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How Betterment Fosters a Family-Friendly Culture and Work-Life Balance

Betterment is at the forefront of a movement to offer generous parental leave policies which enable employees to strike a balance between their work and home life.

Articles by Betterment Editors
By the Editorial Staff Betterment Resource Center Published Nov. 16, 2016
Published Nov. 16, 2016
5 min read
  • When you work at Betterment, you can benefit from a generous family leave policy.

  • Mothers and fathers are given equal time away from work to nurture their growing families.

  • Betterment also aims to help employees balance their work and personal lives with an unlimited vacation policy; employees then have the flexibility to get adequate rest without restrictive time constraints.

Betterment is at the forefront of fostering a more family-friendly workplace, approaching this mission in two ways: a generous parental leave policy and an unlimited vacation policy.

These policies are rooted in a belief that what’s good for employees is also good for the company.

“People work harder when they’re given more freedom,” said Lucy Babbage, Betterment’s Vice President of People.

Better Than Mandated Leave

Both working mothers and fathers at Betterment are eligible for six consecutive months of leave—before and up to one year after the birth, adoption, or surrogacy of a child.

This six-month leave period can be structured flexibly, e.g., a full six months at half-pay, or three months at full pay followed by three months at no pay, the latter of which may even include a part-time work arrangement.

“We believe that everyone should have equal access to time off when they are growing their families,” said Babbage. “Every new parent has a unique set of circumstances and we accommodate those accordingly.”

Since 1993, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has required job-protected unpaid leaves of absence for up to 12 weeks.

“We don’t try to mandate a certain way that leave should be taken,” said Babbage. “We really sit down and get to know the way our parents are thinking about their leave periods, and what works best for their personal and work lives. We then make sure that we structure their leave in a way that gets them the most out of that time spent with their new child.”

Dan Egan, Betterment’s Vice President of Investing and Behavioral Finance, recalled the time he was able to spend away from work following his daughter’s birth.

“My wife only had six weeks of maternity leave from her job,” Egan said. “The fact that I was able to take three months of paternity leave meant she could continue to do a job she loved, and I could enjoy our daughter and work on my dad bod.”

Betterment's Vice President of People Lucy Babbage, with Vice President of Investing and Behavioral Finance Dan Egan, and his daughter Iona.

Caption: Betterment’s Vice President of People, Lucy Babbage, with Vice President of Investing and Behavioral Finance, Dan Egan, and his daughter, Iona

In New York, Betterment’s leave policy also exceeds terms set forth in recently enacted state legislation. The state will require employers to pay employees 50% of average weekly pay for up to eight weeks; This will be phased in from now to 2018 and is considered the nation’s most comprehensive for working mothers and fathers.

Betterment’s parental leave policy is an “incredibly forward-thinking and fair benefit,” according to Babbage. It sends an immediate signal to new hires that Betterment believes in parenthood and values its employees’ work-life balance. These policies not only benefit employees with families but also help to attract and retain top talent.

“Our approach reflects our values,” Babbage said. “We believe life and work should be more seamless, and that one shouldn’t preclude a person from fully engaging in the other. When it comes to expanding your family, your focus should be on preparing for and becoming a new parent, not angsting over getting back to work as soon as possible.”

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Embracing Family Values With Flexibility

In addition to a generous parental leave policy, Betterment removes the guilt from taking time away with a flexible, guilt-free unlimited vacation and personal day policy.

“Betterment’s work environment is very flexible,” said Jana Harper, a Lead Software Engineer at Betterment. “When my daughter has been sick or has had an event at daycare, it’s always been acceptable for me to take time off to be with her. Betterment’s culture is focused on results rather than the number of hours at your desk.”

She credits having a low-stress and flexible work environment with enabling her to be a better employee. “Parenthood is stressful enough without worrying about how it will impact how you’re perceived at work,” Harper said.

She also had a health scare last year that landed her in the hospital for four days, but her leave of absence was free of worry. Her manager was accommodating and her team was more than happy to handle her work.

“Knowing that my company, manager and teammates were there to help me reduces a lot of the stress of an unexpected hospital stay—they even sent me flowers in the hospital,” said Harper.

While Egan was settling into his role as a new dad, he also benefited from the leave policy. “My wife is British, and when we moved to New York we agreed that we’d spend a fair amount of time back in the U.K. with her friends and family. I’ve been able to spend up to three weeks at a time working from the U.K., which has meant that my daughter also still has a chance to pick up a lovely English accent,” he said.

At Betterment, one strategic human resources goal is to build a caring culture and sense of community that appeals to all generations, regardless of whether an employee is a millennial, Gen X’r, or baby boomer.

“The office environment often resembles a home in many ways, and it’s common to see parents with their children in the office,” Babbage said. “We support the notion that ‘work is life and life is work,’ and there shouldn’t be a conflict between the two. It’s no surprise that employees also share social calendars outside of the office.”

In fact, Betterment groups its employees into cross-functional groups called “bands,” composed of six to 10 employees each. These groups team up in their spare time for anything from community service to ice cream making activities. This camaraderie also helps to build strong relationships and engagement throughout the Betterment community.

While these employees know how to have fun, they also most certainly work hard.

“At Betterment, all employees are responsible and accountable for their own contributions. We instill a sense of ownership and trust in everyone that we employ, and work hard to develop and reinforce the bonds that people create here,” said Babbage. “Betterment really is a place for those who want to get out as much as they put in.”

It’s clear that the sense of pride in one’s work resonates with the employees. “At Betterment, the focus is on the quality of the work you do, not the amount of time you spend in the office.
And that lets you focus on just doing your best work,” said Egan.

Bring On The Perks

A combination of unique perks and traditional employee benefits are also offered to help achieve employee happiness.

At the heart of this is generous compensation, medical, dental, and vision coverage, and of course, a 401(k) plan with Betterment for Business, the company’s own low-cost, automated investment service  that offers many of the same robust features as its retail consumer product.

The benefits package is particularly relevant to the company’s mission of making investing better and easier by reinforcing its values it espouses. The Betterment team is “committed to a better financial future for all,” and “employees find it extremely gratifying to work on a product that they use themselves,” said Babbage.

Also included in Betterment’s comprehensive employment package are gym reimbursements and an on-site executive chef who prepares healthy meals three times a week, which employees can all enjoy in a large food hall-like setting. Fully stocked kitchens also boast a wide variety of breakfast and lunch foods, snacks, and even cold brew coffee on tap. Family, friends, and even pets are welcomed into the workplace.

For Thanksgiving, employees and their families join for a meal to give thanks for the year, and according to Betterment Founder and CEO Jon Stein, it’s his favorite day of the year.

“All of this contributes to our way of showing how much we value our team members,” Stein said. “After all, without the team, we have no company.” It makes sense then for the company to continue excelling at preserving its family-friendly culture and work environment, which aims to help parents balance life at work and home.

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Original content by Betterment

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