Bringing baby to work often sounds idyllic to new parents. But without firm boundaries, this great idea easily goes awry.
Recently a friend told me about a new mom who was allowed to bring her baby to her office while working for a small organization. Avoiding mom-baby separation and fallout of frequent illnesses during the first year seemed like an ideal situation for all involved. But the baby’s first year turned into two. More babies arrived and they were followed by little siblings. A temporary, one-year agreement turned into an accidental, multi-year habit. Though extreme, this situation illustrates the hazards of loose guidelines.
As a small-business owner and manager, you want to engender workplace happiness along with high productivity and retention of your best people. Allowing a baby at work might be useful for you and your employees who are parents. But consider the needs of all who interact with the business, not only children and their moms and dads but also co-workers and customers.
Start by making sure that your business complies with regulatory requirements, particularly in regard to medical leaves and break times for new parents. Then, if you want to allow babies in your workspace, consider these issues.
At what age does the baby outgrow its protected status?
Define the age at which babies should no longer be present at work. By specifying this in advance, your employees can make plans to get childcare or make alternate work arrangements.
When can you expect the new parent to be fully available at the worksite?
Establish regular hours that your employee must keep at the office, all alone, without baby tagging along. Supervisors, colleagues, customers and vendors should know when they can expect to catch up with this employee. Others shouldn’t have to make radical changes in their schedules to have a child-free, face-to-face meeting.
Does the baby have freedom to crawl or be carried anywhere in your workspace?
State where babies are allowed and where they are prohibited for safety reasons. A small office space may be fine for a supervised child. Production floors, computer rooms, and high-noise areas must be off-limits.
Hours and Days Off
What is the time-off policy for new parents?
New parents often need extra hours or days off for doctor’s appointments for well-child checks as well as illnesses. Add in parent fatigue and susceptibility to illness, and absences may mount. Establish policies for paid and non-paid vacation, sick days, and personal days that are fair and consistent for all employees.
Snow Days and More
Are exceptions made for snow days?
No matter what your baby policy is, you may need to develop one for children of all ages. When the unexpected happens, like a teacher strike, snow day or a sick nanny, parents may (think they) need to bring their children to work. Create guidelines in anticipation of these situations.
Fulfilling business needs and personal goals aren’t always mutually exclusive. But sometimes, they are. And while I would never suggest that you should choose business over baby (for yourself or an employee), realize that, on some days, you can’t have it all.
There are many ways to be family-friendly that don’t require babies or children in the workplace. Consider offering these types of working arrangements and benefits:
- Work at home
- Flex-time hours
- Part-time hours
- Onsite childcare centers
- Shorter workweeks during the summer
- Generous paid or non-paid personal days
However you decide to handle the baby issue, re-evaluate your guidelines periodically. Are happiness, productivity, and retention at the levels you expected?Julie Rains is a senior writer at Wise Bread, a leading personal finance community dedicated to helping people get the most out of their money. Get daily money tips by following Wise Bread on Facebook or Twitter.