While working moms often struggle to find the perfect work-life balance, one British firm has adopted a policy that tries to make it easier. They are encouraging both mothers and fathers to bring their babies to the office.
A BBC2 documentary, Babies in the Office, records a plan by Addison Lee -- Britain's busiest minicab firm -- to allow mothers and fathers to bring their children babies and toddlers to the head office, reports the Telegraph.
"It warms the cockles of the heart," managing director Liam Griffin says. "We're a family business, run by two families, and we started out very small 35 years ago. Since then, we've grown to the point where we're in danger of becoming a very corporate entity, so we strive to create a lighter mood, a more family atmosphere — quite literally — by bringing babies and small children into the workplace."
The first day was experimental, with eight parents and nine babies/toddlers comprising the initial focus group. Predictably, some chaos — hurling of books, chewing of telephone wires, sulking, kicking and crying — ensued. Productivity decreased.
After a month-long trial, the scheme seemed to be embraced by most co-workers, including the initially skeptical child-free ones. Addision Lee decided to make the policy permanent, reports MSNBC.
An on-site daycare is being built for older children.
Shellon Beckford, one of the women who brought her 5-month-old Mahdka to the call centre, blogs about the experience for the BBC:
"As far as concentration went, I soon realized that you have to be able to multi-task. Both baby's routine as well as scheduling your day can be adjusted so that you get the bulk of your work done while they are napping," she writes.
"I started taking my break when it was Mahdka's lunch time and ensured I had all the basics and toys close to hand at all times. Most importantly, it is key to remember that it is your baby, therefore your responsibility, although each parent did have a buddy that took the baby if you're in a meeting or if the baby's really upset while you are on a call."
The Telegraph notes that Addison Lee's American equivalent has been running babies-in-the-office schemes for years, and quite successfully at that. The firm assigned each parent a "buddy" coworker who could assist with the child during difficult moments.
These programs are designed to help working parents save on childcare and to promote mother-child bonding through breastfeeding. They also hope to generate company loyalty. A low turnover rate subsequently saves companies money on recruitment and training.
Critics aren't sure if it's worth it. Young parents are under additional pressure of trying to be perfect parents in front of their coworkers. Attention is divided between babies and the bottom line. And many young ones get bored, frustrated with the work environment and lack of mom's full attention.
The Evening Standard's Sam Leith calls the babies-in-the-office concept ridiculous:
"As a 'worker-from-home' I know whereof I speak. Making a simple phone call this morning was next to impossible what with the three-year-old pleading to be let out from under the stairs. Children are noisy and sticky. You do neither them nor your job justice by attempting to serve both at once," he writes. "That goes double in an office. The main difference between adults and children is the ability to absorb boredom."
If you could, would you bring your baby to work? Or does this just put undue pressure on you?