Returning to work is worthwhile – for everyone

Success comes with the right talents, but these are in short supply – in part because many people take breaks from their careers. To counter this, SBB has launched an initiative to encourage parents to return to work. The railway company also hopes to dispel prejudices.

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Many employees would like to continue their careers after a family-related break, provided that work and private life can be balanced in a meaningful way. However, acceptance of flexible ways of working is still lacking, and parents returning to work are often confronted with prejudice. Fortunately, openness to new models increases with every person who benefits from them, which is why SBB is launching its return-to-work initiative. An ETH Zurich study commissioned by SBB dispelled common prejudices, and SBB has devised concrete support offers for people returning to work based on the study’s recommendations.

A family-related break from work is a qualification, not a handicap

The study shows that mothers and fathers have valuable qualities – and often a high level of education. “If we want to attract these talents to SBB, we need to rethink our approach,” says Corinne Kuhn, head of Employer Branding at SBB. “Longer maternity or paternity leaves or a longer time spent travelling are comparable to further-training programmes. We have to recognise, appreciate, and make use of these skills”, underlines Corinne. “The economic value of parents returning to work often remains untapped today. If a company supports parents with their return to work, it increases their loyalty to the employer”. To ensure that parents returning to work are brought back to the same level as their colleagues as quickly as possible, SBB is now offering special programmes, for example with refresher courses in programming for IT professionals. “Usually, finding a way back into work is often harder for parents than the actual balancing of family life and career,” explains Corinne Kuhn.

Balancing family life and a career is possible if old patterns are broken

The ETH study clearly shows that family and career can be combined – even in management or specialist leadership roles. What does it require? Employers must be in favour of, allow, and promote flexible working models. Good organisation by employees is also important, both at work and at home. While the balance between work and family life tends to be a challenge for mothers and fathers, they often have excellent organisational skills and use their time in a focused manner.

All qualifications and professions bring structures with them, but flexibility and new ways of working are already possible in many places today. Old patterns need to be broken down as early as the training stage, because: “What good are part-time job offers if they require training or further education that is only possible on a full-time basis?” asks Corinne Kuhn. That is why SBB now offers a part-time training programme to become a passenger attendant.

Promote parents’ return to work and cut costs

SBB – like other companies – needs to create conditions that facilitate parents’ return to work. This requires environments that are better geared to the needs of modern families; with flexible working time models, exemplary and inspiring managers, and various support services for families. “This results in more diverse teams that inspire each other and develop new ideas together – precisely because their members have different skills from work and family life”, says Stephanie Escher, head of Culture and Leadership at SBB. In addition, the support provided when employees return to work helps guarantee the quality of their work and the extent of their know-how, strengthens their loyalty, keeps staff turnover low and makes a major contribution to an inclusive corporate culture. These are all factors that have a positive impact on an employer’s positioning. And this is why SBB is one of the few companies in Switzerland to offer specifically designed, content-based programmes for people returning to work.

Children draw their parents at work

The SBB campaign promoting parents’ return to work will be launched online on 28 June. The subjects (see picture gallery) were developed in a painting workshop in March 2020 at the Aarau Kunstmuseum. In the workshop, children of SBB employees drew their parents at work.