Taking babies to work

It was a while ago now that the tv show was on, but there was recently a documentary on BBC2 about a company who trialled an American work idea of having parents bring their babies into work with them.  The idea was around retaining mothers in the workplace rather than losing them because childcare costs can make it pointless working for some parents.

The company was a call centre/sales office, and the babies varied from a few months to around 15 months old.  They had cots, areas for feeding and stairgates/baby proofing around the various offices.

There was a mix of views to begin with, and some mums found it didn’t work for their children – mainly the older ones as they were mobile and wanted to wander round and have more stimulation.  Some of them had to have their targets lowered as they weren’t able to retain their call levels, but others found they were overachieving or on a par with their non-baby levels.  The impact on other staff improved once people got used to the babies being there, although I was astounded that one dad took his baby daughter with him to external client meetings/pitches.

The trial was so successful, they made it a permanent thing.

I’m not convinced myself.  I definitely wouldn’t want to take N into work (well, obviously not now he’s older) and wouldn’t have wanted to when he was younger.  Even if I’d had to go back to work before the end of my maternity leave allowance due to financial pressures I don’t think I’d have coped having him there.

Ok, so he slept a lot when he was younger during the day, and he’s always been quite happy to play on his own rather than being clingy, but he also wanted feeding every 2 hours, so I’d have permanently been feeding him rather than working to keep him quiet.  He’d also have been grabbing everything, and given our office is open plan with up to 60+ people in it at any one time, I could see him and any other babies causing a lot of distraction.

I don’t think I’d have got much work done: we spend a lot of time in meetings, catching up with people, and then having customer meetings.  There’s no way I’d turn up to a customer meeting, or even an internal meeting with a baby in tow.  I’m easily distracted if I see interesting things going on outside a meeting room, let alone if I’d had a baby with me!

The only practical and more realistic solution I could see working would be to have more businesses working to have creches nearby or onsite.  You could even have several businesses clubbing together to make them work as the expense and legal aspects would be horrendous if you ended up subsidising them.  I think that provision would help with work/life balance, staff retention, and moral.  If more businesses had childcare facilities it would encourage more people to want to work for them, and potentially would have more parents returning to work with longer hours.  

I know I have had no choice but to reduce my hours and do just over 4 days over 4 1/2 because working 9-5 there’s no guarantee with an 8am drop off that I could make it by 9 (annoying as I’m generally in on the dot of then), and although leaving at 5 I should be able to get to nursery by 6, there’s no allowance for leaving work late/getting stuck in traffic.  So I’m 9.15-4.30 – that little day shortening does make a big impact (especially when i was used to getting into work early so have lost that time as well).

However, even having childcare near work wouldn’t always work out.  I debated it (very briefly), but it would mean an hour long commute both ways for a young child; it wouldn’t work if I was ill but still had to get child to nursery; there’d be no option for anyone else to help out with drop off/pick up if I was at a customer…so for me it just wouldn’t work.  But it would definitely help a lot of people and potentially help bring childcare costs down.

Do you think having the ability to take your babies to work would work?

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  1. I didn’t watch the programme, but I can’t imagine having babies at work with me. Neither of mine were very contented babies, they certainly wouldn’t have just sat there while I tried to work. I spent most of those early months marching them about in pushchairs trying to get them to sleep, that wouldn’t work in the office! I would have found it far too stressful trying to work at the same time. However a nursery at my workplace would be brilliant, we are very lucky to have our nursery just over the road from where my husband and I work (different places!) and it works really well.

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