After being on leave, there may be a lot to catch up on. By setting yourself realistic standards from the outset, you are less likely to feel anxious about being back in the office. Feeling overwhelmed after returning to work is completely normal!
Just as you had to explain your files to your colleagues before you left, there will be things they will need to fill you in on when you return. An effective handover can make all the difference in regaining confidence and getting up to date on developments that happened while you were away. Following up face-to-face handovers with written notes can also be useful especially if there is a lot to remember. Don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues for a brief outline of important developments if you think this will be useful.
Going straight to a full-time working week would be intense for anyone. Take the time to gradually phase back into work. For example, increasing the number of hours you work slowly can help you to smoothly transition back into your role. Having an official “phase in” period with your employer can also be useful to make this clear and to set some ground-rules. Whether you wish to have discussions about a formal or informal phase-in period, or prefer not to have a phase-in period is up to you and your employer.
Make sure you give yourself time to get out of the office for a bite to eat and some fresh air. Be attentive to your energy levels and wary of trying to “push through” fatigue especially during your initial return period. While experiencing fatigue can be challenging, it is important to take time out when you need to in order to make the most out of your time at work and avoid burn out.
After time away there will inevitably be things that have happened while you were gone. It is fine to ask plenty of questions — you can’t be expected to know everything that has occurred and your colleagues are likely to understand this.
When you return, take the time to think about what is working and what is not. Just because you thought something would work before you returned, it doesn’t mean that will necessarily be the case. Analysing whether your current arrangements are able to accommodate family and work or whether you require greater flexibility will allow you to start those discussions with your employer.
Think about who it might be important to catch up with for a smooth return. Returning from parental leave can also be a great way to build office relationships and get to know any new people around the office. This will allow you to get re-established in the office and up to date.