What Are Mums’ Experiences Of Returning To Work?

22 Jul 2018 | 12.43 pm

What Are Mums’ Experiences Of Returning To Work?

Work/life balance is the biggest concern

22 Jul 2018 | 12.43 pm

A recent survey commissioned by New Ireland has revealed that work/life balance is the biggest concern for mums returning to work, with 77% citing this as a worry. This view becomes stronger the more children women have: 62% of expecting mothers regard work/life balance as difficult, compared with 79% of women with 1-2 children, and 86% with more than three children.

The research, conducted in conjunction with eumom surveyed over 1,375 mothers who recently returned to work or currently are on maternity / career leave. The survey results indicate that women find returning to work following maternity leave to be a nervous and anxious time.

More than half of the 1,375 survey respondents felt anxious or nervous about returning to work. Work/life balance is the biggest concern for mums returning to work, with 77% citing this as a worry. This view becomes stronger the more children women have: 62% of expecting mothers regard work/life balance as difficult, compared with 79% of women with 1-2 children, and 86% with more than three children.

How Do Mums Feel About Returning To Work?

Interestingly, women who are currently on maternity leave or a career break, seem to have a more negative attitude towards returning to work than women who are just about to return or have already started back to work. Only 18% of women on leave were excited to return to work compared to 28% of women who are just about to finish their maternity leave.

However, it is alarming that more than half feel anxious or nervous about returning to work: 45% also describe themselves as feeling sad having to go back to work, which is more pronounced amongst women who already have children (45%) than among expecting mothers (22%). Part of this anxiety concerns finding the right childcare arrangements, which affected 75%; while 46% were worried about their working arrangements.

What motivates mothers to return to work?

So what are the main reasons that new mums return to work? It is perhaps reassuring that women feel more positive about work as they approach their return date. And though 47% described the financial incentive as the most important reason for returning, the social aspect is important for 55%, and one in three (36%) agree that they need work to balance out their home life. This was a sentiment particularly strong for those coming to the end of their leave period.

Are employers doing enough?

When asked about what would make the process of returning to work easier, one quarter of mums said that additional communication from their employer prior to returning, was something that would make it easier for them. Of those surveyed, 60% said they had some level of support from their employer in advance of starting back at work, compared to 26% who had no support at all. Many mums cited the need for an ‘easing in’ process, with additional time given to build back to full capacity, while over 80% of respondents mentioned the need for flexible working arrangements.

Full Time, or Part Time?

Of the mums surveyed by eumom 80% claimed that they’d rather work part time on returning to work, though this was dependant on their circumstances. Unsurprisingly, the number of children that women have had a bearing on this, with 87% of mums with three or more children preferring to work part time, compared to 74% of first time mums.

Unsurprising perhaps, when you consider the amount of care needed, and the cost of childcare for working families. The preference for part time was also affected by the level of responsibility women have in their jobs: While 86% of junior team members would prefer to work part time, this was only a factor for 70% of senior managers and directors.

Of course, no survey can present the full picture for individuals preparing to return to work. But it does show that the support of employers during the transition is of the upmost importance, in what can be an anxious time. It is also important for mums to have access to more flexible working schedules in order to achieve a work/life balance, and to allow women to excel in their different roles.

Oonagh Kelly, Head of HR, New Ireland Assurance commented: “These research findings paint a vivid picture of how women feel about the prospect of returning to work. After a career break or maternity leave, both men and women should feel supported throughout the process by their employer.

“It is up to employers to find out directly from colleagues what their concerns are and how they can be supported more throughout this process. We have partnered with Mum Talks to run a series of special workshops ‘Return to Work with Confidence’ aimed at women who have recently returned or are returning to work after maternity leave.”

 

 

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