Stacey Lim, a Senior Wellbeing Solutions Program Manager at Sequoia Consulting Group, has taken two parental leaves in two different states, as well as one leave with Cocoon, and one without — something that makes her a bit of an expert on the topic, having lived it from various perspectives. Her experiences demonstrate not only the complexities of planning and taking leave, but also the great things that can happen when employers consider and implement employee feedback to improve the leave experience.
Paint us a picture of your first parental leave
“I got pregnant at the end of 2019, and had to make the nerve-wracking announcement to HR and my manager — all while news about COVID-19 was ramping up. The HR generalist did a really brief walkthrough of what to expect, but we both knew that there was more to it than that. At this time, we were living in Arizona, which doesn’t have a state disability program, and the company policy at Sequoia varied by state. It was a lot to plan and figure out.”
How did planning and taking your first parental leave go?
“In those days, there were just a few parental leaves a year at Sequoia, so there wasn’t a robust process around it. Depending on who your manager was, if they had taken leave or knew about it, your experience would vary. As an advocate manager, I had some familiarity with the process, but it’s so different when you do it while pregnant and as a new mother versus advising someone who is.”
“When I was out on leave, I felt like I didn’t have the time or the brain to do all the paperwork and keep track of it. I had to make specific time to go through emails, and sometimes they were from months back. Coming back to work was also kind of clunky, like how do I say I’m ready and how will they prepare for my arrival? Will the transition be smooth? How do I set my nursing schedule? Questions you don’t want to ask, but need the answers for.”
What changed at Sequoia between your first and second leave?
“There were dozens of babies born during the pandemic, so they realized it was time to revisit the parental leave policy. Soon after coming back from my first leave, Sequoia announced they were changing their process and policy, and even asked for my feedback. They made the policy the same across all states and started implementing Cocoon. That really seemed to give HR and employees the confidence knowing things were more universal and Cocoon was the leave sidekick.”
How did your second leave pan out?
“It was like night and day. Despite being in California this time (which has a lot more requirements and steps), I felt way more confident and supported. I loved that in Cocoon I could start planning before I even took leave. The portal was a game-changer to get answers to candid questions in real time, and play with my leave timeline and payouts. Then when I was on leave, I could log in and know where things stood without having to reach out to coworkers or meticulously skim through emails. I didn’t have to waste energy even worrying about tracking those things because it was all right there.”
What were the major differences you noticed having Cocoon vs. not?
“Having one central place for all parties with accurate and detailed information is critical. Cocoon breaks down your wage payout so there aren’t any payroll snafus or hiccups. The rules from your employer and government are codified so you know what the policy is, what’s approved, what the parameters are. You aren’t relying on email threads or random meetings from three months ago to piece it together yourself.”
“Another thing that was huge is that I actually felt like I got confirmation on things like claims submissions, so I could close out of something instead of worrying about it, if it was received, and then not having any idea who to call or how to check on it. It allowed me to better focus on my work before I left, not having to look stuff up or call during work hours. Not to mention the peace of mind I got not remotely having to worry about pay while on leave. I could simply focus on my family.”
How did your leaves change your relationship with your employer?
“Cocoon was a game-changer for us. Before, we were a little lost, and colleagues used to ask for and share tips about leave. Now that Cocoon is implemented, though, I don’t really see those conversations so we can focus on deeper kinds of support. Talking to other parents and people in different industries, I realized how great the benefits we offer are. We have a great leave policy, a supportive culture, and all of that’s codified in Cocoon. I think everybody is a lot more comfortable about the subject of leave, whether you’re taking one or supporting someone through it, which is huge.”