Thursday, 19 July 2012

Babies In The Office


Working mum Shellon returns to work with 5 month old Mahdka  Photo: BBC Two

Addison Lee, a London based mincab company recently ran an interesting workplace trial allowing parents to bring their babies to work. The trial was documented by BBC Two and made for fascinating television as we watched the trials and tribulations of mothers, babies, co-workers and management. The trial of the scheme was prompted by the apparent success of similar schemes in the USA where a growing number of companies successfully run babies-at-work schemes. 

Aired over two nights, BBC2 Two’s Babies in the Office highlighted the plight of working parents struggling to afford rising child care costs and maintain a work-life balance. It also turned the spotlight on organisations and their managers who face the growing challenge of staff retention and curbing the associated costs of recruitment and training. 

Shellon, one of the mothers who participated in the trial, reported spending almost ₤1,000 per month on childcare. Returning to the office after taking off five months to give birth to and care for her baby, she felt the programme would be life changing not just in respect to the family budget but for the happiness and welfare of her children too.

Single mum Zahra brought her two daughters to the office, one of which was the oldest to participate in the trial at 2 ½ yrs old. She was delighted to have the opportunity to spend more time with her children after reporting that she was only able to see them in the evenings to feed, clean and put them to bed.

As the trial unfolded, it became obvious that allowing toddlers in the scheme wasn’t going to work since unlike babies they were easily bored and were able to walk around the office requiring much more supervision and care.

Despite his initial scepticism about the trial, Managing Director Liam Griffin reported a lot of positivity around the programme saying : “The loyalty and enthusiasm from the other staff and the morale that's come with it and the uplift in that, that's had significant benefits."

You do have to wonder if those benefits would continue beyond the one month trial. Would the parents feel overburdened and overworked from effectively doing two jobs at once? Would co-workers grow annoyed at the regular squelches and screams from demanding babies and being taken away from their own jobs to help?

At the end of the month-long trial, it was decided by staff vote and management that the babies in the office scheme would continue but only for babies up to the age of one year. Beyond that, the company will provide an on-site nursery. Everyone seemed quite happy with the outcome and it would be interesting to return in say a year’s time to see how they’re getting on.

The programme is available to view online for a limited time at the BBC2 website. You can also read more about the trial and the series at:

Babies in the office: Taking my baby to work BBC Blog by Shellon Beckford (one of the mums in the trial)

Copyright © CareerWorx

What do you think? Is bringing babies to work the best solution to address the issues of work-life balance, high child-care costs and staff retention? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Lisa LaRue, MCareerDev, BSocSc(Couns), DipCareerGuid,  MICG is a Career Counsellor/Career Coach at CareerWorx www.careerworx.co.uk. 

4 comments:

  1. I don't know if this will work. Maybe if the parents have their own office but not in an open plan environment. I wonder what the staff without kids think of it?

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  2. I'm a mum and I'm not sure it would work for me. I have the kind of job I really need to concentrate on and I don't think I could even work at home with the little ones around.
    It's a brilliant idea for those who can make it work, though.

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  3. I thinks it depends on several issues: If one needs to make lots of phone calls or has clients coming in, then no. If it's mainly working by the computer and office isn't too open/ shared, maybe then it could work.

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  4. Some great comments thank you for sharing your views.

    The TV programme followed working mums at a minicab company some of whom where call centre staff taking bookings over the phone. It did look very challenging especially when baby was crying but somehow they seemed to manage.

    As you've stated, if the staff member has a less customer facing role and more private space perhaps it would be easier.

    What do you think? We'd love to hear your thoughts.

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