Back to Business: How Cisco Employees Are Supporting Each Other As They Return to Work

October 9, 2018 - 6 Comments

We all face challenges in life, and some of those challenges – from caring for our families to an illness or loss in the family – take us away from work. It’s understandable as we need to dedicate time to healing and bonding, and I feel very lucky that Cisco supports its employees through these transitions.

The next challenge of course, is returning to work and preparing for re-adapting our lives. This is what happened when I returned from my second maternity leave.

After 10 months of focusing my energy on spending precious time with my children at home, it was time to return to Cisco. I was excited to get back to work and have something “for me”, as raising children leaves very little time just for yourself. Part of me felt that coming back to work was like taking a vacation every day, where I could dive into the waters of collaborating with my colleagues.

But a happy transition is still a transition.

I went back to the same role I held before maternity leave, reporting to a new manager and a new functional leader. I was ready to hit the ground running and prove my value to the team. Things move fast at Cisco, and even though I wasn’t a new hire – I put pressure on myself to pick up where I had let off 10 months earlier.

Unfortunately, my children were not sleeping properly and were often ill. I was exhausted as I juggled being everything to everyone, and was beating myself up to do more and faster. Luckily, I had a supportive manager who encouraged me to take care of myself first. What good comes if I burn out and am unable to be anything to anyone?

Looking back now, I was really my own worst enemy.

My good friend, Nora, had also recently come back from leave and so we shared our experiences and wondered out loud what the return was like for other employees. Was it as difficult as it had been for us? Was it even more trying for them, and what could we possibly do to help?

We decided to take action and do something to help our fellow Cisco colleagues. We started an Inclusion & Collaboration employee network called “Back to Business (B2B)” with the goal of creating a safe environment to share experiences and get support from colleagues who have gone through similar circumstances.

We wanted to encourage employees and their managers to start having honest discussions when preparing for leave – to include how the employee might want to be contacted while away, and how they’d like to return to work once ready (full-time, part-time, etc). Whether it’s welcoming a new child, dealing with a family illness, or some other life situation, we should be helping each other ease back into work.

I have been working for Cisco for 10 years, and my latest endeavor has been in program management. Using these skills helped me start developing B2B together with a core team. I thank Cisco for being such an amazing company and allowing us to build this type of initiative!

What can you do to help your returning colleagues?

Look around you. Truly see your colleagues. Ask them how their day is going. We all get so busy in our day to day lives – look up from your screen and reach out to those you work with.

Have honest conversations with those on your team about how they are doing and see if they need any help. Little favors may go a long way in helping someone who is feeling overwhelmed.

For those planning to go on leave or returning from leave, let them know about the support available. Be there for them.


If you’re an employee about to go on leave or just returning, our advice is to never try to hide your situation – be upfront about your challenges. Most of the time, colleagues are and will be sympathetic to your situation.

We can safely assume that everyone has had a challenge in life, from the small to the monumental – we all face them. But, what if we face them together? We can help all of our colleagues return to work feeling welcomed and supported.

Want to work for a company that supports each other? We’re hiring. Apply now.

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  1. Hi Reija,
    I was aware of your initiative, and I think you have done the right thing sharing in this blog post!
    After struggling with your return to work, you thought about giving back and helping other people, which is amazing.

  2. Reija – this is fantastic! And working with you on a regular basis I know that you are a fantastic business partner and always stay ahead at work! This is a great program and so proud of what you have accomplished!

  3. I wouldn't say it differently… We can really be our worst enemies!
    Great Blog! Thanks for sharing!
    Lets spread the word, lets have the back of our B2B colleagues.

  4. Great initiative!
    I hope your message will give inspiration to other companies
    Guys, so glad you are around!
    Inclusion is so important, be part of the team
    Well done Cisco!

    Let's continue
    Kind regards

  5. Great initiative Reija !
    You are covering a real need, and I am sure that many will benefit
    from this.

  6. Great blog, so many people face the challenges either through maternity and paternity or even worse when returning from long term illness or bereavement. Brilliant to see you and Cisco leading here.