Jeanelle Teves, Chief Commercial Officer of Bugaboo, standing in front of a group during a team meeting.
Bugaboo has expanded its workplace policies and benefits to include things like expanded maternity leave and a two-week flexible return-to-work period for returning mothers. — Bugaboo

Why it matters:

  • As companies grapple with the challenge of managing an increasingly remote workforce, Bugaboo North America’s ‘high flexibility, high accountability’ strategy is winning.
  • The baby product brand, known for its premium strollers, has found creative ways to help employees balance work and home life.
  • The changes have enhanced Bugaboo’s ability to attract top talent.

One of the first things Jeanelle Teves did after becoming General Manager of Bugaboo North America three years ago was to make sure the company’s workplace policies were aligned with its brand mission to help new parents on their journey.

That mission, as Teves describes it, “is to empower parents and future parents to discover the world and enjoy it.”

“We took a look within our company and said, ‘Hey, are we living those values internally?” Teves, who now is Chief Commercial Officer of Bugaboo North America, told CO—.

Bugaboo North America has extended paid maternity leave to 16 weeks, instituted a two-week flexible return-to-work period for returning mothers that lets them work reduced hours at full-time pay while easing back into the workforce, and launched a popular benefit called “WIN” Fridays.

WIN stands for What I Need, and employees are encouraged to use Friday afternoons doing what they need most to be able to return to work on Monday as their best selves. It can be work-related, such as cleaning out one’s email inbox, or personal, such as volunteering at a child’s school or taking a spin class.

While employees are given more freedom in how they manage their schedules, they are held accountable for meeting their goals. The company has seen greater flexibility lead to higher productivity and performance.

The North American division is part of the 25-year-old global Bugaboo International brand, which is headquartered in the Netherlands. Bugaboo North America has 25 employees, all of whom work remotely.

Teves and two members of her leadership team, People and Culture Lead Jessica Ponchak and Director of Sales Jodi Gulik spoke with CO— about how the company’s policies impact their lives as parents, and about the lessons Bugaboo North America learned in creating a more flexible workplace.

‘My philosophy as a people leader is I want to create an environment where people can do their best work’

Jessica Ponchak, People and Culture Lead, Bugaboo North America

Jessica Ponchak, who heads Bugaboo North America’s human relations department, joined the company after taking a five-year career break after the birth of her second child. Ponchak lists the career break on her LinkedIn bio, between her stints in HR at Apple and now at Bugaboo.

She also reflects the company’s support for employees who want to balance work and home life because she works part-time.

“She is an example of someone who is thriving in her career and she’s also able to show up for her family in the way she wants to show up,” Teves said. “It works incredibly well for the company, and it works well for Jessica.”

Ponchak’s key challenge when she joined Bugaboo North America in 2021, as it shifted to a fully remote workplace due to the pandemic, was to find ways to build connections and engagement among employees.

“Part of my job was to define what that looked like for the team,” Ponchak said. “How do we create a team culture in this remote work environment? How do we make the team feel they are part of something even though we are not seeing each other every day?”

Once a year, Bugaboo brings the entire North American team together in a different city for a gathering that includes business meetings and updates, team-building exercises, and team volunteer activities. The various departments and Teves’ leadership team also hold in-person meetings quarterly.

At this year’s company-wide meeting in Los Angeles, employees volunteered at Baby2Baby, a nonprofit that supplies necessities to children living in poverty.

Bugaboo also works to create a culture where managers “respect people’s lives” and are mindful of not scheduling meetings at a time that would be bad for someone working in a different time zone, or not sending emails after hours, Ponchak said.

“We feel like we have to lead by example, and not make you feel like you have to be on duty all the time,” she said.

[Read: Bugaboo GM of North America Reveals the ‘Game-Changing’ Imprint of Her Mentors]

If we create a culture that people truly want to work within, then they value their job and they don’t want to ever lose it, so they make sure they’re giving 100% at their job.

Jodi Gulik, Director of Sales, Bugaboo North America

‘I truly believe that the happier you can make an employee, the better output of work they have’

Jodi Gulik, Director of Sales, Bugaboo North America

Jodi Gulik interviewed for her job at Bugaboo 11 years ago while on maternity leave after the birth of her first child. Now a mother of two, Gulik has seen how the company’s polices on maternity leave and work flexibility have evolved for the better.

Gulik suggested calling the Friday flex time WIN (What I Need) after seeing that phrase used at her child’s school. The company previously had been doing Summer Friday, a perk used by many companies to let employees get an early start on the weekend and wanted to make it a year-round benefit.

“We try to keep Friday afternoon open for people,” Gulik said. “So if you have a crazy email inbox, you can tackle that. If you had a hard week with your kids and you want to pick them up and do something fun, do it. Whatever you need. Nobody’s going to look for you,” she said.

Gulik heads a sales team that is spread out across the country. She said none of her staff have abused the greater flexibility the company offers, and she believes it boosts productivity.

“I truly believe that the happier you can make an employee, the better output of work they have,” she said. “If we create a culture that people truly want to work within, then they value their job and they don’t want to ever lose it, so they make sure they’re giving 100% at their job.”

“I create as much flexibility for my team as I want as a parent,” Gulik said. “That means that the time that I’m at work, I work as hard as I can. And I see that as something that my team then mirrors.”

When there is an issue that needs to be addressed in terms of performance or productivity, “we address them on an individual level, versus punishing the team” by taking away the flexibility, she said.

“I hope other companies can look at us and see the proof is in the pudding,” Gulik said. “When you make your employees happy, they come to work happier, and they work harder. It’s a win-win across the board.”

[Read: How ‘Retail Concierges’ (Both Digital and Human) Are Poised to Disrupt the Shopping Experience]

 Team photo of Bugaboo employees.
Once a year, Bugaboo brings the entire North American team together in a different city for a gathering that includes business meetings and updates and team volunteer activities. — Bugaboo

‘My belief is that if you’re in a leadership position, what you’re really doing is planting seeds for those behind you’

Jeanelle Teves, Chief Commercial Officer, Bugaboo North America

Over the past three years, Bugaboo North America has seen its employee engagement and happiness scores improve steadily, Teves said.

“We have very low attrition,” she said. “We are really building a brand that is known to be a great place to work.”

The wider workforce apparently is hearing about Bugaboo’s parent- and employee-friendly flexibility. When a job opening was posted recently, the company received 700 applications within 48 hours, Teves said.

Making it easier for new parents to work at Bugaboo helps create “a higher level of empathy” when employees design products for their new parent customers, or service those customers, Teves said.

“We can think back and remember that first stroller walk, which for me is a memory that’s forever sealed in my mind,” she said. “I very much tap into that memory in my day-to-day work, and it’s not lost on me that those are the types of memories that we’re creating for our consumers.”

Teves shared some of the lessons she has learned managing a fully remote and flexible workforce.

It is important, she said, to focus on the vision for the company “and make sure that you state your priorities clearly and consistently over and over again.”

“One of my biggest lessons in working remotely is the importance of over-communication,” she said, with frequent moments set aside to check in with staff and “[make] sure everyone fully understands what the greater end goal is.”

Remote teams also need to have clearly scheduled in-person meetings throughout the year that serve as milestones to work towards, she said.

While working to create a better and more flexible workplace for her employees, Teves said she thinks about “the next generation of workers and future parents who will be inheriting these workplace cultures and norms.”

“My hope is that part-time work and these sort of benefits like WIN Fridays become a norm by the time my daughter chooses to become a mother,” she said.

“My belief is that if you’re in a leadership position, what you’re doing is planting seeds for those behind you,” Teves said.

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