Happy babies at work

PregnantCNN has a great story of a small company who tried an innovative solution when four key employees became pregnant at around the same time:

We had fewer than 25 employees at the time, and the soon-to-be moms were our head of publicity, a media buyer, the manager of print production, and a senior account executive. Each had client and supplier relationships that were vital to our business. Plus, conducting four executive searches at the same time would be costly.

So I decided to try something radical. A few months before they left for maternity leave, I invited the women to bring their babies to work when they returned.

The moms were so thrilled to be close to their babies that none ever dropped the ball when it came to work. When one had to run to a meeting, another babysat. We made sure employees who couldn’t stand the sound of crying babies didn’t sit near the “romper room.”

As we grew to become the $60-million-a-year company that we are today–we now have 150 employees who fill six historic homes in Austin and an office in New York City–additional moms and even dads brought their babies to work.

So far, 33 babies and a small army of dogs have “grown up” at our company. I can’t measure in hard numbers the impact of the goodwill that our family-friendly policies have had on productivity, but our local newspaper routinely names T3 as one of the best places to work in Austin.

They do have one rule, though: No goats!

I like this approach (to the babies, not the goats) and I think it has massive potential. It reframes the situation from “Oh no, one of my employees is pregnant, that’ll create huge problems” to “yes, pregnant employee, what fun!”

BookKirsten Stendevad, a friend of mine, has written two books on the subject. One is about motherhood and how it can be a career boost, rather than a hindrance. The other she co-wrote with her husband Esben Kjaer, and it takes a similar approach to being a father. Both books are only available in danish so far.

All of this is yet another case of self-fullfilling prophecy. When you approach something as a problem, you make it a problem. Regard the same situation as an opportunity and, well… this story speaks for itself.

May I add: “Yes! Crisitunity!”

8 thoughts on “Happy babies at work”

  1. Patagonia did something similar early in their existence… they’ve since built a high-quality on-site daycare.

  2. Thanks for the tip Kareem. I had no idea Patagonia did the same, but everything I’ve heard about them, makes me think they’re pretty cool – not to mention a great place to work.

  3. Great quote indeed! Added Csikszentmihaly’s Good Business to my shopping cart–thanks! (Flow is next on my reading list :)

  4. There are actually many companies with similar babies-at-work programs–who have had similarly high levels of success with the concept. I do research on these programs; my Babies in the Workplace site is dedicated to getting the word out about how well they actually can and do work.

  5. Carla: What a great project you have! What would you say are the main barriers holding companies back from doing more of this?

  6. Alexander,

    Sorry–I didn’t check back after commenting–just now discovered your question. The main barriers seem to be skepticism about the viability of these programs and lack of knowledge about how to set up sustainable programs. In December of last year, I actually founded a non-profit to address those issues (the Parenting in the Workplace Institute) and we now provide a template policy for companies to customize (to make it easier for them to implement programs) and plan to make available other documentation in the near future. The major media attention (in the last six months) on baby programs and on our Institute is also helping to lower the skepticism levels. I also just finished a comprehensive book (it’s an ebook for now) about babies in the workplace, so I’m hoping that will help people to understand these programs in more detail and lead to increased adoption of them.

    If you have any other questions, I’m happy to help–feel free to contact me directly. By the way, I LOVE your site (I actually linked to another one of your posts in my ebook).

    Carla Moquin
    Parenting in the Workplace Institute
    (801) 897-8702

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