Being a Parent at Planes

28th Mar 2022

A guest blog piece written by Sophie Aspden, People Lead at Planes Studio.

Being a parent is a full-time job; being a parent and working is a superpower.

1 in 7 of the UK workforce have caring responsibilities, but the average working day feels like it’s designed around a carefree 30-something-year old with endless cash, time and brain-space. That isn’t the reality and it shouldn’t be.

We want parents at Planes to feel like they can make space for work and family. But in an agency environment, when client needs and deadlines are what keeps us going, how do you make sure all your projects stay flexible enough for everyone?

There are a few simple policies that companies can put in place to make sure there’s support for the widest possible variety of needs. That way, we’re not just helping parents, but anyone with other needs and responsibilities.

At Planes, we’re in a lucky position to be able to offer a longer paid parental leave. But some of these policies don’t cost anything to implement. Providing more flexibility to a person's working day and prioritising communication is free.

Because we shouldn’t expect anyone to be superheroes (even if we think most of our team are).

Flexible policies for balancing work and family

If the past 2 years of a global pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that’s hybrid working is here to stay. And rightly so: we’re proud that our team don’t feel like they have to run in for 9am or stay until 6pm.

Flexible working is a priority at Planes – in fact, we’ve been in Flexa’s Top 20 Most Flexible Companies in the world for two years running.

A lot of our policies – including our flexible working policy – are built on the fact that we trust the people we hire to make decisions that are in the best interests of themselves and Planes: decisions about working hours, working locations and how we work as a team.

When it comes to our parental policy, we trust people to be responsible parents, so we give them the space to put family first. Whether that’s the option to change your working hours, work remotely or take emergency time off, paid or unpaid.

Nate joined us recently as a Product Manager and as a relatively new dad. He jumped straight into leading a project and was able to design the project cadence around what worked best for the whole team. Sometimes he even brings his little one to standups :)

“As a new parent, I feel that Planes actively seeks to build the best environment for producing great work and raising a family. They understand and encourage flexible working which is so needed for the unpredictability of parenthood - especially while it's all so new!” - Nate, Product Manager

Communicating our needs

A flexible working culture is great, but what happens when you’re working with other client teams that might not have the same approach?

We encourage project kick-offs with Team Canvas where every individual on the project can share their skills, role and goal, and the team has an opportunity to share their values and agree on a purpose. It means everyone feels comfortable sharing what works for them and what doesn’t – like hours that might clash with childcare. It also establishes an open dialogue so it’s easier to communicate if something unexpected comes up.

This worked great for Nate as a stand-up between 9-10 am just doesn’t work when you have to do nursery drop off, so their team all catch up at 11.30 am each day. Something that’s not only benefited the parents but also given the whole team much more flexibility in the mornings. This also works for Angus, Product Manager and dad.

“Planes encouraged a project kickoff that would take into account everyone’s needs and responsibilities in and outside work. This gave me the space to communicate how my family life interacts with my work. We’ve arranged standups so I can take my daughter to nursery without a mad rush. And if something comes up I know I have the support of the team to put my family first.” - Angus, Product Manager

And if there’s something planned for after work or an away day? We cover the costs of childcare so everyone has the opportunity to join. That includes partners too.

Parental leave that’s designed for inclusivity

Our parental policy is for all Planes team members who are parents or will become parents in the future, whether that is through adoption, surrogacy or as birth parents. It’s a gender-neutral policy too, so regardless of gender or sexual orientation, our team are able to take up to 4 months of parental leave at full pay, which they can take however they like within the first 18 months of their child's life.

Having spoken to lots of returning parents after leave, I know it can be super daunting to leave and come back to the office after being out for so long – and having your priorities completely shift in that time.

We assign people buddies and take them back through onboarding, introducing them to our current projects and any big things that happened during their parental leave.

Ryan has recently come back from parental leave, and while we missed him a lot, it’s amazing to see him feel rested (!) and supported as he rejoins us full-time.

“Taking such a large chunk of time off as one of the leadership team is really scary. It’s easy to think some things will go off track when you’re away. But it’s amazing what can be achieved with a supportive team. After four months away I have: a partner who has felt supported; a baby who I feel a close connection with; and a work team who have learnt so much through taking on new responsibilities in my absence. Wins all round if you ask me." - Ryan, Founder

There’s also a whole load of flexibility companies can introduce around returning to work after parental leave: phasing your return, using holiday days to reduce the working week or pro-rata, and the option to work up to 10 days during your leave.

We also strongly believe that any parental policy should include loss of pregnancy. Pregnancy loss is devastating and is a bereavement that isn’t isolated to just mothers or heterosexual couples.

Policies around flexibility and parental leave are important to get right. But it’s a culture of open communication that really makes sure a team feels supported and comfortable to be able to balance work and family. And that comes for free.
This article was originally published on the Planes' blog page on February 17th 2022.

If you'd like to learn more about Planes and their approach to flexible working, you can check out their company page and live vacancies, here!