5 Tips for how to plan your return to work when you finish maternity leave

5 tips for how to plan your return to work when you finish maternity leave

Two days into my return to work and I’m in my element. But I know that it’s not like this for everyone, and with that in mind I thought I’d share how I managed my transition back to work in case it is useful for any other parents out there. I really do feel that this “transition” is massively attributable to how I’m feeling about work right now. In fact, there are actually a lot of surprising things that are better about work after maternity leave.

Of course there are other elements that contribute to how you feel about work after returning from maternity leave, but I feel like the right type of transition back into the workplace can help soften the blow of returning to the office after a long period out of it.

So here are my five tips for planning a smooth transition for your return to work after maternity leave in a nice short list, because everyone loves a good list, especially us time pressed parents!

1. Arrange childcare as soon as you can bear to think about it

Dont leave it to the last minute, especially not a month or two before you are due to go back to work. I know you don’t want to think about leaving your child with someone else for a whole day, let alone potentially a whole week, but it makes sense to start considering your options early on.

By early on I mean six months to a year before you think you may go back to work. It may sound a bit extreme, but a lot of nurseries and childminders have waiting lists, especially the good ones. You can register and put your child’s name down on waiting lists and with childminders early on without having to commit, so it makes sense to. That way you can buy yourself some time and start thinking about it more seriously closer to your return to work.

We were lucky in that we have been able to arrange childcare with family nearby, but before we started exploring that as an option we considered nurseries and childminders, all of which seemed to have children booked up a year in advance.

Once you make the decision about when to return to work you need some time to get your head round it, so the last thing you want just before you go back to work is the stress of ringing around and finding out that most places are full already.

2. Use KIT days if you want to, but don’t feel like you have to

Early on during my maternity leave I thought that I would try to use all my KIT days. But as time went on and it came to actually committing to using a KIT day, I actually found I was very reluctant to do so.

I mean, who actually wants to go back to work when they’re on maternity leave, even if its only for a few hours. Not me. However, I realised that I did actually need to speak to HR and my managers about when and how I would return to work so I used a few to have these types of conversations.

I also used one or two of them to spend a few hours going through the extraordinary number of emails that had built up in my inbox over the year. Using a KIT day doesn’t have to mean actually doing a typical days work. If your employer is happy for you to use them as you need to as I have been able to, then they are actually pretty useful in helping you get things in place for your return. Plus you get paid for them, so they’re also a great way to bump up that SMP pay!

3. Phase back your return to work if you have the option to

I have agreed with my employer a phased return over a few months, starting with a three day week, then building up to four days a week before returning to a full time five day week. I was pretty anxious and stressed about when the “right time” was to return back to work, until I realised that there would never be a “right” time to return to work.

Once I thought more creatively about how I could try to have the best of both worlds and proposed a phased return to work to my manager I felt instantly more relaxed about returning to work. This way I get to still spend time with my little lady each week, I can ease myself back into working and I get paid. Winning.

4. Do a few practice runs

I may be stating the obvious here, but its a good idea to test in advance what your child is going to be like without you for a few hours or a full day. It also gives you a chance as parents to start working through any feelings and emotions you might have about leaving your child in someone elses care.

From a practical perspective, you can start to get an idea about how the work day routine might work; who’s going to do pick ups and drop offs, how you’re all going to get ready and out the door in time and what things you might need to make it all work smoothly.

We did a couple of practice runs the month before I went back to work, first starting with a few hours then building up to a full day. I think this really helped us all settle into our new routines gradually, but with our eyes wide open.

5. Go back on a Wednesday, Thursday or Friday

I returned to work on the 1st of May which was a Thursday. It was purely coincidental that my first day back was a Thursday, but on reflection it actually worked out really well that my first week back was a two day week.

It has given me a taster of what it is going to be like going back to work, how tired im going to be and how much more organised I need to be. Although it has been quite nice going back to work, it is a massive shock to the system, one that I’ll be much more prepared for this week because I had a sneak peek last week.

These are the five things that worked really well for me. If you are starting to think about the return to work, then I hope you find at least one or two of these useful.

If you have previously done the return to work, or are preparing to return to work then I would love to hear from you with the tips that you would add to this list. I always find it really helpful to learn from others experiences, especially as a new parent!

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5 Tips For How To Plan Your Return To Work When You Finish Maternity Leave



  1. Donna
    May 5, 2014 / 8:12 pm

    Great tips! My return to work will be here before I know it. Childcare is sorted and my first day back is a Thursday 🙂 x

    • May 5, 2014 / 8:19 pm

      Amazing, sounds like you already have everything in hand! How are you feeling about going back to work at the moment?

  2. May 8, 2014 / 8:39 pm

    Some great advice! A good tip about the childcare, they do book up so early and also I felt so much more relaxed about going back knowing that it was all sorted. I also thought that I’d use up all my KIT days, but when it came to it I only used one each time! I found it good to keep in touch with colleagues informally while I was off work, even if just by email, to keep up with the work gossip or important things going on and so that you don’t get forgotten.

    • May 8, 2014 / 10:40 pm

      Thanks! I completely agree. Its much nicer to keep in contact with colleagues informally and have more of a general chit chat and gossip rather than something formal. It takes the pressure off it too!

  3. wrymummy
    May 9, 2014 / 1:29 pm

    This is a great post! I could have done with it when I went back the first time. I was in total denial and only by total fluke did I bag a place that someone gave up at the last minute, in what turned out to be the best nursery we’ve ever had. Sadly, we moved away from it before my third got the chance to go there. I’m really pleased for you that you are so positive about going back. I was so happy to get back when I went after number one and two. It makes me feel broody for work. Have a great weekend! x

    • May 9, 2014 / 6:41 pm

      Thank you! I just felt like it was really worth sharing in case it was helpful to anyone else out there. I know a few friends who returned to work from mat leave before me and found it really overwhelming and difficult. I probably learnt a little from their experience and I’d love it if others can learn from my positive one 🙂

  4. August 21, 2016 / 8:45 pm

    I go back to work in two and a half weeks. This is my third and last period of maternity leave. I have done all of the things you have written because I know I really need to be prepared. I am already talking to my older children about my return to work as they have become very used to me being at home. We have talked about childcare, trailed their holiday club, which they love, and got them used to doing more things for themselves to help with the busy mornings. It’s going to be tough at first but our routine will find itself in the end. Thanks for a great post x

  5. January 12, 2017 / 10:36 pm

    Thank you! I needed this, although my “return to work” is finding a new career as being a military wife means we’ve moved house 4 times in the last 3 years (and had two children! ) great tips on the childcare though. It’s definitely a minefield!

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