Do you think she is difficult?

Part of my clients are women who return to work after their maternity leave. I help them to continue their career with confidence after they’ve become a mother. Flexible working is an important theme for them.

After her maternity leave, one of my clients had only been working full-time in a corporate job in London for a few weeks when she experienced it was tough.

She mentioned this in one of our coaching sessions and the result was that she would ask her manager to work from home one day a week.

The next session I asked her how the conversation had been.

She: “We discussed it.”
Me: “Great and what was the result?”
She: “I have indicated that I would like it and we haven’t really discussed it any longer.”
Me: “Ah okay. And what stopped you from specifically asking for one day a week? ”
She: “I don’t want my manager to think I am difficult.”

It makes me feel happy

Apart from the fact that we don’t know if this is really her manager’s perspective, I asked my client about her own perspective on flexible working.

Her answer:

“I’m less tired because I don’t have 2.5 hours of travel time. So, I have a better focus. I am more productive, because I am less disturbed during the day and can work hard at my computer at home. And I can take my daughter to and from day care which makes me feel happy.”

Coaching after maternity leave

When I then asked her what her manager would think about that, she started to laugh.

In the meantime, this client has been working from home one day a week for a few weeks to full satisfaction.

More productive

In various countries, including The Netherlands and Great Britain, the possibility of flexible working is included in the legislation.

Recent research[1] also shows that:

  • Flexible working helps companies to become more successful because they are better able to attract and retain top talent.
  • 90% of the companies are more productive after they have introduced flexible working.
  • Flexible working promotes diversity. And more gender diversity in executive teams has a positive correlation with profitability[2].

Work life balance coaching for women

You would therefore expect that flexible working within companies is a matter-of-course nowadays.

But unfortunately, it is not.

Flexible working is still not a standard topic of discussion with, for example, women returning from their maternity leave.

I think it’s a missed opportunity.

Make it a standard topic of conversation

Therefore, my advice to every manager of a pregnant employee:
make flexible working a standard topic of conversation when she returns to the workplace.

Women no longer have the feeling that they are ‘difficult’. This makes them feel valued and supported in finding the right balance between their young family and work. This increases loyalty which has a positive effect on their performance.

Oh yes and my advice to every pregnant woman:
put flexible working on your own list to discuss in case your manager forgets. You help both your manager and the company.

What do you mean? Being difficult?

Have a great week!

PS: Do you want to offer female talent within your organization the support they need to stay on the road of professional success during their pregnancy and after they come back of their maternity leave? I would love to help you with that! Read more about my program ‘Flourish with female talent‘. 


[1]International Workplace Group, The IWG Global Workspace Survey. Welcome to Generation Flex – the employee power shift, March 2019.

[2]McKinsey, Delivering Through Diversity, January 2018.