by Steve Warren, EMEA Customer Support, Zuora
I’ve recently returned from benefiting from Zuora’s amazing Parental leave policy and thought it would only be right to share my experiences.
Firstly, let’s get things straight, I am not your typical blogger! I’m a traditional British gent, who generally doesn’t go overboard in celebrating things (we leave that to our American friends) and is not always great at sharing feelings or emotions. I’m the kind of guy that likes to get my head down and plough on. So the fact that I am writing this speaks volumes.
It’s safe to say that when the new parental leave policy was announced, I actually wasn’t paying much attention and it would have completely gone over my head had one of my colleagues (cheers Jyoti) pointed it out to me. My son, Sebastian, had already been born and I’d had my statutory Paternity leave of 2 weeks, so I wrongly assumed that it wouldn’t apply to me. It was only when it was pointed out that the 6 months (yes, you read right!) was available within the first year of my Sebastian’s life, I had to confirm I wasn’t dreaming. A quick email to HR sorted all that out and I was left with the prospect of having to take 5 and a half more months of leave. Result!
Strangely the first thought that went through my head wasn’t ‘when should I take it’? I found myself wrestling with the idea of whether I would be letting my colleagues down and if it would affect my career prospects. This is probably an indicator of what issues lie with societal norms and how striking a good work life balance is not always top of people’s agendas, which is a topic for another day, but it was something I didn’t need to worry about at Zuora. Needless to say a quick chat with a colleague resulted in some thought provoking dialogue and ultimately centered around what kind of father I would be if I was offered the chance to spend 6 months watching Sebastian grow up and supporting Louise, my Partner, but didn’t take it. My mind was made up.
The next struggle came with deciding when and how to take the leave. Our incumbent HR system at the time wasn’t really geared up for it and plotting out dates came in the form of my google calendar. It was also difficult determining whether to take it all at the start, in one block or at the end. I was fairly new to Zuora, so had only recently learned the ropes, but the flexibility of the policy made everything so much easier.
I settled with taking approximately every other week off for the first 2 months, a 5 week period over Christmas, back to every other week and then a 3 month period in one block at the end of my son’s first year (aimed at helping Louise transition back to work smoothly). A few meetings with my manager and a degree of flexibility on all sides and the dates were booked in.
With that set in stone, it was time to prepare myself for raising a baby. I did what every new parent does and asked family, friends and colleagues for advice as to how I can play my part over the next 6 months. The first response to most of my enquiries was “6 months, how have you managed that?” A friend who works high up in her company’s HR department tried to convince me that the policy was not what I thought, and when showing her the policy she simply replied “well I never, you do work for a very forward thinking company”. Louise couldn’t believe it either, surely there was bound to be some reason it would be withdrawn. This is testament to how unique and groundbreaking Zuora’s parental leave policy was. I knew then, how lucky I was to work here.
Then came the day for my first week of parental leave and then there was no denying that this was for real. I was on hand to make breakfasts, change nappies, cover nap times and everything in between. One real eye opener was when I attended several local baby groups and I was almost exclusively the only father there. It’s amazing what father’s can take for granted when their partner’s are keeping it all together, while you sit in the relative normality of a work routine. Being at home changed all of that.
It’s difficult to express in a blog, all of the moments – I was able to experience by being at home for six months. From the first experience of solid food, crawling to walking, teething, laughing – the list goes on. Not to mention Sebastian was able to see his father busy with everyday tasks, which can be more interesting and sociable, than being stuck at home all day with Mother. I know for a fact that without Zuora’s parental leave policy, I would have missed out on an awful lot of them, which is something I don’t say lightly and I am eternally grateful for. These are unseen and probably overlooked effects of allowing parents to be involved so much in your child’s first year. The impact this has on employee morale should not be underestimated as well as the positive effect it has on future generations.
I returned to work feeling like I had played a pivotal role in raising Sebastian and was quick to share my experience with my colleagues. While there were plenty of jibes about whether I remembered what I actually did for a living, people were genuinely interested in how I’d spent my time. I’d always known the culture at Zuora was something special, but not much more could convince me that I probably work for one of the best companies in the world.