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Returning to work after a career break

Returning to work after a career break can be extremely daunting. Whether the time off was maternity leave, illness or simply just taking some ’me time’, it’s normal to feel anxious about the prospect of returning to a work environment. For many, the anxiety that comes with returning is due to a loss of confidence, however with the right support and mindset this can be overcome.

Richard Holmes, Director of Wellbeing at Westfield Health, discusses the challenges of returning to work after a career break.

Speak to loved ones
“Family and friends often act as the biggest support network and speaking to them about workplace worries can provide reassurance and remind you of your skills and ability as a professional. For those that have been out of work for a considerable amount of time, speaking to ex colleagues for advice will be a reminder of what a working day consists of. This will be a good way to connect with professionals in a similar field, making the transition back to work smoother.”

 Make a plan
“If you’re returning to an old job, it’s important to make a plan on how to tackle your workload. Organisation and forward planning will not only alleviate stress, it will prevent the overwhelming feeling of catching up on the work that has been missed. However, it’s also important to remember to shut off from work, so aim to get preparation done early in the evening so you can unwind before going to bed.”

Take it easy
“Work anxiety is common after a long absence. Make sure to discuss these feelings with colleagues and line managers so they can help ease it where possible. Employers should be flexible and understanding of people’s commitments, as being an accommodating manager is crucial to improving the wellness of staff and rebuilding trust after a long absence.”


Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’
“Taking on too much at work will make you feel stressed and run down so it’s better to have a smaller work load and complete tasks efficiently, rather than to over-stretch yourself. To help order your thoughts and stay productive, break down larger tasks into smaller ones and prioritise their importance.”


Look after yourself
“When returning to work, you may find that you’re busier than usual, but make sure you take the time to look after yourself. Help avoid getting run down by eating healthy meals and get at least seven hours of quality sleep a night to help stay charged up for the day. Trying a phased return to work will help you to rebuild your stamina for the working day and prevent burnout and exhaustion during this period.”


Paul Kelly, Head of Employment at Black Solicitors LLP, discusses the rights employees have when it comes to returning to work, as well as the consideration employers need to be aware of.


“As there are no laws governing career breaks it is important that both the employer and employee communicate respectively what their expectations are when an employee returns from a career break, especially if it has been a long one.

“Failure to have an open dialogue can lead to resentment and ultimately the breakdown of the employment relationship. With career breaks becoming more and more common, especially amongst millennials, employers are advised to put in place a formal career break policy that sets out their eligibility criteria for taking a career break and the process for employees returning to the workforce after having a break.

“This way both parties know where they stand from the outset and unnecessary conflict can be avoided.”


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