The phone is ringing, the baby is fussy, and paperwork waits to be sorted. But the mother is not multitasking at home. She’s one of a small but growing number of parents who have the option of bringing baby to work. As in, all day, every day, and not in an on-site day care, either, but right at her desk at the South Shore Convention & Visitors Authority in Hammond.
Nicki Gladstone, vice president and chief communications officer at SSCVA, counts herself among the lucky, because she and little Oliver, now 10 months old, have been together every day at work.
“It made going back to work (after maternity leave) easier," Gladstone said. "I didn’t have the angst over having to leave her and missing those milestones in a baby’s life—the first step, the first word.”
Fine—but what does her boss think?
Speros Batistatos, president and CEO, is emphatic. “I can’t see why a company would not want this benefit—the ability to retain the exceptionally gifted staff that we have in place.”
Batistatos, who has been with the SSCVA for 21 of its 30 years, created the In-Office Child Care Program in 1997 when a valued assistant was starting a second family and was going to quit. “So I said, ‘Just bring (the baby) to the office.’ She said, ‘Are you serious?’ I was. It’s better to have the slight inconvenience of occasional crying from a baby than to lose an assistant I’ve had in place for years.”
A clinical psychologist agrees. Tammy Miller, PsyD, at Samaritan Counseling Center in Michigan City, said in-office child care benefits both sides.
“If an employee thinks companies put families first, then that’s good for everyone," Miller said. "What is the goal in business? It’s productivity, and when employees are happy, they do better work.”
And employees are happy not having to pay for day care.
Danielle Mirocha is executive assistant to Carolyn Gable, president and CEO of New Age Transportation in Lake Zurich, Ill., where newborns are welcome up to 4 months old.
“This company was founded by a single mom with seven children," said Mirocha. "(Being able to bring the baby to work) really emphasizes the importance of parents having a workplace balance. For the company, the employees are willing to stay, so we’re not losing good employees."
How good are those parents/employees? Batistatos chuckled. “Other employers have tried to poach executives from my staff. I’m always flattered when people want to get my people. But no matter what the monetary offer is, it can’t replicate our culture of valuing families.”
There are inevitable distractions with one or more babies in the office, but at least two workplaces’ bosses, co-workers and parents take it in stride.
“I can say without hesitation, this In-Office Child Care program has benefitted far more than any distraction," Batistatos said. "It has contributed to the passion for the work and the cohesion of the staff.”
“There are distractions,” Gladstone said. “The biggest challenge is when Oliver has a bad day, like when he was teething, and when I’m trying to keep him on my lap while I’m on the phone. But any distractions are outweighed by the loyalty (to the employer) it creates.”
Co-workers are willing helpers. At New Age Transportation, with desk pods and glass walls instead of cubicles, it’s easy to check on infants, said Mirocha. “If a baby is crying when Mom is in meeting, one of us gets up and soothes the baby.”
Gladstone said, “If I need to make a phone call and can’t have Oliver with me for it, someone will say, ‘Oh, I can have him!’” Ten weeks old when he started coming to work with Gladstone, Oliver has been at press conferences, board meetings, strategic planning sessions. Now 10 months old, he’s getting around on his own, visiting other offices. As a baby becomes more mobile, “We have baby gates up here and there,” said Batistatos.
When an employee needs to stay past 5 p.m., there’s no anxiety about needing to pick up a child from day care on time.
“When an employee is less stressed by transportation issues of picking up and dropping off children, that benefits the company and the employees,” said Miller.
Since 1997 the South Shore CVA has had 14 babies at work. At present, there are two.
“Our culture (of being family-friendly) is very important to us,” said Batistatos. “Our employees go above and beyond for us, because we go above and beyond for them.”
Said psychologist Miller, “To have an employer who cares about your family, that’s priceless.”