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How has flexible work turn into a must-have for working parents?

Posted by Carmen Sanchez |

Delve into the challenges of working parents with Carmen's testimony! As always, talking with our employees about their real challenges and expectations has brought to light a great deal of knowledge. Read on below to discover Carmen' story and insightful input!

In a nutshell, could you tell us a bit about your background?  

I come from Malaga, in Andalusia, and I’ve traveled to different places; I used to work in London before joining Criteo in Barcelona 8 years ago. I started as part of the Talent Acquisition team as Coordinator. I had always wanted to manage people, so I’ve weaved my thread internally from there until the People Ops Team as Manager. Today, I manage 5 different teams distributed worldwide; in India, the US, and EMEA. I’m thrilled I could experience many different roles within the same company. Criteo has provided me with various internal opportunities to grow and I’m super thankful for that.  

It must be quite a challenge to coordinate teams located in different time zones like that, right? 

It is, but I love working with people from different cultures. It requires me to organize my time differently; my mornings are dedicated to my teams in APAC and my afternoons for the US. 

In 8 years, how would you describe your experience regarding the company culture here? 

The culture here has made things easy for me, otherwise I wouldn’t have stayed so many years. Of course, you have a vertical organization as many other companies do, but I find everyone to be genuinely open and that’s essential for my well-being at work. I feel particularly grateful to the different managers who have supported me throughout my journey here; They have made me feel truly recognized and valued along the way. Recognition is the cornerstone of employee well-being. 

Is there one aspect that you like regarding Criteo’s culture? 

Having traveled and lived in different countries, I value multiculturalism and it is something I feel every day here. When I left London, I was afraid to lose the international aspect but here, I work with people from everywhere. That is what partly fuels my motivation.   

Work-life balance is on every lips today. What about yours? 

Flexible work helps. Before Covid, we didn’t have this approach, and it didn’t bother me, to be honest. But now that we have the option, it’s more convenient. What I love the most is having the freedom to choose whether you want to go to the office or stay at home; You can accommodate your schedule that way. It’s all about trust. I don’t feel my manager watching me and I organize my day as I see fit, as long as the job is done. To me, flexible work is a great time-saver when handling things from the day-to-day. That is where it makes the greatest difference!

What are the main challenges of being a working mum, from your own experience? 

I was back from maternity leave in January 2024, so it’s quite recent. Up until now, the main challenge has been finding the time to do it all. As I manage a global team in different time zones, I can’t compact my working day so much. Also, due to the workload, it would be hard to reduce my working schedule and work part-time, for instance. I think it would be even more stressful for me. So, of course, flexible work is an asset, but it’s still challenging to be a working mum at the end of the day. 

Any insights on how we could make life easier for working mums?  

One of the challenges is to see how we could accommodate schedules for mothers with global positions like mine. Having flexibility is great, but it can’t apply the same way to all jobs. I know it’s hard to find the right balance. For instance, if we hired a person to cover the percentage of hours I’d like to leave aside, but it would require a great amount of onboarding, and training, and this is extra work sort of. So, it could be possible, but it comes at a price too. Another big challenge is re-onboarding after becoming a parent. Having a mentor or a coach to help and guide you through this huge life adjustment could be a great support. Someone who can help you organize and optimize your time better. I know we have a parent community and a Mental Health program, but I’m not sure we have something specific to address mental health when you become a parent. Perhaps designing specific onboarding and tailored resources for parents would be appropriate. Some partnerships with nursery schools close to the office could also be great. We have it in Paris but it doesn't apply to all offices. Of course, these are ideas on the top of my head. Then, you must assess what’s doable or not. I know the Company Committee in Paris negotiates very well, so perhaps we could explore that and extend those advantages to other countries.  

Is the current legal framework adapted to support new working parents? 

Here in Catalunya, we have four and a half months for both parents. In my opinion, it should be more than that for the mother at least if you think about breastfeeding and, also, how long it takes to be back on your feet after childbirth. I had to ask for an extra month because I couldn’t bring myself to leave my daughter in nursery school so young, but they don’t compensate you.   

What would have made your come back easier after maternity leave? 

Having a clear re-onboarding program would have been very useful. I mean, I scheduled a bunch of meetings upon my return to put me up to date but it’s sometimes hard to know where to begin and who to reach out to. To have a program with clear steps so you’re not stressed out, fearing you'll forget something. And I also believe it’s important to embark managers on this journey and train them to support parents specifically. My manager is very empathetic and made it very easy for me, but we’re not all that lucky. As a manager, I’d love to know how to accompany them better.  

We talk more and more about the importance of mental health at work. Would you care to share your opinion on that matter? 

When you think about the amount of time we spend working, it seems essential for companies to feel involved in fostering positive mental health in the workplace. Becoming a mother is a life-changing experience; we need support during this transition. Here at Criteo, our sessions with a psychiatrist are reimbursed, which is great. I believe it should be that way in every company. It would be great to have a week dedicated to mental health, as we do regarding other topics.  

Do you think work-life balance when having a family can be achieved without the flexibility of work?  

I don’t think so, no. We are very lucky in that sense! 

If you were to look for a job now that you are a mum, what would you see as red flags for you? 

I would look deeper into the company culture and benefits regarding parenthood. For instance, I wouldn’t work for a company that doesn’t offer any flexibility of work.  

Has parenthood changed the way you consider your career path? If yes, in what way? 

It hasn’t changed my ambition or professional goal. I still want to grow and thrive as a professional. I feel secure here and I believe I wouldn’t be discriminated against for being a mum. What has changed though is the type of company I’d work for. The end hasn’t changed, but the means to get there have. 

Carmen Sanchez

People Operations Manager

The Future is Yours.

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