The BBC series Babies in the Work Place has been an interesting insight into the prospect of parents bringing their babies and toddlers right into their workspace.  As an experiment the program is brilliant, but for me the long term potential of this concept seems limited.  

I suppose that they chose a call centre setting to maximise the difficulty of coping with screaming children while large teams of people were on the phone to customers.  The result was far from ideal but it wasn’t only the customers that I felt concerned for, it was more so for the toddlers themselves.  Even if you place these little tots in a room full of exciting amusement and interesting stuff to distract them, they are inevitably going to get tired and grouchy.  How much more so when you are expecting them to be quiet and well behaved within a workspace where there isn’t enough to distract them beyond thirty minutes?

If I were two years old I don’t think I would relish the monotony of my mum or dads office space 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.  My propensity for mischief would kick in very quickly!  If companies are genuinely serious about supporting parents in the workplace, wouldn’t it be far better for them to supply purpose built crèche facilities?  This is of course what many companies choose to do. Many of the parents interviewed in the program expressed sadness at having to leave their children at a crèche somewhere across town, but equally their concern was in the significant (sometimes prohibitive) costs associated with child care.  

Being realistic about this we know most business are not charities, setting up a crèche facility has significant cost associated with it.  There does need to be some offset here for the employer, which is likely to come in the shape of reduced recruitment and the training costs associated with replacing workers that have failed to return and stay post maternity leave.  The model of a subsidised crèche at the workplace rather than in the workspace is already well tested and valued by employees who have such facilities made available.  It would be good for organisations to share the economics of this more openly to help other employers make informed decisions.  We would love to hear from you if you have such insights. 

Child Care facilities are still only one part of the solution. Forward thinking organisations are putting effort into assisting parents in the workplace not only in the practical areas, but also in the emotional challenges that are faced. Tangible benefits are being realised by organisations who are supporting parents in the way they approach and carry out starting families.  

In fact there is such a lot more that organisations are able to do for expectant or new mums and dads at work.  Have a look at this post for a starter.  It’s great that the BBC are raising the discussion with Babies in the Work Place. but it will be over to those in HR to pick up the challenge and take practical solutions forward.  Here’s hoping they rise to the challenge.  

Bob Bannister

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Twitter: @bbbannister @iManage

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