When taking my daughter to work became a ‘thing’ for me, I took to Google to see if anyone else was doing the same (if it’s not on Google, it doesn’t exist!). I discovered the Parenting in the Workplace Institute in America, which provides resources for the implementation of formal programs in which parents can take their children to work. I was pleased to learn that I wasn’t alone on in my endeavours and that others had also discovered the benefits of taking your baby to work. I was even more pleased that there was an organisation dedicated to helping parents and workplaces to implement babies at work programs.
Florist The Flower Fest is just one of many companies in the US that now offer a babies at work program. After seeing some pretty cute pictures on Instagram, I spoke to The Flower Fest to learn about how and why they implemented their babies at work program.
Why The Flower Fest introduced a babies at work program
Much like my workplace, The Flower Fest’s babies at work program was borne out of necessity. The company’s manager, Gloria, was looking for a new employee to manage their expansion into online sales. Kim interviewed for the position, taking her eight week old daughter Dahlia to the interview with her. Kim wasn’t ready to send her daughter to daycare, but only had a few weeks of maternity leave and needed to work to help bring an income to her new family. She hoped that if she got the job, she’d be able to work part-time and rely on friends and family to care for Dahlia, but little did she know at the time, she wouldn’t need to.
Gloria was impressed: Kim’s experience in retail floral and web-store maintenance made her perfect for the position. The only problem was that she had a young baby. Keen to find a solution, Gloria and business-owner, Dan, took to Google and discovered the Parenting in the Workplace Institute. They downloaded the Institute’s Babies at Work Policy and decided to give it a go.
Shortly after hiring Kim they also asked a former employee, Candice, who had left her position in order to care for her children, to return to work and bring her then five month old son, August, to work with her.
The Flower Fest babies at work policy
The Flower Fest keep their babies at work program basic and flexible to suit the changing needs of those involved. Some of the key components are:
- Each parent nominates alternate caregivers for their children who are responsible for caring for the child if the mother is unavailable for any reason
- The employees who take their babies to work all share a work space that is separate from the rest of the company. This helps to give the mothers privacy while feeding their babies, but also reduces the interruption on the rest of the company (although Candice assures me that they have plenty of visitors during the day!).
- The work space is baby-friendly and includes playpens, a swing, walkers and booster seats.
- Life with a young baby doesn’t always go to plan, so working hours can be flexible and it is acknowledged that parents may be late to work or need to leave early sometimes.
The highs and lows
Both Candice and Kim told me that they think the babies at work program helps them to ‘have it all’.
‘We have a very unique and special work place, I think that is one of the reasons having the babies at work is so successful. [Bringing our babies to work] allows us to “have it all”. It might not be the same “all” that Sheryl talks about, but in our little community we are working, caring for our children and providing for our family’s in a very satisfying way.’
As you can well imagine, taking your baby to work is not always smooth sailing. Kim says she struggled to find nursing clothing that was appropriate for the workplace, but she feels more relaxed now that she is more accustomed to breastfeeding at work. Another major challenge is the morning routine: ‘I started out trying to dress Dahlia up everyday, but I quickly realized my mornings went smoother if I just kept her in her jammies and dressed her after her first diaper change at work.’
Candice, who also has a 5 year old daughter, agrees that the mornings can be hectic: ‘I have trouble with balance, but I make it work. Some days I’m insane and running around like a crazy person. I really enjoy earning my own income and the interaction with adults at work helps me keep my sanity.’
Benefits for the boss
Gloria doesn’t have children herself, but loves having the babies at work and has learnt a lot about caring for babies: ‘Our meetings are always fun as we play pass the baby and everyone gets a turn to hold them. How can you not help but smile while your holding a sweet little baby?’
Gloria says that the workplace benefits from the program, not only by allowing the company to employ talented women, but also by boosting employee morale and creating loyalty.