At our forthcoming Women in Games Careers, Development and Networking Expo on March 7th we are inviting several coaches to come and speak to our community and share their expertise.

And we’re happy to share this article by Hayley Hubble, previously a senior recruitment manager at Creative Assembly and now a return-to-work coach, which provides a useful guide to heading back to the studio after a break…

So, you’re gearing up for this profound journey called ‘returning to work after a career break’. Having worked in the talent trenches for a games company and experiencing first hand returning to work after having my son, I get how overwhelming it can feel. I’m here to provide insights on navigating your return with expertise and care.

The Gap in Support: Let’s Close It Together
Now, let’s delve into the numbers – 85% of amazing Mums find themselves leaving the workforce within three years of welcoming a new life, and 57% within two (source: ‘Careers After Babies’ report). The reasons? Often, it’s a heart-wrenching tale of lacking support from their companies and the ongoing struggle to find flexibility in balancing work and family. It’s disheartening, isn’t it? But let’s peel back the layers – behind these stats are real people facing real challenges. Many brave souls feel abandoned on their return journey (in fact 86% of Mums said they would benefit from RTW support), and the industry needs to change that narrative. Let’s make the gaming industry a haven for returners, ensuring their triumphant return is filled with support, understanding, and flexibility. It’s not just a call to action; it’s a call to humanity.

Personal Preparation: Tips for to empower your return-to-work journey

      1.    Seek Support:  Reach out to your allies (loved ones) and recruit external support, like a return-to-work coach to ensure you’re fully supported with how you’re feeling and to gain clarity. It’s about building a network that understands your unique challenges. Vulnerability is a strength, and we don’t have to do it alone.

      2.    Define Priorities and Boundaries: It’s not just rearranging your schedule; it’s rediscovering what truly matters. Re-evaluate your priorities and set some boundaries, respecting the hero within.

      3.    Work Patterns: Choose your quest wisely; start mid-week when returning to work. It’s all about easing back into the game of employment with a gentle approach.

      4.    Logistics and Flexibility: Equip yourself with childcare plans and a flexible mindset. You never know when a surprise boss battle might pop up, but flexibility can be your strongest weapon.

      5.    Communication with Employer: Think of your boss as a co-op partner. Communicate early, share your feelings, manage expectations, and plan your return strategy together. It’s a dialogue, not just about tasks but about trust and understanding.

      6.    Self-Appreciation: Celebrate your achievements, recognise your newfound skills, and gain the confidence boost you deserve. You will have learnt so much and have a lot of extra value to add, and your journey deserves acknowledgment.

  1. Be kind to yourself and allow yourself to ease back into work – don’t put pressure on yourself to know everything straight away, it takes time to settle back and that’s okay!

Company Support: Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

      1.    External Coaching Support: Offer returners external coaching support – it’s the ultimate power-up. Sometimes, an external perspective can be the magic potion needed. The coaching journey, ideally, should start before the maternity leave raid, continue during, and extend post-return. By investing in coaching from the early stages, companies can provide returners with the tools and support needed to navigate this significant life transition.

      2.    Expectation Management: Discuss expectations before the maternity leave raid. Does your returner want updates during the quest or a quiet time in the wilderness? It’s about managing expectations and fostering open communication.

      3.    Transparent Communication: Keep the lines of communication open. It’s not just about tasks; it’s about keeping the human connection alive and making them feel welcomed.

      4.    Re-Induction and Welcoming Environment: It’s like welcoming a long-lost party member. Organise a re-induction, coffee meetings, and regular check-ins for a smooth reintegration. It’s about making them feel valued, not just as employees but as part of a community.

      5.    Policy Accessibility: Make company policies as accessible as a hidden treasure. Discuss them before the career break, so your returner knows where to find the treasure map. It’s about clarity, making sure everyone understands the rules of the game.

      6.    Regular Check-Ins: Stay connected with your returner. Schedule regular check-ins and have an honest conversation about expectations from both sides. It’s about fostering trust and understanding – a relationship beyond just the professional realm.

Attracting and Supporting Women: Beyond the direct benefits to returners, investing in their support is a strategic move for companies. It not only aids in retaining valuable talent but also becomes a powerful magnet for attracting more women into the industry. Demonstrating a commitment to supporting women in their family-building journey improves brand reputation, broadens the talent pool, and acts as a beacon for future female professionals who value a supportive and inclusive workplace. In essence, it’s a win-win strategy that enriches both the company culture and its workforce.

Conclusion: Power Up Your Return with Confidence
Returning to work after a career break is a shared quest between you and your guild (company). By bridging the support gap, we’re not just levelling up individuals but crafting a more inclusive and innovative gaming universe. Remember, it’s not just an investment for the players; it’s an investment in the entire gaming realm.

Embrace the power of return, for in every comeback lies the strength to redefine and reshape not only our careers but the very essence of the industries we love.