I Love Seeing Babies at Work!
Envisioning and embracing culture change that enables parents to excel at home and at work is a core goal for MomsRising. Win-win solutions are more accessible than most of us realize. This weekend the New York Times highlighted such an opportunity that far too few businesses are taking advantage of:
babies at work! http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/04/jobs/04babies.html?_r=1
Yes there are jobs for which this is simply not possible, but there are also millions of jobs where keeping your baby with you is the most natural thing in the world. When you consider that the birth of a child is a leading cause of a "poverty spell" in America, this solution is one simple answer and it turns out it is good for business! (Paid family leave also diminishes the financial strain for new families and has been shown to increase employee retention as well. In CA a new parent can take six weeks of paid family leave, plus mothers who give birth get 6 weeks paid medical leave.)
The Parenting in the Workplace Institute http://www.parentingatwork.org/ has a database of more than 120 companies that welcome babies at work. They even have a book available "How to Start a Babies-at-Work Program"--complete with
guidelines and paperwork for employers to use so that they can ensure that having babies in their workplace will be a good experience for everyone. Bottom line: Work continuity, worker loyalty, and goodwill created by supporting a babies-at-work program pays off.
Imagine, then, being able to bring babies to work until they are six months old or crawling. Now that is civilized and it provides some economic security for new families! I still have a hard time accepting that some mothers in this country go back to work days after giving birth because they can't afford to both feed their family and care for their babies. (Have I mentioned that the U.S. is one of only four countries out of over 170 that have no paid family leave for new mothers? California, Washington, and New Jersey are the only states that provide paid family leave). With or without the benefit of paid family leave, businesses are discovering that welcoming babies at work at 4 weeks or 3 months is a smart move as well as a caring way to support parents who must work to care for their families.
Babies-at-work programs are not just for high-end jobs. As I read the stories about companies that took a chance on working differently, I am heartened that these companies are having peaceful revolutions that they are now sharing with others. This kind of thing can change our world. It's not for everyone or everywhere, but it works for far more than you might think.
Joan Blades is co-founder of MomsRising and MoveOn, as well as co-author of a forthcoming book titled The Custom-Fit Workplace, to be released Labor Day 2010.