Sunday, 6 July 2008

MY Question of the Week: Should Babies be in the Workplace?

I'm sure you can imagine my answer!

I was reading my weekly People Magazine, and found this article: The Littlest Cubicle Warriors, dated July 14, 2008. (Don't get me started on the date thing in magazines...) This is interesting...

"Forget daycare: Now parents can bring their babies to work (by Vickie Bane)

It's 8:30 a.m. and Benjamin Bilbertson is restless. He gurgles, legs kicking, as hi mom, Jessica Gilbertson, tickles his belly and plays peekaboo until she puts the three-month-old in a crib for a nap. Then Jessica settles in at her desk to answer e-mails and return calls-just like her colleagues in the cubicles next door.

Welcome to babies in the workplace, a trend gaining momentum with more than 100 companies in 33 states setting up programs-half in the last three years. The cons? Squalling babies can deter productivity. The pros: improved moral for new parents uneasy about leaving their kids behind when they return to work. Experts like UC Berkeley developmental psychologist Allison Gopnik believe the practice improves family bonding. "No question, this is great for parents and babies," says Gopnik. "In most places and time, work and home were all put together. It's how we were designed."

Carla Moquin, founder of Parenting in the Workplace Institute, says companies with well-defined expectations-making babies leave when they are too acive or noisy, signing liability waivers and instituting a grievance process-can keep both workers and employers satisfied. At the North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) in Bismarck-where Gilbertson, 27, tackles her program-coordinator duties as Benjamin sleeps nearby-babies age out at 6 months. Carleen Scherr, an administrative assistant, recalls one time when a baby started screaming while she was on the phone. "I was worried what the person would think," she says. But for Gilbertson, who came back early from leave after having Benjamin, the baby-to-work option brings fewer worries and helps financially. "It was good for me and the baby," she says.

Another true believer is Cathy Weatherford, CEO of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners in Kansas City, MO., who set up a work-babies program there in 1998. he says they have never had a formal grievance from the 500 staffers-despite babies who have thrown up on papers and bellowed in meetings-and turnover among mothers has dropped significantly. Now, 78 babies later, she says, "50 to 60 percent [productivity] is better than having the office vacant for three to four months of maternity leave."

But for Greta deJong, a Salt Lake City magazine publisher, the premise was better than the practice. She admits her staff is small and that she didn't have a formal policy in place, allowing toddlers as well as pets to roam free. "It was a joy for us, but productivity took it in the shorts," she says. Polly Mottonen, art director, thinks the final straw came when her 1-year-old son Max unplugged everything from the main computer. "It was whortly after that we were 'invited' to work from home," she says with a chuckle. Adds Diane Olson, a former reporter at the magazine: "The smell was the worst part. We had many stinky diapers."

Even Weatherford admits that babies are not for every office. "When you first bring them in, some people look at you skeptically and some people are gathered around the beautiful baby. But then everyone goes back to their routines," she says. And there's nothing quite like a kid in a cubicle to keep stress levels low. "Nobody can be a grump," she says, "when you walk past a sleeping baby."

Blue Box: HOW PARENTS MAKE IT WORK
More than 100 companies allow babies in the workplace. Carla Moquin, head of Parenting in the Workplace Institute, shares tips for success:
- Be attentive to the baby's needs so he or she doesn't cry
- Find a work partner to care for the baby during meetings or important calls
- Try to complete priority tasks while the baby is sleeping
For more information, go to www.babiesatwork.org or www.parentingatwork.org

This is a great idea, admittedly, but I am suddenly so greatful to be in a small, quiet building where this will very likely never happen! At least not in my career time. Thank the gods. I will tell you that if employees could bring their kids to work, I would never utter another peep about having my office in the business wing of the building and will be content forever to remain in the hotel portion. Quite frankly, I'm happy to be there anyway.

But this would push me over the edge. Kids of any age under fifteen are the living end. I might deal with 14 and 13 but not younger and certainly not infants! That sound - crying - is like nails on a chalkboard to me. Aislinge is killed by baby noises just as Superman is killed by Kryptonite!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a member of the NAIC listed in the article for the last eight years, I can attest that the program is a successful one. For the most part, the babies are usually asleep, and very rarely cause a commotion. If they do, a cry room is available, but it's usually empty. If the parent has a meeting, a co-worker will generally take over until the parent is done, so meetings are never a problem.

There have been some within the company that have disagreed with the program, but the only one I personally spoke to with it wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, and eventually went that direction.

I was not personally able to take advantage of this program as my wife and I were through having children when I started work there, but I would have been glad to participate.

David