As a founder and first-time dad, August 2016 was a whirlwind for me. On August 16, I got my team together to cut the ribbon to announce our new office. And, just two days later, on August 18, I was able to make an even bigger announcement by cutting my newborn baby’s umbilical cord. The rest of the year I did my best to juggle fatherhood while raising our first round of funding. While I was excited to be a dad, I felt I had to get back to work to support my team, as well as my family. By the end of 2016, we had successfully closed our first round of funding, but I felt like I dropped the ball by creating a strong bond with my son.
Since then, I have reassessed my role as a father as well as our company’s philosophy on work-life balance. In the end, I realized that I don’t believe in work-life balance as a concept. I can say with 100% certainty that there has not been a day since the birth of my son that I felt like I was both a father and a founder; and honestly, I think we should standardize that. The word “balance” implies equal weight and I know some days I really need to introduce myself as a dad; on others, I need to lean on my wife for family support as I work overtime in the office.
Even today, as I write this, I’m stepping on Legos, making PB&J sandwiches, and playing with puzzles because our nanny must have called in sick. Instead, in our business, we choose to focus on work-life prioritization and talk about the impact of this intentionally chosen word. I let my team know that when they are at work I want them to work and help us build on the vision we share for our business. Having said that, I know they can’t be productive or deliver at a high standard if they don’t have peace at home, just don’t feel compensated, or if they don’t feel good, physically, mentally or emotionally. But beyond creating a corporate prioritization philosophy, it’s important to put in place fair policies to ensure every employee is supported with the resources they need to make prioritization a reality. .
At the end of 2020, as the whole world faced the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, my family received incredible news – we were expecting again. While thinking about creative ways to tell our now 4 year old, I couldn’t help but think about what this meant for my business. Paid family leave has received more attention in the startup world as measurement champions, like Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, have spoken out about the impact it can have on families. Although there is no national law that enforces paid time off, private companies are taking matters into their own hands as potential employees increasingly seek this benefit.
As a team leader, it’s important to recognize that your team is watching your actions. You can create a policy to support your employees, but if you don’t exercise it as well, you’ll be signaling your team that it’s not an important policy. When considering creating your company’s parental leave policy, keep the following best practices in mind.
While some of the best companies in the country offer several months of parental leave, we have found that 12 weeks of leave is considered a “best in class” practice in our industry. To stay competitive, think about how your current employees, as well as the market, perceive your leave policy. It will help you attract world-class talent and support them as they begin to build a family. In the end, we got to offer six weeks of fully paid leave and the possibility of an additional six weeks of partially paid leave for new parents.
Even when naming your policy, be sure to focus on equality and fairness. You may want to think about how your policy supports adoptive parents, surrogate parents, as well as parents who experience pregnancy loss. Understanding that family dynamics vary widely from household to household, starting from a position of inclusion, will ensure that each member of your team is able to do their job knowing they have options for remain at best a supportive member of their family.
While it is imperative to ensure that all employees are treated equally, there should always be room for individualized plans if people need more accommodations based on their personal experience. to have a child or to take care of them. One size does not fit all, so the key is to have fair implementation practices. Allowing flexibility based on individual employee needs and company resources will lead to happier employees and homes.
Ultimately, the goal is to facilitate healthy families, which produce healthy employees and team members. I know having a child, no matter how you became a family, is a life changing event. As an employer, you must design policies that honor this experience while creating support programs and accommodations to allow employees to enjoy the moments during this special time. As managers and job creators, we should give ourselves and our employees more grace, more resources and more time with our families.
Harold Hughes balances his life as the founder and CEO of Bandwagon, a blockchain-based identity infrastructure company, while being a good father.