Human resources: Mrs Riedel, during your third pregnancy you were promoted to partner. It is not exactly common in the free economy and is considered risky because one could assume that the child is prioritized and not the job. Why did your employer decide to take this step anyway?
Sophie Riedel: In our company, the family is a part of working life. Sometimes children also sit for management meetings, and several managers have to leave work at 14.00 to pick up their offspring from kindergarten. We also offer several benefits that make our corporate culture family-friendly.
What are they?
For example, employees receive 600 euros for the birth of a child, and we pay subsidies for the day care fee. We also have two parent-child rooms with a breastfeeding corner and slide, so children can come to work with us. If they are available, they can also be used differently, but: each child beats each meeting. If someone comes with a child, these rooms must be cleared immediately. The family always comes first. Based on these values, the question did not even arise that my pregnancy could be a career obstacle.
Pregnancy is also associated with job loss and a possible reduction in working hours after parental leave. How to address the potential shortage of staff due to the temporary loss of manpower?
As soon as the pregnancy becomes known, I look at how we can ensure that the pregnant woman can leave work immediately if she wants to. To do this, of course, you need to engage in discussions with that person. What are your expectations? How long would you like to keep maternity leave? Or how long the future father wants to work part-time – it is of course also important to talk to the men here. With all this, I always include deviations to be able to handle a break and a return as flexibly as possible.
How exactly does it work?
For me, the questions are initially central: In what projects is the person involved? And how can I replace their labor without burdening the other colleagues? One solution may be to hire a new full-time or part-time employee, or provide an internal opportunity to try out a new role. Another not to do the customer project in the near future.
But isn’t so much child-friendliness bad for the bottom line?
No, because we initially assume that children are an enrichment for our employees. And thus indirectly also for us. Because when employees are generally happier in their lives, they also do a better job for us. Child friendliness also has little effect on our profitability if we think solution-oriented.
Is it really that easy to implement the flexibility you mentioned in terms of bureaucracy and organization?
Contracts can be customized very quickly by our human resources department. If anyone wants to get back from parental leave faster, we will immediately communicate this to the team and ask who needs support. If someone wants to stay longer on parental leave, we postpone projects or find a replacement for the person. Of course, you need to have quick decision paths and short processes. For us, it’s all about the question: Where do we need to make adjustments in the company so that it works for the person?
It speaks for a culture where the focus is on employees and not profit. How does this affect your business?
We are in the luxury situation that we have enough projects and do not have to accept them all. This makes it even easier to respond to employee needs. We also believe that motivation is more important than anything else. And it increases the more you focus on the employees so they can work more efficiently. This often applies to part-time employees who can leave and enter as the family situation requires.
Those who are in the forefront and get something from the company also give more in return. It has a positive effect on our economy.
Can a career really be made part-time? And how do you define career?
Career has nothing to do with working time but with motivation. If you take on tasks that you can fulfill yourself with and that help you advance yourself, then you can also get a career without working 80 hours a week. For us as managers, it is much more about offering employees a meadow on which they can let off steam. The same can be said for parents who work part-time.
However, the day has only 24 hours. Should the partner provide support if a mother or father wants to make a career?
It does not have to be that one partner works full time and the other puts it aside. Both can work as many hours as they want. To do this, however, the employer must enable them to work flexibly. Nevertheless, you need to support each other in the partnership and plan your everyday life more.
What exactly do you mean by flexibility in this context?
Flexibility concerns both working hours and the workplace. An example: If the daycare is closed due to a Corona case, I block my entire calendar for that day and tell the team that I can not do it today and must look after the children. That’s why I work in the evenings when something is urgent. But I do it not because I have to, but because I want to. And for me, that’s the main difference. Because it’s up to me when I work on the chores. As already mentioned, flexibility also refers to returning after parental leave.
Can all chores really be done in the reduced working hours?
none But it does not matter. The mother or father should decide what he or she is willing to give and what he or she can give. Then he or she must prioritize and find out: What can I get done in the time I have to offer? And how do I use my time most wisely and can I make the most of it? The questions “What do I want?” and “Where do I want to go?” must also be answered. Once answers are found, relevant employees should share them with the employer and the team. Communication and solution-oriented thinking are everything and everything, so that family life and professional satisfaction can be reconciled.
Is editor of Human Resources. Her main focus is on the topics of diversity, equality and balance between work and private life.