Disclaimer: I am a personal finance expert. I am not a workplace culture expert.
What happens when one of your most valuable and beloved employees comes to you and delivers some of the most exciting news of her life — she’s pregnant? Generally, if you’re anything like me, you squeal with joy too, you throw them a baby shower, you workout plans for a maternity leave, you visit your coworker and the new baby in the hospital, you take them meals, and then nothing.
It’s the nothing that I had a problem with.
I don’t know much about childbirth, or being a mother for that matter, but I do know that every new mom I’ve ever talked to can describe the first day she went back to work when her maternity leave expired. They weren’t fun stories. There were tears, not just on the day they went back to work without their babies, but also the days they told me the story of the day they went back to work without their babies.
I believe the mothers as they tell me the stories. I empathize with them. I don’t fully understand, but then again I don’t feel like I have to understand it in order to empathize with the powerful moments they often describe.
On top of the emotions, there are also the financial ramifications. In addition to whatever medical bills there are, formula and of course diapers, there is the daunting child care expense which can cripple just about any budget. All of these harsh realities can really kill the buzz of a wonderful time in a family’s life story. It makes just about everyone involved feel helpless.
As an employer, I always feel like my employee’s personal challenges become my personal challenges too. I doubt I’m supposed to feel that way, but I do. It’s this feeling of consternation that led to one of the more exciting professional conversations I’ve ever had. The expectant mother came to me one day with an article she had read in the newspaper. It was about a local PR firm that had established a Bring Your Baby to Work program. I read the article. It made sense. She asked me what I thought.
I fancy myself a flexible and reasonable person, so I put forth the question — why not? We could take my kids’ old crib and put it in the mom’s office. We could have our primary co-worker who uses the phone switch offices with another co-worker who doesn’t use the phone, so we get the phone person some physical distance away from the baby’s office. And above all else, we can bring great joy to a person who means the world to us.
So we pulled the trigger. I now work with a baby. She has a title: Vice President of Morale.
We’re two weeks in and there has not been a single issue. In fact, my other co-workers and I feel like we’re the ones benefitting. For instance, I had a series of stressful meetings early last week, walked down the hall to decompress, heard the cooing of a baby, and within minutes was feeding my co-worker a bottle. Will this experiment in compassion remain successful for months? Honestly, I don’t see why not.
I’m not silly enough to believe having a baby in the workplace is a viable option for most businesses, but I do know that too many businesses say no for pretty weak reasons. Our company culture can support a baby in the workplace, so we did it. Not only does it feel like a great business decision, but it feels like a very human decision. We’re in the human business, therefore I’m at peace with our collective decision.
If you are ever in the position to allow a co-worker to experience the joy of their baby in the workplace, I highly recommend you ponder the why not question longer than you might normally. You won’t regret it.
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.