When daycare costs rival that of your monthly mortgage payment, it might be time to consider bringing your little one along to work. Read on for tips from small-business owners who’ve stayed successful with children in tow.
Infant or Toddler
It was mid-2010 when Marilyn Cairo started bringing her six-week-old daughter, Gia, to work. As co-founder of Ask Me Inc., a hotel and destination marketing company in Miami, she worked with her employees to schedule conference calls around Gia’s napping schedule. When the youngster woke up unexpectedly, Cairo could count on an employee to tend to her daughter’s needs until the end of a meeting.
The plan worked for nine months, at which time Cairo moved Gia to a daycare down the street. She offers a few pieces of advice for handing an infant or toddler at the office:
Get them on a schedule. Children are creatures of habit and appreciate a solid routine, so start your regimen right away and stick to it.
“If anything, a routine is for your own personal sanity," Cairo says. “You can plan work around naps and feeding times if the baby knows what to expect.”
Consult your employees. Before your baby is born, sit down with your team to discuss how everyone feels about the inclusion of your child in the workplace. Encourage your employees to voice concerns, suggests Cairo, and see if you can come to a compromise, like using daycare a few days a week or allowing all workers to bring children into the office.
Bring pieces of home. Just as children appreciate routine, they also like recognizable toys. It can get cumbersome to lug bouncy chairs and stuffed animals from home to work every day, so opt for second-hand items from consignment stores, offers Cairo.
“You can also ask friends with older kids if they have toys you could borrow,” she says.
Ages 6 to 12
Ryder Turley is a hard worker. He comes into the office three times a week (during the summer) from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Evolution Printing, his family’s business in Manassas, Va. At just 7 years old, his daily tasks include coloring, practicing his numbers, typing letters into Microsoft Word and making pretty pictures in Photoshop.
“I started bringing Ryder into the office about two years ago and he really likes it,” says Tiffany Turley, co-owner and Ryder’s mom.
Ryder has his own desk, behind a half-wall in the front office, and isn’t allowed to go in the back where paper presses are located. On the other two days of the week, he plays at friends’ houses.
Turley says the arrangement works well and is effective in teaching Ryder the importance of a good work ethic. She offers a few pieces of advice for small business-owners bringing school-age children to the workplace.
Make them feel useful. In addition to coloring and playing on the computer, Turley tasks her son with cleaning.
“He loves walking around with Windex and paper towels, it makes him feel like part of the business,” she says.
Set boundaries. Ryder is instructed to use the same rules at work as he does in the classroom. Turley insists that he raises his hand when he has a question or needs something (especially if she is on the phone), speaks quietly and doesn’t venture into unsafe office territory.
In addition to being co-founders of Barkeater Chocolates in North Creek, N.Y., Deb and Jim Morris are also parents to two sons (ages 8 and 13) and one 16-year-old daughter. According to Deb Morris, the business is a family effort.
“We try to find tasks that they can do and do well,” she says. “The younger one adheres stickers to boxes and the older ones wrap bars and get orders ready.”
Payment is based on what motivates each child. The youngest can get inspired to work with the reward of chocolate or more time with his parents, whereas the older two usually prefer monetary payouts. The children work all year long—a few days per week in the summer and usually one or two hours after school during the fall, winter and spring.
Morris offers a few pieces of advice for working with teenagers, specifically.
Prepare. Make sure you have a plan for what your older children will do during the day, she suggests. Idle time can lead to mischief and boredom.
Encourage them to get another job. It can be difficult for a teenager to take seriously a job where mom or dad is the boss. The remedy: Encourage them to get an outside job. This worked for Morris’s 16-year-old daughter. Just months after she’d started at another company, she came back to Barkeater with a more professional attitude.
Do you bring your kids to work? What are your secrets to success?
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