How to Return to the Workforce After a Long Absence
If you’ve stayed home to raise your kids for a prolonged period of time, you can’t treat going back to work as a straightforward activity. The truth is if you’ve spent significant time outside of the workforce, going back to work equates to a full-fledged career shift as much as anything else.
As such, it’s important that you treat the transition as one that deserves careful planning. Here are several tips and tricks that can help you shift your mindset, routines, and general life rhythm, as you navigate through the first few weeks of transitioning back into a professional career.
Set Your Priorities Beforehand
If you’re a mum or a dad who is gearing up to return to the workforce, it’s important to maintain a big picture mindset as you do so. The first thing you want to do, then, before you launch yourself into a new job is clearly prioritize. Remember, working now won’t be quite the same as it was before you had a family to soak up your attention as well — especially if you’re returning to work after raising your first child.
With that in mind, create a clear list of the responsibilities and expectations you are currently juggling, especially focusing on three areas:
- Family needs: What are the current demands of your home life? Where does your family need you to come through for them? This can include everything from picking up kids from school or a sitter to keeping up with chores and spending quality time together.
- Professional needs: Are you searching for an ideal position within your old company? If you already have a job, what are the activities that your new position requires from you? Do you have clearly defined expectations that you must tend to? Are your work hours stable or fluid? Do you have additional responsibilities that you didn’t expect to have to work into your schedule?
- Personal needs: Finally, don’t forget about self-care. With so many people placing expectations on you, it’s important that you also find time to care for your own needs in order to recharge on a regular basis. Take stock of your essential needs such as maintaining personal privacy, feeling valued, maintaining connections with others, and tending to your physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental necessities.
As you assemble lists of your various responsibilities, take the time to prioritize each one. This will give you a sense of what is most important in each area of your life.
That way, rather than completely focusing on, say, your professional life while ignoring your personal and family needs, you can take the time to address the most important aspects of all three before moving further down any of the lists.
Remember to Maintain Work-Life Balance
Once you’re officially back in the saddle and working again, it’s time to calibrate your work-life balance. This is important, as it’s easy to either prioritize family over work, work over family, and both over yourself.
The truth is, neither work nor family will willingly surrender time to your overcrowded schedule. That’s why you must proactively set up boundaries that help you focus on work when you’re at work and then family when you’re off the clock.
Boundaries can be an essential tool that helps you avoid the need to say “yes” to everything. This can free you up to allocate both time and attention on whatever task is currently at hand.
Look for Remote Work Opportunities
If you’re finding it difficult to balance an eight-hour workday (with a commute, to boot), in addition to tending to your family’s needs, you may want to consider looking for creative ways to find alternative solutions.
For example, the quarantines and shelter-in-place orders caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have encouraged many companies to shift to a remote-work-friendly business model. Whether a company is 100% remote or simply allows their employees to stay home on certain days of the week, it may be worth trying to make the case to your employer to allow you to work remotely.
If you do this, make sure to focus on why this will benefit your employer, rather than discussing your own work-life balance needs. For instance, you can highlight the fact that flexible work hours, the lack of a commute, and fewer workplace interruptions will allow you to work more efficiently and increase your productivity. In addition, the lack of required office space will reduce operating overhead.
Returning in Triumph
Going back to work after a prolonged absence doesn’t have to be a daunting task — especially if you take the time to return to professional employment in an organised manner.
Start by ordering your new priorities so that you can ensure that you don’t lose your focus or overcrowd your schedule as you learn to balance work and family life. In addition, set up boundaries and looking for compromises, such as remote work. This can help you reinvent your professional aspirations in a manner that is attainable without sacrificing your family in the process.