Claire joined Moorhouse in September 2013. She returned to work at the start of October 2017, following a year of maternity leave. In this interview, Claire shares her experience returning to Moorhouse.
What was your biggest concern about returning to work after time off?
My biggest concern was going from being a full time mother and being with my daughter all of the time, to going back to work where I would have to find the right balance to be a mother and a consultant.
I thought I would miss my daughter and was worried about whether she would settle into childcare, but I also wanted to make sure I’d be able to perform my role at Moorhouse.
I thought it would be a big change to get my head back into work and make sure my brain would work like it used to!
What helped with these concerns?
I spoke openly with Richard Jones, my sector Partner, and Richard Goold, the firm’s People Partner, about how to make sure I got the right work/life balance.
They were both really supportive. We spent time thinking about where I could be based in relation to train times and journey distances, so that it would be easier for me to get home to do the nursery pick up. I talked through a few engagement options with Richard Jones, the pros and cons of each, and which might be best.
I also found that coming back to work with a client I’ve worked with previously was helpful – though this may not be an option for everybody! It’s always helpful to be upfront with the client about your needs and be open and honest about continuing to deliver great work, whilst still needing to balance personal commitments.
Did you encounter any other surprising challenges?
Not really. My return to work has pretty much gone as expected – that will depend on individual circumstances of course. For instance I’m lucky in that I’ve had stable childcare, and my daughter hasn’t been ill.
I think it’s great that Moorhouse gives people who return to work after some time away a couple of days in the office when they come back.
This meant I got to collect my new mac and talk to people about changes since I’d been away – the Hub and Yammer (our internal systems) and the new office were all new to me. Those days in the office gave me an easy transition back to Moorhouse; it was similar to being a new joiner.
Since returning has your working pattern changed?
Since returning to work I have been working four days a week. I started thinking about what I’d like to do before my maternity leave, and mentioned this in the early conversations pre maternity leave (although there was no need to; I could have agreed a change to my working pattern much later).
Everyone I spoke to was open to discussing alternative working patterns. I reconfirmed my preference in conversations with Richard Goold and Richard Jones during my maternity leave, using some of my keep in touch (KIT) days.
My current working pattern works for me, but I don’t feel constrained – if I wanted to change it then I could just have a chat with them about it. The company is small enough to mean that changing working arrangements isn’t bureaucratic or hierarchical in my experience.
I also tend to work earlier days so that I can collect my daughter from nursery in the afternoon, and then pick up any urgent work in the evening if I need to. I’ve found lots of people in my client team work flexibly so this hasn’t been a problem for me.
Did you do anything in particular to prepare for your maternity leave and subsequent return to work?
I treated my maternity leave in the same way I’d treat rolling off an engagement. I made sure that everything was handed over appropriately, and that things could advance while I was away. There is a maternity planner / calculator that our People and Talent team shared that was useful in terms of working out dates, annual leave, KIT days etc.
I didn’t make a commitment to check emails but tried to roughly once a week. However, there was no expectation from Moorhouse for me to do so.
I also let colleagues know to text me if anything urgent came up. I was in contact with friends at the company anyway, sharing various baby pictures and getting the gossip so I felt up to date generally and could easily get in contact if I wanted to.
How did you stay in touch with Moorhouse while you were off? Moorhouse offers mothers on maternity leave 10 ‘keep in touch days’ – how did you choose to use these?
I spoke with other colleagues to find out what they’d found most helpful, and considered when I thought would be most useful to use the days.
I attended the early escapes and had a couple of catch ups but used most of the days in the last 3 months before coming back, when I could start having conversations about my actual return to work.
I was still on the firm’s circulation list, so could choose to check my emails when I wanted to and find out about other events that were being planned.
Have your clients been supportive of you?
I worked with two clients after telling Moorhouse I was pregnant, and another since my return to work. They have all been really supportive. For instance, in the NHS at North Middlesex, some board meetings clashed with my midwife appointments, but the client knew this in advance and we worked around it.
I also talked with the firm about what I could manage and we looked for flexible solutions. Before my maternity leave, I knew that I couldn’t commute to North Middlesex five days a week during a heatwave, so I worked on the project part-time, with a full-time Senior Consultant on-location.
What advice would you share with other expectant parents?
Be open and honest about what you want and need. I found Moorhouse to be really supportive of what I wanted to do, so just have a chat with your HR lead, Irene, or any of the partners who can discuss the various options that balance your personal needs with delivering for the business.
You should also think about what’s personally feasible for you in the last few months of your pregnancy. For instance, are you willing or able to do projects which involve travel, and up to what point? It all comes back to having an open and honest dialogue about what you can manage.
How can your Moorhouse colleagues best support a returning mother?
Just be welcoming when colleagues come back. It’s a nice feeling when people welcome you and say they missed you. Make the time to have a catch up, to check in, make sure they’re ok. None of this is specific to parents returning to work – it’s what we should do for all our colleagues.
What did you miss most while you were off?
Probably the adult interaction and general banter at work! Your life is so completely different when you’re looking after a small baby that it’s hard to miss your previous life – you’re just thrown into a completely different world where it’s all about the baby. Which is lovely for a time, but also not really real life!
Is there anything else that you’d like to share?
Just to say that it’s been a really positive experience overall. I know a lot of mothers who have ended up not returning to work at all because their workplaces haven’t been accommodating, but my transition has been straightforward and I’ve felt supported along the way.
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