Corporate leaders need to advocate for working parents.
A couple months ago I became a father for the second time—a boy; I also have a daughter who is two and a half. I’m still new to this, and I’m sure I have a lot to learn, but the experience has already changed me. In the process, I’ve learned that having children has made me into a better worker as well.
Being a father gave me a new purpose for existing. That newfound purpose has somehow given me the stamina and patience to take on the endless stream of challenges that come along with parenthood. Over the last couple of years, I’ve gotten to be the sole caretaker for my daughter on countless nights and weekends when my wife, a doctor, has been working. While far from easy, this time has given me a deep sense of satisfaction, and I believe my relationships with my wife and daughter have benefited.
I cannot deny that there are unavoidable, day-to-day tradeoffs between being a parent and a professional. There are only so many hours in a day. And yes, sometimes work needs to come first. There’s no perfect answer to these decisions, and it’s not my place to instruct others how to parent. That being said, I believe engaged parents positively impact the long-term well being of their employers.
The first reason is that while it may seem counterintuitive, having the responsibilities of parenthood can actually help you more effectively prioritize your time. While I spend less time overall working now than before, I find myself making better use of it. For example, I prioritize tasks more carefully, and I’m less likely to schedule meetings or write long emails when a quick conversation can suffice. More efficient workers are always in an employer’s best interest.
Second, when employees have the freedom to make choices that are best for them, balancing family and work, they can become their best selves. When the employer plays a role in helping employees achieve that goal, their employee’s loyalty will increase, and the culture of the company will benefit immensely. These days, a soul-sucking company is simply no longer sustainable.
I’ve seen this play out at Airbnb. In 2010, we interviewed Stan Kong for the position of controller in the finance department. We were a much smaller company back then, without an established parental leave policy. During his interview, Stan told us he would need time off when his son was born and some flexibility when he returned. I really admired his commitment to his family. His commitment to the company turned out to be no different.
For these reasons, I’m an advocate of providing more benefits to parents, including paid parental leave. At Airbnb we provide all U.S.-based new parents with 10 weeks of paid leave, as well as the ability to transition back to work with a four-day week for eight weeks thereafter. We are committed to exploring and expanding these benefits.
Of course, I’m well aware that I’m fortunate enough to be able to take this time off—a luxury that many parents cannot afford. But that’s why I think it’s incumbent on those of us in positions of leadership to create a supportive environment that empowers our employees. After all, parents best understand their own needs and can figure out the optimal balance that benefits all parties in the long run.
This Father’s Day, I’m calling upon corporate leaders to embrace paid paternity leave. This is not just an investment in our collective future, but also a benefit that leads to a strong workplace culture. Rather than perpetuating a race to the bottom, smart companies ought to do all they can to champion this long-term shift.
Nathan Blecharczyk is the co-founder and chief strategy officer at Airbnb.