Do babies belong in the office? While there are concerns about having babies at work, many companies believe the benefits outweigh those concerns. These companies are adopting infant-at-work polices. These polices help ease the transition back into the workplace following maternity leave.
However, allowing babies into the workplace isn’t always safe or practical. Each company will have to decide about infant-at-work policies. Here are some pros and cons to consider.
Benefits of bringing babies to work
There are many advantages of allowing parents to bring their baby to the office. Here are three of them.
Many women don’t return to the workplace after having a baby. Day care costs, the desire to be there for the infant, and a lack of flexibility are all very real concerns for new parents. By welcoming babies into the office, employers retain parents. New parents no longer must decide between staying at home and caring for their infant or continuing to work.
Employee well being
Having baby by their side helps parents feel less stressed. They are better able to focus on their work instead of wondering how their baby is doing. Being happy and less stressed helps improve productivity.
Builds strong families
Infant-at-work policies also encourage parental bonding. Companies offering this program recognize the important role parents play, and are allowing them to do it well.
Disadvantages of bringing baby to work and the solutions
Of course, babies in the office aren’t just coos and giggles. Babies are babies. They cry, poop, and demand attention. Here’s a look at some challenges babies in the workplace can create and tips for solving them.
Becoming a distraction
Babies are fun to spend time with. Sometimes employees may become distracted by the baby to the point of not getting their job done. Other disturbances are caused when the baby cries and interrupts thought. It can take a long time to get back into the working groove.
Solution – Have crystal clear policies
Make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to expectations with an infant-at-work program. Have written policies in place, and require parents to read and sign them before bringing their baby to the office.
You’ll want these policies to include an age limit if applicable. There’s a big difference in distraction levels between an immobile infant and a curious toddler. To keep distractions minimized, many companies allow parents to bring babies up to six months of age, or until they begin crawling.
You can find sample policies from the Parenting in the Workplace Institute.
Causing a rift
Allowing workers to bring their baby to the office might cause some resentment among other employees. Employees who had babies before the infant-at-work policy went into effect might be discouraged. They might say they had to leave their baby and figure it out, and demand that the new parents do the same. Employees who have yet to have children might also see this as an unfair policy.
Solution – Have open dialogue
Open dialogue helps calm many workplace disputes. Before adopting this new policy, talk about it with your staff. Listen to their concerns, and let everyone read the wording of the policy. Consider allowing your employees to offer suggestions to help improve the policy.
Whenever possible, keep many of the same perks available to all employees. For instance, many infant-at-work policies allow parents to remain onsite for their typical hours, and then make up the time lost in caring for baby by working from home. If similar wording is in your policy, consider offering this flex time to parents with older children, or employees without children as well. This will help them feel included, while ensuring the work gets done.
Babies cry, especially when they’re teething. Crying babies can prevent everyone from getting their work done. A crying baby in the background makes phone calls extremely difficult. It makes the entire office seem less professional for any customers on the phone.
Solution – Have a cry room
Sometimes babies are fussy. If you have a space with a closed door, parents can take their little ones there to calm them down. This will help minimize the distraction for the rest of the team. To help parents continue working, there should be a computer, desk, and internet access in this room. Having a rocking chair here will help make it comfortable for the parent.
Depending on your staff, you may also need additional spaces to serve as nursing and pumping areas. These spaces don’t need to have the desk and computer access, but should have a comfortable chair, an electrical outlet, and privacy.
Interrupting work to pass the baby around
Sometimes a parent will need someone else to hold their baby, especially if they’re heading to a meeting. But, not everyone on your staff will want to be responsible for a baby. Being passed a baby can interrupt an employee’s workflow. It can cause problems and resentment.
Solution – Find volunteers to help
Some employees will love the opportunity to hold a baby at some point. In a meeting, ask for volunteers who would be willing to help. Then, have each parent find one or two other employees who will be on their support team. This way everyone knows who they can ask for help, and no one will unexpectedly have a baby passed to them.
Babies mean diapers and occasional spit-up. There will be some new smells in the office with each tiny bundle. Not all of these smells are pleasant.
Solution – Have a diaper changing space
Supplying a diaper changing table in each restroom is a necessity when having babies in the office. Keep a supply of liners on hand too so everything stays sanitary. A garbage can with a tight lid is another essential. Keep one close to each changing station so parents don’t have to carry a dirty diaper clear across the room.