Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Babies in the office?

I was inspired to write this post after watching a fantastic two part BBC documentary called “Babies in the office”.
For those who didn’t see it, London based taxi company, Addison Lee, trialled the American trend of allowing staff to bring their babies into work.  At the start of the trial, many of the staff were a little wary of the idea and to be quite honest, I did wonder myself how they would be able to meet their targets and continue a normal working day amid the chaos of a dozen little people. 
We all know that little people can be rather demanding.  What do you do when you are in the middle of an important phone call and all of a sudden, your baby starts crying?  Would the babies become bored of sitting by a desk for 8 hours with no other stimulation?  Surely being stuck in an office cannot possibly stimulate a child in the same way that, for example, a trip to a baby and toddler group can?
After the first trial week, many of these issues did arise.  The babies and the staff all had to fit into a new routine.  At times, some parents had to leave the office early because their children had had enough and some parents were unable to meet their deadlines or hit their targets.
It was decided that the trial would be extended for a whole month.  During that time, it became clear that the office was not really an ideal environment for a toddler.  Although many of the toddlers did find a nice routine and were stimulated by the environment around them, we all know how demanding a toddler can be.  We also know how inquisitive a toddler can be and you can’t really afford to take your eyes off them for a second!

Parenting is a full time job.  So is working.  Is it really possible to combine the two?
The longer trial proved to be a success.  The parents and babies found a system that worked for them and the company found that some parents were even meeting their pre-child targets.  Ok, the level of work achieved might not have been as it was before the babies arrived but the company were not just looking at what they could gain in the short term.  Addison Lee discovered that by allowing parents to bring their babies to work, they were creating loyalty within their staff.  Many staff that would have given up work to look after their children, were returning to their job thus saving the company time and money that would be required to recruit and train new staff. 
By the end of the trial, Addison Lee had to make a decision.  Were they going to continue allowing staff to bring babies to work or would the idea end when the trial did?  I am delighted that Addison Lee have become the first UK company to allow babies into the workplace.  Based upon the results of the trail, smaller babies are welcome into the office and the older babies and toddler s have been provided with on-site crèche facilities.  The positives for both parent and child outweighed any negatives.

It’s a huge step forward in dealing with childcare issues in this country.  Many parents, including myself, either give up work, change their career or take a step down the career ladder in order to raise their children.  Addison Lee are helping parents to work whilst still being there for their children.   Juggling work and children is never going to be easy , Addison Lee have taken a step closer to making it easier.   
 What did you think of the programme?  Would you welcome this type of scheme in your workplace?  Have you felt like you have had to choose between a career and being a parent?  Would you take your baby to work?

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