation in your day. It will also help you avoid the overwork and late hours many remote employees have been experiencing during the pandemic.
5) Feeling Connected to Your Colleagues
Consider: Before your baby came into the world, your communication with your colleagues, team, and overall environment had a rhythm and flow that was developed based on systems and processes you crafted. Your tasks, workload and communication style with your colleagues may not have impacted your schedule or hours.
With the arrival of your newest family member, there will now be consideration of a new baby schedule and the logistical pieces of childcare in your daily routine. As an employee who is re-integrating into a remote schedule, it will be important to communicate early with your manager around meeting times and schedules that may need to be adjusted to best support your return and integration back into the team. Having conversations around how you best connect with team members for staff meetings or check ins is key. This will help you develop a flow and rhythm that works well for all parties involved.
Setting Yourself Up for a Successful Remote Return
Effective and open communication, self-compassion for your transition, and flexibility will be key pillars of your ongoing journey steps to making the transition a success. Setting up milestones and checkpoints to see how things work will benefit both you and your employer, as babies don’t come with schedules that stay consistent for any long period.
While a successful return is what we all strive to achieve, it’s also important to be aware of the benefits and resources available to you while you transition back to work. Mental health and wellbeing resources and workforce supports are also readily available to you, should you need them outside of your work life.
While working remotely can be a benefit to some, others may feel isolated at times. As you are going through the transition, it will be important for you to take inventory of how you best work. If staying connected through the day with colleagues is helpful via chat or through meeting times, then try that. If you are more productive working independently and project-based work helps you succeed, then try that. Each employee handles their transition differently, and there are suitable ways to communicate and get the work done in a collaborative and productive way.
Ultimately, we all need to think about our own capacity at work and our home life to develop a system that helps us to thrive. That often means asking for support and building our village in the short term for the long term. It involves taking an inventory or our Work Life, Home Life, and our Wellbeing.
As you start to think about a remote return to work, consider a few of these pointers as a way to craft your “ideal” rhythm as a working parent. It will evolve over the months and you’ll need to be flexible and have compassion. But you’re building resiliency and stepping into a role where you will lead, stay centered, and navigate change with grace.
Christine Anastasia is a Working Mom Coach and also a young working parent. She is mom of two beautiful girls, Emma (4) and Zoe (2). Her coaching services and group programs help new moms and busy moms who are juggling work and raising a young family. Knowing that at their core they want to be the best versions of themselves, Christine helps moms take care of their wellbeing, so they can thrive in motherhood.
Want more practical tips on working parenthood? Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave