Mid-Career Break panel recap

Going into our very first series of panel discussions, we knew that there were great conversations to be had. What we didn’t expect was just how passionate and open attendees would be about the struggles and successes around their own career breaks.

It can be a tough conversation to open up about, whether you’re a person who’s looking to take a career break, or you’re a leader who may be wondering if you’re doing enough to support employees on a break. It’s something that many companies are getting right, and we were pleased to have several of those organisations involved in these events to be role models to others.

If you missed out on the discussions, you can still get a feel for what was discussed by watching the Wellington panel in its entirety, or viewing the Instagram Story play-by-plays for Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland via our Instagram.

Top Takeaways

As our conversations happened around the country, we came to realise that the same themes kept bubbling to the surface. Here’s what we gleaned from the conversations that might be able to help you assess your own actions.


Top tips for employers:

  1. Have a pre-leave conversation about how the person going on leave wants to stay in touch with the organisation. To what extent does the person want to be involved in what’s happening, and what’s the best way to stay in touch?
  2. Encourage a “leave loudly” policy, where parents or those who work flexibly feel empowered to not hide the fact that they have to leave work early for other obligations. This helps make it feel more “normal” or accepted to work different hours from the norm.
  3. Ask your employees what works best for them in terms of flexibility, instead of taking a broad-brush approach. What may be flexible for one person might not be for the next.
  4. Consider paying employees their parental leave upfront when they really need it, instead of half before and half upon return. While this may seem unconventional, putting trust in your employees sends a strong message. When ANZ started taking this approach, their rates of returning employees were higher than ever.
  5. The new world order of remote work and part-time means that you have to re-evaluate and adapt what you do in order to help your employees succeed and make them more productive. Studio Pacific manages this by keeping a simple weekly spreadsheet of everyone’s schedule updated and widely circulated throughout the office. Download a sample version here that you can use in your organisation.

Top tips for employees:

  1. Be upfront about what works for you and your situation when it comes to flexibility. Don’t expect that your employer will know what works best for you.
  2. While it’s important to find an environment and schedule that works for you, it’s also important to take into account that your employer needs to be comfortable, too. Think of it as being flexible with your flexibility.
  3. Recognise that sometimes, a career break isn’t the best answer for everyone. Evaluate your own situation to determine if it’s best for you and your family.
  4. Don’t be afraid to be upfront with your employer about what your needs are with flexibility. Take a test drive on the agreement and see if it’s working for both of you.
  5. When you’re on a break, keep in touch with your colleagues. It can help you ease back into work once you’re ready to come back.
  6. Go easy on yourself if you decide to take a break. People who return to work often hold themselves at much higher standards and put themselves under immense pressure to do everything perfectly. Relax.

We’d like to thank our fantastic panel members who donated their time and wisdom to these events. Many thanks to:


  • Glen Cornelius – Managing Director, Harrison Grierson
  • Grant Crenfeldt – Head of Engineering, Air New Zealand
  • Helen Hamilton – Principal, Environment and Planning, Aurecon
  • Juliana Wilson – South Pacific Architecture and co-founder of A+W.NZ


  • Nicole Beaumont – Divisional Consultant, Talent & Culture, ANZ
  • Patrycja Bonkowska – Branch Manager, Palmerston North, Beca
  • Stephen McDougall – Director, StudioPacific Architecture
  • Katherine Skipper – Principal, Warren & Mahoney


  • Vanessa Carswell – Principal, Warren and Mahoney
  • Sina Cotter-Tait – Director, Collective Success Ltd and Board member, Engineering New Zealand
  • Letitia Drury – Southern Regional Manager, Beca
  • Helen Trappitt – Director, Lewis Bradford Consulting Engineers

Next Steps

We’re putting the finishing touches on our plan for events and discussions taking place in 2019. From workshops to more resources and even an all-day summit, there’s much more coming your way from us in the coming months. Stay in the loop with everything that’s happening by signing up for our mailing list.

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