Should You Allow New Parents to Bring Their Babies to Work?

Bringing a baby to the workplace may seem like a bad idea at first — who has time for diapers, crying and feedings between conference calls and meetings, anyway?

But that could just be a knee-jerk reaction. In fact, a family-friendly culture can actually benefit your workforce, including by helping employees stay in the workforce at a time when many of them (mostly women) would otherwise leave.

Businesses have caught on. There are now some 200 companies that allow you to bring your baby to work or otherwise offer some kind of baby-at-work policy, such as on-site child care. Earlier this year, HR Executive profiled two of them: one a resource wholesaler, and the other a regional Girl Scouts branch.

Both offices found that letting their employees bring babies to work had positive outcomes — however, commonsense boundaries and strict policies helped them maintain the benefit for everyone. For example, one company’s policy enabled employees to bring their babies just as long as they weren’t crawling (about 6 months or so). Another stipulated that babies stay out of dangerous environments like warehouses.

Would allowing babies in the office have advantages for your business, or would it just add another distraction? Here’s how to decide.

The Business Benefits of a Baby-Friendly Office

One of the most important benefits of a baby-at-work policy isn’t about the baby at all. Instead, it’s about the employee’s presence. Statistically, many employees — predominately women — cut their hours or leave the workforce entirely when child care isn’t cost-effective. The ability to bring babies to work could change that pattern.

The mechanics are simple: Before they learn how to move themselves around, babies are pretty portable. That’s part of what makes baby-at-work programs so successful — new parents can wear an infant sling, for example, so that the baby gets to snuggle peacefully next to mom or dad, where they feel safest.

Infants who nestle in closer to their parents are happier and less fussy. During the baby’s quiet hours, employees can engage in heads-down, productive work.

Not only can that enable employees to return to work sooner if they wish and save thousands on child care while they’re at it, but it can also boost company-wide recruitment. More candidates than ever are looking for family benefits. From there, better retention curbs other costs linked with turnover, such as hiring and onboarding.

Other Benefits of Baby-Friendly Policies

New moms benefit from baby-at-work policies in plenty of less obvious ways. For one, keeping baby close has helped some moms ward off postpartum depression — something that, if left unaddressed, can carry over into the workplace and harm productivity.

There are other unique advantages for breastfeeding mothers. Nursing on demand removes the need for mothers to clean pump parts multiple times a day. Frequent nursing has also been shown to boost milk production, which can lead to a better breastfeeding relationship between the mother and baby.

The effects of this ripple across the office, from better emotional health for the new mother to immune-boosted babies who may be less likely to get sick in the future and require parents to take time off work.

Implementing a Bring Your Baby to Work Policy

If you’re considering a baby-at-work policy, getting consensus from the company’s stakeholders is key. Host roundtable sessions with employees to learn whether the benefit is something workers would really want. Employees may have concerns about the potential for crying babies to cause headaches or distractions.

After collecting those insights, check out the Parenting in the Workplace Institute. The organization offers a downloadable template that can be adapted for an office of any size and type, as well as additional resources to help baby-at-work initiatives run smoothly.

But keep in mind that young children may not be safe in all workplaces, particularly those with dangerous equipment or hazardous materials. That doesn’t mean you can’t explore supportive alternatives — such as offering remote work opportunities, flexible schedules, subsidized child care or an on-site daycare. Benefits like these that make employees’ lives easier on a day-to-day basis tell your workforce that you’re invested in them for the long haul.

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