BYOB– Bring Your Own Baby, (To Work That Is).
At the end of the summer, Oliver Russell will have a new employee, except this person won’t be paid. She will have no other duty than to sleep during client meetings and coo at her co-workers over lunch. Who is this lucky employee, you ask? She’s a baby who will be coming to work with her mom, Shawna Samuelson, our Executive Producer.
This won’t be Shawna’s first time balancing workday duties and caring for a newborn all while sitting at her office desk. In 2013, Oliver Russell helped make her transition into working motherhood easier by allowing her to bring her first born, Otto, into the office for four months following her maternity leave. Although bringing a baby to work may seem like a new trend, Oliver Russell has been welcoming babies into the workplace since the ‘90’s.
That’s why we were so surprised to read that only 2,100 babies joined their parents at the office over the past decade according to Parenting in the Workplace Institute. Though there are most certainly babies who have gone to work with their parents, but haven’t been recorded (Otto included), bringing your baby to work is a workplace benefit that could –and should – be more normalized.
Even with the big news stories of a baby in parliament and the increasing awareness of the need for proper maternal and paternal leave in our country, most people are shocked when Shawna tells them about her plans to bring her baby to work. “They cannot believe my employer is so flexible and I get comments of envy,” Shawna says. “But any client who learns that I am working with a newborn at my desk is thrilled to partner with a company that supports motherhood so completely.”
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With this in mind, why don’t more businesses offer the benefit of BYO-Baby to work? Naturally, some work environments are not fit for a newborn, but in many cases babies can fit into an office setting fairly easily. Not only that, but that type of employee benefit could be valuable to the business as well. First, it gives employers the opportunity to recognize the roles employees play outside of the workplace, which can strengthen the employer/employee relationship and likely lead to better employer loyalty. To prove this point, Shawna has been with Oliver Russell for over 10 years.
Furthermore, by offering parents workplace flexibility, companies can put action to their value system and in some cases, further align employees with those values. Let’s take Oliver Russell’s brand values, for example: creative, collaborative, progressive and socially responsible. With the “bring your baby to work policy,” we can show our employees, clients, and competitors what we stand for. At the same time, our employees are able to see the value in those values.
Collaboration is a value Shawna cites as one of the main reasons she prefers to work in the office instead of from home. “Being physically present in the office helps with collaboration—plain and simple,” she says. “Don’t get me wrong, I started working from home more regularly once Otto was born, but there are aspects of my job that are just easier and more successful when done in person (even with an infant in my arms).”
The benefit of having a baby in the workplace, however, goes far beyond mother and employer. “It’s special for everyone—employees, clients, the UPS driver,” says Oliver Russell President and Founder, Russ Stoddard. “It changes the dynamic in a really good way to have that innocence and sweetness here. It’s also more than a little sad when they ‘graduate’ and leave the office.”
As the newest member of the Oliver Russell team and a woman who plans on being a working mother one day, I couldn’t agree more. I am proud to brag to my friends that my new employer offers this benefit to its employees. I only hope that more employers begin to see the importance of supporting an individual’s journey through parenthood. Also, I am looking forward to having a four-month-old to turn to when I need a workday pick-me-up—it’ll be way more fun than my usual afternoon tea break.
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