How becoming parents changed the HoneyBook team’s approach to leave
When HoneyBook's Controller and Director of People Operations were planning for parental leave at the same time, they knew it was time for a new approach. Here's how they worked with Cocoon to get the support they needed and how their leave experience changed how they care for employees.
Allie Mintz and Sara Long do a lot together. They both joined HoneyBook nearly seven years ago as the first People and Finance hires, respectively. And since then have grown in parallel to lead ever-expanding teams as HoneyBook’s Director of People Operations and Controller. They even got married just a few months apart. So it only makes sense that in 2021 they were each expecting their first child in quick succession—both welcomed new baby girls that summer.
For years, Allie and Sara co-managed all of the employee leaves at HoneyBook. Wading through payroll, claims, and how to care for employees together along the way. In 2021, with both of their parental leaves close on the horizon, the duo knew they needed a partner to pick up the complexities of planning and managing leave. Now, after being back to work for several months, Allie and Sara have new insight into the experience of taking leave and being a working parent.
There isn’t a template for managing leave
HoneyBook offers employees a generous policy of 4 months of paid parental leave with the option to take two additional months of unpaid, protected time. As many HR leaders know, though, often the most employee-friendly policies are the toughest to manage on your own. Allie and Sara spent years juggling leave management for the whole company as it grew—deciphering taxes, state and local policies, filing claims.
“Many years ago we actually tried to build our own version of Cocoon in spreadsheets,” Allie shares. Sara adds, “We tried to build a template, but everybody’s different. It was just a mess.”
After years of managing other employees’ leaves, thinking about their own was an entirely new challenge. “As we were both approaching maternity leave, we were like, ‘who’s going to handle this?’ We were so in it. Of course we had people on our teams to help us, but can we fully give up that control for ourselves? We had seen how hard it was for people out on leave,” Sara says.
The two Cocoon right before they went on leave and were able to be some of the first HoneyBook employees to take a leave supported by Cocoon. “I didn’t have to do anything on leave. That’s incredible,” Sara remembers.
Parental leave isn’t a vacation
For working parents, taking leave after welcoming a new child is hardly a break. Partnering with Cocoon meant that Allie and Sara could truly commit to all their new duties as moms, instead of “chasing payments all day.”
Allie says, “That really gnarly first month is when you’re also supposed to be figuring out all your leave payments. Especially as a first time parent, to just not have to experience that and to be able to go through a really high touch experience [with Cocoon] was just invaluable. I hope that all working parents get to experience that.”
Allie describes being hit with a “trifecta” as a breastfeeding mother: 1) recovering from giving birth, which was “really intense;” 2) the learning curve of caring for a “tiny human;” and 3) the challenges of breastfeeding. There is so much demanding new parents’ attention at home, they have to trust that their team is going to get the work done, even if it’s not the way they might do it.
New insight into the lives of working parents
Since returning to work, Sara’s priorities shifted. “For years I was building a company and had a grind mentality, sometimes working 70 hours a week. I’m still grinding all day, but now I can’t wait to close my computer and go be with [my daughter].”
Allie agreed, “In the beginning, [a startup] is your baby—at least it was for me, for seven years. When I went on leave, it wasn’t a break. I just shifted my focus to my new baby. So now it’s about trying to balance these competing babies and to make sure each of them is thriving.”
"Now it’s about trying to balance these competing babies and to make sure each of them is thriving." - Allie Mintz, HoneyBook Director of People Operations
Allie’s experience returning to work made it clear employees returning from leave need a lot of support with flexible work hours and reintegrating into work. She says, “A person on my team made me re-onboarding document for my return that kept track of big changes and updates at the company.” Now, the HoneyBook People team is piloting the same type of support of all employees in the U.S. returning from leave.
For Sara, returning was harder than she expected. “I thought it would be really easy to jump back in—I couldn’t wait to have adult conversations. But it was really emotional being apart from my baby after being with her 24 hours a day. I really feel for parents that have to drop their kid at daycare every day.”
Sara and Allie both agreed that new parenthood has reminded them that you never know what someone is going through outside of their workday. Sara says, “You always think of going home to your kids. I didn’t realize until having a baby that they wake up at 6 am and you’ve had three hours of work before you even start your official work hours—and sometimes that’s the only three hours you get to spend with your baby.”
About what Cocoon means for all their employees, Sara noted, “Having an easy and accessible way for people to explore their options for parental or medical leave helps support employees so much more. Employees need to take care of what they need to do for themselves and their family. With Cocoon, now there’s something here to help remove some of that burden.”