At some companies, parents can bring their babies to work every day
Most new parents know the feeling of dread that sets in when their parental leave is about to end. Weeks ago, a tiny human miracle was created and now they have to put that little miracle in daycare and head back to the office. To say the time can be emotional and challenging is a massive understatement.
To ease the transition back to full-time work, more companies in the U.S., about 200 in total, are letting parents bring their babies to work. While that number is still relatively low, the number of businesses offering infants at work programs has more than doubled in the last decade, according to the nonprofit Parenting in the Workplace Institute. The programs typically allow the new mom or dad to bring their baby to work every day until they’re six months old. For many professions, the program is easy to implement safety-wise. Like, you probably shouldn’t bring your baby on an oil rig, but if you work in an office, there are few dangers a newborn will encounter.
Some parents who utilize the policy consider it to be an exceptional benefit. “Daycare is expensive in Vermont. Saving money is one of the best parts of the program,” said Vincent Churchill, whose son came to work with him at children’s clothing company Zutano in 2009. All working parents can relate to the struggle that is expensive daycare. According to Child Care Aware of America, the annual cost of daycare is $11,000 in the U.S.
But the programs are saving companies a ton of money too, since it usually means shorter maternity and paternity leave time. Phoenix resident Cara Christ went back to work six weeks after giving birth because her employer, the Arizona Department of Health Services, lets parents bring infants to the office. “I’d wear her in a Moby wrap to meetings,” Christ told Market Watch. “She’d sleep in her Pack ‘n Play in my office.” Some companies are replacing on-site daycare for employees with this program, which is another chance for them to save even more money.
Research shows that there are several other benefits to the company that provides this type of program including, employee recruitment and increased retention, lower turnover costs, higher employee morale, positive publicity, and lower health care costs from increased breastfeeding rates. There can be obvious downsides as well, but according to the folks at Parenting in the Workplace Institute, a clear policy helps reduce potential inner office conflicts. Employees at the Washington State Department of Health are encouraged to calm their upset baby first and worry about work second.
Christ said her biggest challenge was getting in and out of the restroom. “People see and want to play with her and hold her,” she said. The extra time with her daughter was well worth it, though. “It was nice to have those additional months with her.”
While it may not work for every office environment and every parent, this kind of policy is definitely a step in the right direction toward offering new parents more flexibility in their return to work. It’s encouraging to see companies taking family leave and infant bonding more seriously and hopefully, this is just the beginning of more work places adopting similar programs.