Paternity leave: a great employee benefit

Johan Hallgren | Analytics Data & Strategy Manager (Lodging) in Seoul, South Korea

My role in Expedia Group

I started my Expedia Group career in Geneva (Switzerland), covering lodging in the Asia-Pacific region. However, I requested country reassignment when my wife got the opportunity to relocate to South Korea for a new position with the United Nations.

My smooth transfer was concrete proof to me that Expedia Group with its global presence is a great long-term career platform, especially with my family’s need to relocate every few years.

I am happy to say that I love my job. The role gives great exposure, close working relationships with top leadership, and excellent opportunities to drive results and influence company direction.

I am involved in almost every commercial topic imaginable like property acquisition strategy, headcount allocation, marketing, margins and competitive intelligence. Whilst projects most often start with deep analysis, recommendations and deck production for presentation to leadership, I am also often part of building technical solutions and implementing them across our 500+ APAC lodging organization.

This tangible implementation link after analysis is something I value tremendously, especially considering my previous work experiences in banking and finance where I constantly was missing this; I like to both plan and execute.

Meanwhile, South Korea is fantastic with absolutely wonderful people and indeed truck loads of Korean barbeque together with the occasional makgeolli (Korean rice wine). 감사합니다, Korea!

Work-life balance

Whilst I love my job and the company, I certainly love my wife and two kids even more. I want to spend all the time in the world with them, while exploring it together.

Being an expatriate family with frequent travel means that forging work-life balance is crucial for our children and us as a family unit. This is complicated further by the fact that our closest family members are spread across Europe and North America, whilst we live in Asia.

In practice, work-life balance is seldom easy to achieve on a daily basis. The exciting weekend trips and solid vacation blocks encouraged by the company are part of that puzzle. Right now, backyard Tokyo is a weekend family favourite; we cannot stop marvelling how perfectly run this megacity seems to be, and the food is top notch.

My wife & daughter en route to Sweden for baby delivery at 36 weeks.

Another good example of how Expedia Group has been a strong enabler of work-life balance was when we had the chance to return to Sweden for the birth of my second daughter – the company paternity leave benefit was crucial in making our temporary stay there a reality.

We flew back when my wife was 36 weeks pregnant. I have to admit I was nervous, but my wife was a champ!

My paternity leave

My 3-month paternity leave was key in helping our family land well with our new child, while also experiencing the best of Sweden!

We spent plenty of time with family enjoying Swedish nature, Christmas snow, and amazing cuisine, including meatballs a plenty and more than a few Swedish pizzas (only for the true pizza connoisseur).

My oldest daughter has 10 cousins in Sweden, so she could practice her Swedish a lot, and even showed them how to properly use chopsticks.

My oldest daughter (4.5 years) showing her chopsticks skills

All in all, it was a wonderful and tremendously rewarding experience for the whole family to go back. The paternity leave also gave us plenty of time to readjust back to life in Korea before returning to work.

During this paternity leave in Sweden, I also managed to have some classic Swedish saunas with my brother, with a view over my childhood lake where we used to practise competitive rowing. This was indeed my ‘pappa tajm’ (dad time).

My brother’s sauna by the lake, with a free flow of refreshing barley based beverages to battle the Finnish/military grade sauna heat

The value of a good paternity leave policy

Paternity leave feels right to me from multiple angles (company, co-workers, family and society).

  • First off, backfilling the role of the father on leave creates an opportunity for others to grow and develop: as a knowledge-driven company, this can be very impactful indeed.
  • Secondly, it is almost a natural law that new children make parents less productive and worn down due to a lack of sleep. You need a break!
  • Thirdly, turnover and replacing skilled employees is very expensive and time consuming – I am convinced this policy creates loyalty and longer company tenures.
  • Fourthly, from a societal point of view, sharing the responsibilities of an infant more equitably means that a mother is much less likely to drop out of the workforce. It makes economic sense. By allowing mothers to return to the workforce if they wish, you also create employment opportunities for caretakers that in turn create job opportunities around us.

So, while it sadly is too uncommon globally, I think a solid paternity leave policy is a no-brainer and a ‘quadruple win’. To me it is hardly surprising that Expedia Group is a top employer given such benefits, they get it right.

In my specific case, Expedia Group managed to solve my 3-month absence elegantly, by temporarily bringing in cover from Geneva. My colleague Greg came to our APAC lodging headquarters in Singapore; read about his experiences.

While checking the occasional important e-mail to stay on top of things for my return, the company’s solution was great for letting me re-enter without a huge backlog of work hanging over my head. Luckily for both me and all the travellers around the world, the sun never sets on Expedia Group!