Allison Venditti is the Founder and Owner of Careerlove. She is a Career Coach & Return to Work expert with over a decade of experience in human resources. Her focus is on supporting women and mothers. Allison’s business is founded on the idea of kindness and support where she offers no nonsense advice to both companies and women. She is the mom to 3 boys and creator of Canada’s first program to support mothers returning to work from maternity leave called “Ready to Return”.
In this episode:
- Supporting moms in returning to work after maternity leave with meaningful resources, conversations, and planning is a game changer!
- Propose a job share or flexible work trial period if you are looking to try a shift in the way that you work and get the plan clearly laid out in writing.
- It’s okay to not be okay. As moms, we can be incredibly hard on ourselves and feel like we have to hold it together all the time for everyone else.
Connect with Allison:
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/careerlove.ca/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/careerlove.ca
- Facebook Group – “Moms at Work”: https://www.facebook.com/groups/MomsAtWork1
- Website: https://careerlove.ca
On this episode of The Part-Time Jungle Podcast, I had a great conversation with Allison of Careerlove! We talked about supporting moms in returning to work after maternity leave, proposing a job share or flexible work trial period, how it’s okay to not be okay and a whole lot more!
If you prefer to listen, check out Episode 18 of The Part-Time Jungle Podcast.
I really enjoyed my conversation with Allison. The tagline for her business is “Do what you love. Love what you do.” It is so evident that Allison is passionate about supporting the people that she coaches and works with to achieve this.
RETURN TO WORK
Allison’s children are eight, six, and two years old. Her professional background, even before having kids, involved creating return to work programs mostly around workers compensation and disability. She found it shocking that when she went off on maternity leave, they just gave her the paperwork. They told her to call them when she thought she would be coming back. The last five months of her maternity leave left her worrying about whether or not she should call or if were they going to call. She was trying to find daycare and get all the ‘things’ organized to head back to work.
RECOGNIZING A GAP
After her second maternity leave, Allison approached her boss to address why there weren’t any return to work programs for women on maternity leave? After all, their company’s business was all about getting paid to create these programs. He responded that there wasn’t any money in that.
A TOUGH TRANSITION
Allison’s oldest child has multiple anaphylactic food allergies. Returning to work after her first maternity leave and sending him to daycare was horrifying for Allison. She would drop him off at daycare, get on the bus with her coffee, and cry. This same thing went on for a couple of days. Finally one morning, she got on the bus and the bus driver had tissue ready. He told her that he had no idea what was going on but that it was going to be okay. Through tears she said that she was going back to work. The bus driver told Allison that he had three kids, that it would be fine, and that it takes a little while to build up. Allison said that you know that you are having a really tough time when the bus driver is noticing how hard things are for you. We can’t sugarcoat it. You just birthed a being and then being with them was all you have known for months on end. It is a big transition.
A LACK OF CONVERSATION
Allison felt like no one wanted to talk about this transition with her. Some of her friends didn’t go back to work after maternity leave. They didn’t want to talk about it. Some of her friends went back to work early and they didn’t want to talk about it. She didn’t even really know what questions to ask and she is a return to work expert. This was her job and she still didn’t know. There was no clarity on all the what was ahead even around things such as breastfeeding. Do you keep breastfeeding? What about weaning? Allison was reading all of the books but it wasn’t enough. This uncertainty didn’t change going back to work after her maternity leave with her second child either.
A LACK OF RESOURCES
Allison found that there was a lack of resources around the conversation of moms returning to work after maternity leave. Even though Allison works in human resources, she had lots of questions. What can I ask and what can’t I ask? How should I ask? With her first son she had gone back to work after 10 months and after 11 months with her second son. When she had her third son, she was self employed. She started working again part-time when he was four months old. This involved writing her return to work program called “Ready to Return”.
READY TO RETURN.
“Ready to Return” is a program for women going back to work following maternity leave. Allison had heard the same stories a thousand times from all of her friends about all the things that they needed. So she made it super simple. It is a one month program. Allison pulled in all the experts including a sleep consultant, a lactation consultant, an employment lawyer, a daycare manager, a dietitian, and a psychotherapist to talk about the mom guilt. “Ready to Return” gives moms live access to these experts to ask ALL of their questions. This happens in a space where you’re surrounded by other women who are going through the same transition and who are talking about the same things. This is game changing!
A LACK OF PLANNING
Women returning to work following maternity leave often feel very vulnerable. You’ve been away for a year. Someone else has been doing your job. Your previous boss might not be there anymore. Part of Allison’s research in creating her program involved sitting in on these return to work conversations. What she found was that both moms and their bosses were coming into these conversations with no plan. She would ask how long they had prepared for this conversation. The response generally was “Prepare what?”.
Allison shared the story that when she came back from her second maternity leave, they didn’t have a desk for her. This lack of action, especially for someone who had been with the company for several years, really hurt. She had built her team. She had existing clients. In returning to work, it seemed shocking that she wouldn’t have a desk to work at or even a phone for her first week back.
EMPLOYEE & EMPLOYER CENTERED APPROACH
The importance of being a self advocate is a part of Allison’s Ready to Return program in her business Careerlove. She has run her program for a year and a half with an employee centred approach. Now, she is shifting it to have an employer centred approach as well. Even while a mom is on maternity leave, an employer can reach out to see if they want to come to the holiday party, be kept on an email list, and have opportunities to check in. There should be a clear process and plan put in place.
A FAST TRANSITION
The transition from maternity leave to returning to work feels fast. Our emotions can be very up and down. Aspects of this transition can also be incredibly uncomfortable around things such as accommodations for breastfeeding. This might not be something that you want to discuss with your boss. You shouldn’t have to. This information should be made available to moms.
A RETURN TO WORK PROGRAM FOR EMPLOYERS
Allison is currently beta piloting a return to work program for employers. She wants to make sure that it is really successful. Large companies have the resources to better support the return to work transition for moms. Allison wants to focus on smaller companies who need an accessible and affordable approach. This is where she’s really seeing the impact for women. When you go back to an office of ten people at a tech startup, for example, this is where the support really needs to be.
PROPOSE A JOB SHARE TRIAL
It can be very hard for employers to commit to long term, more out of the box, approaches to employment such as job shares. When women go in and propose these kinds of approaches, Allison says to hold on. This is because you don’t actually know if it’s going to work for you or if it’s going to work for them. In disability management, for example, there is typically always a trial period. If you propose something as a trial, everybody’s shoulders drop way down. If you say this is a two month plan and I want to trial it, usually people sign off on this really quickly. If you ask for an accommodation, then employment lawyers might need to get involved.
SHORT TERM VS. LONG TERM PROPOSAL
In our current employment climate, with the global pandemic, there are so many things that are up in the air. If you propose a full job share, employers can’t really guarantee anything right now. Instead, go in with a two month trial period proposal. You might ask to use vacation days to work four days a week or to have yourself and another employee share a position. This will get you a lot further than asking for a longer term change in the way that you are working.
BE MINDFUL OF JOB SECURITY
It is important to consider and think about the implications of moving to part-time work and then getting laid off. This can impact your severance and all sorts of other things. You need to understand what your rights are. You need to understand how to protect yourself. You need to make sure that everything’s in writing. Make sure that you cross all your Ts and dot all your Is. Make everybody initial at the bottom. Keep every email.
In our current circumstances, the shift to remote flexible work is not working well for many families. For Allison, she and her husband have felt like they are working over top of one another. With everyone using technology for schooling and work, the demands on Wi-Fi are making it hard for everyone to connect and get online for what they need to do. Things that would normally be quickly resolved and done with a face-to-face conversation seem to be taking much longer. There are so many frustrations. Allison has been working from home for awhile but she’s not used to having people in her space all the time. Normally, everybody leaves, she gets to calm down, and then, she gets to work. Now, it’s just bonkers!
Allison advises the clients that she works with to be honest and open with managing their home and work juggles. They need to be clear that they can’t be available at 2 AM for their employer to text them. People are having a really hard time with setting boundaries because they’re fearing for their job security. Allison says that what used to be this amazing idea of part-time and flexible work is no longer what we think it is. She currently advocates for finding stable work and looking for positions that have guidelines and clear outlines about when people are going to be working and when they are not. The importance of setting boundaries also applies to those people who are self-employed. The number one thing that happens with all these flexible options is that people feel obligated to do more because they’re so thankful to have a job.
Right now there is alot of fear around job security. Many people have been laid off and nobody wants to take any chances with existing positions. Will there be more appreciation for remote work, flexible work, a 4-day work week… Absolutely! Once we start getting a better handle on this and get better at it. Now, we have actually had first hand experience in this.
PART-TIME WORK SHOULD BE FAIRLY COMPENSATED
Something that frustrates Allison about part-time work, is that it tends to be lower paid. Oftentimes, this is a double whammy for women. Allison is a huge huge advocate for pay transparency in both job advertisements and internally. Part-time work should not be compensated less. If you’re making eighty thousand dollars working full-time then you should be paid forty thousand for working a position that is half-time. Equal pay happens in unionized organizations but often not otherwise. This is the number one thing that Allison finds disappointing right now. People are so desperate for part-time work that they will reduce their salaries significantly just to get it. This isn’t fair.
LETTING GO IS TOUGH
As a mom, Allison has struggled with feeling like only she can do it right. This has lead her to take on things and not let them go both at work and at home. She finds herself falling into the trap that she can do it faster so she will just do it. A couple of years ago, she did step back and realized that she didn’t need to do everything for everyone else. This took her a really long time to figure out. Allison was so stressed but not because people were saying to her, “You do it”. It was because she was saying to other people “I don’t want you to do it”. This has been her biggest learning struggle. She catches herself wanting to puppet master everything for her kids. Allison realizes that this just doesn’t work especially as they get older and they won’t let you do it anyways. She realizes that she has to let some of it go or she won’t have anything left.
IT’S OKAY TO NOT BE OKAY
It’s okay to not be okay. The problem for mothers right now is that many of us aren’t holding it together for ourselves. We are holding it together for our kids. We are trying to be positive and upbeat for our children so that they don’t get upset. However, no one’s expecting anything more from us. Allison has learned that you can actually get the same endorphins when you hug yourself that you would get if you hugged someone else. Her kids ask her what she is doing but sometimes… it really works! Allison has learned that she has to stop being so hard on herself. She sees this happening with others too. Now, trying to juggle home learning and working, things don’t seem to be at their best. It feels like failure but it’s not.
Thanks so much to Allison for this fantastic conversation and thank YOU for tuning in!