Transitioning back to work after a leave of absence can be daunting for any employee, especially for software developers, who work in a fast-paced and constantly evolving industry. In this blog post, our developer Paula Sazonov shares her experience of returning from maternity leave, and how she navigated the challenges of adjusting to new technologies and routines while finding a new work-life balance.
Getting back on track after maternity leave
I feel fortunate to live in a country that offers relatively long parental leaves, providing valuable time to bond with your newborn when they need you most. But while you treasure and prioritize the time with your infant, it is common to feel at least some sense of nervousness about returning to work after maternity leave. This sentiment is not exclusive to mothers, as any person who has taken a leave of absence may feel the same way.
As a software developer, I cherish my job, so even though the end of my time with the little guy was bittersweet, I was looking forward to returning to work. However, I must admit that returning to code after a prolonged period of absence felt overwhelming. Programming can be thought of as a craft that takes time to master, and like any craft, practice makes perfect. The pressure for staying on top of the latest technologies is present even in the normal flow of work, let alone being away from it for a longer time. So, keeping up with it is essential to stay sharp.
To help ease my transition, I decided to study and earn a cloud practitioner certificate, which gave me a much-needed confidence boost. But despite my efforts to prepare, returning to work after maternity leave was not without its challenges. As a woman in a male-dominated field, and with developers changing jobs frequently, there were few precedents to follow for returning to work. This is why thoughtful processes to support developers returning from extended absences matter, particularly for women, who are still underrepresented in the industry.
4 Tips for Returning to Work After a Leave of Absence
In hindsight, I have compiled some pointers that may be helpful for someone in a similar situation.
1. Allow yourself time to adjust and don't be too hard on yourself.
Coming back to work after a prolonged break can be challenging, but it's a natural learning curve. I was fortunate to work for a company that values its employees, and looking back, I realize that being overly critical of myself was unnecessary and counterproductive.
2. Take initiative and control of your circumstances.
Don't rely solely on precedents, as what worked for others may not work for you. To avoid being misunderstood, speak up about what you need. Though self-reflection may be difficult in the moment, identify ways of working and learning that would benefit you, and share them with your team. When I opened up about feeling under pressure (mostly due to schedules), my team was understanding, which greatly helped. Improvements are difficult if you feel you’re drowning.
3. Talk, talk, talk.
Don't hesitate to speak up if you're feeling overwhelmed. Seeking an outside perspective can provide invaluable support. In my case, occupational health services were a tremendous help, and many of the tips I'm sharing here are the result of having someone to bounce ideas off of. Don't hesitate to find a sparring partner who can offer insight and guidance.
4. Take it easy.
Remember the saying: 'How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.' You’ll get back into it.
Returning to work after a long parental leave can seem daunting, but it doesn't have to be. With the right support from a company that values its employees' well-being, access to occupational health services, and encouraging colleagues who help you regain your confidence, anyone can make a successful comeback.
Workplace support is crucial
Returning to work after a long parental leave can be daunting, but it doesn't have to be. With the right support from a company that values its employees' well-being, access to occupational health services, and encouraging colleagues who help you regain your confidence, anyone can make a successful comeback. Remember to take things one step at a time, communicate your needs, and be proactive in your approach. By doing so, you can not only overcome the challenges of returning to work but also set yourself up for a successful and fulfilling career. So, keep calm and code on!
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