Life Swap| Returning to the Workplace.

Perhaps not quite as anticipated as the return of Game of Thrones… returning to the office can still be quite the nail-biter, especially when you’ve been out of the game for a couple of years.

The life of the modern employee sees many of us juggling the office with home life, and striking up the perfect balance can be a challenge. Naturally, many people put work on hold to start a family, adjust to lifestyle changes or travel; having time for personal development is key to knowing what you want. So, when you make that big decision to return to the office, ‘letting go’ is a hurdle that many seem to fumble.

The transition from corporate life to stay-at-home parent and vice-a-versa can take you out of your comfort zone; from the top of your game in the workplace to singing “The wheels on the bus”. This transition means that parents experience a considerable change (decrease) in prestige. This is a hard thing to process when you need to focus on doing what is best for your family.

The corporate world. Once a familiar place, now full of young graduates, new systems and updated technology, the office environment appears as a whole new beast to be conquered. Geraldine Gallacher, managing director of the Executive Coaching Consultancy, advises parents who are getting back into the workplace (Most of these clients are female, but she expects more men in the future). Ms Gallacher says that returners’ fears – for example that they will not be up to speed with the work and will not understand the technology – rarely turn out to be insurmountable problems.

Many firms and offices are quietly adapting to older career changers and those returning to work, rather than just focusing on graduate recruits. This comes with environmental changes in the workplace, as people aren’t staying in one place for the rest of their lives like they used to. Ms Gallacher says that older people have better emotional and negotiating skills. “Parents have a lot of practice negotiating with their kids”. Instead, the bigger issues presented to parents returning to the office tend to be ”psychological”.

Collette Altaparmakova, a trainee corporate lawyer, explained to The Financial Times: “There are things at home that always used to be done my way and now they can’t be done my way – something I’ve found difficult. Three years ago, Ms Altaparmakova was a stay-at-home mother. Now at 40, she is trading in packed lunches and under 10s football matches, for the life of a trainee corporate lawyer. As children grow up, their needs change. “They don’t need that minute-by-minute attention that small children do. They need, she says, someone who is at home and available, and that role can be filled by her husband who works from home. “The hardest part of switching from being a stay-at-home mother to a trainee layer has been letting go of being in charge of domestic affairs”. Once you’ve come to terms with the new routine, you can focus on the task ahead – stepping back into the office environment.

Having clear and open discussions with a partner or family member is key to the transition back into work life. Ms Altaparmakova notes that since her switch to a legal career her children have actually grown in confidence and changed their outlook. She says – as a stay-at-home parent she believes she fell into the trap of solving too many problems for them. “They’ve grown in confidence and realised they can do more than they thought”.

In reality those returning to work and fearful at the prospect, have just as much to offer as brand new graduates and a fresh perspective on top of their past experience; it’s all about embracing the positive mindset to take on this new challenge!