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Carla Moquin's picture

When it comes to open, flexible work options such as those is working to achieve, the term "family-friendly" could more accurately be labeled "human-friendly." People in every conceivable living arrangement desire work that takes into account their individuality, their dreams, and their responsibilities outside of their jobs. Unfortunately, employers struggling with tight budgets hesitate to invest money in employee benefits and "family-friendly" programs without a guarantee of business benefits that will come from that investment.

So how do we help more businesses to understand the positive transformation that occurs when we respect employees' humanity and take into account their individual situations? One answer may be a low-cost, high-return program already implemented in over seventy organizations around the country--allowing babies in the workplace. From law firms to credit unions to government agencies to retail stores, managers and coworkers have been amazed to discover how the workplace changes when parents are allowed to work with their babies at the office on a regular basis, generally until around the time the babies start crawling or walking.

The impact on the work environment has been profound in these companies with structured baby programs. Babies improved morale--not just for the parents, who were obviously deeply grateful for the opportunity to keep their children with them--but for the office in general. Higher morale meant happier, more loyal, and often more productive employees. People started talking about their personal lives more and developed closer relationships with their coworkers, which led to increased cooperation and teamwork. In many companies, managers noticed that people were actually nicer to each other as a result of the babies being around. People--including many who really didn't want the baby program in the first place--discovered that a smile or hug from a baby was deeply rejuvenating if they were having a bad day, and they talked about needing their daily "baby fix."

For the growing number of businesses that have experienced the increased retention, loyalty, and morale (as well as the lowered stress levels) that occur when an employer is sensitive to employees' needs as people, being human-friendly isn't even open for discussion--it's clear that all, including the business, benefit from this philosophy. But for far too many in our society, when they walk onto the job, they have to forget the rules of life that were obvious when they were children--that play and down time are critical to maintaining creativity, productivity, and motivation; that social support gives us the strength and resources to overcome obstacles; and that laughter and human contact can defuse stress like nothing else.

Babies-at-work programs obviously have many benefits for parents and babies, including easier breastfeeding, deeper bonding, lower day care costs, better financial stability, and increased social and intellectual stimulation for new mothers and babies. A "side effect" of babies in the workplace that could truly transform our society, though, is how regular interaction with babies (which was actually the "norm" in human history prior to the Industrial Revolution) rekindles awareness of our humanity in the workplace. It is likely that many more organizations will adopt baby programs, given the proven success of these programs in a wide range of companies, the extensive benefits of these programs, and the nominal financial costs for a business.

As companies see firsthand how retention and productivity go up, collaboration and recruitment improve, customer loyalty increases, and health costs go down when businesses see workers--and help workers see each other--as individuals with complex interests and lives that don't disappear when they come to work, more human-friendly programs are sure to follow.

*A Peaceful Revolution is a weekly blog about work/life satisfaction done in collaboration with the Huffington Post. Read a post by a leading thinker in the field every week. Carla Moquin is the President of the Parenting in the Workplace Institute (, a non-profit based in Massachusetts that is devoted to providing resources and education related to parenting at work.

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