Working Out Loud: Flexible Return-to-Work Policies After Parental Leave

March 23, 2021 in Work out loud

Three and a half months after starting my parental leave, I returned to my role as VP, Strategy & Operations at Commit in a part-time capacity.

With up to 18 months of parental benefits available here in Canada, you might think that I’m being pressured to return to work as soon as I can — maybe because things are on fire at our start-up or perhaps I’m scared I’ll be sidelined when I return if I’m gone for too long. Not the case here.

  • We made sure to hire a Manager, Finance & Operations before I went on leave, and Renee has been doing a tremendous job of keeping the wheels on the bus while also helping to build the rocket ship.
  • Commit leadership and the broader Support Team are made up of amazing people – some are parents, all are incredibly respectful of my time with my kid.

So then why am I going back to work already? It’s definitely not because I have this mom thing down pat. Here’s why returning now makes sense for me:

  • Not working in a pandemic is lonely. In pre-pandemic times, I would be hanging out in coffee shops, having play dates with friends, browsing at the library, and volunteering. In these continuing unprecedented times of lockdowns and social distancing, these things aren’t possible and I miss daily adult interactions with people who aren’t my partner (or mom friends – shout out to Diana Chiu for always replying to my texts!).
  • I’m already lurking on Slack when I’m trapped under a napping baby with one free hand to scroll on my phone. I prefer snooping on the Commit Slack channels to doomscrolling on social media. I don’t feel obligated to stay on top of every development, but I do like reading about what’s going on and sometimes chiming in. (And I wrote most of this article on my phone with thumb swipes.)
  • Remote work on a flexible schedule makes it possible. Since our team is 100% remote and works primarily in async ways, I can meaningfully contribute on a part-time basis with unpredictable availability. I’m glad to have the option to engage my brain while still having the flexibility required to take care of a 3-month old who hasn’t realized yet that naps are amazing.

My plan is to start at 3 hours per week to support our EPX & Operations teams in building out and scaling processes, eventually increasing my hours and responsibilities back to full-time.

I’ve put some guardrails in place to make sure that it’s not a slippery slope and my capacity only increases when the timing is right for me, my partner, and my kid. I shared this README with the team so that they can help me be effective and accountable with my limited time:

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With one kid and a partner who also works from home, this is what I think is best for my return to work after parental leave. I’m grateful for a supportive team and remote workplace, which give me the space and autonomy to figure it out. What have you seen work? What has worked for you?

>“It was only in firms where flexibility was the norm, and where very senior men also worked flexibly, that there was no flexibility penalty. ”

— — Terri Apter, “The Female Lead – Women at Work: Breaking Free of The ‘Entitled Mindset’”

Tiffany Jung is VP, Strategy & Operations at Commit. Her focus is on building systems that sustainably scale and her passion is enabling an equitable workforce. Prior to Commit, she practiced law in-house at startups like Hootsuite and Buyatab.