Events Apr 17, 2020

In order to continue to provide interesting and practical advice, tips and tricks to our network of entrepreneurs and others from the tech ecosystem, we at the Partech Shaker have moved from the real to the virtual, hosting numerous interactive webinars that everyone is welcome to join.

This week, the discussion focused on parenting while working remotely, and how both can interfere with life as an entrepreneur. To discuss this topic, we were pleased to welcome Antoine Reure, Senior Sales at Alan and parent of 2, Julien Niquet, CEO and co-founder of Epsor, as well as a father of 4 (including one set of twins), and Eugénie Chaltiel, CEO of High Flyers and mother of 2.

The webinar began with some general discussion about the speakers’ experience within their respective companies in terms of having children. Julien, Epsor, said that following the birth of his first two children, he was surprised to learn that his partner would be having twins, a great shock considering the pair were already managing their work-life balance with two children. Eugénie discussed how after working for 3 years in M&A, she had a strong ambition to maintain her professionalism while having children, while also being flexible enough that she was always able to reach them. With her second child, she took no maternity leave, but was fortunate enough to have her mother around who was able to help with childcare.

Our own Sarah Huet, General Manager of the Partech Shaker, has her own experience with having children while maintaining a career. She contributed to the discussion by explaining how at the time of her having her first child, companies were not as willing to make concessions to parents, and she was therefore still flying when she was 7 and a half months pregnant!

To combat this lack of consideration to new parents, Alan introduced the Parental Act into their company. The scheme benefits second parents, regardless of gender or status. It covers a period of at least 4 weeks, because this is believed to be the minimum time needed to welcome a newborn and to establish more balanced family habits. The scheme compensates salaries at 100% because it is important that financial means are not a determining factor in being an active parent. Alan does not take this act lightly, allowing their employees an extended period of 5 weeks leave (from the day of the birth of the child). During this leave, it is vital that employees disconnect from the business, removing any distraction such as email or group message notifications. This act is not only beneficial to the second parent, but to the other partner who will enjoy more support during those early stages.

As well as implementing the Parental Act, Antoine explained how giving parents freedom during their employment with the insurance company is important, with parents being allowed to end their day at the time that suits them with no questions asked, if they have prior commitments to their children.

The discussion then moved to discussing the impact of self-isolation and confinement on employees’ personal lives. Confinement can be a highly emotional time; however it is evident that children are more than happy to experience home schooling and to spend a longer period of time with their parents, with whom they are locked in their house/apartment. The question was asked: what are the consequences of this period?

The question was answered first with the discussion of sacrifice. Being an entrepreneur consumes a lot of energy, and so people regularly struggle with finding that suitable work/life balance. Usually, sacrifices must be made on both regards. However, in a lock-down life, it must also be recognized that this work/life balance is somewhat easier to manage. With both being in the same location, you can spend more time with your children while spending an equally increased amount of time on work. However, there is a question of the sustainability of this way of life, regarding the economic situation that could become an issue. With both children and parents in the same house, providing three meals a day for all is now both a necessity and a financial burden.

Working at home also removes a lot of the social pressure that families find themselves experiencing in their every day lives. With a necessity to stay inside the house comes less of a pressure to go to restaurants or attend social functions, and in some ways the confinement period has brought about old-fashioned practices which see families focusing on their household.

As well as returning to old fashioned practices, leisure activities are also changing, meaning that the amount we spend is being impacted. Holidays are no longer the norm, and families are finding themselves having a better time spending time with their families in their own homes, meaning in the future holidays may be far less common.

One thing that remote working has taught our speakers/parents is that screen time control is vital. For a child to see their parent interacting with a screen enforces the impression that they can also do the same. Therefore, it is important to limit the parents’ time on their phones/tablets to maintain their child’s healthy relationship with technology.

Julien of Epsor acknowledges that even though society has come a long way in terms of how it reacts to pregnancy within the workplace, women can still feel embarrassed when it comes to announcing their pregnancy. Therefore, at Epsor, they try to create the most positive environment possible, even from the start when the candidates are having interviews. It is important that this consideration trickles down from the leadership, including founders, so that the whole business is built on these positive notions of pregnancy and parenthood.

Many companies are going above and beyond when it comes to what they offer parents. Alan (as well as other large companies such as Twitter) offers employees unlimited holidays. This creates a business structure based on performance (OKRs) and therefore reaching your set goals is satisfactory to management.

The Parental Act and company offerings may look desirable on paper, but Julien says that there must be consistency between that which is offered on paper and what the company delivers. Entrepreneurs must create a company culture that delivers its promises and treats its employees with respect. Since the company essentially is the sum of individuals who works for it, there exists a lot of mimicry from employees of management. Therefore, it is vital that management lead by example.

Having discussed screen time briefly earlier in the webinar, it soon become the focus, with a question asked directly relating to how is the best way to manage screens within the house while working remotely. For some of our speakers, limiting the time that children are permitted to watch television is key, i.e. 1 hour of cartoons a day that the children themselves can choose, teaching them a sense of responsibility. This responsibility is also enforced by asking the children themselves to limit their own screen time. By asking kids to turn off the television after an hour, you are teaching them to understand how to manage screens on their own terms, therefore making them more likely to understand why they must switch off after a set amount of time.

Recommended links & readings:

The book “La puissance de la joie”

The Parental Act:

Julia, HR manager at Epsor, shared her tips on to manage lockdown, have a look!