For many, the return to work after maternity leave can be a daunting process. Some may bound back to work, energized and invigorated by the prospect of restarting their career. Others may find the process more difficult, through either exhaustion or unhappiness at the prospect of leaving your child. It is also common to feel anxious about skills you may believe lost through underuse. Fortunately, in either case, there are a number of steps you can take in order to ease the transition back to work and ensure that your return is both positive and productive.

When returning to work after maternity leave, you may be undergoing a number of emotions, positive and negative. Whatever your feelings, put on a brave face and show your employers you are still as capable and dependable as you ever were, whether you believe it or not.

“The emotional and psychological impact of going back to work can be very stressful, particularly after the first child” says Sharon Vize, of Career Consultants. She advises that preparation is the key to successfully returning to the workplace. This can include a detailed back to work plan, and if possible doing it before you leave. This can allow you to find out what flexibility is or will be available, give you and your company time to plan accordingly.

This planning ahead isn’t just a courtesy for your employers. The current economic climate has changed the situation dramatically, resulting in less flexibility when returning from maternity leave. “It’s about you coming up with the solution rather than expecting your employer to” according to Vize “You need to present them with suggestions and explain how this can work for them.”

Importantly, there is no legal obligation for your employer to consider requests for flexible hours, so you should prepare yourself for a “no” answer and maintain the idea of a “yes” as a pleasant surprise.  Even if your request is initially rejected remember to keep your eyes on the prize, by maintaining your standards and showing yourself to be an engaged and valuable employee you may be able to revisit the topic at a later date.

If the answer is yes, similar standards must apply and you must demonstrate you are willing to follow the agreement to the letter. Once the times are set do not infringe on these even slightly. If you say you will be there at 8am be there at 8am, even if you are the only person in the office.

Communication is a vital part of the process. Remain good humoured and make sure everything is addressed effectively and with adequate time to make preparations. Ensure you are aware of what is expected of you when you return, and consider how this impacts on your careers and goals. An excellent way to address this is to ask for a meeting before you return to work. This can show you are still fully engaged and proactive.

Lastly, be flexible. Returning to work after maternity leave isn’t a one way system of shifting hours and management seeking to ease the transition for you. Demonstrate quickly and diligently that you are both productive and eager to find a solution that works for everyone. For example, if your manager agrees on 3 days per week then ensure you can be contacted via phone or email the other days. The more you can demonstrate a willingness to find a solution and be open minded the better the return you’ll see.