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Would You Bring Your Kids to the Office Full Time?

New England mom Denise Towne wasn't sure what to do about child care for her baby, until her company invited her to keep her little one by her side from 9 to 5.

"I actually wound up working more"

While the situation at work was great, Denise admits that it caused a few problems at home. "I actually wound up working more hours in the office, which took away from time with my husband," she says. "If Patrick napped at 5, I wasn't going to wake him up to take him home. I would just stay and pump out more work. Then I'd get these calls from Steve asking when I was coming home for dinner." And while she appreciated the 24/7 time with her baby, it could be draining, too. "When I came home, I would just want to hand the baby over to Steve and get some downtime."

Still, experiencing her baby's first steps and seeing his first tooth come in were well worth any sacrifice. Not to mention the hours of stress in the morning she was able to eliminate. "If I had to pump or pack up formula and then drive 45 minutes each way to drop him at day care, it would have been exhausting," Denise says. Instead, she spent a leisurely morning nursing, then drove to the office, just five minutes away.

As Patrick got more active toward his first birthday, crawling every which way and stuffing important papers into his mouth, Denise knew it was time for him to move on. "At that point I started realizing that he needed more interaction than he could get just hanging out in my office," she explains. Luckily, by that time, a former Zutano employee had opened a home day care nearby, and Patrick was the first baby to enroll.

Zutano has since made "Babies at Work" an official company policy, and over the last seven years, 18 other babies — including Denise's daughters, Lauren, 5, and Morgan, 18 months — have come to work with their moms (and one dad). The company has even begun "Doggy Days" so employees who don't have children can bring their furry loved ones to work occasionally too. When Denise was looking for a new assistant a few months ago, she found the perfect candidate — who just happened to be seven months pregnant. "It'll be nice to have another baby in the office!" she says, laughing. Denise's three children are now in school and day care, but she says that the program has profoundly influenced how they view their mother's work. "It's surprising how much my kids remember and how close they feel to my coworkers," she says. "It makes it so much easier for them to understand why I go to work every day. They really understand what I do and why I love it."

How to get babies on board at your job

Zutano is just one of more than 150 companies, including state agencies in Kansas and Arizona, that have babies-at-work policies. If you think this plan might work at your company, follow these tips from Carla Moquin, founder of the Parenting in the Workplace Institute:

  • Ask yourself: Is it really doable? Consider whether having a baby around will truly mesh with your job. Safety is key, so if you work in a factory, you're probably out of luck — though you can ask to be moved to a desk job temporarily, Moquin says. Also, if you frequently work off-site or meet with clients all day long, consider whether there's an option to stay in one place.
  • Go in with a plan. Once you've figured out whether it can work for you, approach your boss with a solid plan for launching a babies-at-work program. Download a detailed list of business benefits — such as moms' taking shorter maternity leaves — and a template for a company policy from babiesatwork.org.
  • Suggest a two-week trial run. "It's much easier to get someone to agree to this plan if they don't feel pressured to sticking with it if doesn't work," Moquin says. The first days will be rough for everyone, she notes, but don't give up right away. "Once you and the baby get into a rhythm, work days will become easier."

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