A Mummys View

Telling it like it is

Babies at Work

on July 17, 2012

I’ve just watched a BBC two programme entitled “Babies in the Office” which saw a London mini cab firm Addison Lee trial a Babies at Work scheme. They invited staff to bring their children to work, initially for a trial day and then for a month’s trial.

The idea being that if staff could bring their children to work there would be benefits for all concerned including:

  • Saving on childcare costs
  • Enabling parents to spend more time with their child
  • Enabling parents (especially mums) to actually come back to work after having children (a quarter of women who go off on maternity don’t actually return to work!)
  • Save the company money on recruitment costs for recruiting and training new staff when others leave for childcare reasons
  • Instil a sense of loyalty and productivity in staff

It was a really, really interesting programme and I can see both the positives and negatives that have come from it.

The average cost of full-time childcare in the UK is £385 / £5,000 a year and a study by The Daycare Trust recently showed that some working parents are paying up to £15,000 a year on childcare costs, with nursery costs having risen on average by nearly 6% in a year, whilst wages remain stagnant. With cuts to child tax credits, and a report from Aviva last year also stating that “The expense of childcare could make it more cost-effective for some parents to give up work and stay at home”,  schemes like this could mean the world of difference to the modern UK family.

The staff taking part in the scheme ranged from call takers in the call centre and administrative assistants to managers so those participating had really varied types of workloads, all with their different pressures, and the company “baby proofed” the offices ahead of the scheme and provided facilities such as nappy changing areas and feeding rooms.

The trial did have it’s high’s and lows and it wasn’t always easy for the children, parents and colleagues. Some days went better than others and if a child was over-tired, ill or under stimulated you can imagine the consequences. It seemed that the older the child (2+) the tougher it was but this is obviously because they need more attention and are more mobile.

There was a big variation on people’s views on the scheme initially, with many, especially male colleagues, very unsure of the scheme. However as the trial progressed it was interesting to see the change in views and the initial sceptics holding their hands up to admit their views had changed.

Babies at Work schemes have been running for some time in the USA and there are currently 170 companies running the scheme.

The Arizona State Department of Health runs a babies at work scheme. Will Humble, the director of the agency says: “We’ve invested a lot of effort in that middle management team and a lot of them are women in their thirties and they’re having babies and we can’t afford to lose them. What we gain is a long term increase in our productivity and we build and continue to reinforce the commitment we have with our employees, which helps us in the long run to retain those critical employees that may have made another choice.” (BBC – Eight Radical Solutions to the Childcare Issue)

I think that is an excellent and refreshing way for companies to think and frankly more companies should have that view! However I am also inclined to think that such schemes will have limitations in some environments, depending on people’s jobs and I can understand some parents wishing to have their parental / home life and work life separate. However I think to run a scheme like this and give people the choice is fantastic.

Addison Lee actually decided to introduce the scheme on a permanent basis and to combat the issue of older toddlers they have introduced an on-site nursery. One member of staff said it would save her £1,000 a month!!! I for one look forward to hearing how it goes and hope this is a step forward. In this time of austerity and with financial support for families being slashed something needs to radically change and I commend Addison lee for taking such a leap of faith! I would love to hear your views? What would being able to take your baby to work mean to you? Did you watch the programme? What did you think?

If you want to read more about the programme why not take a look at this Telegraph article or visit the BBC i-Player and take a look.

10 responses to “Babies at Work

  1. Louise says:

    Damn I missed this going to have to watch this on iplayer – I love the idea but don’t really get how it would work.

    • amummysview says:

      I think it has pros and cons and deff would depend on the job and environment. I am amazed it worked in a call centre! Goes to show though that despite how mad things can sound they can work. Was very interesting x

  2. I would not have been able to take my baby to work with me. It’s fine if you’re in a call centre like they were where the calls are frequent and short and others can step in if you need them to, but when I worked I used to compile reports for four or five hours at a time and if anyone even so much as spoke to me in that time, it could set me back ages. Having a demanding child next to me would have been impossible. Good on the company for doing the experiment and working out that an on-site creche is a good solution. I think a better solution is to pay a living wage to people so that one parent can stay home if they want or at least afford decent childcare. I think by providing solutions to a problem that has been created through many different forces will mean that parents have no choice but to go back to work, whether they want to or not, and that it will become culturally acceptable to demonise parents who don’t take advantage of this facility their workplace sets up. It’s all about choice. I’d rather choose to have my husband paid a decent amount of money so I can choose whether to work or to be a stay-at-home-parent. But then, I know that others are not in this position. What I’m saying, I think, is that the fact that better workplace childcare options mean that more parents can work should not be a reason for the bread-winning parent to be paid less. I think.

    • amummysview says:

      I understand I think there are some places it would work and others not. I think in essence something or things need to be done to give greater options / possibilities for all families, this is AN option but as the BBC article showed there are other options working well in other countries including free childcare or better contributions. It’s time we re-evaluated the case here in the UK.

  3. Sharon says:

    I think that large employers could provide on site mursery care at a greatly subsidised rate fir thier employees, however i don’t think it is a practicle solution to have babies in the office. I have the luxury of working from home and having family members to look after my daughter. However on the occasions i’ve had to have her at home with me while i work i found that i was either neglecting my work or sitting her in front of ceebbeeies. Neither of which i feel is appropriate.

    • amummysview says:

      exactly, I think you have to be sooooo unbelievably disciplined. I know a lot of parent bloggers are self employed, run businesses / their blogs from their own homes and a lot do get the balance of childcare and work right but I can imagine it is very hard at the same time. I think the programme was very interesting though and credit to them if it works long-term.

  4. Tea&Biscotti says:

    I saw snippets of this programme and to be honest, had to switch it off. Just watching it really frustrated me.
    There is absolutely no way I would be able to do my job with my child demanding my attention at my feet.
    I have just increased my child care to four full days a week as my husband is now working. Thankfully he will be able to take her if Bambina on the fifth day.
    In times if emergency I can take her to my work crèche, but this is only for emergencies and has to booked in advance. The system works well.
    I agree that this scheme totally depends on the type of job and whilst I’m happy for those whom it helps, I know that this would not be of any benefit to me.

    • amummysview says:

      We had this chat in work today and the general consensus was in our role it wouldn’t work. I think maybe a really small young baby, there may be potential but I can imagine the novelty would soon wear off after a short while and every day would become hard so it couldn’t be a long-term thing. I think if you had a particularly busy day it would be very hard and it would get harder as the child grew older. I’ve also been thinking about how fair it is on the child themselves, they need stimulation and interaction with others, surely an office environment isn’t any good for most children, especially a child of a year plus. It’s good you have the option of a work creche though too. x

  5. Julie Rose says:

    Really interesting that corporates are ’embracing’ motherhood. While I wouldn’t go for it, it provides more options for everyone and is a positive move. Coming to think about it, my office cafe recently introduced high chairs… either some of our people need table support during lunch or this is the start of a similar route.

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