Maternity and paternity returners benefit hugely from coaching. They’ve been through a massive change, and that will affect their return to work. Those who have taken a sabbatical, study leave or long-term sick leave might also benefit from support as they are re-joining the workforce.
Coaching for endings for those re-joining the workforce
In the case of the predictable career breaks, it’s wise to start the coaching before they even leave. There is “closure” to be done, and preparation for the mental shift needed for the break. It will be a different life for a while, so it makes just as much sense to plan for the break as it does to plan for the return to work.
Coaching in the neutral zone for those re-joining the workforce
Ideally, coaching in the break can be useful too, to keep the employee connected; and particularly just before they return to work, getting their head and heart back in the game. For working Mums and Dads, that’s particularly important, as they now have a different priority in their life and they’ll want to adjust their working patterns to be sure that their new baby’s needs are met.
Coaching for new beginnings for those re-joining the workforce
The new Mum or Dad has a new identity, and he/she may be asking questions like, “am I still the person I was?”, “do I see myself as a professional any more?”, “how do I leave my new identity as a mother/father behind when I go to work?”, “is the best mum the one who goes to work or the one who stays at home?” This is prime territory for coaching, to enable the parent to figure out these and many other questions around juggling of priorities, guilt at leaving their child in someone else’s hands, what kind of childcare arrangements to choose etc. Until they have figured out those childcare arrangements, their thoughts about their career are likely to be on the back-burner; so it’s in their and the business’ interests to help them to think this through for their own context.
The new Mum or Dad has new relationships to tend to, and coaching can really help her/him to figure out relationships with the adults in their life (spouse, elders, friends), their relationship with the child, their relationship with the organisation. Conversations are important in all these relationships, to avoid making assumptions – and to avoid others making assumptions about their needs. If the Mum or Dad can be supported to articulate her/his needs in these relationships, and articulate those, she/he is much more likely to have those needs met, rather than people second-guessing what she/he might want and need.
You may think that this kind of coaching is more suitable with a neutral coach, someone who does not have performance expectations of this new Mum or Dad. You’ll know your own tolerance levels for this and whether the two of you have the level of trust between you to make it viable to coach her/him or ask someone else to step in. Even if you don’t feel equipped to coach someone in this position, you can still use a coach approach to avoid making assumptions about what your employee needs.
The important thing is that she/he gets the chance to figure out with a neutral supporter what she/he is leaving behind in terms of their old life, what she/he is struggling with in the “not knowing” of the new situation, and how she/he makes a great new beginning that works for her/him, the family and the organisation. The same applies for those who take a sabbatical or long-term study leave.
You may like to revisit some previous blogs I have written in this series, here are links to a couple: