Why you should champion powerful KIT days 

If you want your staff to feel confident coming back into work after maternity leave, gently remind them of their value by inviting them into the workplace several times during their time away. Just like you might offer a new member of staff the opportunity to attend a team meeting or a social event (remember those?) before their first day of employment, you’ll be helping your longstanding staff make a confident comeback if they use their Keeping in Touch (KIT) or Shared Parental Leave In Touch (SPLIT) days.

Recently, we surveyed 100 women and found that only 30% had taken their KIT days, often citing childcare issues as the barrier. So we thought it high time we bang the drum for KIT days and demonstrate how and why they should be used for everyone’s benefit.

Why should people take KIT days during maternity leave?

Your employee’s home life has been turned upside down and inside out, whether they are coming back after baby number one, two or four. So if you enable them to limber up and prepare everyone around them for their return to work before their official start date, you’ll be doing everyone a favour. And if I may put it fairly bluntly: that readjusting time has to happen at some point, so why not start the process during the government-supported KIT days?

Having contact with their line manager, their team and the wider organisation helps your employee ease back into the ‘mind space’ of work ahead of their full return. Ideas can start to percolate, so that when they are fully back with the team, they are raring to go and full of creative energy.

But KIT days aren’t just about the employee. Yes, it’s essential for them to not only soak up the atmosphere and remember their work confidence, but it’s also about the child settling into nursery, their life partner getting used to a new balance of responsibility at home, and colleagues adjusting to a new team structure.

KIT days advice for line managers

Start the discussions now 

I can’t say this often enough – plan early! When you know a member of staff will be going on maternity leave, start your discussions around KIT days. It might seem way ahead of time, but you’ll need to agree on how many KIT days will be taken, when and what they might be used for. Is it better than the days are taken as a chunk at the end of their leave, or dotted through the time away?

What to use a KIT day for

You can use a KIT day for anything you feel will be of use, but agree it mutually between line manager and employee before the day. Here are some ideas to consider.

  • Meetings: Team, planning, budget, project scoping, annual strategy, conference
  • Coaching: The Talent Keeper Specialists offer specialist return to work coaching to help returnees work through concerns, rebuild confidence and develop a practical action plan
  • Administrative: sifting email, sorting new laptops or phones
  • Team: meeting or recruiting new members
  • Away day
  • Training
  • Client events
  • Conducting performance reviews (along with cover)
  • Planning: discussing flexible working, re-shaping role, mapping out deliverables for the first 4-6 weeks back

What not to use a KIT day for

KIT days are not meant to be used for delivery. That is, you should not treat it as business as usual and give the employee a huge task which will take longer than one day to complete. A KIT day cannot be relied on or anchored to: it’s a transitional tool to help someone refocus on work, soak up the atmosphere, add ideas to a meeting or to provide information on their specialist subject.

Businesses don’t have to offer all 10 KIT days

KIT days are voluntary for the business as well as the employee. If as a business you can’t afford to top up to the full day rate for the full 10 days, have a conversation with your employee. You could ask them how the days will be used, but be careful not to appear accusatory. Simply be affirming and ask how you can help and what value it will add to the employee to be there for those 10 days. Offer to help set out what she will do on the days to make the most of her time in the office. Of course, it is much easier if this discussion has been had before she goes on leave.

KIT days advice for employees

How should I use my time on KIT days?

This is all about the blend – what do you need to do to make yourself feel as comfortable as possible on day one of your return? If it would make sense to you to schedule back to back meetings with your 1:1 reports and senior leaders, do it. If you’d rather attend a team meeting, then sit quietly in a corner while you work through your emails, do that.

Hear Rachel talk about how to get through those early months back at work on our brilliant new podcast for returners

How not to get sucked into work on a KIT day

We recently hosted a webinar for the Victoria and Westminster Business Improvement District and a comment from one of the attendees really struck me. She said she had avoided attending KIT days during her maternity leave so that she didn’t get ‘sucked back in’ to work. This kind of rarely voiced concern about KIT days is more likely to be true in smaller organisations, rather than larger ones with well practiced policies and knowledge about KIT days.

Be proactive. Before you attend your KIT day, set out with your line manager exactly what you intend to spend the day doing. Head off any unreasonable requests for work by reminding your line manager that you spoke about the value of KIT days before your leave started. Be aware that most line managers will try and fill a void with work, so prepare your plan early. If an ask is made of you that extends beyond the work day, remind the line manager that you had already agreed that the KIT days would be treated as standalone events.

Book free now: Hear Annie Abelman, founder of Mentor Mums talk about How to Make an Impact, Tuesday March 23rd, 8pm

How to tell your line manager you would like all 10 KIT days

It might be that you want to be involved in your team’s appraisals, or you’d like to attend a team strategy session. Give your reasons as to why you would like to be present for your KIT days and proactively ask for their support. Communication is key and as before, it really helps if this has been agreed in advance of your leave.

Managing childcare on KIT days

If finding childcare for one-off days is complicated, or you are exclusively breastfeeding, talk openly with your line manager and explain that you would like to bring your baby to a meeting. You could ask your partner or a friend to come with you and sit with your baby while you sift emails, or even wait outside in a cafe while you attend a strategy meeting. It can all be overcome, although it doesn’t always feel like it!

A quick legal download

KIT / SPLIT days are a tool to allow an employee to have contact with employers while on leave under a legal framework. An employee can take 10 KIT or 20 SPLIT days during their maternity or parental leave without bringing their statutory maternity / paternity leave to an end. It is not obligatory for companies to offer KIT days or for parents to take them. KIT days can not be taken in the two weeks immediately after the birth or during accrued holiday time at the end of the leave. More here.


Got a question about KIT days? E-mail jc@talentkeepers.co.uk or find us on Twitter and Instagram @talentkeepersuk.

Listen up: Comeback Coach is my new wobbly-bottomed podcast about kick-ass comebacks! It’s an inspiring, accessible look inside the lives of mothers who have overcome the stress and apprehension that goes with taking long leave and replaced it with motivation, engagement and confidence on their return. Share it with your employees and join us!



Out of sight, out of mind? 14 ways to boost your visibility when you return, remotely

Returning to work after long leave feels like riding a rollercoaster. It’s seat of the pants ride through  excitement, euphoria and at times, sheer panic. Throw in the opportunity to drink a cup of tea while it’s still hot and well, you’re riding a wave of joy once more. 

In normal times, you would literally dress as your professional persona to leave the house and show up day after day in the office, reminding everyone that you have returned stronger and more driven than ever. But sitting at home, with work/life boundaries unquestionably blurred, it can feel like wading through toffee. Imposter syndrome, fuelled by a sense of disconnection, threatens to rob the thrill from your return. 

Why is is important to raise your visibility after leave?

You want to return to the workplace with impact. While you have been away from the office, other employees have encroached on your specialist subjects and forged new bonds. You still want to land those juicy projects? Get yourself back into the centre of the action. Enhance the perception that you are a brilliant leader while being one. Build relationships with co-workers that become even stronger than before you left.  

The great news? Now is the perfect time to rebuild your brand in a way that feels authentic and can be sustained long-term. 

Hear Chloe talk about how she got over feeling ‘icky’ about self-promotion on my new podcast packed with advice for returners 

Don’t fall into the productivity trap

There are ways to ensure that you are recognised for your achievements and remembered for the exciting projects coming down the pipeline. It’s easy to fall into the trap that makes you feel you have to prove your worth by working even more. Instead, make sure that what you are doing has maximum impact on the people that matter.  

Here are my top ways to increase your visibility at work after long leave. As you read this, consider the Pareto Principle. Take on board only the things that will add value to your personal brand, in the workplace you operate in. 

1. How to make video calls work for you

Prioritise video calls for your first few months back. We’re all struggling with video calling fatigue but now’s the time to embrace it. Making those eye-to-eye connections is key in the early months of your return. Arrange virtual 1:1 calls, lunch dates and coffees with a wide range of contacts and stakeholders.  

2. Go into listening mode

People always tell me that they are worried about what to say in these first meetings. They are consumed by what they have to say or to offer. But you can take charge of that by simply saying, “I’m reaching out to a whole range of people now that I’m back from leave. I’d love some time with you to talk about xx. This is a time for me to be a sponge, I just want to soak up all the information. So if you don’t mind, I’m going to be really quiet and listen.” 

3. Pick your targets

Be really strategic about who you want to get in touch with. This is a brilliant opportunity to draw up a list of people who will make your return to work both more comfortable and more successful. Don’t be shy of picking people who may well play a hand in your career progression further down the line.  

4. Plan three outcomes

Think ahead of your meetings and work out three things. What do you want this person to go away thinking about you, feeling about you and possibly even doing for you? If you’d like them to introduce you to someone else, don’t leave your meeting without asking. 

5. Share a short film

I’m not suggesting you spend time creating something worthy of a premiere at Cannes. But consider creating short films of the work you and your team has accomplished. Sharing these via email or on the company messaging app is a new way to demonstrate the value of what you are achieving without the cringe-factor. A brilliant free video making app is InShot. It’s intuitive and you can create something to circulate among your senior leadership team in minutes. Just make sure your name is on it! 

6. Bring new energy through alternative meetings

Create new cross-department or cross-functional team meetings. You’re probably thinking that no-one wants MORE meetings in their lives. But if you set up a multi-division brainstorming session, you’ll find that people are energised by the fresh approaches brought to the table by this new, diverse group. People will thank you for it! 

7. We are human beings not just human doings

Be yourself on your company’s direct messaging app. Remember, you don’t always have to be serious to achieve serious things. In ‘real life’, you’d be sharing your tantalising twist on a Cosmopolitan or anecdotes about your neighbour’s cat. Inject a little humanity into your interactions with colleagues online. This kind of rapport-building pays dividends. Just don’t forget to balance it out with a respectable daily dose of quality information sharing. 

8. Pat someone else on the back

Share other people’s wins. This way you can raise your profile without sounding like you are showing off. You are spreading good will and raising confidence at the same time. Share stories about how people on your team have overcome issues or learned new ways of approaching old problems. You’ll be demonstrating both your leadership and training skills as a by-product of the message. 

9. Communicate your wins AND failures 

Describing how much you’re learning from failures is as important as notching up the big wins. Don’t feel that just because you are online, you should only talk about the good stuff. Sharing both your wins and failures gives your line manager an opportunity to see how you are developing in your role. Forward your wins to your mentor, too – you’ll brighten their day and remind them of your existence. 

10. The Fri-yay update

Compile a weekly update of big wins, learnings and accomplishments that you and your team have achieved and send it around senior managers. It’s a great tool for you to celebrate your own successes as well as for others to recognise them. 

11. Aim high for help

Ask your line manager or mentor for help. Tell them that you are aiming to increase your visibility now that you’ve returned and ask if they can help you with this. Don’t ask, don’t get, right? 

12. Volunteer on high-visibility projects

I’m going to be blunt here: there’s no point in volunteering your time for projects that no-one cares about, regardless of how strongly you feel about it. Not at this point in your career. Pick projects which will mean you are in front people from across the business. You’ll become known for being knowledgeable, approachable and dynamic. 

13. When you are ready to go to the office, do!

… and don’t spend the day on your laptop. Schedule in as many face-to-face meetings, coffees and catch ups as you can manage. This is your moment to make a physical impact, so make it count.  

14. Be transparent and reasonable to yourself

Setting clear expectations with colleagues and clients will mean you can keep a handle on your boundaries. It is a fair way to proceed with both yourself and them. Being transparent with your schedule, deadlines and response times is easy to do. Simply set it out in your calendar, your voicemail, in your email sign-off and out of office notifications. Having boundaries isn’t a sign of weakness or being unprofessional – it’s the only way we can all operate in today’s more flexible world. We at TKKS welcome that! 

Let us know how you get on. E-mail jc@talentkeepers.co.uk or find us on Twitter and Instagram @talentkeepersuk. 

Listen up: Comeback Coach is my new wobbly-bottomed podcast about kick-ass comebacks! It’s an inspiring, accessible peek inside the lives of mothers who have overcome the stress and apprehension that goes with taking long leave and replaced it with motivation, engagement and confidence on their return. Join us! 

Keep your team connected with serious laughter

Naomi Bagdonas proved a seriously fascinating listen whilst chopping cauliflower and sweet potato for a delicious dinner last week. She teaches a course at Stanford called Humour: Serious Business and is the co-author of a new book, Humour Seriously.

I’m a big pan of podcasts, especially episodes with author guests keen to promote their new book. You get the best bits distilled into 25-40 minutes – and you can sort supper at the same time – but if you’ve only got 3 minutes to discover how laughter could help you and your team, read the best bits below.

The serious benefits of laughter at work

Here’s the main headline: Laughter makes us more primed for connection, creative, resourceful and resilient to stress. To quote Naomi, “Laughter has unparalleled effects on our neurochemistry and behaviour.”

Laughter connects us with our co-workers

  • When we laugh with someone we connect in a really powerful way. Neurochemically laughing together gives you more bang for your buck when it comes to interpersonal connection than just about anything else. That’s due to the release of oxytocin when we laugh which makes us more bonded and trusting of the person we are with.
  • Laughter helps to solidify relationships over time. If we recall a time we laughed together we will later report being 23% more satisfied with that relationship than if we recall a positive moment we shared together.

Laughter enhances our creativity

  • Laughter makes us feel more psychologically safe to share risky or unconventional ideas. When we laugh our brain supresses the release of cortisol (or fight/flight hormone). When cortisol is high it’s more difficult to access higher order thinking.
  • In one study participants were asked to watch comedy clips before trying to solve a creativity challenge. They were more than twice as likely to get the challenge right compared with participants who hadn’t been primed with comedy.
  • When we laugh our brains are more primed to see connections we had previously missed.

Humour can enhance our status

Brad Bitterly, Maurice Schweitzer and Alison Woods from Harvard & Wharton Business Schools explored how humour impacts others’ perceptions of our competence, status and confidence. If you make a joke and someone else laughs that person will view you as more of all three. They also found that there are benefits if you fail and no one laughs. So long as the joke is viewed as appropriate, people’s perceptions of your confidence will increase. And there’ll be no negative impact on people’s perception of your status.

Laughter increases our pain tolerance

  • Studies show that laughter increases pain tolerance.
  • Watching a funny film at the very beginning of labour can pave the way to a better birth as laughter helps to release Oxytocin (a tip from Ella Mills on the Deliciously Ella podcast with Naomi Bagdonas, author of Humour Seriously).

5 ways to use humour to connect with your team

  1. Leave a voice memo for a colleague recalling a funny moment you shared together.
  2. Pepper team meetings with recollections of funny team moments (probably best to give this some thought ahead of time).
  3. Kick off teams meeting with a comedy clip (this could be a roving responsibility).
  4. Ask your people to come to the next team meeting ready to share a funny happening (this may well prime then to find life funnier – and couldn’t we all do with more of that right now).
  5. My personal favourite for it’s sheer cringeworthy-but-so-worth-it-ness is asking the team to just laugh. Ask your colleagues for hard, forced, ridiculous laughter for a minute. Invite them to cackle, howl, giggle or guffaw for 60 seconds with the aim of raising the roof. I’ve done it myself and it works – by the end you will be genuinely laughing.

What’s keeping your colleagues feeling connected?

How’s fun happening in your organisation? Which teams are showing up as most connected in your engagement pulse surveys, and do you know why? We’d love to hear how you get on if you try any of our suggestions.

Our mission is to keep colleagues feeling confident, connected and cared for when they take extended leave from work. This being so, remember to include your colleagues who are away on maternity, adoption, shared parental sick leave and sabbatical in the fun you’re having.

Why voice memos are my M.O. for including people during a pandemic

Right now, people on long leave and those working remotely risk feeling more alienated than ever before. I’m hearing coachees say they are overwhelmed, anxious and exhausted. 

We’re here to help you give employees a sense of security and connection so they can hit the ground running when they return. Here we explain how line managers can help all employees feel included. We’re also sharing advice for remote workers and employees on long-term leave to ensure they don’t get left behind.

How are people feeling working from home?

My coachees are feeling huge amounts of self-doubt. People are physically tired from video calls. They are worried about how they are being perceived, concerned if they haven’t spoken up, or feeling like their comments haven’t landed well.

Working virtually, we don’t get the affirmatory cues that go beyond the task in hand. In normal circumstances, everyone would have drifted out of the meeting and enjoyed a light-hearted conversation that would have put any concerns to bed. 

I’m alarmed at the number of people who tell me they don’t leave the house for days and delighted that Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon has mandated a daily communal 90-minute screen-free lunch break to combat pandemic fatigue. 

It’s really important to notice the difference between inclusion and belonging

If ‘inclusion’ activities are the actions a line manager or organisation might take with the goal of making someone feel like they belong, ‘belonging’ is the individual’s subjective experience of that. Just because you have rolled out inclusion activities it does not mean each individual will feel them. It’s about knowing your team and responding individually to their needs.

How can line managers know what lands best with individual team members?

Being away from the physical office gives everyone time to reflect. Now is a great time to ask for honest, considered feedback from your employees. You’ll foster stronger working relationships with them and gain a better understanding of what they respond to as individuals.

You could approach this in a 1:1 meeting in this way:

“In our conversations in the past, is there anything I’ve said or done that has really resonated with you? Or anything that has grated?” “Is there anything I have done in the past 12 months that you have particularly liked? Or disliked?”

Voice memos are a nifty way to give praise and connect

My advice for line managers is not to give praise over email or a phone call. I think a voice memo is a lovely way for someone to express themselves. It’s offered without pressure for the receiver to respond in the moment. A voice memo can be listened to a few times and the receiver will hear the real sincerity in your voice. You could simply tell them about something that reminded you of them and let them know they are in your thoughts. You can do that with the people in your team now too.

  • Why not send a voice memo to someone on long term leave today? Point them in the direction of my new and uplifting ‘wobbly-bottomed podcast about kickass comebacks,  Comeback Coach. I recently interviewed the frankly wonderful Caroline Flanagan, lawyer, mother of four and author of Babyproof Your Life. She shares how to use imposter syndrome to make you stronger (yes, really!)

Directly relate the individual’s actions to wider company success

Pan out, regularly. That is, remind your remote team how the work they have been doing as individuals has contributed to the company’s mission, or helped the frontline customer. It is easy to lose sight of that when you’re working alone. Reconnect them to wider company goals or purpose.

Bang the drum

Sticking to a regular drumbeat of communications helps both line manager and employee. Set up a schedule before a team member leaves and you’ll find it easy to stick to. 

  • HR leaders: Head over to our digital Comeback Community™ employee experience which supports employees before they go, during their leave and up to year after they return. It helps equip people with a communications plan.

What can you do if you are working remotely and struggling to connect with a colleague?

Why not suggest you go for a walk or a run together. Perhaps you have young children and are trying to homeschool them, while they are totally absorbed in work? A relaxed conversation – crucially, while you are engaged in another activity (the walk or run) – will break down barriers.

What should you do if you’re on long-term leave and want to reconnect?

While Keeping In Touch (KIT) days aren’t happening in reality, ask to join meetings and conversations in a listening capacity so that you can soak it all up without having to contribute. Sink into work mode for a day, read the latest documentation and enjoy the change of pace from your life at home, whether you are usually knee-deep in nappies or caring for a relative. It won’t be nearly as intimidating as you might fear. 

Get in touch with your key clients and suggest meeting for a 45-minute walk if they are within striking distance. Commit to it whatever the weather! This out of work meeting will set up a great foundation for future relationships. 

Returning to work after maternity leave, nine months in to a pandemic

It is hard to go from 0-100mph overnight so a phased return to work is something I strongly recommend. Nine months into the pandemic, some mothers are coming back from maternity leave to a whole new world. You may have left the workplace as normal in early March 2020 and now have to get to grips with working entirely virtually, managing all the technological developments that the rest of the team has had nine months to master.

Let us know how you get on. E-mail jc@talentkeepers.co.uk or find us on Twitter and Instagram @talentkeepersuk.

9 Needs of Leave

We are on a mission to keep people feeling confident, connected and cared for when they take extended leave from work. This includes men as well as women, and reasons beyond maternity such as sickness, sabbatical and shared parental leave.

Our Comeback Community™ employee experience is designed to help people navigate real and perceived barriers to returning to work and onward progression; boost confidence and fuel professional impact when they’re back at work. We want to minimise brain drain and maximise talent.


Our content is designed around our 9 Needs of Leave framework which support three positive states: feeling confident, feeling connected and feeling cared for.

  1. To feel a sense of BELONGING
  2. To feel UNDERSTOOD
  3. To feel a sense of PURPOSE
  4. To feel EQUIPPED
  5. To feel SECURE
  7. To feel COMPETENT
  8. To feel VALUED
  9. To feel SUCCESSFUL


When employees feel confident, connected and cared for throughout their leave of absence:

  • Increased retention[i]
  • Higher engagement[ii]
  • Performance boosted
  • Narrowed gender pay gap
  • Employer brand enhanced


Women who are on, or returned from maternity leave in the last couple of years, are a key priority for many of our clients, because:

  • Women and men experience a ‘large divergence’ in their career paths in the years following childbirth, according to a study[i] following more than 3,500 new parents. Only 27.8 percent of women are in full-time work or self-employed three years after childbirth, compared to 90 percent of new fathers.
  • 26 percent of men have been promoted or moved to a better job in the five years following childbirth, the figure is just 13 percent for women.
  • For new mothers – but not fathers – staying with the same employer is associated with a lower risk of downward occupational mobility but also with lower chances of progression.


40% of people on maternity, furlough and other types of long leave from work feel as though they don’t belong.[i] Here are some practical ways to boost belonging, before, during and after leave:


  • Talk about looking forward to your colleague coming back before they leave and which of their strengths/skills/experiences you’ll miss the most.
  • Agree how and when work will be handed over. Don’t sideline or leave your colleague out of the loop on projects they’ve been working on because you think they won’t be interested.
  • Discuss keeping in touch preferences including KIT/SPLIT days if the leave is related to becoming a parent.


  • Share praise or recognition whilst they are away for things they have contributed to – client feedback, internal stakeholder comments, a successful launch of a process/initiative she was involved in etc.
  • Make invitations to team gatherings – such as away days, lunches and planning days – and flag development activities your team member has expressed interest in.
  • Send a handwritten card to remind your colleague they’re in your thoughts and you’re looking forward to them being back in the team.


  • Position their time away as positive for the team because they bring fresh eyes to old and new challenges.
  • Actively seek their input and encourage them to question what and how things are being done in the team.
  • Make glowing introductions between your returning team member and new joiners, describing some of their strengths and successes.

Got a gender pay gap to close or engagement scores to improve?

Come and talk to us. It’s easy to be in touch and tell us about your objectives. Simply e-mail hello@talentkeepers.co.uk or call +44 (0)1727 856169.

We’re ready when you are.

[i] Poll of 100 people July 2020. See our report Take Care.

[i] *University of Bristol & university of Essex research 2019 which drew upon data from Understanding Society – the largest longitudinal household panel study of its kind. Researchers observed 2,281 new mothers over three years and 1,199 new mothers over five years after giving birth, between 2009/10 and 2016/17.

[i] Research from a city law firm, Clifford Chance, which has been offering maternity coaching since 2006 reports an increase in retention in the two years since maternity coaching was introduced compared to the preceding six years (Freeman, 2008). More specifically this study reports a significant decrease in the number of maternity returners exiting the company within the first 12 months of their return (down from 22% to 10%) and in the 12-24 month period after their return (down from 8% to 1%).

[ii] A study of 80,000 employee’s responses on a Gallup Q12 employee engagement survey (Trinka, 2005) discovered only four of the 12 questions differentiated the best work groups:

  1. There is someone at work who encourages my development(in our 2011 survey of recent returners, 27% believed their manager doesn’t)
  2. In the last seven days I have received recognition or praise for doing good work (40% hadn’t)
  3. In the last six months someone has talked to me about my development (40% hadn’t)
  4. This last year I have had opportunities to learn and grow (47% hadn’t)

NEW Report: TAKE CARE (of colleagues on maternity and furlough)

We asked 100 people about their experience of being away from work on maternity leave, furlough and other types of extended absence from work, during the pandemic. Download our short report.

Nine needs of leave

We frame our work and solutions around what we call ‘the nine needs of leave’ and we asked questions relating to these. The nine needs of leave are:

  • To feel a sense of BELONGING
  • To feel UNDERSTOOD
  • To feel I have PURPOSE
  • To feel EQUIPPED
  • To feel SECURE
  • To feel COMPETENT
  • To feel VALUED
  • To feel SUCCESSFUL

Together these nine needs, when satisfied, lead to employees feeling confident, connected and cared for.

40% don’t feel a sense of BELONGING

We were saddened that 40% of the people who asked didn’t feel a sense of belonging whilst they were away.

Of those 100 people only 14 had something positive to say in response to the question, “what’s the most caring thing someone from your organisation has done for you whilst you’ve been away?”

Top 3 Worries

1.Feeling behind and out of the loop

2.Balancing the demands of work and home

3.Re-establishing myself in the team

Helpful resources

What resources had our respondents drawn upon to get them ready for work again?

“I bought this book before coming back from maternity leave in 2014 and it has proved invaluable. I keep coming back to it again and again whenever I hit a rut, and have recommended it to so many friends in similar situations. I’m so enthused and converted to Jessica Chivers’ ethos, that I’m now pursuing coaching with the author herself.”
Amazon 5 Star Review

Could your colleagues use an awe walk?


“I’m worried about a maternity returner and the younger members of the team who aren’t getting exposed to the informal chat around the office. You just can’t develop the same links with people and get those bits of knowledge that help you do your job when you’re working from home 100% of the time. It’s not so bad for those of us who are established in the organisation and our particular role. In fact working from home has been really good in many respects.”

If that sounds familiar, read on.

Colleagues most in need of connection

There’s no doubt that whilst we’re leading remotely we need to be proactive at helping others pick up the information they’d otherwise absorb by office osmosis. One way of doing this is to invite colleagues who are particularly at risk of missing out to have short agenda-free catch-up chats (15-20 minutes) with you.

  • New members of the team (who’d been in role < 12 months before March 2020)
  • Members of the team for whom this is only their first or second role
  • People living alone
  • Colleagues returning from maternity, shared parental leave, adoption, sickness or any other type of long leave.

Go woodland walking with colleagues – remotely or in-person

We’ve been recommending woodland walk and talk with colleagues who live within a distance you’re prepared to travel, or remotely. By remotely we mean both walking in woodland close to your respective homes and talking on the phone with headphones – because holding a phone detracts from the experience of nature and hampers the ability to gesticulate.

Make it an awe walk

The benefits of walking, and in particular in green spaces, has been known for some time but new research by Trinity College Dublin and the University of California, San Francisco[1] has illuminated the many benefits that come from deliberately setting out to be amazed by the nature around us.

Focusing on the nature you can both see can be a helpful way to break the ice, because let’s face it this isn’t the sort of thing you’d probably usually do with your colleagues.

Benefits of awe walking

In the study, participants took a weekly 15 minute awe walk for eight weeks. A control group took the same 15 minute walks but weren’t asked to pay attention to the wonder of nature. The results are very uplifting. Compared to the control group, the awe-walkers:

  • Reported increased positive emotions
  • Experienced less distress in their everyday life
  • Displayed more ‘pro-social’ emotions such as gratitude and compassion

A curious additional finding came from the analysis of selfies both groups took on their walks. Both groups were asked to take snaps at the beginning, middle and end of their walks. The awe-walkers increasingly made themselves smaller in their shots as the study went on, focusing on the scenery around them. Their smiles also grew wider. This suggests awe walking helps us get out of our own heads, which can often be a very helpful thing.

Make it a team thing

Instead of 1:1 walking why not arrange a regular team awe walk where the conversation can ebb and flow as it would in the office? It might not be practical if there is a large geographic spread in the team but it’s worth a thought.

What do you think?

If you do it, let us know how you get on. We’d love to see your photos. E-mail jc@talentkeepers.co.uk or find us on Twitter and Instagram @talentkeepersuk.

Want more like this? Get our Many Happy Returns Report

We spoke to 10 Chief People Officers about how they’re continuing to create a sense of belonging and how they’re responding to the challenges faced by Covid-19. Click to get access to their thoughts in our Many Happy Returns? Report.

[1] Study by researchers at the UC San Francisco Memory and Aging Center (MAC) and the Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI) – a partnership between UCSF and Trinity College Dublin to improve brain health worldwide. Published in the journal Emotion.

Increasing your impact and making the most of your time

Returning to work probably requires you to find a different pace and a sharper focus compared to how you’ve spent your time whilst away. In this article from Comeback Community (our platform for people preparing for/returning from any type of extended leave) we’re sharing seven superbly simple tools to make an impact with the time you have.

If you’re coming back on reduced hours, or no longer have the inability to ‘stay late’ and play catch up on things not completed during the normal work day you might be wondering how you’ll deliver all you did before. The answer? Don’t even try to! This is an opportunity to start afresh, consider the impact you want to have and make a plan to get there.


  1. Rocks, pebbles, sand
  2. If you only worked one day a week
  3. Stop, start, continue
  4. Biggest task first
  5. Five minute start
  6. Time boxing
  7. Scheduling self-time

1. Rocks, pebbles, sand

Author of the excellent book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” Stephen Covey, talks about figuring out which things in your life are the ‘rocks’ – the big, important things – that you’ll be miffed if you don’t make happen. His analogy is a vase (your life) to be filled with rocks, pebbles and sand (the stuff that fills your time). If you put the sand in the vase first, followed by the pebbles (the smaller, less important stuff) there won’t be so much time for the rocks. Put the rocks in first, followed by the pebbles then the sand will slide down to fill the gaps.

You can think about this at work too. What are your rocks? These are usually the things that really make a difference to at least one of the following:

  • to you or your team, department or organisation’s profile
  • your customers/clients’ success and their desire to continue to work with you
  • a step change in a process or knowledge
  • profitability or rankings

2. If you only worked one day a week

Struggling to work out what your rocks are? Imagine you only worked one day a week. What would your line manager want you to do in that time? What is it that you do or could be doing that really makes a difference to your team, organisation, sector or even the world?

Now add a second day, what else would you be doing? More of the same or something else? Coachees we’ve worked with tell us this is a useful way to work out what really matters and to commit to doing it.

3. Stop, start, continue

If you’re coming back to work on less hours than you worked before, it’s vital you consider what you won’t be doing – and who is going to do it instead. If you’re working four days a week instead of five, what 20% of your role is going to be deferred, delegated or ditched altogether? When you drop a percentage of your role, think strategically. What do you need to hang onto for personal satisfaction, meaning and career advancement? Whilst it might not be possible to retain the parts of the role you want, you need to give it some thought before you have the conversation with your line manager.

Even if you’re coming back to the same hours it’s worth giving some thought to what you are going to:

  • Stop
  • Start
  • Continue

This is about coming back on purpose, intent on being effective (doing the right things) as well as being efficient (getting them done in timely fashion).

4. Biggest task first

If you’re a list-lover you probably like getting stuck into e-mails and other quick wins at the start of your working day. This is a mistake. When you’re time poor those precious, freshest hours at the start of the working day need to be spent on your most challenging tasks. Spend 90 minutes tackling the most important thing and then move into e-mail management and quick wins as a break from the intense work.

5. Five minute starts

We’ve all had those times when we’ve had such a big task in front of us and we haven’t known where to start, so we didn’t. We delayed until another day thinking that the passage of time is going to make it easier for us. Wrong! The best way to get moving is to commit a small chunk of time, even just five minutes, to getting it going. Those five minutes are about getting over your inertia and once you’ve started to ‘move’ it’ll feel easier and you’re likely to work beyond the initial time you set yourself.

From Wikipedia: The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s.[1] The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. These intervals are named pomodoros, the plural in English of the Italian word pomodoro (tomato), after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that Cirillo used as a university student.

6. Time-boxing

You probably know this experience well: you write a to-do list for the week and find you only get half of it done. You’ve been full-on all week so you really don’t understand what happened. This is a classic and it’s because most of us are pretty poor at accurately predicting how long a task will take us. This is where time-boxing comes in: allocating a set amount of time to do a task. Be it writing a report, producing an outline for a lecture, preparing a pitch deck or reviewing customer feedback, you can choose how much time to give it and then no more. Activities have a way of filling whatever time we give them and our minds tend to be much more focused when there’s a deadline. Try allocating 45 minutes to a task that usually dribbles on for two hours and see what happens….

7. Schedule time with yourself

On that note, who said diaries were only for recording meetings with other people? Try blocking out time in your diary to work on your ‘rocks’ (see above). We all know the magic happens between meetings so if you find most of your working week is spent in scheduled sessions with other people, this is definitely a technique you should try.

Many happy returns? What Chief People Officers are thinking now

Sometimes it can feel lonely at the top and it’s good to know what your peers are thinking and doing, especially when there’s no playbook. Our NEW report Many Happy Returns? presents the five main themes that emerged from our conversations with Chief People Officers and HR Head Honchos over the summer.

** RECEIVE YOUR COPY NOW – simply add your name and e-mail address to the box at the bottom **

The HR professionals we spoke to about the challenges of remote working and the return to the office spanned many different sectors: accountancy, advertising, asset management, event management, insurance, law, manufacturing and market research.

“We’ve done a lot of work with line managers reminding them to contract with their teams on how they’re going to work with their people. Some managers have done a really good job of contracting with clients too. Some people have contracted that there are certain times when they won’t accept a Zoom call.” Chief People Officer, advertising

The five themes:

  1. THE NEW ‘MIXED ECONOMY’ – maintaining equality of opportunity for employees regardless of where they work.
  2. STRUCTURE AND CERTAINTY – acknowledging the need for security employees are craving, and that’s difficult for HR to provide.
  3. KEEPING UP APPEARANCES – helping employees feel comfortable with remote working.
  4. THE FUTURE OF FLEX – continuing to modernise attitudes around flex and capitalising on the gains made during lockdown.
  5. ALL TOGETHER NOW – healing the hurt of furlough and rekindling team connectedness to move forward with purpose.


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The single best thing you can do for mothers in your organisation right now

What accounts for the HUGE difference in wellbeing, engagement and effectiveness of working mothers in your organization? How much flexibility they have over their schedule. Simple. McKinsey analysed the experience of 887 different workers over the pandemic and found some interesting and alarming differences (for instance, it’s better to be a remote working father than any kind of worker without kids).

Nearly 60% of mothers who have flexibility around how they organise and achieve their professional goals report positive wellbeing compared to just 19% of women who don’t have this autonomy.  Even more staggering is the gulf between their self-reports of effectiveness. 61% of those with schedule flexibility said they were being effective compared to just 15% of those without. That’s an astonishing 75% drop.

The takeout for employers is this: be crystal clear on your organisation’s mission and how each individual is expected to contribute to it then trust employees to get on and do. Be clear on delivery dates and other important expectations but don’t tell workers when and how to do things. Their work for you sits within a bigger, more complicated and exhausting picture and right now most parents need a bl**dy big break from EVERYTHING. The least you can do is allow them the freedom to flex within the parameters you set.

Research publish 12th August 2020