Returning to the Workplace
01 Aug 2022 3 mins read By Andrea Amato

How to get back into the workforce after a period of absence, no matter the reason. 

 

As the Covid-19 pandemic moves onto its third year, many individuals are familiar with their adjusted mode of working. Be it having to set up a dedicated workspace in one’s home, most jobs in Malta and elsewhere have transformed to suit a remote working life. 

Nowadays, however, we are noticing a new shift in the working society: whether employees are to return to the office, and on what days of the week, if at all. A hybrid model of work—encapsulating both remote and on-site operations—has grown popular. If employees can enjoy the flexibility working from home brings as well as the social opportunities brought about by the office environment, it is no wonder that a hybrid option is favourable. 

With the above in mind, organisations are looking to adopt effective re-entry programs, especially for workers who had to take a career break for one reason or another during the pandemic. They must consider the unique needs of employees and their particular circumstances, especially when revisiting policies adhering to a new business model and flexible opportunities.  

The following article will support employees looking to re-join the workforce and encourage business leaders to further understand employee perspectives and their needs for employment. 

Complimenting this article are two Castillians, Jake Agius and Natasha Caruana, who form part of our Senior Search team. Working in Senior Search and navigating the ever-evolving jobs market has allowed Jake and Natasha the opportunity to understand employee experiences and ensure businesses are able to accommodate their present needs. Our conversations have been edited for length and clarity. 

 

What are common reasons as to why employees take a career break? 

 

Jake: Most individuals who I have met mainly had personal reasons for taking a career break. They either realise that their career is not what they had intended it to be, or that they had focused on a particular field which is no longer of interest to them.  

A career break could also be taken if the individual were to pursue their own personal goals over their career. For instance, taking the time to grow a family, a long holiday, pursuing their dreams, etcetera. When an employee decides to take a career break, it is not a snap decision that is taken for their own selfish reasons—it is usually an employee prioritising their mental wellbeing over their career. 

 

Natasha: For me, I noticed employees that take a career break is due to family commitments, to continue studying in their field, or to start studying a new field altogether.  

 

Are employers often reluctant to hire people who took a career break? Why/why not? 

 

Jake: Employers are mostly focused on the individuals' experiences, their problem-solving abilities, and how they provide value to the company. Employers are curious as to why people have taken a career break and ask questions to seek a justified reason for the gap in their résumé. If the answer is somewhat unexpected, they are usually dubious and may not understand the employee perspective.  

Personally, I believe employers who do not pursue individuals who have taken a career break are probably either afraid that the person will take another career break in the future, or they believe that they are at an uncertain point of their career. 

 

Natasha: Unfortunately, in my experience, employers can be quite reluctant if the career break of an individual is a long one. It can be that they believe the employee is not able to handle today’s workplace pressures. In the finance sector, for example, processes are constantly changing, so it can be difficult to employ somebody who has been out of the finance world for a few years. 

 

How can employees prepare themselves to re-join the workforce, any advice? 

 

Jake: For employees, I’d advise that they reacquaint themselves with current trends and changes in work structures that occurred during their career break. This can help them for eventual shortcomings they may face upon re-entering the workforce. Individuals can remain updated with workplace trends, opportunities, and fluctuations noted in blogs, newsletters, and online media platforms.  

 

Natasha: If the person is able to, I would suggest taking up a course in a relevant field of interest. In this way, individuals can be up-to-date in their field, demonstrate their interest and knowledge within the sector in preparation for their next job in Malta or elsewhere.  

 

How can search consultants, such as yourself, support individuals looking to re-join the workforce? 

 

Jake: As a search consultant, we’ve a duty to prepare employees for interviews and to learn of workplace strengths and weaknesses. Working with a search consultant can help employees consult the process of rehabilitating themselves in the workforce. Usually, after a career break, employees are aware of their needs for their next career. We can understand and communicate their wants and review whether these are realistic, attainable, and if organisations are able to accommodate to these needs. At the end, we ensure whether an employee’s and employers goals align. 

 

Natasha: We can offer our guidance and address questions that might be asked during the interview process, whilst providing individuals a good overview of the company they’re interested in. It’s also important that we remain honest with employees and what roles are available that can match well with their unique profiles. 

 

How can organisations support individuals looking to return to the workplace, any particular considerations? 

 

Jake: Organisations should ensure employees who return to the workforce are properly taken care of, be it through constant communication and regular meetings. We encourage HR managers and officers to openly address employee needs and align their goals with company ones. This will help employees feel supported, their voices heard, throughout the rehabilitation process. 

Communicating with the employees will also help build trust between themselves and HR personnel, where both parties will feel safe knowing that they are accountable to address each other’s needs. 

 

Natasha: I think organisations should be more open to receiving individuals who have taken a career break and use this as an opportunity to shape them into employees who reach their full potentials. Employers can provide training and seminars that are specifically catered to address their career needs. They could also provide career development opportunities that showcase to employees their career path, which can be motivating. 

 

Any final thoughts? 

 

Jake: There is unfortunately a stigma for individuals who take career breaks, and this should be dissolved. These individuals should be given room to improve and develop professionally. People have aspirations and dreams they wish to pursue, and this can mean temporarily leaving their place of employment. Employers must therefore understand individuals on a personal level and communicate with them to understand their perspectives as they settle into their new on-site or remote jobs. 

Really, a career break is a step towards self-development as individuals are able to understand their career needs better. We can, as a working society, support career breaks and encourage these if individuals feel they need it for their own growth and time to support their mental wellbeing. 

 

This article was taken from The Castille Quarterly Newsletter |  May 2022

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