A supportive employer can make it a lot easier for staff to get back into the swing of work after taking on the world’s toughest job – parenting.
(Left to Right: Frankie & Talulah (Michelle Mitchell's children), Harry (Michelle Brennan's son), Amelia (Lauren's daughter)
Seven years ago, Michelle Mitchell was the first consultant at TeamJobs ever to go on maternity leave. With the support of Managing Director Jason Gault, she and the company learned together how to make a new arrangement work.
“It was very new for Jason and for me,” says Michelle, now Operations Manager.
“My baby was quite poorly for the first year so I didn’t know if I wanted to come back to recruitment but I knew I wanted to do something. So Jason and I had several meetings, from about seven months after my baby was born until I came back after 13 months, and he created a whole new position to enable me to come back.”
Senior Commercial Consultant Michelle Brennan recently returned to work after having her first baby. “When I found out I was pregnant, I have to say Jason was amazing. Brilliant through the whole process,” she said.
“He said, ‘You’re a very valued member of staff. However you want to come back, we will make it work’.”
Technical Consultant Lauren Harris adds: “They were very open and honest. Before I went off, I said I'd be looking at three days a week ideally and I took 11 months off. They agreed my three days a week and here I am.”
Finding The “Working You” Again
"I found I lost my identity a little bit when I was on maternity leave,” Michelle Brennan says.
“I’d left on such a high, I’d had a phenomenal year and you do feel vulnerable.
“I had my meeting with Jason and even though I knew he’d take me back, I was petrified.
“I love being Harry’s mum. It’s the best thing I've ever done in the whole wide world, but I needed to be me again, so I felt very vulnerable.”
Michelle Mitchell adds: “When I did come back, I realised that I loved it, and I think it’s so healthy to have that separation from home, for the children as well as yourself.
“I walk through that door to the office and I take a deep breath. I've done the school drop, the nursery drop, I've sat in traffic and I've got through the front door and I'm me for the next seven hours.”
How Working Flexibly Can Benefit Everyone
In a fast-moving industry like recruitment, TeamJobs’ mothers have found flexibility benefits them and the company.
“You do have to change your mindset a little bit because your focus is slightly different,” says Michelle Brennan.
“You’re thinking, I’ve got four days, I need to really look at my job list and work out what is feasible. Friday was my day off. I was working and briefing candidates and speaking to clients,” she adds.
She is happy to stay connected with the business as long as she’s with her son. “I don’t mind taking a phone call or answering a few emails, because he’s with me,” she adds.
Michelle Mitchell also says she doesn’t mind dealing with some work queries at home.
“I’m answering the phone, doing the odd thing, but I'm still with my kids,” she says.
TeamJobs’ mothers find they’ve all developed new time management skills.
"I do three full days a week, but I've still got to make sure everything at home’s ticking over,” says Lauren.
“I had to get into the habit of making sure the meals that I cook three days a week are quick and easy, so when I get home we’re still having a good meal but it’s not something that’s going to take an hour to cook.”
Michelle Brennan adds: “I have to get up at five because Harry’s only seven months old.
“Yesterday morning at five I was cooking chicken so that he had a proper dinner.”
She adds: “The guilt trip in the car for me is at 5.30pm, because I need to get home and see him. I probably could go home and log on but he’s seven months old. I need to value the time I've got with him.”
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Lauren says the time on maternity leave is still part of her career. "If I was updating my CV, I'd put five years at TeamJobs because I didn’t leave,” she adds. But she wouldn’t make a secret of the maternity leave.
Michelle Brennan adds: "I think these days it’s quite respected that mums take time out. It’s what they do after they return to work that counts.
“I'm proud of the time that I've had and I think some employers would respect that you’ve taken that time off.”
An Employer's Attitude Makes The Difference
TeamJobs’ mothers say the company culture was a big help in the return to work.
Michelle Mitchell adds: “Our key word is partnership with candidates and clients alike, but within our staff as well. I think the partnership within our staff is really strong, definitely stronger than anywhere I've worked.”
Michelle Brennan was invited to the company‘s quarterly meetings while on leave. “Probably once a month or every six weeks, I came to the office with Harry and I had lunch with people so I still felt very much part of the team,” she says.
After three weeks back, “I've got interviews in the diary, I've got some nice client visits booked in. I feel like I’ve made myself known and I'm back.”
She adds: "It gives you a purpose. I want to be more than just a mum. I like to know that I've come back into the office and I'm adding value.”