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Should Parents be Allowed to Bring Their Kids to the Office?

Posted by Patrick Ball on 24 Mar 2016

Do kids belong in the office?

The retirement of Chicago White Sox first baseman Adam LaRoche over a disagreement with the club over how much his 14-year-old son would be allowed in the clubhouse has sparked quite a bit of conversation about children in the workplace.

Our own VP and GM Michael Marty even talked to the Chicago Tribune about the story.

It gets a lot of attention when an athlete or movie star (Remember when Zoe Saldana wanted a nanny last year?) speaks up about child care issues. But, for working parents, work and home lives collide on the regular.

Schools and daycare centers close unexpectedly. Kids and caregivers get sick. Life is unpredictable, and when care issues arise it doesn’t just affect working families, it affects their employers too.

So, should parents be allowed to bring kids to the office? It’s a complex question. Let’s look at some of the factors at play.

  1. Care Makes Work Possible
    Fewer than half of American households with children have a stay-at-home parent. That means most parents are working parents. It’s obvious how having child care – be it a nanny, day care center, a family member or even school – enables moms to work outside of the home. But too often we forget that care is necessary for dads to work, as well. Among young families, there is clear intent for men and women to share caregiving and breadwinning responsibilities, but we’re not there yet. Child care remains an issue deeply connected to female employment and gender parity. For example, a survey of Harvard Business School alumni found that 37 percent of millennials who aren’t yet moms expect to interrupt their careers for parenting. When working parents struggle with work-life or work-family issues, everybody suffers. American businesses lose north of $20 billion annually in lost productivity costs due to absenteeism, distractions and other family care-related issues. That’s not to mention the high cost of employee turnover and institutional knowledge lost when employees leave jobs for family care reasons. Think that’s an overstatement? About 70 percent of working parents say the cost of child care influences their career choices. As you’ve heard us say before, if your organization is not thinking about family care benefits, you’re at a competitive disadvantage.  

    TRENDSPOTTING: 5 Ways Companies That Care Will Win in 2016

  2. But There Are Valid Concerns
    In some workplaces, bringing kids to the office might be appropriate based on the culture and office environment. It’s easy to picture a child in a waiting room at a doctor’s office, coloring quietly in a cubicle or streaming Netflix on an iPad in a break room. Distraction to other co-workers is minimal, so what’s the harm right? Problem with those scenarios is that each imagines an outdated image of an office. Open workspaces are replacing cubicles and co-working spaces replacing conference rooms. And that’s to say nothing of the myriad industries in which bringing your child to work is not a realistic option, let alone an appropriate one. A family-friendly company culture does not necessarily translate to a kid-friendly office space. At the end of the day, it comes down to organizational culture. If the children can sit quietly and not distract co-workers, it may not be much of an issue. However, it’s important to be cognizant of fairness and perception among the entire population. For example, does allowing parents to bring their children to work mean their colleagues without kids can bring their dogs when pet care arrangements don’t go according to plan? There’s no right or wrong answer; just a lot to consider.

    READ MORE: 8 Great Employee Benefits for Recruiting Millennials

  3. Work’s Different Than It Was … And So are Child Care Solutions
    It used to be that work was based around a 9-to-5 workday spent at a desk in an office. Not anymore. Technology and innovation have spurred sweeping changes in the way we work – and live, for that matter. Talent is more distributed than ever these days. A massive 81 percent of workers feel they’ll be able to “work from anywhere in the world,” according to a study by ADP. These advances allow for more flexibility than ever before, both in terms of when and where work is done. That means solutions to child care need to be – and can be – equally flexible. For example, a first-time mom’s baby daughter came down with a fever on a recent Sunday afternoon, meaning she wouldn’t be able to go to day care on Monday. So the employee used the care@work app to schedule in-home backup care for Monday, and then she worked from home to be with her baby recovered. When family care solutions work the way modern employees do, you’re able to help your employees stay present, productive and engaged.

    Introducing Care@Work – A New Approach to Family-Care Benefits

So, taking a step back then, maybe “Should parents be allowed to bring their kids to the office?” is the wrong question. Instead, we should be asking: “What can employers do to help working families manage their care needs?"

For working moms and dads, a reasonable expectation to hold is that employers should realize what goes on in life outside of work affects performance on the job. That’s just how life works. When you’re worried about your kids – or pets, parents or even your apartment – it means you’re not focusing on your work tasks.

At the same time, helping employees manage work-family needs is a smart investment for organizations.

Care@Work client surveys regularly demonstrate access to family care benefits, such as backup care or resource and referral, reduces absenteeism and improves productivity, focus and engagement. Beyond that, it breeds loyalty and helps bolster your employer brand.  To that end, five of the top eight companies in Glassdoor’s annual “Employees’ Choice Awards” – honoring the Best Places to Work for 2016 -- work with Care@Work to provide innovative work-life benefits for their employees.

So, what can your company do to help employees manage their family care needs?

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