Broadspectrum – Supporting working parents transition from parental leave

Broadspectrum is a leading provider of services to major projects and infrastructure across a wide range of industries. They offer their staff challenging and long-term careers in a supportive, diverse and rewarding environment. Broadspectrum provides a range of impressive benefits, including paid parental leave, flexible work solutions and tailored learning and development opportunities.

Recently we had the opportunity to speak with Laura Jennifer Stokes, Communications, Community and Stakeholder Manager – Transport NZ, to discuss her journey and experience when returning to work from parental leave.

Employee’s Name – Laura Jennifer Stokes

Employee’s Position – Communications, Community and Stakeholder Manager

Tell us about your journey working with Broadspectrum?

I have been with Broadspectrum since 2015, originally working in Human Resources (HR) in our Head Office in Auckland. In this role I had the opportunity to work on several innovative HR projects, such as the development of a fully integrated and digitised shared services solution called HR Shared Services and the online electronic on-boarding program launched across all sectors in NZ.

In early 2017 I became pregnant with fraternal twins. I was well supported by my manager and team during this exciting time, who went out of their way to make me feel as comfortable as possible. For instance, during my third trimester, my manager let me work one day a week from home, so I didn’t get too tired from commuting. I went on parental leave about a month before my girls were born in October 2017.

After eight wonderful months at home with my babies, Broadspectrum approached me about a new role that had been created on the Roads contract in Albany. I applied and a year later here I am working as Communications, Community and Stakeholder Manager for the Roads business.

When did you return from Parental Leave? June 2018

Did your role change at all upon your return?

Yes, I returned to a newly created role at Broadspectrum. I was always planning to return to my previous role at Broadspectrum, but this role seemed like a great fit for my skills and an exciting next step in my career. I was lucky because I knew my new manager and I enjoyed working at Broadspectrum, so it made the decision an easy one.

I now look after the communities where we complete road maintenance and construction works, and I manage the internal communications required to achieve this. I love my new role and have been able to grow the communications aspect of it in the direction I see fit and that best benefits the team and business.

Explain the transition from parental leave into the workplace. What were your biggest challenges? What were your biggest triumphs?

It was a scary thought going back to work. I felt I was ready though, and it was an exciting new role, so I went for it!

The first few weeks were a bit daunting. The biggest challenge was overcoming the guilt I felt about leaving my babies. My approach to work felt different to before I became pregnant too. Looking back, I realise this was because I had a new perspective to offer, which is particularly useful in my new role. Being a mother of twins has given me a better understanding of people and how different personalities approach their work.

Initially, small tasks were major triumphs for me, and receiving positive reinforcement and encouragement from colleagues made the transition to work more manageable. Regular check-ins from my manager also helped.

The good news is that, despite the inevitable ups and downs, you settle in quickly and work becomes easier.

How was Broadspectrum supportive with this transition? Explain.

I have a supportive manager and team that let me work autonomously. My manager is very approachable, and I was able to let him know when I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and when I was ready to take on more work. I think a good working relationship with my manager and feeling supported helped with the transition and made me not want to give up. I currently work one day a week from home, which I love because it means I can spend my breaks with my girls and maintain a strong connection with them.

What flexible work practices do Broadspectrum offer return to work parents?

Broadspectrum offers flexible working hours to accommodate your new role as a parent.

My hours are flexible, allowing me to take my twins to and from day care. My manager is supportive and trusts me to do my job within these flexible hours. Having this trust is important and pushes me to want to work harder and achieve more.

Which benefit/s have best supported you personally in your return to work?

Flexible working hours and the parental leave payment I received when I returned to work. This allowed me to set the girls up in day care and get everything in order for me to step back into work comfortably.

What do you believe are the key barriers women face when returning from parental leave? How can employers better support them?

I believe women face a range of barriers when returning from parental leave, particularly emotional pressures. They can face negative attitudes from colleagues who believe that women coming back to work are ‘selfish’ for leaving their kids. On the flipside is the negative impact that parental leave can have on a woman’s career.

Employers can support parents returning to work from parental leave by offering free advice if discriminatory behaviours occur, and by working with working parents to develop a relationship that both the employer and the employee are comfortable with.

Do you feel parents are more likely to commit to a company long term that is supportive and understanding of their caring responsibilities outside of work?

Yes. One of the main reasons I’ve felt so comfortable transitioning back into work is because my manager understands how important my family is to me, and he supports this. My manager lets me work from home one day per week, and always shows care and concern if my kids are sick. This increases my loyalty to the company and my desire to stay here long term.

What would be one piece of advice you would give to another parent returning to work from parental leave?

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to achieve everything straight away. Take it at your own pace and if it feels like it’s too much, talk to someone about it. Realise that you’re going to work differently than before you went on parental leave and that’s okay. Learn to work with the changes in you and you will be fine.

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