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University of Massachusetts Amherst

Family Business Center

Question on Bringing Baby to Work

Question from a Western Mass Business Owner, and several answers from others

QUESTION: Do any of you have any experience with employees bringing babies to work? (Infants, under one year old.) I have some, but I am looking for others' experience. Specifically, how compensation is handled, when/if productivity is not the same (attention is on the baby). I am not sure if I should create a situation where the pay is less upon return to work and until the baby goes to daycare (to offset the loss in productivity), or just ride it out, keeping things the same, until the baby is in daycare. I want to be fair to all employees and set a proper precedent. This employee is NOT looking for a pay cut, and feels she's still going to be very productive. Insights? Experience? Western Mass business owner

ANSWER 1: To me it seems like the most important thing is to have some clear before/after metrics so that if productivity falls it's not a problem. So if they normally produce x widgets, or take y phone calls, or do z dollars in product in a week, change their compensation so they make less, BUT if they hit the same targets as before, they get a bonus so they'll make the same. If they're sure they can do it, no problem. Presentation of this idea is critical... Owner, Western Mass Web Design

ANSWER 2: How do you measure loss of productivity as it relates to a baby? Would someone stepping out for a smoke break be penalized for the same decreased productivity? And, what would your costs be if the employee elected to stay out for FMLA maternity leave? Then, if the employee decided to stay out of work, what would be your costs to find and train a replacement? Also, consider that a new mother is working and the baby is off at daycare...do you think she'd be less productive anyway, as she's going to be calling daycare several times per day wondering how her beautiful baby is doing? Then, when the daycare has a snow day or a flu, she's going to miss work or need to leave unexpectedly. My advice is to ride it out, and create goodwill by demonstrating your care and compassion for the employee. It's exactly this sort of thing that sets apart great companies from mediocre companies. Use the opportunity to tell the employee that you're not setting a precedent, but that she is valued and you're willing to help her out, but expect her to maintain a reasonably high level of productivity. You also need to consider possible liability issues to the company. Who watches the baby if the employee goes to the restroom? What if there's a fire evacuation? What if a ceiling tile falls on the baby? Just make sure you're covered and safe. Just random thoughts. VP, Western Mass construction and materials supply company

ANSWER 3: When I had my two children, I attempted to bring them to work with me when they were newborns. Our office staff at the time was about 10 people and we did not have a lot of room--a community office with no separate areas. Also, since we are a truck terminal, it's not the most sterile environment so mobile children are not a possibility.My first daughter slept or sat quietly through everything--including napping next to the dot matrix printer while I ran reams of reports. I was able to accomplish a lot of work. HOWEVER, many of the people or visitors that came through the office (50+ drivers plus others) wanted to look at the baby and/or chat with me. Also, the people in the office tended to gravitate towards the baby. This was very disruptive to all of us. Also, I was only here for a few hours each day--anything close to full time would not have worked out at all due to space logistics that are mentioned below. My second daughter did not want to sleep nor sit quietly at all. She fussed a lot and I found myself attempting to work while holding her. She interfered with either my sight line or my paperwork, grabbing or shoving whatever was in her reach. In addition, the fussing did not abate while being held. It was very difficult to accomplish anything, plus her crying was also disruptive to the other staff and made phone conversations difficult, both for me and my co-workers. I don't think we (the baby and I) lasted one week at work, part time. I tried a few other times because I had to, and it was still awful. As far as pay cuts as an option to offset the lack of production, I can't even imagine how that would work....how can you determine how effective the employee would be or how much time would be taken by the baby? Illness or even change in diet could cause unpredictable schedule changes and fussiness levels. No matter how you determine the new rate, I think you could reasonably expect that at least one or the other, perhaps both, of the mother or employer would feel cheated in the end, causing hard feelings on the part of both. You have to consider space for a sleeping baby, possibly a swing (more noise), toys (babies love rattles) and feeding area (particularly if breastfeeding) and changing area and diaper disposal. That's a lot of area, noise and smell to consider. Also, once the baby becomes mobile, that brings an entire new set of logistics into the mix--childproofing, office cleanliness, etc. As far as precedent, not every baby is the same, nor is mothering the same. What if the first baby works out "not too bad" and the next one is "horrific"? Also, I think you would have to allow dads to bring their children. Or someone's daughter is sick, so they're bringing in the grandchild. You've set the precedent for babies, so now your guidelines need to be structured to take into consideration multiple situations. Could two babies in the office be a possibility? Perhaps we just aren't progressive enough, but having tired it personally I would not allow employees to bring babies to work. Not the place for babies. Very disruptive. As mentioned, even if you have a sleeper, it's still disruptive. If you have a baby that needs a lot of attention, little work will be accomplished and both the mother and the co-workers will become agitated. Not a good mood enhancer for the entire office. Business is stressful enough now without adding more unnecessary and preventable stress. Depending on the size of the company, perhaps they could arrange some type of "corporate" discounted rate at a nearby daycare provider. Flexible hours, including evenings or weekends, or take home work? Telecommuting? I would try just about anything to keep a good employee, short of allowing the baby to come to work. Hope this helps. Owner, Western Mass transportation company

ANSWER 4: Serious legal issues at play. I would strongly recommend they speak with an experienced employment lawyer before doing anything - including allowing the child to come to work.Western Mass attorney

ANSWER 5: Very short term, max a week or less no more. Depend on type of office and type of work and how many people in office? Only in an emergency! Owner, Western Mass design/builder

ANSWER 6:I had a baby (my son) in my office several days a week when he was young (6-12 months or so). It was awfully distracting and productivity was definitely MUCH lower. In my opinion, babies don't belong in a work place. My guess is that the parent would be only 50-60% as productive, and others in the office would be less productive as well (due to the distractions of cute baby, attention demanding behavior, baby crying in the background during phone conversations people tip-toeing around the office or turning off their phones so that they don't wake up the baby, etc...) Health and cleanliness issues may also be a problem. What if baby picks up germs in the office, what if baby spreads germs, what do you do with dirty diapers, etc... I've heard nice reviews of places that have baby day care center on site. Are there enough employees with babies to justify this? Owner, Western Mass web designer

ANSWER 7: I brought my daughter to work from the time she was a few weeks old to 8 months. (My father had passed away and I had to take care of the business.) It was very distracting. I was no where near as productive and was very limited as to where and when I could attend meetings or just move around the building. It was also distracting for all the other employees. Not very safe for the child either, depending on the environment. I would recommend having the person work from home and pay them based on productivity. At what age will you draw the line? Will you help pay for daycare for those who do not chose to bring their child to work? Will employees be allowed to bring children in when they are sick and unable to go to daycare (most daycares require that a child be fever free for 24 hours before returning to school), or when the daycare is closed? Too sum it up...not a good idea. Owner, Western Mass manufacturer

ANSWER 8: If this is a very small business and the baby is a relative, then it's a "family" decision, but generally the presence of a baby brings all unrelated activity nearby to a standstill. I advise against such a precedent, even in a so-called emergency. Most of the new mothers in my business have decided in favor of returning after several months of leave (a good disability plan helps). None have even asked to bring their baby to work. Owner, Western Mass manufacturer

ANSWER 9: It seems to me that the FBC member should not reduce the compensation of the employee who is bringing a baby to work. (I assume, from the question, that the employer has approved the employee bringing the baby to work.) The employer would likely be opening itself up to a claim of discrimination on the basis of gender (women provide most child care) and claims of discrimination based on perceptions about> family responsibilities are a growing risk. Western Mass Attorney

ANSWER 10: I brought my daughter to work from the time she was a few weeks old to 8 months. (My father had passed away and I had to take care of the business.) It was very distracting. I was no where near as productive and was very limited as to where and when I could attend meetings or just move around the building. It was also distracting for all the other employees. Not very safe for the child either, depending on the environment. I would recommend having the person work from home and pay them based on productivity. At what age will you draw the line? Will you help pay for daycare for those who do not chose to bring their child to work? Will employees be allowed to bring children in when they are sick and unable to go to daycare (most daycares require that a child be fever free for 24 hours before returning to school), or when the daycare is closed? Too sum it up...not a good idea. Owner, Western Mass manufacturer

ANSWER 11: Great case for results focused management. I have no idea what the job is, but wonder why the manager already assumes that productivity must decline. I also believe there is a big difference between bringing an newborn to work (up to 3 months) and a 9 month old. At what age does the mother expect to place the baby in daycare? Owner, Western Mass farmer

 

 


 

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