Babies in the Office: Can It Work?

Amy Keyishian

baby at work
I’ll admit it: when I first saw the Babies at Work website, I thought, No way. Because I work from home, which means I have a baby in my workplace, and I am not the most sparkling employee.

But founder Carla Moquin knows what I’m worried about, and she’s got it all under control. She feels that structure is essential in making this work. Structure? Yes! Makes total sense.

And that’s not her only fix. When you look at the institute’s sample template agreement for companies preparing to allow babies in the workplace, it’s impossible to think this wouldn’t work.

Moquin started the website because she had to be back at work four weeks after her first two kids were born -- and one week after the birth of her third. “It caused a lot of problems with breastfeeding, childcare was impossible, and it was just really hard to be separated from my kids so early.” Shuh-yeah!

She happened across a company that had set up a babies-at-work program and was intrigued; soon, she had found six, and upon studying them, she found something startling. “They all had the same benefits -- for the business,” she says. Trouble was, each time it was instituted, each workplace had to re-invent the wheel. So she built the website to bring them all together.

She knows that people can’t work as efficiently with a baby gazing at them from a bouncy chair. But “most companies understand that none of their workers are 100% efficient, 100% of the time,” she points out. When a program like this is instituted, companies "retain employees who would otherwise quit. Plus, their morale rates go way up, not just for the parents, but for the other employees -- even ones who were initially resistant.” And parents anxious to keep the policy in place are much more focused and efficient -- harder workers all around.

One of the most successful examples of this is in Kansas -- yes, Kansas. The first baby-in-the-workplace program was started by Kathleen Sebelius, former governor of Kansas and Obama’s Health and Human Services secretary, and 21 government agencies now have the policy in place with outstanding reports.

What about my issue, that my baby, in my home office, is not a big productivity boost? See, that’s where the genius lies. If I were actually in an office like the one where I used to work (that laid me off when I was pregnant, thanks, thanks so very much), I would be a crapload more productive. “The parent has at least two ‘designated providers’ who’ve been asked ahead of time to take the baby if necessary,” Moquin says. “Anyone else can offer, but you’re prohibited from asking someone to help.” The entire office galvanizes to support the on-site parents, the babies thrive with all the socialization and interaction, and the workplace becomes a village. As opposed to the small desert I find myself in. Hmm.

I love this idea. Do you think the guidelines would work? How do you think we can convince the HR department of doubtful corporations?

Image via D. Sharon Pruitt/Flickr

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