Over the last 18 months, the notions of work/life integration have been under the microscope as we consider how best to transition to a safe, trusted and productive hybrid work model. We speak to one of the Cisco team, Sahar, who recently came back to work after taking a break last year. Hear what it has been like to return to work in a year unlike any other, and the support available through Cisco’s ‘Back to Business’ network.

The Back to Business network is a supportive, safe environment to share experiences and connect with Cisco employees across the world going through similar circumstances. The group aims to raise awareness of the challenges faced by employees returning from extended leave and educate others on how to best support those employees coming back, to help power an inclusive future for all. This includes gradually easing employees back into the workforce.

Sahar Khalil, High Touch Operations manager, Cisco Australia & New Zealand

As a High Touch Operations Manager, I work closely with customers to provide business and technical support. This includes tracking technical support needs and aligning IT processes across the customer and Cisco to resolve any issues that may arise and reach project milestones. This helps to increase the overall productivity of Cisco’s IT employees and business.

I went on maternity leave in Dec 2019 and returned to work in February 2021. It goes without saying that the world has changed a lot since I went on leave.

Coming back to work after a long absence for any reason can be a daunting experience mixed with guilt and anxiety.  It was great to have a support network of people to overcome these feelings and feel supported along the way to do what we do best at work as well at home.

That support has been great and is something I really value. I received the backing of my managers throughout my maternity leave, especially when Covid-19 hit in early 2020 –  and I felt that support right up until my first day back to work. I was continuously informed through my ‘stay in touch’ channels about what was happening at Cisco during those uncertain times, as well provided with the support options I had during my maternity leave (such as attending team events, virtual coffee catch-ups, office onsite visits). I felt connected to the business.

When it came to the time to return to work, I chose to return part-time as this was the best for me. I also moved from Sydney to Perth during my leave. My manager didn’t hesitate to approve my flexible work request. If it wasn’t for this, I don’t believe I would be still at Cisco today.

Flexible work is not just about working partial hours, it’s also about the flexibility of how to manage these hours across your week. I sometimes would wrap things up an hour early to do the pick-ups or attend school events but then log in at a later time when the kids are already in bed.

This has allowed me to spend more quality time with my family which is great to have. Of course, your manager’s support is vital along the way and without that it wouldn’t be possible to do the work I do without the feeling of guilt.

Back to Business was a great support network to stay connected with others going through the same experiences, connecting through Webex teams, emails, coffee catchups and social events with speakers sharing their own experiences of going back to work and lessons learned along the way. Even having a virtual coffee with the program lead, Paula Gacesa, to share the support options available to me and to connect, is something I appreciated.

You can find out more about how to help colleagues returning to work, here.