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9 Tips for Going Back to Work After Maternity Leave

9 Tips for Going Back to Work After Maternity Leave
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If you’re like many new moms preparing to go back to work, you might find yourself exhausted, overwhelmed and facing a lot of uncertainty. Obviously child care is on the top of the list, and it’s critical for getting back to work. But what else should you be thinking about? Look no further than this list to set you up for success as you transition back into work.

1. Do a dry run…or two or three

If you go the nanny route, have them come to your house for a few trial runs and leave your house while they are there. The first time you leave your child will likely be emotional, so it’s best if this doesn’t also coincide with the equally emotional first day back in the office. Practice (and time) your morning routine, so you know how long you need on a typical morning. By having a few trial runs with your nanny you can also see what else they might be able to help with, like the laundry, preparing meals or even some light housekeeping.

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2. Make time for self-care

Remember to put your oxygen mask on first. If you don’t take care of yourself, you will be in no shape to take care of others or handle your workload. Incorporate acts of self care into your schedule before you go back to work to get into the habit of taking care of yourself. If you’re running low on ideas for self-care, check out the 20+ recommendations in this short video: Burnout Prevention Guide.

3. Practice mindfulness

Realize that it is going to be emotional and maybe even painful the first time you leave your little one. Practice mindfulness by embracing those feelings and feeling them fully without judgment. And then remember these powerful feelings are just signs of how much you love your little one. If you need help starting a mindfulness practice but are short on time (what new mom isn’t?!), try this Meditation Challenge that teaches you to meditate in only five minutes per day.

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4. Determine (or refresh!) your values

When we’re facing transitions, the uncertainty can often be overwhelming and we forget why we do the things we do. Whenever we’re at a crossroads, it can be helpful to examine our values so we can connect what we do with why we’re doing it. If you want help determining your values, this exercise will help you gain clarity on what’s most important to you–and in less than 10 minutes. If you’re feeling frustrated and notice your inner critic getting loud, remember that working mom is not synonymous with “bad mom” and that you can be both a wonderful mother and a working mom.

5. Get support and ask for what you need

Don’t be afraid to ask for help and ask other moms how they do it. Many of the overachieving women that I coach find it tremendously hard to ask for help and have created a strong identity around being self-sufficient. Learning to soften the need to “do it all” will help you transition back into work, and make your life easier. I often tell my coaching clients to remember that it’s not weakness to ask for help, it’s a sign of strength. When you’re struggling, it’s helpful to remember how good it feels to help someone else, and you can share that positive energy by allowing others to support you.

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6. Practicing saying no…without the guilt

Ahh, the art of saying no. I was just speaking at the Watermark Conference for Women, and being able to say an effective no was brought up multiple times as a critical skill for working moms. If you have trouble saying no, it’s helpful to start practicing with saying no to small things before tackling the big stuff. You will want to be firm with your no, because otherwise you’ll end up drawing out the process and wasting additional time and energy. It can often feel more natural to say no with an appreciation sandwich (example: I appreciate you reaching out and getting in touch, but I’m unable to help with the bake sale at school next month. Thank you for leading the charge–I appreciate your dedication to the school!) so you are both firm and compassionate. Check out this video for more tips on how to say no without feeling guilty.

7. Prioritize sleep

I can’t help but include this tip even though it probably seems both obvious and impossible at the same time. So here it goes: even if it means letting your partner do a night feeding, or having dirty dishes in the sink, or letting the bed go unmade, do whatever you can to protect your sleep. I highly recommend investing in an eye mask and earplugs so that when you do sleep, you get the highest quality sleep possible. One of the biggest disruptors (besides night feedings!) to our sleep are our phones. The extra time spent checking Facebook and then Instagram and then rechecking Facebook before bed not only pushes back our bedtime, but staring at a screen also disrupts the production of melatonin and messes with our sleep cycles. Confession: I’m powerless over my phone, so in order to actually put this tip into practice I had to buy an alarm clock and move my phone and charger into the kitchen so it wouldn’t tempt me. Consider making a similar adjustment if you’re finding it difficult to turn off the phone at night.

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8. Plan and delegate

Setting clear expectations with your partner about responsibilities at home is important in any marriage, but especially a marriage with children. Can’t seem to convince your husband to do more around the house? Try sending him this study that shows that couples have more sex when household chores are shared. Another power tip for working moms is to do meal planning every Sunday night. This will help save yourself the hassle of figuring out what you’re going to have for dinner while your stomach grumbles.

9. Pay it forward

If there isn’t a moms group at your company, start one. Talk to HR about how they can improve their policies and how they can better reintegrate moms post-maternity leave. If the HR team is hesitant, you can send them this study that shows that having great parental leave policies is a key way to attract and retain top talent.

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The transition back to work after having a baby can be a rocky one, but hopefully with these tips in hand you will be better prepared for what lies ahead.

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Published on July 27, 2021

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow
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During the pandemic, video conferencing replaced in-person meetings and has now become the standard option for business meetings. Over the past 17 months, most workers have gotten past the video conferencing learning curve with Zoom or Microsoft Teams (or their platform of choice).

But just as with in-person meetings, attention can wax and wane. Some say we’re just not used to staring at ourselves so much on the screen. Instead of fixating on that, try employing smart video conferencing etiquette, or you may risk indiscretions that will flag you as a slacker.

Put the Pro in Professional

After more than a year of fine-tuning, here are the new rules of video conferencing etiquette.

1. Mute Your Mobile and Other Devices

The first video conference etiquette you need to know is muting your other devices. Just as in the pre-COVID days, someone’s obnoxious ring tone blaring Taylor Swift’s newest single in the middle of a meeting is also an annoyance if it happens during a Zoom meeting and so is the inevitable fumbling to turn off the sound. Even the apologies to the group get tiresome.

Also, when notifications are activated on the computer that you’re using for the meeting, the incoming message takes over the audio and you’ll miss out on snippets of the conversation. Be sure to eliminate this possible faux pas.

2. Dress the Part

While working from home, you may have fallen into the habit of slipping on your comfiest T-shirt each day. Hey, no judgments! But before you log on to your video conference, try to make an effort with your appearance.

Depending on your company culture and the importance of your meeting, consider dressing the part of the professional whom you wish to project. It will help you feel more self-assured, and others will likely take you more seriously.

For women, wear light make-up, put on earrings, and make sure your blouse is crisply pressed. For men, show up freshly shaved. Wearing a crisp collared shirt in a solid color will usually suffice.

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Pro Tip: Stay away from wearing white or black, unless those colors look great on you. Consider wearing light blue or brown instead.

3. Stage Your Workspace

Have you noticed the backdrops of experts interviewed on news shows? Bookshelves and photographs are carefully curated, and no busy-patterned furniture or artwork is in sight.

Take note of what appears behind you when you choose the location of your video conferences. Piles of junk mail on the table or stacks of folded laundry on the couch will convey more about your personal life than you care to share. Make sure you remove clutter from the camera’s eye, and present a tidy, orderly workspace to your colleagues, coworkers, and bosses.

4. Put Some Thought Into Lighting and Perspective

Be aware that in a video conference, your computer camera can actually make you look up to ten pounds heavier depending on where you sit. But you can easily drop those added pounds by moving back from the screen to diminish the wide-angle distortion.

Frame your head on the screen by tilting the screen up or down. Also, it’s best to not place yourself in front of a window or bright light, which makes you appear in shadow. Instead, face the light source, moving it (or yourself) until you have a flattering amount of illumination. You can also purchase some small spotlights that allow you to add light as needed.

Pro Tip: If your lights add too much redness to your skin, consider counter-balancing with a green filter.

Remember That Half of Life Is Showing Up

5. Arrive on Time

In the old days of in-person meetings, it was nearly impossible to slip in late into a meeting unnoticed. In today’s video conferences, logging in late still shows poor form. Instead, strive to arrive five minutes early and get yourself settled.

Once the meeting is underway, the host may be less attentive about late arrivals waiting to be let in. Diverting the host’s attention away from the meeting with a tardy entry request is the ultimate giveaway that you didn’t honor the schedule. If you don’t want a black mark against you, log in on time.

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6. Turn on Your Video

Few people like to see their face on the screen, but buck up and turn on your camera in video conferences. In most cases, it’s better to be a face on a screen than a name in a blank square. Your statements will be more memorable when other meeting attendees can see you.

If you need to turn off the video, either because of a poor connection, some commotion in the room, or a need for a quick break, give a short explanation via the chat feature. Then, go back on video as soon as you’re able.

Pro Tip: Keep your explanation for your departure pithy. “Sorry! Doorbell rang. Back in five” says it all. Be sure to honor what you say in chat and really do return in five minutes.

7. Plan Ahead Before Sharing Your Screen

Don’t be one of those people who makes everyone else wait as you click through folders in search of a document. That’s just poor video conferencing etiquette. If you know you’ll need to share a document or video on your screen, prepare by pulling it out of its folder and onto your desktop. Also, clean up the files and folders on your desktop to reduce clutter and facilitate easy access. Close other programs like chat, calendar notifications, and email. Disable pop-up notifications to ensure there’ll be no unforeseen distractions.

Be sure to remind the host before the meeting that you’ll need them to activate the screen-sharing function. Show courtesy once you’re finished by hitting “stop share” to return to the screen with participants.

Attend to the Pesky Details

8. Make Sure That Meetings Remain Right-Sized

With the easy accessibility of video conferencing, it can be tempting to extend the meeting invitation beyond the core group and include everyone peripherally involved in a project. But just as with in-person meetings, the more people involved, the more unwieldy the meeting becomes.

Use good judgment when asking others to sit through a video conference so that you don’t needlessly take up others’ time and so that participants can be fully engaged.

9. Remember to “Unmute” Before You Speak

Most of us are likely able to count on one hand the number of video conferences when someone didn’t have to be reminded, “You’re on mute!” Forgetting to unmute before speaking has become one of the most common missteps in video conferencing.[1]

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Show everyone your impeccable video-conferencing poise by managing your mute feature with flawless control.

10. Stay on Point to Keep the Meeting Length in Check

As with in-person meetings, an agenda with assigned time limits for discussions remains necessary to keep a meeting focused. Data shows, however, that video conferencing can actually reduce meeting time.[2] Reasons include the elimination of commuting time and the ability to screen share and annotate to keep everyone on task.

Additionally, side conversations are virtually impossible with video conferencing now that you can no longer have back-and-forth exchanges with the person beside you.

Pro Tip: If you’re running the meeting, let attendees know in advance the protocol for the chat feature. Is it okay for them to “chat among themselves” or not? (See point 11, as well.)

Talking Has a Time and a Place

11. Chat Appropriately

Just like side conversations or texting in an in-person meeting, the use of the chat feature during a video conference can be disrespectful unless it’s directed to all participants. Hence, it’s good video conferencing etiquette to mind your use of the chat.

At the start of the meeting, you may want to ask the host if it’s alright for participants to use the chat feature. This allows them to disable it if they choose. Used appropriately, it can be a helpful tool to clarify or amplify an earlier point once the conversation has moved on or to let the group know that you need to sign off early (and why).

12. Use the “Raise Hand” Feature to Avoid Interruptions

The slight lag in many video conferences can result in speaking over another person if you attempt to jump into a conversation. To avoid this awkward interruption, indicate when you have something to add to the discussion with the raise-your-hand feature that signals the host you would like to speak. This effective meeting management device makes video conferencing run more smoothly, especially with a large group, but it must be activated and monitored by the host.

Pro Tip: For meetings of six to ten people, sometimes the old-fashioned raising of your physical hand may be the best option. But it’s up to the meeting host. Ask them what they would prefer, and follow that.

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13. Don’t Record the Session or Take Photos Without Prior Permission

In this case, not sharing is caring. The “sharing culture” made popular through social media has little place in video conferencing. Before recording a meeting or capturing a screenshot of the participants, always ask for consent in advance from the full roster of attendees. Knowing that a video conference will be photographed or recorded could have a bearing on what others are willing to discuss.

Manage Yourself

14. Minimize Distractions

While de-activating audio and video features can keep distractions from affecting the other participants, you will need to manage noise and disruptions on your end to give your full attention to the meeting.

Move out of high-traffic zones in your home, keep your door closed, and ask family members to be considerate.

15. Save Snacking for Later

Save snacking for later—or earlier. Eating while on video conference is a no-no. Munching in front of the group while close to the camera—as you are when video conferencing—subjects the participants to an up-close and (too) personal view of your food consumption process.

However, it’s perfectly fine to sip quietly from a glass of water or cup of coffee or tea. If the meeting threatens to last for more than two hours, you may want to ask the host in advance to schedule a five-minute break at the halfway point.

Final Thoughts

Even though bosses are now beginning to ask workers to spend some of their workdays on-site, up to 80 percent will permit employees to work remotely at least part of the time, which means more video conferencing in your future.[3] Mastering these video conferencing etiquette tips will help you dial in—as well as dial back—your participation and demonstrate your unwavering level of engagement to the team.

Featured photo credit: Chris Montgomery via unsplash.com

Reference

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