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"It was just a whirlwind," Caitlyn Speranza says, remembering her return to work at Red Hat after giving birth to daughter, Zelda. "We had picked out a daycare and put down deposits. We were ready. And then I got a call from my manager saying that everyone was going to work from home, and everything changed."
COVID-19 has impacted all of our lives, but as school work shifted to virtual and child care facilities closed, the transition has been keenly felt by parents. "I had to adjust to what had changed in my role while I was out, as well as figuring out how to be a first-time mother," Speranza says. "All I could think was: ‘How am I going to juggle all of this?'"
At first, it was just about getting through the day, but before long Speranza found it less difficult to manage with the support of her husband and her Red Hat team, with the more flexible environment Red Hat was offering. "Realizing that I can manage a full-time job and also raise my daughter has been the biggest win."
Connecting beyond work
Flexibility has been key for Iz Flores Luviano and his husband, who found themselves parenting triplets—Alexander, Albert, and Adrian—all less than a year old when the pandemic changed everyone's day-to-day. "The flexibility from Red Hat is what has allowed me to keep my focus," Flores says. "I have the freedom to schedule work around the times that I need to take care of my family."
Red Hat hosted focus groups to better understand what additional support parents might need when it became clear COVID-19 would prevent people from working normally for some time.
Among the tools deployed to help parents navigate those competing priorities are Care@Work, which provides access to the fastest-growing network of backup child care and other service providers, and Sanvello, a mental health and wellbeing app that helps manage stress and anxiety.
"It's really nice to see that they are putting so much thought into the right combination of resources to help such a wide variety of associates," he says. "It offers a lot of peace of mind for parents."
"We are all going through this together," Flores says. "It's a shared experience where everyone has faced challenges. It helps that we can all empathize with each other. At the end of the day it is a work environment, but it's always nice when you can have that connection that goes beyond work."
Putting the associate experience first
Michael Vail faced the usual difficulties as a new father at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but he also had to contend with additional complexity. He and his husband had cared for 17-month old Riley since her birth, but the adoption wasn't set to be finalized until March 2020. Vail flew to Philadelphia to sign the paperwork just as the country was closing down. After much worrying that the courthouse would be closed when he landed, he just barely made it. And then the real work began.
"It was a big awakening," Vail says. "You realize quickly that you have to restructure your entire life to be a full-time stay-at-home parent. Really, it's the flexibility from Red Hat that has made all the difference. Our leadership has been very authentic in their focus on caring for Red Hatters. The associate experience has been put first."
Daily life still offers challenges, but he has found managing them easier with support from Red Hat. And his daughter now makes an appearance on many of his conference calls, to the delight of his teammates. "Going through a transition like this makes you realize that you are much more resilient than you think you are."
Talking and supporting openly
Before COVID-19, Red Hatters Christina and Donald Grant traveled often for work, but alternated so that one could always be home with their kids, 6-year-old Avery and 7-year-old Aidan. Lockdowns brought all four together, sharing the same space every day.
"We've gone through a lot of stress in the past year," Christina Grant says. "Continuing to work for Red Hat while having our babies at home. That would have been unfathomable not that long ago. But I think this is the first time in my career that I've felt allowed to bring my whole self to work. To be able to lean into the struggle and talk about it openly, supported by my team, it's been really freeing."
The Grants have found enough stability in their new normal that they've also taken on the role of teachers, home-schooling Aidan and Avery. Each parent is shadowed by one of the kids, who sits in their respective work spaces. "Being able to have everyone safe here at home together while also having a blossoming career," Donald Grant says, "I'd never have imagined it was possible, but Red Hat has helped make it a reality."
Part of enabling Red Hat to support its associates is empowering managers like Jeff Ligon. Ligon's team was mostly remote prior to the pandemic, but there were still adjustments to be made. Ligon himself was now working from home with daughter Charlotte and son Brady, evenly splitting parenting and teaching duties with his wife.
"It hasn't been easy," Ligon says, "We've had to cancel a lot of meetings on the team, but we've been clear with one another about what we each need and ensured that we remain available for each other."
Ligon took the Red Hat philosophy of putting people first to heart. Last summer, as the team went into sprint planning, Ligon proposed a "Commit to Half" initiative that asked team members to do half the amount of work that went into the previous sprint.
"I asked them to spend the other half of that time making their home and work balance sustainable because I knew we'd have to be in this for the long haul. We've all got to take the time to make sure that we're taking care of ourselves. If we just keep pressing for our normal routines, we're all going to burn out."
Red Hat is proud to be named in Great Place to Work's list of Best Workplaces for Parents, but we're prouder still to have supported our associates through continuing in their roles—unlocking the world's potential with open source, while also being incredible parents to the next generation of fedora-wearers.
"The support from Red Hat has allowed us to take full advantage of moments with our children," says Donald Grant, "and impacted the way we handle life and our workload."
About the authors
Jay Barber is a writer and strategist on Red Hat’s Internal Communications team. He joined the open organization in 2020 after stints at MetLife, CU Boulder, and Progress Energy. When not struggling to write about himself in the third person, he can often be found fretting over a bonsai tree or wrestling with an energetic corgi. Barber lives in Durham, North Carolina with his wife and far too many books, records, and board games.
Alexa Williams joined the Red Hat People team in 2014. She is currently the Talent Experience Program Manager on the Talent Attraction and Experience team. In this role, she is responsible for using the experience of being a Red Hatter to attract the critical talent needed to achieve our business goals. Williams’s focus areas are employer awards, employment brand perception, candidate experience, and managing our employer value proposition.