It can be difficult to feel engaged with your career while you are on maternity leave. In the blog below, PR associate director and new mum Holly Pither shares her advice for keeping connected to your work life.
What is a KIT day?
A KIT day is a 'Keep In Touch' day. In my opinion KIT days are an essential part of returning to work, not least to ensure you have the confidence to hit the ground running when your maternity leave comes to an end.
Employees can work up to 10 days during maternity, adoption or additional paternity leave. KIT days are optional, as such your employer cannot insist upon them, nor can you. However, I do think they are very useful so do try and push for them. Also keep in mind that you're not required to work a full day for a KIT day. So far I have done a few shorter meetings and then yesterday I went in for the whole day. This is totally fine as long as you both agree on the timings.
KIT days are a valuable way of ensuring that you can keep your foot in with work. You can keep in touch with your team, your colleagues and even your clients (which is just what I did yesterday). KIT days are limited to 10 days and of course dependent on whether you can secure childcare, so it is important to make the most of them.
My top tips
Here are my tips to make the most of your KIT days if you are lucky enough to have them:
Plan your KIT day in advance
Make sure you book meetings in before you return to the office so that your day is organised and runs smoothly. Make sure to book in regular breaks in between each meeting in case something runs on or simply because you know people will grab you in the kitchen. I have to admit I was a little rushed off my feet yesterday and only wish I had scheduled in some more breaks just to chat to people.
Make sure IT and technology is all set up for you
There is nothing worse than scrabbling around trying to make your PC work the morning you arrive because you haven't logged on for a while. Little things like this can make all the difference.
Clear your inbox
If you need to use email whilst you are on your KIT day, be sure to have a clear out in advance of going into the office. If you don't wish to do this in your own time or you are too busy to do it, then make sure you factor in some time into your day in the morning to wade through the millions of emails you will have received. Better still, be brave and press 'delete all'. Most of them will most likely be junk anyway!
Gently does it
If you need to see or speak to clients on your KIT day, remind them that you are on maternity leave and you will need to ease yourself in gently. There is no point in getting in a room with a client and trying to discuss a load of things if you don't feel up to speed. Ask them to take you through what has been going on and don't feel afraid to ask questions.
Get up to speed
Likewise, if you are meeting with clients, make sure you have caught up with your colleagues first or spoken to your maternity cover to find out what's been going on. You don't want to be taken by surprise if they throw a curveball your way.
Factor in time for regular coffees and lunch
Sounds silly and perhaps obvious, but enjoy being able to drink a whole cup of coffee without leaving half of it to go cold whilst you attend to the baby. Also make the most of having a grown-up lunch where you don't have to hand over half your food to your baby who only likes the food you eat instead of their own. This is your day. This is adult time. So make the most of it. Oh and also enjoy having long, uninterrupted toilet breaks too!
Follow up at the end of the day
It's likely that you'll only be going in one day at a time, rather than for days on end, so make sure you tie up any loose ends at the end of your work day. Try not to leave anything hanging over you - this will only stress you out until the next time you go in.
Remember you are still on maternity leave
Whilst it may seem appealing to take on some tasks that may be discussed during meetings or want to finish something you worked on during your KIT day, remember that you are not back to work full time yet. Yesterday there were loads of times I felt like putting my hand up to do something, but I knew it wouldn't have been the right thing to do. Know when to say 'no' and when you need to delegate. This is your time to ease yourself back into work, not to take on the world!
I hope the tips above prove helpful to you. KIT days are of course optional, but in my opinion they are a valuable and very effective method to keep in touch with your workplace and ensure your actual return will be easier. Most importantly, KIT days will make you feel more confident, remind you of how good you are, and if nothing else, give you some time to drink a well-earned coffee and take a pee without interruptions.
Written by: Holly Pither
Holly Pither is a new mum to baby Amelia and similarly new to the blogging world. She started her blog when she first went off on maternity leave. Unlike many of her friends, Holly was very fearful of going off on maternity leave, scared about losing her identity and panicked about just being a mum. She writes all about the trials and tribulations of maternity leave and finds it very therapeutic.
In her day job, Holly is a PR associate director at an agency in Oxford, England. She loves her job and she loves her baby. It is her belief that all parents can love both their kids and their career and, with the right flexibility, neither should suffer.
How CABA can help
For more tips, you can read our article on Boosting your career during maternity leave.
We also have a number of career development support services that could give you the help you need to make a success of your working life, including personal and professional development courses and career coaching.
If you're an ICAEW member, ACA student or are a member of their families, we are here to help. For advice and information contact us today.