5 Free & Low-Cost Ways Startups Can (& Should!) Support New Parents

5 Free & Low-Cost Ways Startups Can (& Should!) Support New Parents

Your team is small and cash is tight.

But you KNOW that supporting new parents is important.

It’s great for:

  • Retention

  • Recruiting and competing with other companies for talent

  • Showing employees that you care about them as a whole person

  • Doing the right thing in the world

  • Having more cute babies on the planet

  • Furthering humanity (yay procreation!)

It’s especially top of mind right now since not one but TWO women in the Atlanta Ventures family are expecting. Wooooooo!!!!!

This is the first of a few posts all about parental leave at startups — how to do it right even when teams are small and budgets are tight.

We’re gonna start with FREE (and low cost) ideas to support new parents!

Available to any company regardless of size or budget.

Here are the top 5 things you can do to support new parents that are within any startup budget!

1. Ask What They Want

Start with a conversation. So simple yet so often missed.

  • How can we support you?

  • What are you envisioning post-baby?

  • What matters to you most?

Don’t assume you know what someone wants or what the right thing is for them!

I know some parents (including birthing mothers) who don’t like to be out of touch for long. It’s more stressful to not know what’s going on than to be reading work emails during a 3am feeding.

This was not me :) I can’t turn off my brain if I see communication coming through. So I had a plan to get weekly updates sent to my personal email. Anything urgent or need-to-know was a text.

With some families, they want to stagger time off. So one parent will go back to work right away but then take time off for caretaking when the other parent goes back.

Others want all hands on deck or don’t have childcare secured yet.

Some parents would rather have a little time off before the baby is born. Others want to be distracted or get as much done before as possible.

And of course — the plan may change!

Just like with startups…whatever is planned, expect it to change!

Life, especially when babies are involved, is unpredictable. Parents may want something different than they thought. Or medical circumstances may require it. Or childcare plans fall through.

Ask questions to understand what kind of support someone needs and keep the conversation open!

Working with a first-time parent who may not know what they need??
**Understand how they like to operate when on PTO — this may translate
**Help them get advice from other working parents (make an intro if you can!)

2. Flexibility

Don’t have a parental leave policy yet?

What you DO have is unlimited flexibility.

Lean into your startup strength.

You can offer parents with new little ones completely free but incredibly helpful options like:

  • Flexible work hours: doing 6a-2p, planning the day around naps, wrapping up after baby bedtime

  • Flexible work locations: remote, less in-office, or less travel

  • Flexible working days: a MWF schedule can be a lifesaver — especially if it’s early or the childcare plan hasn’t kicked in (daycare waitlists, amirite??)

  • Flexible about video turned on: being able to pump, nurse, feed, or hold a baby while on a call, not having to be showered or have spit-up free professional clothes on can be huge stress reliever

  • Flexible availability: folks who replied 24/7 pre-baby may not be instant responders anymore. A system for urgent items or getting aligned on internal response time expectations can be helpful.

  • Flexible overall: General kindness and grace go a long way. Missing a meeting, an emotional outburst, or unexpected doctor trip are all normal during the busy, adjusting season of new babyhood. Everyone remembers when someone is kind (or not).

It make take a little time to figure out a new schedule and prioritization strategy but good performers pre-baby will be good performers post-baby!

3. Diapers and Meals

Not free but very low cost in the grand scheme of things.

Q: Do you know what you pay a recruiter to replace a senior level role?
A: $30,000

Q: Do you know what 3 months of diapers cost?
A: $400

(Yes, welcome to the pain of the diaper budget, my non-parent friends. Also, Peachies is an awesome EU diaper brand from an Atlanta-native founder!)

Q: How about 2 meals per week for the first 2 months back at work?
A: $600

(Doordash or Cookonnect are two options. Cookonnect is from an Atlanta founder!)

Q: Do you know how much goodwill you create with these small gestures?
A: Infinite.

People always remember how you treat them when they’re at their most vulnerable and overwhelmed. And their spouses do too!

Seemingly small items can create an outsized impact in decreasing stress, increasing wellbeing, and solidifying lifelong loyalty.

Especially if they are things that make the transition back to work easier.

If you really don’t have a couple hundred dollars in the company budget, what about setting up a meal train?

Free.99 baby!!!

Meals when someone starts back to work can be even MORE helpful than meals when the baby is first born. The first few weeks and months of adjusting to a new baby while working can be a lot! Saving an hour or two in the evening is huge.

4. Interns, Contractors, Consultants

Interns are amazing. Best value in all of Startupland!!!

Can you hire an intern to help with tasks while someone is out or to help with workload as they return?

(Related: 7 Steps To Find (& Win) Outstanding Startup Interns)

Talk about it ahead of time so the intern can join 3-6 months earlier to ramp and learn.

When someone is on parental leave is also a great time to try out a consultant or contractor. There’s a natural end date, and if they are great, you’ll know for the future.

This is not free, per se, but it’s cheaper than:

  • hiring another person full time

  • recruiting, training, ramping a new person for this role because you alienated your current employee by overwhelming them while they had a newborn!

Discerning between “absolutely required for our business to run” and “things that can be paused for now” is helpful in understanding cost and coverage needs when someone is out. If you initiate the must-have vs need-to-have conversation as a boss, it means a lot!

Will you need to initiative this convo? Here are tips on having a prioritization conversation with your boss.

5. Lactation Room

If you have a lactating parent at your company, you should have a lactation room option upon their return!

Someone may or may not be pumping at work but having a plan before they goes out is one less stressor and shows that you “get it” and want to support them.

What To Include:

  • Comfy chair

  • Table (for pumping supplies and/or laptop)

  • Door that locks

  • Fridge

  • Electrical socket

  • Ideally a sink

  • Window/door coverings (hopefully obvious?)

I’ll never forget a tour I took of a different co-working space and was like, where’s the lactation room? I received a blank stare from the man who had just spent millions on a build out, included lots of fun stuff, but had no wellness or parental infrastructure.

(Lactation rooms are sometimes general wellness rooms which can also be used for Muslim prayer times, meditation, etc.)

Needless to say, we didn’t move in there.

Revenue lost.

But not for your company.

BECAUSE YOU’RE GOING TO BE THE BEST PLACE FOR NEW PARENTS (even if you can’t offer 6 months of leave like Salesforce)!!

If you need inspo, Atlanta Tech Village has a Lactation Lounge sponsored by The Mom Project, featured here. It’s amazing!

I’ll leave you with a final thought and overarching philosophy about parental leave.

The Mom Project Founder, Allison Robinson, told new parents:

“Give yourself grace, it’s a long game.”

This applies to employers and employees too.

Treating people well when they have big changes in their personal life pays for itself long term.

Be kind, ask questions, and win the long game.

What are your best suggestions for free or low cost ways startups can support new parents on their team??

Want more on this topic????

In the next few weeks, we’ll cover:
1. how to prep if you’re the one going out on leave
2. best practices and what a good parental leave policy looks like for a startup