Tips for a successful return to work from maternity, shared parental or adoption Leave

6 minutes
Jo Hodge

By Jo Hodge

Guest blog post - Verena Hefti, Leaders Plus

Leaders Plus CEO and Founder, Verena Hefti, has supported hundreds of parents returning to work from maternity, parental and adoption leave through the Leaders Plus Fellowship Programme. Here she shares her tips for a smooth transition back to work.

1. Help Your Line Manager to Help You

Your line manager is one of the most important people in your return to work. This is why I designed the Leaders Plus Fellowship to include a workshop with line managers where you can discuss the way you work together. To help them provide you with the best support they can it’s imperative that you communicate your needs clearly.

What you can do:

  • Arrange a meeting with your line manager before you return. This is your opportunity to be clear about what you need from them, so go prepared. Our free Return to Work Checklist has some practical things to cover in your discussions.
  • Tackle potential assumptions head on. For example, your manager may assume that you no longer want to attend board meetings as they are in the evening - but you might really want to be at the table.
  • Spell out the obvious! They may not realise that you find it difficult to attend an 8am ward round as your nursery only opens at 8am. Tell them what works for you.
  • Finally, ask them how they plan to help make your return to work a success for the organisation and give them the chance to ask you questions.
2. Remember Your Employer is Lucky to Have You Back

If you’re feeling nervous about swapping nappies for a laptop again, you’re not alone. Many of the Leaders Plus Fellows I’ve supported over the years reported feeling a lack of confidence in returning to work.

What you can do:

  • Write down your top 5 achievements or strengths at work before you left. Reflecting on these things will help to boost your confidence when you step back into the workplace.
  • Recognise the skills you’ve developed whilst being on parental leave (think multi-tasking, problem-solving, prioritisation…keeping a small human alive and entertained). All of these will make you more efficient, more focussed on outcomes and, ultimately, a better leader.
  • Read this brilliant blog by our Fellow Ruth Stuart, Head of Strategy Development at the CIPD, about why being a mother has made her a better leader.
  • Know your financial worth to the organisation! Depending on which stats you quote, recruiting and inducting someone new can cost them anything between £30,000 and twice your annual salary. By returning to work you’re saving your employer time and money as well as precious knowledge and experience.
3. Know Your Red Lines

As a parent, your working day will probably look different to before you had children. You might be factoring in child-care drop-offs or pick-ups which can affect established working patterns.

What can you do:

  • Think carefully about what your red lines are. These are things that are really important to you and your family, your non-negotiables.
  • Next, write down what your ideal work arrangements look like to fit in with these red lines.
  • Decide where you’re happy to have some flexibility if necessary. For example, if you work part-time and the monthly board meeting falls on a day you don’t normally work, are you happy to accommodate this?
  • Communicate your needs and ideal solutions with your team and boss. Importantly, don’t apologise for it but instead, explain how it helps the whole team such as, modelling a flexible working culture or providing your team more opportunity to take on additional responsibility.
  • Listen to the Leaders With Babies podcast series which cover some of these big issues such as Alex Pang’s interview on productivity and presentism or Laura Harrison on flexible working and managing your workload.
4. Don’t forget the Transition at Home

Evidence shows that partners have a critical impact not only on how you feel on your return to work but also on your long-term career progression. That is why I was adamant when I set up the Leaders Plus Fellowship that we needed to have workshops for partners as part of the Programme.

Ensuring that you’ve got the bases covered at home as well as work is critical to a smooth return. Agreeing this together will help with the transition.

What you can do:

  • Sit with your partner and make a list of your household to-dos, including family admin.
  • Agree who is responsible for each task and accountability.
  • Acknowledge that this is a transition and agree to keep communicating with each other as you settle into a new routine.
  • Listen to our podcast with Elizabeth Emens, author of Life Admin, for some helpful tips on managing overwhelm and burn out plus our interview with Jennifer Petriglieri on relationships and busy careers.

Good luck on your return to work!

Leaders Plus Fellowship Programme

The Leaders Plus Fellowship is a 9-month online programme specially designed to support working parents so they can stay on the leadership pipeline at work whilst enjoying their young families. Fellows have access to a senior leader mentor, a supportive group of like-minded peers, and specialist workshops to support you in your career development as a working parent. Applications for our Spring 2021 cohort close on 4th March.

Tracey George, COO at TPP Recruitment is a Senior Leader Mentor on the LP Fellowship programme and would be happy to speak to anyone who wants to find out more on 020 7198 6000 or email You can find out more about the Programme here or schedule a call with a member of the Leaders Plus team to find out if it is right for you. Alternatively, you can email Lynne at Leaders Plus on

  • 020 7198 6000
  • TPP Recruitment, Northern & Shell Building, 4th Floor, 10 Lower Thames Street, London, EC3R 6AF