Becoming a parent while working
“I became a manager before becoming a mom. My first encounter with parental leave was when I had a report who was about to give birth to her first child, and preparing for leave. I had no clue how complicated it was to plan for both leave and return to work. It was much more stressful than either of us expected, and that was at Google which had one of the best parental leave programs in the world at the time. Later, I became a parent myself and experienced this first-hand.
When you’re about to become a parent, there are so many administrative hurdles to navigate. There are insurance forms, federal rules, and state programs you can barely understand. Few parents anticipate how difficult it is to find affordable, high quality child care. The stakes are high for both you and your baby. If you get it wrong there can be serious financial and health consequences. It’s an intense cognitive load to carry while you’re already going through the huge life change of becoming a parent.
Over time, I began to appreciate how great parental leave benefits are critical to the quality of time new parents get to spend with their children. Leave goes by quickly, and people want time and space to fully focus on their growing families.
Supporting working parents is good for business
At Primer, we’re competing for knowledge workers. We’re building cutting-edge natural language processing (NLP) technology that can read vast quantities of text based data in real time and make it easy to understand. This technology helps our users save time and be more confident making decisions about matters of critical importance — whether they are researching infectious diseases or protecting national security.
When a company is in hyper growth and building industrial-grade technology, you’re not hiring someone for one year; you’re hoping they stay with you for the long haul. Our people give a lot to Primer, so we want to support them in their biggest life moments as they grow with us. The less time they need to spend worrying about health, finances, or submitting paperwork on time, the more capacity they have for creativity.
Many people will take advantage of parental leaves at some point — whether it’s this year or five years from now. Having employees who feel welcome and know the company is there for them is an investment that pays mutual dividends.
When you think of it in those terms, parental leave is not expensive — it’s essential.
Great leave management maximizes HR capacity, too
When I joined Primer in January of 2020, it was one of my priorities to set up a leave program that would take care of our people. Then, when COVID-19 hit, we became a more geographically distributed company than before. That meant we now had to consider the possibility — and risk — of our people needing to go on leave in every state, and in some cases, other countries.
I knew it would be a huge challenge for my tiny HR team to keep up with all the compliance and pay calculations in every state. There was a real risk that a miss somewhere would have not only financial but also legal ramifications for the business at large. We needed to bring in experts who also had empathy reflective of our culture.
As we looked at what was out there, we quickly realized the traditional leave admin processes were bureaucratic and insurance-feeling from an employee perspective.
Cocoon stood out immediately.
Cocoon offers such a novel leave management experience. Not only does it make planning and designing leave easy, their concierge team provides guidance to help employees prepare for leave and return-to-work. We simply didn’t see anything else like that on the market.
Knowing leave is fully taken care of by experts allows me to keep my HR team engaged. Now that Cocoon handles leave compliance, payroll calculations, and claim-filing, our HR team has the room to do what we’re uniquely qualified to do: foster creativity, innovation, and deeper partnership with the business.
Advice to other People teams
One of the biggest impacts a People team can have is to remove stress in meaningful ways. The best is when you’re able to surprise and delight people.
Startups may not always have as many resources, but reducing stress and delighting people doesn’t always have to be expensive. For example, during COVID Primer has been experimenting with a Mental Health Day program. We noticed that after switching to work from home, many employees no longer had natural boundaries between work time and life time. We started seeing early signs of burnout.
We decided to test whole-company ‘Mental Health Days’ to let out some pressure in the system, and it’s been such a hit! Yes, we lose a workday now and then, but on the days we’re all working, our employees have more joie de vivre because they’re taking time to disconnect. A lot of new hires have told us they joined specifically because this benefit shows how we care about our employees.
People draw most of their inspiration at work from their lives outside of work. The more a company can be aware of that and foster both, the more we can show up as our most productive, creative selves. Partnerships with companies like Cocoon and programs like Mental Health Days demonstrate that we value our people as humans, and want them to have fulfilling lives outside of the company.
Both Primer and Cocoon turn something complicated into an experience that is beautiful and simple. Our companies exist to help people save time and feel confident in critical moments. We want a world where people can save their brain power for the most important things, not tedious, high volume tasks that are easy to mess up.
At Primer we have a company value called “Always Human.” It’s about being our most human and compassionate all of the time.
We’re excited to partner with Cocoon to make work as human as we can.”
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After two years, working with hundreds of employers, and supporting more than 5,000 leaves in Cocoon, we have more conviction than ever that technology has the power to transform taking and managing leave. Today, we’re excited to share our evolved and expanded vision, along with the technology that will power it — with an all new look and feel.