Posted: 29 Nov. 2021 5 min. read

Post-pandemic, post-promotion, post-parental leave – the new normal for me

And just like that, a whole year of maternity leave has passed, and it is my first week back at work. I have heard many people say that once you have children, the days are long but the years are short. If the first year is anything to go by, boy, are they right!

Whenever I speak to anyone these days, they talk about the ‘new normal’ so I thought I would reflect on what this means to me. In true consulting style (see – I have remembered some things!), three things have changed… dramatically.

1) Post-Pandemic

The biggest change everyone has seen is how we work:

  • The commute to work now looks like this - bedroom to bathroom to kitchen to dining table
  • Office wear consists of business on top and comfort on the bottom
  • Out with gourmet sandwiches from a nearby sandwich chain and in with boxed meal ingredients (or scooter-delivered takeaways if we fancy a treat)

The remote working trend we talk to organisations about is now our lived reality.

Previously my role involved lots of overseas travel and all day in-person workshops. I thrive on face-to-face interactions and was used to a variety of workplaces – Geneva, Amsterdam, London, home. Where I’d be from week to week would change more frequently than I change nappies!

Having returned to work after my maternity leave, working from home on a relatively consistent basis is strangely discomforting. Adjusting to all the new mediums of technology and communication channels is difficult – in my first two days people have called me on my landline, mobile, Skype, MS Teams and Zoom. It certainly keeps you on your (virtual) toes!

The one comfort I have taken so far is that we’re all in this together. I recently attended a team meeting in our London office. I was somewhat pleased to discover that the team had not seen each other for over a year – all of a sudden, I did not feel like the new kid in school! Everyone was re-learning their way around the office – forgotten badges or peripherals were commonplace!

I am hugely privileged to work in an organisation who have listened to the world and listened to their employees to embrace the new ways of working. At the heart of all of this is ‘choice’. I can choose how to work, where I work and when I work. This has really helped with my transition back to work, balancing the needs of my family, my team and myself.

2) Post-Promotion

I wouldn’t say I was a nervous person and I rarely doubt myself, but maybe post-partum hormones are up to their old tricks! In June 2020 I was promoted to Director, just a few months before my maternity leave began. As I am returning to a more senior role, the consistent feeling I am experiencing is “imposter syndrome” – will people notice I have forgotten things? Can I ask the silly questions? What if I know less than other team members? How do I find a balance between getting really involved versus playing a leadership and strategic role?

Whilst I had many doubts, I was definitely thrown into the deep end (though still with a great team of people supporting me). Within the first few weeks, I was presenting to multi-national organisations on our latest Global Mobility trends, advising a global consumer business firm on their future service delivery model, optimising end-to-end processes before implementing a new HR system for another company, developing a brand new People strategy for our own team and preparing on the topic of sustainability to present at our upcoming global conference!

To help me with each of these, I have a great support network at Deloitte that have made doing all these things and the transition back that little bit easier and a little bit less scary!

These nervy feelings are starting to dissipate, and I cannot wait to get stuck into a multitude of new projects, taking the opportunity to remain curious (and, yes, asking as many of those ‘silly questions’ as possible!)

3) Post-Parental Leave

Coming back to work after any form of absence is bound to feel a little strange. For me, having never been out of the work environment for longer than three weeks since graduation (not even a gap year!), and never having worked part-time, returning to a three-day working week after a year out of the business was, quite frankly, very strange!

Pre-2020, if a client called and needed me to fly somewhere in Europe in two days’ time, I had almost booked the flight before the end of the call! There was no one to ‘check with’ or ‘consider’. Fast-forward to 2021, booking a train to London and doing any work on non-working days is really tricky.

My priorities have changed. The workplace has changed. My routine has changed. With a new little human in the mix, a new working pattern and a new way of working – this is now ‘my new normal’.  In just the first week alone, I’ve already caught a cold from my baby going to nursery (after one day!) and she has already been bitten by one of the other babies!

Whilst it can be stressful balancing all these competing priorities, I try to communicate with my family and colleagues what I can and cannot do. I am also quite disciplined on my non-working days and will try to log off on time to do the bath time routine with my baby but will spend a bit of time catching up on things a few evenings a week.

I am also proud to say that my husband is working part-time, and we are also very lucky to have supportive parents who flex around our working needs. The first week balancing all the competing priorities has gone extremely well and I am so excited for the new phase of our lives and for the new normal to finally just feel, well, normal.

On reflection, there is so much change that it is easy to feel overwhelmed. I think it was Heraclitus who wrote “One constant since the beginning of time might be change, however, the fear of change is also a constant.” Things are always changing and evolving. Remaining open, adapting and embracing change helps any transition.

I am already taking comfort in the fact that I have put pen to paper with my thoughts. I am also lucky that my team (both at work and at home) have been so supportive over the last year.

What is the new normal for you and your organisation? How are you managing change with your work, workplace and workforce? Our Global Workforce Transformation would love to hear about your experiences so please do get in touch.

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Beth McConnell

Beth McConnell

Director

Beth has widespread experience in managing large mobility, talent and reward transformation projects which include mobility strategy, global harmonisation, HQ relocations, service delivery model design and implementation, process optimisation and vendor rationalisation. Beth also leads Deloitte’s innovation Labs across EMEA and has facilitated over 50 Labs in over 11 countries, which has helped a range of organisations across different industries and levels of maturity, to determine gaps between current and ideal future state, as well as align their mobility, talent and reward programmes to their overall business and talent strategies.