One in six people feel as though their career opportunities are reduced after communicating that they want to take parental leave.1
But at Octopus, we understand that supporting employees through life events such as having children, is part of our role as an employer.
Not only do we believe in encouraging all our employees to take this time for their family, but we think becoming a parent gives you a new perspective and can power up your career.
Ruth Handcock, CEO of Octopus Investments, thinks taking time off to have children can be “a career superpower”. So, she convened a panel discussion with other parents at Octopus, to talk about their experiences and how taking leave has positively impacted their careers.
Q. What was your experience of taking parental leave?
“I was one of the first male employees to take shared parental leave at Octopus,” explains Ben Charrington, Area Sales Manager at Octopus Investments. “Initially I was worried about how it might be perceived, but I spoke to Ruth and she listened to my concerns,”
“You have to trust in the process and that the business is there to support you.”
Richard Vranch, Head of Internal Sales, agrees. He shared some of the same concerns.
“You really do have to trust the process. I was nervous about my role having paternity cover, because as much you want your replacement to do a good job, you want your team to be pleased about your return.”
“I had an amazing experience taking leave though. At the end of the three months, I felt as much a parent as my wife.”
“It’s definitely not time off, it’s hard work. Coming back to the office honestly felt like a holiday.”
Q. How has becoming a parent changed your outlook on work? Has it had a positive impact on your career?
“I’ll admit, at first I was really anxious about coming back. But having adapted, I love my job as much as ever,” says Sophie Ludlow, Head of Customer Team at Octopus Real Estate.
“It forced me to take much better care myself.”
“I can’t be a good mum and good at my job if I don’t look after myself. So I now make full use of all our fantastic employee wellbeing services.”
Libby Coe, who was promoted to Head of Retail Marketing shortly after returning from parental leave, also admitted to feeling overwhelmed at first.
“I was dropping balls everywhere. But a friend said to me, some of them you can afford to let fall on the floor and crack, others you can’t. It really helped me prioritise. I just had to let some things I used to work on before I left slide and focus on what really had to get done.”
“I’m also much more precious with my time too,” agrees Sophie.
“I’m only working on projects I’m really interested in and that will make a difference to my career.”
This is something that Ruth values in parental leave. There’s satisfaction in being able to start your diary from scratch when returning from parental leave. You can get rid of recurring meetings and projects you don’t need to oversee, for example.
She also feels having children can help you become a better manager.
“Before having kids you approach people very logically,” says Ruth. “But kids are erratic and if you’re managing a big team of people, they’ll all be very different too. So I applied some of things I was learning at home to how I manage people at work.”
Q. Do you have any advice for parents and managers?
“Be transparent with your manager,” says Liv Howard, an Executive Assistant.
“My manager and I had conversations about my three to five-year plan. I was honest about wanting to have children in that time.”
Ruth pushes and encourages this transparency: “Don’t be nervous and don’t apologise!”
“It’s an amazing time in your life and you should want to take time off. Encourage other people around the business to take theirs too.”
“Managers should help their employees plan so business can continue and they can have the best experience possible.”
It’s also culturally important that managers and colleagues are kind to returning parents.
“I think it’s really nice when managers ask not just how I am, but also my child. It just shows they care about you as a person,” says Libby.
“Sometimes you’re coming into work on no sleep, and not for the same reasons you might have done when you were younger!” Richard adds.
“Don’t just dump a load of stuff on people when they return. Be patient and let them settle in, because it can feel a bit like the first day of school again.”
“It’s also completely up to you to decide how you want to begin working again, for example if you want to start part-time. There’s no right or wrong answer, a parental leave policy should be as flexible as possible and there to work around what’s best for you.”
Working at Octopus
Parents at Octopus are entitled to six months paid leave and can take up to a year off. If you’re interested in a career at Octopus, you can find our open roles here.