Returning to Work: a Guide for Parents



Words by Olivia Cain. Edited by Leah Morris.

Returning to work after parental leave can be daunting and complex. For most parents, life has changed drastically, transforming their outlook and approach to work. Pair this with a pandemic and for many, emotions will be swirling.

For Senior Content Strategist Olivia Cain, it was a mix of excitement and nerves. At first, Olivia put pressure on herself to revert to her pre-pregnancy self before embracing a new routine and updated priorities. Following her successful return to work (where she was awarded for her Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging work across APAC), she founded Materna.info, a monthly newsletter to start conversations around work and motherhood.

Mavens has republished Olivia’s top tried and tested tips for returning to work, to support working parents and help set new expectations for the road ahead.


Tip 1. Catch up with your manager and arrange a practice day.

A few weeks prior to your return, do this for a coffee or call to get an update on the business and start sharing what your return will look like. This allows you to express how you are doing and start mapping out what you need for a successful and empowered transition back into the workplace. Discuss with your manager a practice day or a couple of practice runs to get the feel of the new routine of logging on or coming into the office. This way, you can have some coffee catch-ups with colleagues and get a feel for the new family and work routine. It’s also good to start either a Wednesday or Thursday rather than a Monday. That way, you can ramp up to a full week over a couple of weeks and don't have the full week ahead of you as you get started with the new routine.

Tip 2. Discuss a ramp-up plan with your manager.

Depending on how long you have been on leave, things would have definitely changed at work.


A 3-week ramp-up plan helps you and your manager stay focused and aligned on what is important to catch up on and when.

More on ramp-up planning here.

Tip 3. Three magical words – BLOCK YOUR CALENDAR.

‘This is one of the best pieces of advice I received’, says Olivia. ‘It’s a simple task to do on your first day back between catching up with colleagues.’ Block 1 hour of "Buffer Time" at the start and end of your day in addition to blocking time for feeding/pumping. Block your lunch hour too so you have time to take care of yourself as well.

Tip 4. Re-engage with your village at work.

Touch base with your parental leave mentor and set up some regular catch-ups that focus on you and how you are adjusting to being back at work. In addition, find a "buddy" you can rely on for anything technical as you navigate new systems, products, processes or organizations. Tap into parent affinity groups in your organisation so you feel supported by a like-minded community.

Tip 5. Be kind to yourself, truly.

We often think that we will be returning as the same person we were before but that's not always the case. Take your time to adjust and find your new normal. All of the emotions are valid and it does take time to adjust. Sometimes it is hard to reach out for help and this is the time to lean on those around you.

If you are a manager or a team member who has someone coming back from parental leave, do take the time to check-in and ask how you can help.

Especially in this hybrid working environment where the transition back to the workforce for parents is almost invisible. Parents coming back may get lost in the virtual world – so it's important to be mindful and inclusive of their experience as well.

For monthly conversations around work and motherhood, subscribe to Materna.info on LinkedIn here and follow @materna.info on Instagram for helpful tips and tricks around the conversation of motherhood and work.


About Olivia Cain


Currently, Olivia is a Sr. Content Marketing Consultant at Linkedin Marketing Solutions with 25+ years in APJ. She advises CMOs from the world's largest enterprise companies across Asia on how to build powerful, human connections through content and brand storytelling within the B2B space. Olivia is also a Diversity & Inclusion champion at Linkedin and recently launched ExpectIN, a peer-to-peer mentorship programme for parents and parents to be in APAC to build a network of support within the workplace during this life changing transition. Based in Singapore, she is a mother to Mila who is now 2.5 years old and is as curious as ever!


Photo credit: @DanielleTeixeira