Why “Family First” Works For Upserve

As the VP of Talent at Upserve, I have the pleasure of working with amazing people during my ‘nine to five’; however, what you won’t see on my LinkedIn profile is that I get to go home to two even MORE amazing people…my two young daughters! In the years since adding ‘mom’ to my resume, I’ve come to realize that putting family first is much more than having a great maternity or paternity leave policy; it’s about allowing everyday flexibility, and about prioritizing results over hours. More than anything, putting family first means ‘keeping the main thing the main thing’ (a Jim Barkesdale quote that we display prominently here at Upserve). This means that “family first” is the mantra here. Because let’s face it – the main thing is always family.

Traditional Parental Leave Policies Get A New Face

In Rhode Island, we have generous job protection for Family and Medical Leave (our FMLA offers 13 weeks of coverage vs. the typical 12). Most employees also pay into Temporary Disability and Temporary Caregiver Insurance, which allows parents to recoup some of their wages in the case of leave.

Still, the salary cap for TDI and TCI is aggressively low and even under the best of circumstances covers only about 66% of wages – and, it takes 3 to 4 weeks for the first check to arrive. Yikes! With the majority of daycares not accepting newborns until 6 to 8 weeks, mothers are left with few options but to stay home without pay – an economic hardship for any family. What better way to welcome that bundle of joy into your life than to not get paid for a month…!

Unfortunately, most companies do not supplement this with their own paid leave for mothers. And, despite research showing that fathers taking parental leave early on in a child’s life will establish an important foundation for how involved they will be in later years, it’s even more uncommon for companies to provide leave to fathers.

On the heels of many ‘tech giants’ changing both their maternity and paternity leave policies, Upserve recently gave its parental leave policies a facelift. We now provide salary continuation for up to 12 weeks for mothers. And, because paternal involvement is a more significant factor in women returning to the workforce than generous maternity leave, we also provide up to 4 weeks for fathers/non-birthing partners.

Ultimately, though, our position on family-friendly workforce policies rests on the idea that leave alone doesn’t help parents. Parents need policies that go beyond the first three months so that they do not feel that it’s an either/or choice for being part of the workforce.

Take The Time You Need When You Need It

At the same time our parental leave changed, we also changed our time off policy. We moved away from a tenure-based accrual (work a certain number of days, get a certain number of hours) to simply, ‘take the time you need, when you need it’. This is incredibly powerful for a few reasons:

First, It eliminated bean counting and made our culture the driving force behind our policy. At Upserve, we value impact not hours; so if we’re not counting the hours you’re at your desk, why would we count the hours you aren’t at your desk? For new parents, this means not having to worry about draining your vacation days to cover the numerous trips to the pediatrician your child will likely take during that first year!

Second, we did not define what need looks like. For parents like Jeb Barnes, this means having the flexibility to attend his son’s daycare for a ‘daddy visit’ event.

“I attended the event with zero guilt, and was able to stay in contact with the team via slack, text and email.” During the snowy season, it could mean choosing to stay home on a snow day instead of trekking your child to the sitter.

Personally, I have never more grateful for our time-off policy than this last Fall when my grandfather fell ill. I was able to be by his side during a crucial week, without worrying about whether I had to take unpaid leave in order to do so.

Family First At Upserve

At Upserve, putting family first means making the choices that are right for you.

We are a family friendly workplace, that practices “work-life integration”. But we are not turning a blind eye to the reality of what it takes to achieve work-life balance. As a startup, we know it’s impractical to assume that work never bleeds over into home time, and vice versus. Instead of fighting to keep the two separate, we make sure that our perspective on family reflects the values of our employees.

Katsu Okuma, our Support Team Lead and father of two, shared that

“… having the flexibility of working for a performance based company allows me the freedom to be there for my family at the odd times that they require. Being able to pick my son & daughter up regularly means the world to me and knowing that my work isn’t suffering as a result is an added bonus.”

Upserve employees are encouraged to work with their managers on a schedule that both allows them to be present for every part of their children’s’ lives (drop-offs, dinners, recitals sports outings, etc.) while also meeting the objectives and goals of their role.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, our “family first” workplace policies rest on the idea that leave alone doesn’t help families. You need policies that go beyond the first three months of a child’s life, so that your team does not feel that it’s an either/or choice of being a great parent or pursuing a career they love. Now, with that, I’ve got bedtime stories to read…goodnight!

Alaina Restivo
Written by
Alaina is a Rhode Island native with a passion for the beach and all things seafood. She has more than a decade of experience creating high performing teams at companies such as McKinsey & Company and Teach For America and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and Human Resource Management from The George Washington University. Given a choice, her last meal would be a fresh lobster roll from Kennebunk, ME.