Companies make room for baby
Despite distractions, they offer this unusual benefit to retain workers.
(Page 2 of 2)
They have also reduced workloads that co-workers would often have to pick up in the absence of a person on maternity leave, Ms. Secret says. "These kinds of programs help businesses achieve their goals," she says. "They keep people at work."Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
T3, an advertising firm in Austin, Texas, implemented a babies-at-work program after five key women employees announced their pregnancies. The company "didn't want to risk losing them," says Courtney Layton, public relations executive for T3. The company places returning mothers and their babies in a separate office to give them privacy and avoid disturbing other workers. The program, which has hosted over 50 babies since 1995, has "fostered a family-friendly work environment," Ms. Layton says.
Parents have also benefitted economically from the programs. There are "so many more families that can't make it on one income and don't want babies in daycare for months," Moquin says. "The cost of daycare is so high."
With babies, come challenges
But bringing babies to work isn't a policy that's taking off with all employees, nor is it a fit for every company. The prospect of crying babies or stinky diapers may lead co-workers to pack up the contents of their cubicle or voice complaints. "It may not be as pleasant an experience" for an employee to be surrounded by babies, says Lane Transou, who tracks compensation and benefit trends for the Society of Human Resource Management.
Babies-at-work policies are "predominantly in small companies and informal," Ms. Transou says in a telephone interview. "It's unusual to see them for many reasons. Mostly, it's a liability the company would have to carry."
Renee Taylor, a commercial real estate broker in Raleigh, N.C., tried bringing both of her babies to work, but on both occasions, she found it to be a challenge. "It was extremely distracting. It was really frustrating," Ms. Taylor says. "I didn't really get anything out of it because instead of doing one thing well, I was doing two things badly."
While researching businesses in Ohio with parenting in the workplace programs in 2005, Secret found one company that discontinued its program after one week because the co-workers paid too much attention to the baby. "I think that would have worn off after the first week or so," she says.
For some companies, private offices for childcare aren't an option. So Moquin suggests that they consider baby-free zones – a space where the parent can tend to the baby's needs without interrupting nearby workers.
Returning mothers can also take steps to pave the way for a smooth transition before the baby arrives, says Moquin. She encourages parents to e-mail nearby employees to announce the arrival of a baby at the office. Returning mothers should also ask a few co-workers if they would be willing to watch their baby if they need to attend a meeting or step away from their cubicle.
At Valley Credit Union, mothers are allowed bring their babies to work until they are 8 months old or crawling. That time has been meaningful for Guevarra, who adds that she has enjoyed spending time with her baby, "watching her grow, not missing any of her milestones."