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Q&A: Returning to work after a period of long leave

To coincide with Shoosmiths’ ‘The anywhere office - friend or foe to flexible working?’ event on Wednesday 4 May, we speak with Jessica Chivers, CEO at The Talent Keeper Specialists, on the process of returning to work after a period of long leave.

Jessica explains the importance of retaining employees and fuelling their performance after a break, as well as the impact of Covid-19 on the experience of returning to work, with tips for both employers and employees embarking on this journey.

The Comeback Community is committed to supporting those returning from maternity or shared parental leave, sickness or a sabbatical, etc. Why did you focus on this?

Retaining employees and fuelling their performance after a break relies on keeping a sense of confidence, connection and feeling cared for throughout their leave and once they’re back. That’s what the Comeback Community™ employee experience is designed to do and involves the person’s line manager too.

What are some of the common challenges faced by those returning to work?

Feeling out of the loop, on the back foot or mired by thoughts that the team has coped without you, so what’s your place in the team. Or that your cover has performed fantastically and that you can’t live up to it. Then there’s the reality of a new pull on your time if the leave is baby-related and wondering how you’ll continue to deliver professionally and still have time for your family.

How has COVID-19 changed the experience of returning to work?

A feeling of isolation when the return is remote is a significant problem. As is a lack of colleagues in the office who you can bounce ideas off and pick up on general business goings on, while getting your head back in the game through ‘office osmosis’.

A number of coaches talk about feeling torn between working from home – for the benefits that brings to keeping the show on the road at home and assuaging guilt – and knowing that the office is the best place for them to re-engage professionally, but that comes at a personal cost.

What can employers do to better support staff embarking on this journey?

Line managers to co-create a keeping in touch plan with colleagues going on leave and follow through on it. There’s nothing worse than feeling on the outside when you’re away from work. Out of sight shouldn’t mean out of mind.

How about practical tips for those returning to work?

Remember it’s a period of transition, not a single event and it will take time to get your head in the zone performing how you did pre-leave. Focus on reconnection conversations with key stakeholders, rather than getting straight back into the work.

Jessica Chivers will be speaking at Shoosmiths’ ‘The anywhere office - friend or foe to flexible working?’ event on Wednesday 4 May.

Register to attend here.


This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2022.


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