Bringing Up Baby at Work
Are Babies in the Office a Helpful Perk or an Annoying Distraction?
Sept. 15, 2007
Pamela Crosier is giving new meaning to the phrase "working mom," and she isn't alone. Every day Crosier brings her 6-month-old daughter, Nora, with her to work.
"I'm a multitasker. I can walk into work, have the baby in the sling, coffee in the hand, cell phone in my pocket, get in in heels without losing anything," Crosier said.
She's an experienced project producer at T3, the Think Tank, a Texas-based advertising firm that allows babies to come into the office from 6 weeks to 8 months old or until they start to crawl.
"It's really a wonderful benefit -- I didn't have to make a daycare for her right away, and she goes to meetings with me, she's very social," she said.
But the older baby Nora gets, the more involved her caretaking has become; between eating and napping, it's often difficult for Crosier to find time to, well, work.
And it's no surprise that with children in the workplace comes controversy, a flashpoint in the mommy wars, which often divides the office.
One man said, "It relieves tension for people, they don't have to worry about their child getting proper care, so I think it can work!"
But not everyone agrees.
"I don't think it's very professional to have children in the office atmosphere -- how are things to run if they started crying," another woman argued.
When Nora starts crying, Pamela takes her out of the office.
"The reality is in the workplace, we avoid confrontation at all costs. So I wouldn't be about to go up to somebody and say, 'You know what, your crying baby is really annoying. I'm getting tired of seeing your baby come in day after day, week after week. This isn't fair. I'm fed up,'" said Tory Johnson, "GMA" workplace contributor and CEO of Women for Hire.
Pamela's colleague Marshall Wright is a creative director. He also brings his baby to work, in a pinch, even though Maggie is now 13 months old.
"This is a perk, you can do this. You have to make sure that it's not disruptive," Wright said.
Marshall admits he's not always very productive in the office, but he tries to make it up at home in the evening.
"There are certainly distractions with Maggie. She wants to play, she needs a diaper change -- if work didn't get done during the day because I was taking care of Maggie, I would do it when I got home," he said.
Crosier said taking care of Nora is often a team, or workplace, effort.
"You can get the bulk of your work done while she's napping, or if someone's in the office playing with her," she said.
But workplace analysts say while baby friendly benefits favor new parents, allowing them to delay daycare and spend more time with their newborns, there can be a serious downside.
"There's often resentment that builds among people who have either older children, or who don't have children, who feel as though those parents are being coddled," Johnson said.
Gay Gaddis is the CEO and founder of the family-friendly T3.
"It really came out of necessity. I had four very key employees who had very important positions in the company that got pregnant within a few months of each other," she said.
Gaddis was afraid they'd opt out of work; she panicked about how to fill those key jobs. "I started to think, what if the babies came to work?"
The new moms embraced the policy, and soon new dads, too, took advantage of the program.
Over the last 11 years, the company grew from 30 to 250 employees with offices in Austin, San Francisco and New York; 40 babies have been part of the daily work force.
The latest survey of almost 600 companies in corporate America shows 29 percent of employers allow employees to bring children to work in an emergency, up from 22 percent from 2006.