Missed our Q&A with PR guru Nicola de Burlet? Catch up on her advice here
Going back after mat leave can be exciting – think colleague catch ups and being able to finish a whole coffee it goes cold – but it’s also normal to feel completely daunted.
That’s why we asked Nicola de Burlet, Head of PR at Kenneth Green Associates, to answer your questions.
Part of our Working Mums Club panel and a beauty PR guru, she’s perfectly placed to give advice on settling back into the workplace.
Q: How did you keep in the work loop on maternity leave without being taken advantage of?
Nicola: The key here is not to feel pressured. Being a new mum is pressure enough! Email is a wonderful thing. You can read the mails, take your time to think about it without rushing a reply and make a considered response.
Try and get a system in place for the keeping in touch days before you go off on maternity leave and stick to it – a day a week is what I agreed and it worked fine. I did some of them on the phone and via email but I did find that going into the office helped with the adjustment to going back to work.
Just being in that environment for a little bit here and there made the transition easier when I went back to full time work.
Q: What’s your morning routine and how do you get organised?
Nicola: I prep a lot the night before. I have a big shopping bag that everything gets thrown into during the course of the evening (drives my husband mad, but it works!) including book bag, show and tell item, biscuits for the school fete, collection envelopes for the teacher’s end of year present, my lap top, and so on.
I also take my make up to work and do it at my desk.
Q: I'm back to work next week and I'm looking forward to seeing colleagues but am still really nervous. What did you do on your first day?
Nicola: Do your own PR and spend some time reconnecting with everyone. I made sure I went around the office and caught up with everyone properly – on a business and a personal level. I had kept in touch with a lot of them, but it was genuinely nice to be back in the "grown up" world where I could finish a conversation and have an entire cup of tea without being interrupted.
When you go back to work, set boundaries. If you have agreed to come back and leave at 5pm, do it. Start as you mean to go on.
Make sure your childcare is 100% concrete before you go back to work
One of the things I would say and it sounds obvious, but to save yourself a lot of hassle and heartache in the long run, make sure your childcare is 100% concrete before you go back to work. Don't leave anything to chance. How long does it take you to get to the childminders/nursery/nanny – what is your route, what times are the trains, etc. Don't get caught out. It’ll just tip you over the edge during what is a stressful time.
If your mum is helping out with childcare, make sure you know what she is and isn't prepared to do.
Q: I have an idea for a product but is PR important to think about from the start?
Nicola: Absolutely! When you are thinking about launching a product, budgets are at the top of the list. New start-ups won't have money to spend on advertising, so PR is a key way of building awareness for your product.
It can be something as simple as getting in touch with your local paper, getting involved in a local entrepreneur group or creating activity at events, either locally or nationally.
Q: I want to ask my boss about making my hours more flexible but am worried I won't do it in the right way. What’s the best approach do you think?
Nicola: Sit down and think clearly about what you want to get out of this – write a list! It needs to work for you, but it also needs to work for the business. By putting business needs alongside your needs, you are guaranteed a good reception.
It is your right to request flexible working. Then speak to your HR manager about how you can make it work. Good luck!