Welp, guys. It’s done. Maternity leave is done and I have officially returned to work. It was an interesting day for sure with not quite the full on success I wanted, but it wasn’t horribly awry either. At the completion of the day, I recognized that getting back to “normal” is different in a pandemic. I learned five things that I should have done before returning to work. Fortunately, I get to share those things with you so maybe you can have a head start on the new normal.
1. Determine the lay of the land. When I attempted to log on today, I realized very quickly that everything has changed. My previous maternity absences didn’t require a consistent log in or back check as everything ran smoothly with my back ups. The same happened this time, but there were modifications. With COVID came new directions, new personnel, and new protocols that didn’t exist when I checked out. As a result, a good portion of my day was spent with IT and upline getting information that would have been great to know last week. Make sure you ask the who, what, when, where, and how of your return at least a week prior to your return. You may want to include:
What has changed in my absence?
What do I need to know to be up and running on day one?
Whom will I be supporting (same people, new customers, etc.)?
What is the expectation during my first 30-90 days of work?
What, if any, is the telework policy?
Knowing this information helps drive expectations and makes sure you aren’t blindsided when you come in. In my case, I didn’t get a response which was an indicator that something was up. I found out later that several persons in our office had been exposed to, contracted, or recently overcome COVID-19. The guidance provided now has been not to come in unless absolutely necessary.
2. Practice run the schedule. Prior to my maternity leave departure, I had a pretty consistent schedule going. I knew what days I was coming into the office, what time I would arrive, and what time I planned to depart. With this pandemic, all of that went out the window. I now know that I should have practiced the schedule by adjusting to the time needs of my new schedule. My oldest daughter has classes that require her to log on early morning. My son logs on later. I have super early morning meetings that will exactly clash with our infant’s morning routine. This is going to take some adjusting, but I’ll get it done. I highly recommend taking 1-2 weeks beforehand to run your schedule as if you were actively doing it. It will help you to note anything that needs adjusting before it becomes an issue.
3. Engage your support system. Before the pandemic closed all things childcare, our schedule was pretty worked out and consistent. Older kids out the house to catch the bus. Then a drive to childcare where the kids would be placed in the same loving care that nurtured our others at that age. A quick drive to the office until quitting time, grab the kids from daycare, and go home where the older children were working homework and studying. It worked great. Eight hours to get stuff done at work uninterrupted. Not so much now. Now, I need assistance. To the max extent possible, I handle childcare and my work. If I need a tag in, I go down and ask S. and he relieves me. Our choices are limited with restrictions being in place, but it’s nice to be able to call on him for an assist. Make sure you lock on your help, their duties, and expectations before your return to work.
4. If you are going into the office, make sure you know your rights. A lot of Mamas are returning to work and will need breastfeeding accommodations. Make sure you know and are aware of your rights. You are entitled to breaks to pump for your little. Pump locations can NOT be in the bathroom. For information on your breastfeeding rights in the workplace, click here and here. For those who are going in and need additional guidance for CDC advisement, click here.
5. Be easy on yourself. Things are different. What we are being exposed to is like nothing we’ve seen in our generation. It’s okay to not have the answers or to need a moment to collect yourself. No one is keeping score. If they are, forget them. You have the right to be concerned and the right to be cautious. Do what is comfortable and necessary for your well-being and the well-being of your family. You’ve got this. Completely!