Returning to Work After Parental Leave: What It Looks Like Today

Returning to work after welcoming a baby is often an uncomfortable transition, even if you’re excited to get back to being productive outside your family

With a global pandemic causing significant changes to work and childcare setups, there is a whole new set of concerns that magnify or change the challenges.

At Cleo, our Family Guides have experience helping new parents transition back to work in all sorts of circumstances. With our support, more than 80% of our members do not extend parental leave beyond what is planned, and 95% return to work overall. As our families adapt, here’s what we’re learning.

The Specific Concerns New Parents Have Today About Returning to Work

Due to COVID-19, many parents are experiencing an additional layer of anxiety or guilt on top of the already challenging back-to-work-transition. These concerns include:

  • Worry about the exposure risk involved with going back into the office.
  • Worry about exposure risk involved with leaving your baby in childcare or with a nanny/provider/family member.
  • Managing fear and uncertainty about the future of your company, job, team, or position.
  • Concern about the long term safety and wellbeing of your baby.
  • Concern over changes to office policies that companies may implement.
  • Difficulty managing changes to schedules and aligning work schedule with childcare schedule.
  • Keeping open communication with a manager.

Ways to Address The Return-to-Work Concerns

As our families transition back to work — often from home with a young baby used to dedicated attention — our Family Guides are sharing the following advice:

  • Schedule time on your calendar every day with hard stops, so you can easily turn off work and focus on home life.
  • Identify and prioritize tasks that can realistically be completed.
  • Avoid long to do-lists that don’t bring a sense of accomplishment or completion.
  • If living with a partner, take turns being on baby duty. Plan this out in detail on a weekly basis, and touch base with each other to talk about any adjustments.
  • Allow yourself transition time from a work task to a parent task. This can be taking as little as 30 seconds (more time if possible!) to close your laptop and take several big breaths before jumping into parent duty.
  • Give yourself as much grace and compassion as possible. You are not going to operate at 100 percent in all areas of your life with limited support. Welcome the idea that there will be some things that do not get done.

Safe Ways to Bring Childcare Into the Home

Finding childcare is a crucial step to returning to work. That’s why we created Cleo Care, Powered by UrbanSitter. This service will match employees with vetted care providers or other Cleo families interested in teaming up for a co-op.

As families work with in-home childcare providers, here’s what they should keep in mind:

  • Have open and honest conversations with your provider. Talk about their safety precautions, exposure in public, and their comfort level around precautions both in and out of your home.
  • Discuss the steps to be taken once the provider comes into the home, such as taking off shoes, changing clothes, and washing hands before anything else is done.
  • Have a back-up plan in place in the case your provider feels ill, or has any reason to believe they were exposed.

How to Plan Ahead Around Daycare

Some families might also consider daycare. Here are ways they can anticipate any issues that might arise due to the pandemic.

  • Have a back up plan!
  • If you have more than one child, think through various scenarios if one school opens up, for example, while the other daycare is closed.
  • Talk to your manager about what is needed. If you do not have childcare, you may need to continue working from home, even if your office has opened back up again.
  • Ask management and staff all the necessary questions around precaution, safety measures, protocols for pick-up/drop-off, and more.

In general, new parents can accept the idea that this process is going to feel shaky and wobbly, and that it’s OK. Returning to work after welcoming a child is a major transition, and there are still many unknowns around COVID-19. All you can do is what is best for you and your family — and that may look different for each family.