Including families is key to team members staying

Cliniko’s ethos of flexible working allows Kate Hunter to do parenthood her way, while also being in love with her work.

Aisling Smith·

Click play to hear Kate explain the Cliniko way of working in her own words.

Making space for employees to balance their jobs with family-time – and including partners and kids in work events – has been central to the way we think about flexible working at Cliniko. Not only does this make for happier team members, but it’s also a smart business decision if you want to retain your staff. Kate’s story highlights why policies that acknowledge the importance of people’s families are so mutually beneficial for everyone.

While we don’t use titles at Cliniko (we don’t really believe in them), Kate is one of our brilliant growth marketers. She came to us in 2018 after quitting a corporate job, where she’d had an awful maternity leave experience. The company had surreptitiously changed her role while she was away and Kate had found herself back at work just four months after giving birth to her daughter, dealing with long hours, a mountain of stress, and a job that was very different to the one she’d left. But, most of all, she felt dismissed and devalued by the company in the wake of becoming a mother, as though her contribution no longer mattered – and it was this that prompted Kate to make a change.

Cliniko provided the way forward and, from the very beginning, the company felt different to any workplace she’d known previously. Our founder Joel invited Kate for a job interview at The Barn, Cliniko’s Australian HQ – which happened to fall on a day when she was looking after her daughter. “Almost as a test, instead of organising a babysitter in the background, I said ‘I’d love to, I’ll have my daughter with me though,’” Kate remembers. “I completely expected a pause but there was no hint of a flinch, just a ‘see you then!’”

Whether or not someone is a parent doesn’t factor into the Cliniko hiring process – children are not in any way seen as a hindrance or a handicap. In fact, employees are actively encouraged to integrate their families into their work lives, with partners and kids always invited (and most often attending) Cliniko social occasions and our epic whole-company meetups. We include families for a reason: we know it’s key to staff retention. It makes sense from a business perspective to spend a bit more money on a team event and make sure our employees’ loved ones can come along too. We’ve seen over many years how this allows our team members to feel more connected to the business in the long run and contributes to them wanting to stick around. We work hard to recruit good people and obviously we want them to stay as long as possible!

When starting at Cliniko, it took a while for Kate to get used to the pace. There’s no such thing as running late, no set hours, and no meetings. As Kate says, “if I wake up and I'm sick or one of the kids is, I don't have to go to my email and calendar, and contact all the people I had meetings with that day and reschedule them all. We don't have meetings so there's no rescheduling – ever. I just drop a note in Slack to let my workmates know that I'm not around that day.” People work when they want, and everyone is honest and transparent about it; presenteeism isn’t a thing and employees never have to take a sickie.

Coming from a traditional office background, most new employees find this very surreal. “I think it takes a long time for most people’s brains to adjust,” Kate admits. “The concept of not having to tell everyone everyday what you’re working on or where you’re going to be. What if someone needs me when I’m taking a nap after a rough night with the kids? Am I going to get busted? It just doesn’t happen here.”

Why do we work this way at Cliniko? Simple: it’s actually the best way to achieve productivity in the workplace. We most definitely care about staff well-being for its own sake, but we also care about business. And what so many employers fail to realise is that the two go hand in hand – giving your staff flexibility and freedom is the key to getting the best outcomes in terms of productivity and profit. If people have the space to lead meaningful lives outside of work and pursue things that fulfil them, you’re going to get the best possible version of them when they sit down at their desks. We witness this every day at Cliniko.

For Kate, being able to spend quality time with her husband, Alex, and her two kids – and to get through “life admin” (grocery shopping, laundry, paying the bills etc.) and self-care (osteopathy appointments and naps!) – means that when she’s working, she can be fully present. She sits down to work when she’s ready, even if that’s at night once the kids are asleep.

Cliniko has given Kate the ability to be a professional and a parent at the same time, without sacrificing one for the other: “I feel like Cliniko gives me this freedom that truly lets me prioritise my life without compromising my love for work.” Kate also found that her second maternity leave after the birth of her son was a completely different experience at Cliniko. She was able to spend quality time with her newborn and ease back into work gradually, but also at times that suited her – like 10 o’clock at night.

“There’s an idea in my head of the kind of parent I want to be,” Kate says. “Liking work and working hard is an ethic my mum set the example for. I want to be the kind of parent who can set that example but also hold space for my kids’ emotional needs. To me, that means things like being available to take an extra 10 minutes for goodbyes at school and daycare if they’re having a clingy morning, rather than tear their hands off me and run to get to work ‘on time’ while they burst into tears. On the flipside, I can then get into my work feeling clear-headed and without harbouring any parental guilt. It’s priceless.”

Kate genuinely loves her work and, at Cliniko, she’s able to show up focused, full of ideas and creativity – which Cliniko benefits from every day. It’s a win-win, both for Kate and for our business.

Author information

Aisling is a Melbourne-based writer and all around word nerd. When she isn't writing for Cliniko, she likes circus fitness, playing her cello, and eating dessert.

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