When people ask me, “You work for a DAO? What does that even mean?” I usually answer, “DAOs are just a bunch of humans contributing to a project or organization without the red tape of a traditional corporation/legal business entity.”
DAO’s are inherently risky as a participant/contributor. Most of the safety nets that exist in traditional companies like medical leave, a Human Resources department, a company legal team, , ADA compliance, worker’s compensation, or traditional job security don’t necessarily exist within a DAO. There are also no real holidays, formal vacation time, and things are running 24/7, so any time of day you can jump into the community forums or chats and find someone working. This can be a bit of an adjustment to say the least when moving from a traditional company to a DAO. There are, however, a myriad of ways to be a DAO “employee,” and each path can provide more safety nets than others depending on your risk tolerance and level of creativity.
While that can sound super scary to the potential contributor who has a family to feed or someone with a special health condition to consider (you know, very normal human experiences), don’t run away too quickly. DAOs are new and experimental, and if managed correctly by their contributors, they can offer a better experience than the “safety” of a traditional company. But as with most things in cryptocurrency, the work environment can evolve quickly and has a more decentralized influence, so you must be proactive and take initiative.
I’d like to share my current experience (and past experience) and how it has shaped my recommendations for the ShapeShift DAO to manage maternity leave.
In January, I found out I was pregnant with my second child! Meanwhile, I had just started our first proposal as a support team with the ShapeShift DAO. It was a clunky transition from centralized to decentralized, but doable. There were so many new things to learn, and it was almost like we launched a completely new culture along with a new way of managing our product.
When I was a few months pregnant, it was clear to me I needed to find a way to still manage my team, who I adore, and keep us on pace to perform, while also managing my home life and pregnancy. I quickly started drawing up a part-time leadership role that allowed me to do both—something you’d probably never see a traditional company consider. I’d like to think it was due to my reputation, credentials, and passion for the project that the community obliged and passed my part-time role with our second proposal May 1st, 2022.
I’m now eight months pregnant. A bear market is upon both the crypto and traditional finance worlds. The economic aftershocks of the pandemic are in full effect. While I’m a pretty risk-tolerant person (I have worked in alternative currency for almost 10 years), this is even too much to conceive at times! It has also made it challenging to strategize on how to manage the human experience within the DAO, while balancing the financial stability of it all. Here we are building this new type of “office culture” that has never existed before, in an economic downturn, and I’m one of the first guinea pigs of my kind. Protections that standard organizations afford people are what people seek during times of uncertainty, and while DAOs can not and should not be expected to be without risk, I believe it’s possible that the organizational structure can do better than its traditional counterparts. DAOs are designed to be human empowering, human led, so we should greatly consider the humans that run them.
The human experience as a contributor in a DAO needs to be talked about more. More support from leaders, more public communication, more experts, more creativity is required as we’re literally swimming into unchartered territories. I scoff at the privileged suggestions of “if you can’t handle the instability, maybe this isn’t for you”—instead, we can make the experience and work environment more welcoming to the human experience, thus opening the door wider to more impressive talent. 100 FOX says it’ll actually make people more productive and committed too!
As with most operations in the DAO, we are building as we go (while also still taking part in useful business practices that are agnostic to the type of organization you run; i.e., leaders, payroll systems, protection mechanisms for information). Community members at ShapeShift seemed genuinely eager to chat about it and start piecing together ways to remain competitive as an employer while recognizing that the world is watching—meaning, how we handle the human experience within the DAO could speak volume to the public, while also influencing the path of other DAOs/potential DAOs. While we build a platform to offer the DeFi that enthusiasts can drool over, we can also influence the path for other companies to take this leap into a freer way of doing business.
At the end of the day, the ShapeShift DAO doesn’t have an extended leave policy, but we are working on building a recommendation for work streams to follow or build upon as they see fit for their teams. In my workstream, I am the leader, I am also part time. I’m also pregnant. It’s clear to me there’s a bias, but I wouldn’t call it a conflict of interest. It’s just life!
I will be taking roughly two months of paid leave, approved in our latest proposal. Do I need more than two months to recover and connect with the brand new human I just birthed? Of course! However, I am part time and as the first woman to be pioneering maternity leave in this DAO, I wanted to be cautious of setting the appropriate precedent for a new company. Building out from a modest place is easier, then trying to stuff the toothpaste back in the tube later. Also, coming from a centralized, full-time position to a decentralized, part-time position, I’m aware that even after my leave is up, I’ll still have plenty of flexibility in my schedule to gradually reintroduce myself to my responsibilities.
My personal view on maternity leave from my past experience is that most U.S. companies follow the bare minimum guidelines pushed forth by law: the employer must hold the job and their benefits for a full-time employee for 12 weeks, but no pay is required. Thankfully, when I had my first child, I was not subject to the bare minimum, because centralized ShapeShift offered 12 weeks of paid leave. Relatively speaking, a great benefit.
My maternity leave recommendation at this time is: 4 months paid and job title held to the contributor if they have been with the DAO for at least 8 months.
My paternity/non-birthing partner leave recommendation at this time is: 1.5 months paid and job title held to the contributor, if they have been with the DAO for at least 8 months.
I believe most families need more time than that, but there is a delicate balance between sustainable business practices at such a vulnerable period of an organization’s growth and the unique, incredibly significant humans we are supporting. Because of that, I believe as the ShapeShift DAO hits a level of maturity and momentum, this recommendation should change to an even more attractive package for potential talent; i.e., six months paid for maternity leave and two+ months for paternity leave.
While I’m away on this leave I will not be participating in the DAO at all. No emails will be responded to and all messages will go unread. I’ve appointed two co-captains of my workstream and — two supportive and passionate team members of Customer Support. I, personally, run my payroll through Opolis and access health benefits from their organization (which is a fabulous organization by the way), so while I’m away there are a few processes I have to set up in advance to make sure my benefits keep rolling. Being decentralized means you have to do a lot of this “HR stuff” yourself.
Here are some drawbacks I’ve thought about when it comes to maternity leave at the DAO and how to manage it (other forms of leave also deserve a discussion):
Most contributors are anonymous or pseudo-anonymous. What’s to keep a bad actor from getting hired and falsely claiming a pregnancy? My team uses video when we talk so they’ve all seen my enormous belly but how do you ask a dad or mom to prove their upcoming baby is in fact on the way?