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By LegalEdge News

Leading by example: Wise CEO makes work/life balance a reality with sabbatical 

When co-founder and CEO of listed fintech firm Wise announced he would be taking a 3-month ‘sabbatical’ to spend time with his baby, he was widely applauded as setting a great example (see more on the story here). (Although the term ‘sabbatical’ suggests a holiday, or taking time for yourself, and as anyone with a baby knows that’s just not going to happen!). In an industry that is notoriously ‘always on’ and where the work culture can be all consuming, is this a game changing move? 

Kristo Kaarman said, in a post to staff:

 “When I first started the company 12 years ago, it would have been unimaginable for me to take any time away from the team and our customers. “

Has the pandemic changed things?

Maybe this is a post pandemic re-assessment of what is really important, it seems there is more empathy than there used to be. However, we can’t help wondering if the news would have been greeted so enthusiastically if a female CEO announced she was taking parental leave. Or someone at a lower level in the organisation?

It’s interesting that Kaarman was specific about using the time away to spend time with his family and care for his baby son, something that’s not often spoken about in his industry. Perhaps this is a tentative signal that attitudes really are changing and the business environment is becoming more family friendly? Or is it just easier for someone at his level to do with access to other childcare options? Maybe he should be congratulated but only if he gives this opportunity to others within the organisation too and provides other support for those with child caring/other responsibilities? 

Senior leaders don’t do sabbaticals – or do they?

Sabbaticals are nothing new, but they are considered a generous perk. Where businesses give staff the option of taking paid time off, it is usually after a significant period of employment. However, it’s still much rarer for senior executives to take advantage of the benefit.

Wise is generous with its policy as staff can take a paid sabbatical after just 4 years – although Kaarman never has, until now. It will be interesting to see if more staff at the company now follow his lead. 

Crucially, Wise appears to have put in place comprehensive arrangements to cover Kaarman’s absence, re-assuring investors and customers.

The start of a journey

We hope that the day will come soon when it is no longer newsworthy that a male CEO is taking time away to care for his family. Kaarman may be a pioneer, but let’s hope others in senior positions follow his example to help make the much-coveted idea of ‘work/life balance’ a reality.  

If you want to discuss the implementation of any new staff polices or benefits in your organisation, such a parental leave or sabbaticals get in touch: We know as your workforce increases so does the time it takes to manage people and HR related issues, including keeping up with training requirements and dealing with problems – check out our HR Legal Counsel service to see how we can provide the extra resource to reduce the burden.

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