Just a few of Asana’s parents. From left to right: Prashant, our Engineering Lead, Amanda, our Head of Product Design, Andy, our Talent Lead, and Devon, our Product Marketing Manager.
Being a parent is a huge responsibility, and one that most people wouldn’t marry with the idea of working at a startup. However, finding a balance between family and working at a startup is possible, and there are lots of ways to make the union of being a parent and working in a fast-paced environment a successful one. We think that’s the reason we’re starting to see a lot of really positive changes, with more and more companies beginning to offer perks and benefits to support parents and families, recognizing that the two aren’t mutually exclusive.
At Asana, we’ve made a deliberate effort to foster an inclusive environment where everyone, including parents, can be themselves at work and feel supported in their pursuits and communities outside of work. We asked a few Asana parents what’s it’s really like to work Asana as a parent, and this is what they had to say.
Startups & parenting: an odd couple?Amanda: Coming from a much larger company, the big questions I had were around what it would be like working at a startup and how it would fit with my family. These were addressed — and assuaged — very quickly at Asana. I got the sense, as early as the interview process, that I would have a lot of autonomy and the ability to craft my role. Funnily enough, for my first four weeks — not knowing about what my hours or the expectations of me would be — I invited family to visit so that I’d have extra coverage at home. I was so relieved to see that I didn’t need the extra support, and still don’t. A lot of parents I know are concerned about working at a startup and striking the balance with parenthood; I feel lucky that I haven’t had to worry about that.
Devon: Wherever I work, it’s important for me to feel like my team will take into account the unique situations and priorities each of us have in our lives. It’s so important to work with people who understand that our work is just one aspect of our lives, and, luckily, we see that across the company. Everyone at Asana, whether a parent or not, is really mindful of other people’s responsibilities and interests outside of work. For the parents here, we have a Slack channel where we can talk about benefits, ask each other parenting questions, and share funny stories about our kids. I also love that we’re always welcome to invite our families to company events.
From daycare to daily stand-ups: how it all fits together.
Prashant: Every morning, I drop my kids off at school and hop on public transportation from the East Bay. For me, living in the city as a parent was not a consideration, so I definitely weighed the impact my commute would have on my life, but it turns out I enjoy having that time to myself. I get to work at around 10AM and leave by 7PM–home in time to put the kids to bed.
Devon: My husband and I trade off the early morning shift: getting up with our son, getting him dressed, and taking him to daycare. I do this a few times a week and get to the office really early, which lets me get in some great flow time; I really appreciate those solid two hours of doing more intense thinking work, taking care of tasks that require more attention. Most days, I leave at 5:30pm to pick my son up at daycare, which can be a challenge sometimes. But, I’ve found everyone to be very respectful of my calendar. In the evenings we play, have dinner, do bathtime, and put the baby to bed around 7:30pm. Then I’ll often jump back online for an hour or so to catch up on my Asana Inbox and knock out a few tasks.
Amanda: The way I handle my work-life balance is by spending a good amount of time with my children in the morning before going into work. I try to work from 9:30-4:30 in the office, at which point I head home. It’s really important to me to be home in the evenings to have some time with my kids. Once they’re in bed, I’ll often get back online, which works well for me as a manager: it allows me to process any updates with a cup of tea, and give feedback thoughtfully, without any distractions (and in the comfort of my own home!).
How did you adjust your work style to accommodate being a parent?Becoming a parent not only affects your home life, but also how you work. At Asana, we offer 16 weeks of paid parental leave for all new parents, to be taken in the first year following birth or adoption, as well as flexible working hours that allow parents to balance life at home and the office after a new family member has arrived. Here’s how Asana parents adjusted their work style to accommodate being parents.
Devon: I became more efficient because, as a parent, you really start to focus on optimizing your time. If you’re spending time doing anything, it should be working or parenting, not other things, like commuting.
Andy: One huge adjustment I faced was taking leave. I’ve always loved my work, so taking that much time off was daunting, but Dustin, our co-founder, encouraged me to enjoy this special time in my life and be with my family. Coming back to work after 3 months of paternity leave, I realized that it can take a little while to figure out your baby’s (or in my case, babies’) schedule. You have to figure out what you want to be a part of — whether it’s mornings, bedtime, or both — and working your schedule around that. Now that I’m settled back in, I have set working hours outside of which meetings are never scheduled.
Another thing that’s important to being a working parent is staying focused and present both at work and at home. With my wife, I’ve found that having discussions about my commitment to work, as well as feeling supported for working, is really important to helping me feel productive while at the office.
What part of parenting do you apply to your work as well?
Devon: Parenting has taught me to be more empathetic, and to realize that there are a lot of different ways to do something, and do it well. It’s also made me more comfortable with relinquishing control — like leaving your child at daycare — that it’s okay, and even good. In the workplace, it means letting people take ownership and respecting that there a lot of different approaches to getting things done.
Andy: Starting a family really brought out a more nurturing, relaxed side of me at work. Because I have to delegate more responsibilities and trust that someone else will do something, I feel more relaxed and trusting — kind of like when you first hire a babysitter and have to trust that your children are in good hands!
Prashant: For me, it’s become really important to be clear whether I’m making a promise or saying I’m going to try to do something. Kids have an uncanny way of picking up on the subtle differences between what you say and what you do, and I’ve carried my sensitivity to that over into work. I’m clear about action items I’m signing up for versus those I hope someone takes on at some point. I’ve also learned a lot about positive reinforcement, and carried that over from home life to work life.
Do you use Asana with your family? How does Asana help you as a parent?
Devon: I definitely feel the benefits of knowing that I won’t drop any balls. When you’re a parent, there is a huge priority — your kids — that occupies your mental space. Whether it’s needing to order new sizes of clothes, that they’re sick, or you need a babysitter for an upcoming event, it feels like there’s more of a risk you’ll forget to do something for work. Asana gives me peace of mind that I’m on top of things at work. I know that I’ll get task reminders and things won’t fall through the cracks.
Andy: My wife and I actually used Asana to plan milestones during the pregnancy. Beyond that, it really helps to know that I can get to work and know exactly what I have to work on, and that it’s all in one place.
Prashant: My family and I use Asana for planning vacations and for keeping track of movies we want to watch.
What advice do you have for parents (and parents-to-be) working at or considering joining a startup?
Amanda: It’s really important to know that you can be a really involved parent and also have a leadership position at a startup without feeling like you’re cutting corners.
Devon: Being a working parent at a startup is awesome. There is so much media coverage around how hard it is to balance the two, and — sure — it is hard sometimes, but it allows you to dive into so many facets of your personality and what you enjoy. For me, it’s been about embracing the balance between purpose, maturity, and intellectuality at work and my more nurturing, silly, playful side at home. Luckily, at Asana I get to be silly and playful at work, too!
Prashant: One thing I’ve learned is that if you have needs or constraints as a result of family, to talk to your colleagues and leadership to find a solution. At a startup, new policies are born out of new circumstances all the time, and fostering an environment where people can discuss and implement new solutions is key. We’ve done that in the form of a Slack channel for parents, and planning meetings each roadmap week.
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