PredictHQ's flexibility and our 10 week full-pay parental leave policies
This year has pushed people incredibly hard. As someone working in the people and culture space, it has been an extraordinary year watching the world switch almost completely to remote work. Teams have had to rebuild how they communicate and collaborate as many team mates add home-schooling and non-stop childminding to their daily workload.
It’s been a lot. It’s also been an opportunity for companies to think long and hard about what role they want to play in their team’s lives, and how to truly support people during a shockingly hard year for many. Our team is across New Zealand and the United States, which have had truly divergent experiences of the pandemic so we have been proactive since January when we realised a lot was about to change.
As a company that has both lateral thinking and family comes first as two of our five core values, 2020 provided a huge opportunity to step up and live our values. There have been lots of incremental changes, but today I want to focus on a few major initiatives we launched this year to look after our team.
Our hybrid policy: choose where you work
Prior to COVID-19, working from home wasn’t common at PredictHQ. We have a high collaboration culture and had invested a lot of thinking and effort into designing offices that enabled teamwork and deep work. But as everyone shifted home, we realised in many ways we were already working remotely: half our team in the US and the other half is in NZ.
How you work best is highly personal. The shift to remote work was hard for some, but loved by others, particularly in our technical teams in New Zealand. We conducted a series of surveys to work out what people were loving (so we could keep enabling it) and what people were hating (so we could solve it). The consistent feedback was people wanted the flexibility of working from home, but also the stability and sense of community that comes from working in an office.
We used these insights to create a hybrid model where people can work from home two days a week, and from the office for three days. These in-office days were:
A whole office day: In New Zealand on Friday, our whole team comes into the office. This enables people to meet and mingle with team mates they might not otherwise connect with, as well for whole team sessions.
A team day: Set by each team, there is a second day a week that ensures you can be in the office with your entire team.
An individually set day: Left to the individual, this is a third day in the office that they can choose.
The other two days are work-from-home days, if you want to. There are many team members who are still coming in five days a week and there likely always will be. We feel this three and two provides enough structure, team connection and support for people, even those who are choosing to work full time for the office. We also organise many office and team activities to encourage connection, community and health.
10 weeks fully paid parental leave
We were also thrilled to launch the first iteration of our parental leave policy at PredictHQ: 10 weeks fully paid for all parents welcoming a new child into their home regardless of where they work.
This policy had been in the works for months. We collaborated closely with our PHQ Parents steering committee (one of member, Ron, is pictured below signing his contract to join our team) to identify exactly what would be most needed and wanted. The steering group shared their experience of having kids and taking leave in previous roles, and we pooled together all their insights to create our approach.
The key theme that kept coming through was people wanted time and understanding. Gifts such as hampers and meal kits are lovely gestures, but ultimately our team was clear they wanted to maximise time off to bond with their new family member, as well as patience and understanding as they returned to work. This understanding also extended to the very real need for flexibility for new parents so we avoided creating hard and fast rules or processes around when people had to take leave or return to work. We’ve always had a kids corner in the office but it was really important to us to ensure that any team member got the first couple of months off to focus 100% on their family.
The final step was reviewing the Californian and New Zealand environments to get a sense of what’s expected and what people would hope for. All of these factors led us to commit to 10 weeks of full pay (topped up by PredictHQ on top of government support) equally offered to all new parents, regardless of gender.
Family and Friends Day
As mentioned, one of our core values is friends and family come first. During this year of chaos and stress, everyone needed extra encouragement to take a break and reset. To encourage everyone to rest and regenerate by connecting with their friends and family, we launched an annual Friends and Family days. This is a company-wide initiative where PHQ closes for a long weekend to spend with friends and family. The US team takes the Friday off for a long weekend and the New Zealand team takes the following Monday off.
New Zealand has been luckier than many countries with this pandemic. Our team mates in the USA have had a very different experience and are looking ahead to a difficult winter. We are all hopeful of the arrival of a vaccine shortly, but until then, we are investing in supporting them through this period. We will continue to subsidise tutors for our team mates who are now managing their children’s distance education throughout the day, and are proactive in encouraging teammates to take leave whenever they need it. We also recently signed up to a mental health and meditation subscription, to support team members beyond their EAP access.
If there is a silver lining of this COVID pandemic, it’s that the world had to re-humanise work. Even in a company that has always been proactive and encouraging of people putting their family first, realising team members had kids, parents, pets on top of them when previously they were unencumbered in an office was a reminder we’re not robots. We got a glimpse into other people’s lives, and it gave us all a chance to reflect on what was really important. One of our company values is to enjoy the journey, which to me has also always meant supporting our team along the way. We look forward to 2021 and continually growing a caring and empathetic culture. And if our culture sounds like a fit for you, we would love to hear from you.