Welcoming a child while working at a tech startup can seem like an overwhelming life change.
In a world where everyone is already strapped for time, you’re going to take three months away from your role!? It sounds scary, but at Cockroach Labs, we’re working on ways to make this stressful time easier, and I’m excited to share more about our programs for Roachers who are starting or growing their families.
For starters, if you think the technology industry is just startups full of recent college graduates, think again! At Cockroach, our average employee is 35 years old. 30% of our team has children, and we average 2 children per family with more Little Roachers on the way!
As much as possible, our guides and programming are focused on using inclusive language. We prefer to talk about growing families rather than just childbirth specifically. Where we used to give out onesies upon a child’s arrival, we recently switched to bibs because they’re suitable for a broader age range of new children (and more long-lasting than the onesies anyways). All the programs mentioned here apply to any parent at Cockroach Labs, regardless of gender and how the new family member is arriving.
We were never prouder than when our co-founder, Ben Darnell, announced he’d be unplugging for twelve weeks with the arrival of his first child. When asked what he was most excited about, another new dad said, “Bonding with my baby. Helping to equalize parental expectations and responsibilities.”
Thanks to our partnership with Cleo, we had experts help us start Parental Leave Guides for employees. Even before Roachers have announced that their family will be growing, they can access our Preparing for Parental Leave Guide with pointers on breaking the news to their manager and team. The guide continues with communicating time off needs in advance of the child’s arrival, documenting responsibilities for handoff, and tips for the actual transition to leave. Inevitably, this can be a time for nerves and our goal with the guides is to recognize and normalize those feelings. Dan Kelly in Marketing, who took 12 weeks of leave, said, “It doesn't feel good to abandon your team for 3 months. Before I took the leave, I kept asking to make sure it was truly okay, and everyone kept assuring me that it was.”
All parents who have worked at Cockroach Labs for 30 days or more are eligible for up to 12 weeks of fully paid parental leave. Together with our flexible time off policy, Roachers can take an additional two weeks of paid time off (PTO) for a cumulative parental leave of 14 weeks during the year following a child’s arrival. Our benefits are coordinated with state-mandated programs, as applicable, and our People Operations team works with each Roacher on a customized leave plan. We encourage parents to take leave time in minimum one-week increments, which eases the administrative burden for everyone involved and increases quality time for families.
Of course, some parents decide to take one month at a time at various points throughout the first year of their child’s arrival. Other parents are back in action after a week or two away, and many exhaust every moment of 14 weeks all at once. We’re as flexible as possible with plans that feel comfortable for parents and have found that preparing and communicating plans with teams is key. Giving families support and options with the time away is our primary aim. When we recently surveyed leave-taking parents about our current policy, their average satisfaction with our current offering was 9.3 on a 10-point scale.
We offer several perks in association with the arrival of a Little Roacher. Our welcome pack includes a bib, and we wrap two board books: a "C is for Cockroach" bug alphabet book and a first coding book. A $500 baby bucks bonus is a nod to the uptick in expenses that parents experience with a growing family. While these perks are fun, much of the positive feedback we get is for services and support through Cleo. Parents are most grateful for access to lactation and sleep consultants that help solve a few of the key concerns during the first year following birth -- both are provided through Cleo.
Retaining the great people we’ve attracted to Cockroach Labs is a critical goal of our parental support strategy. An often-cited statistic from Harvard Business Review notes that 43% of women with children will voluntarily take time off from their careers at some point. We want to ensure the decision to off-ramp from a career is not impacted by a lack of support at Cockroach Labs. Accordingly, we partner with managers to develop a Return to Roach Guide for parents who have taken an extended leave. This guide contains logistics details about our Family Room which is prioritized as a lactation space (but includes a changing station and a few toys if a little Roacher swings by the office with their parent). Parents are prompted to consider if they’d like a modified return to work schedule. The simplest form of this is a schedule where Flexible Fridays convert to Family Fridays for an 80% schedule that is fully paid for up to 12 weeks. Our managers are used to developing starter projects for new hires, so returning Roachers have a 30-60-90 day plan with a work project focus accompanied by a framework for learning, performance, and personal goal-setting during the transition.
Just as our onboarding program includes a Roachmate onboarding buddy, the Return to Roach includes a ReRoachmate. ReRoachmates are allies and parenting peers who help returning Roachers in many of the ways that new hires get help. After 3 months away, it can feel like you’re joining a new company, so ReRoachmates help us normalize the transition back to work. ReRoachmates are encouraged to swap stories about what happened at work and how it was at home. Celia La, an engineer who took 14 weeks of leave, said, “Be kind to yourself: It'll take 3 months after returning to work to feel back to pre-baby work-self. Lean on your fellow parents; sometimes, just talking about how you're feeling to others can be helpful.” ReRoachmates are our way of networking parents across the company to share perspectives and tips on working parent life.
Having built strong resources for Roacher parents, we plan next to develop leave guides for managers to mirror the guides we have for parents themselves. Proper expectation-setting is a big part of a successful parental leave experience, and we hear from parents that this can always be improved.
At the same time, we strive to stay current with our benefits. Where we already offer a medical plan with up to $10,000 of advanced reproductive technology, our team is growing curious about other perks like egg freezing, and we assess the complete menu of benefits each year.
Suffice to say, I’m proud of what we can offer Roachers with families today and expect that our programs will only be enriched in the future. If you’re a parent or considering parenthood in the long haul, be sure to check out our careers page!