When Cleo, a family benefits company, conducts a virtual leadership team meeting, it’s not uncommon for someone to step out of frame to wrangle a toddler or breastfeed their newborn. In fact, this is exactly the type of behavior that puts Cleo in a position to create services for the everyday working parent, according to CEO Sarahjane Sacchetti.
“I think what’s really unique about this time is the struggles of our members are our immediate struggles,” she told MobiHealthNews. “They're not abstract to us.”
Cleo’s integrated family support platform is offered as a benefit through employer health plans. It matches every member with a certified in-house practitioner to act as a guide throughout the parenting journey, from family planning to pregnancy, to parenthood and beyond.
Once a family gets paired with a guide, they get access to a range of programs, such as mental health support and child care navigation. Members can also use the Cleo app, which compiles user data to personalize content for whatever stage of the parenting journey they’re at.
“Our mission is to enable working families to thrive,” Sacchetti said. “And so what that means to us is working specifically through their employers that care deeply about the health, productivity and holistic progress of their family populations.”
WELCOMING NEW MEMBERS
Amid the ever-changing world of COVID-19, Cleo experienced rapid growth as both working parents and employers seek benefits and services to help families thrive in and out of the workplace.
Today, the company boasts a client list that includes companies like Pinterest, Reddit and Box, and a user base of more than 640,000 from its four largest employers alone.
To help with that growth, Cleo recently appointed Karin Ajmani to its board of directors at the beginning of October.
Ajmani has a deep background in health, starting with her upbringing, where she had several physicians in the family.
“I was always surrounded by people who spoke about medicine, but I personally was never attracted to being a clinician,” Ajmani said. “I was always more attracted to public health and women and children issues.”
Early on in her career, Ajmani learned that through simple and focused interventions she could make a significant impact on people’s health outcomes. As the CEO of CarePlus Health Plans, she developed a for-profit Medicaid managed care organization from the pre-operational stage to an organization with more than $300 million in revenue.
Most recently, she served as president and chief strategy officer at Progyny, a national infertility health benefits company based in New York, where she was responsible for driving the company to over $150 million in revenue.
She currently serves on the board of directors for Caption Health, an AI-enabled cardiac imaging company, and SWORD, a digital musculoskeletal and pulmonary therapy provider. Previously, she sat on the boards of Citra Health Solutions and Autism Learning Providers.
As the mother of two children aged 19 and 13, Ajmani was compelled to join Cleo based on her experience parenting while working full time.
“When you are a parent, and in particular a working parent, there is a constant struggle between your parenting and work and finding the right balance,” she said. “And you’re never going to find the right balance – and many times I got that balance wrong. I didn’t prioritize what I should have. I was getting burnt out. I was flailing in one area or the other.”
Looking back, she wishes she had a service like Cleo to serve as a one-stop-shop for parenting support. And now, as a board member, she can help spread the word about Cleo and expand its business to help new parents who could benefit from its services.
“I understand, as an older parent, the importance of having these support services, especially for younger parents, so that they can get it right, because they will be happier and more effective parents – and actually much more productive employees,” Ajmani said.
THE FUTURE OF FAMILY BENEFITS
As COVID-19 spread across the world, both parents and children found themselves confined in their homes. This shift resulted in another responsibility being added to the plates of working parents – educators.
The added role led to decreases in the percentage of mothers and fathers employed and at work during the pandemic. In September 2020, 63% of mothers were employed and working compared to 69% in 2019. Similarly, of fathers, 86% were employed this September compared to 91% last year, according to the Pew Research Center.
To better meet the needs of those parents still working, many workplaces are considering adjusting their benefits in the upcoming year, according to a Mercer survey. Some of the popular areas for change are in telehealth, mental health support and adding voluntary benefits.
This is where Cleo hopes to come in – by offering employers a new way to support their increasingly overworked parent population.
“I think, in 2021 and 2022, we’re going to see incredible innovation on the side of the employers in delivering a new form of dependent care, and I think at Cleo our vision is to be that platform,” Sacchetti said.
The company is already gearing up to become the go-to service for family employer benefits.
This summer, it launched the Cleo Marketplace, an ecosystem of vetted partners that connects families to an even broader network of support. Some of the services in the market include lactation assistance, tutoring and fertility testing, with more partners being added as the marketplace evolves.
“I’m really excited for Cleo to change the expectation of employer benefits,” Ajmani said. “It’s not just the basic medical benefits you get through a health plan, plus your dental, plus your vision. It is all of those other things that are important to people that you can’t adjudicate a claim for – that you don’t necessarily see a physician for – and that is as important, and sometimes even more important, than the traditional medical benefits.”