My friend, who happens to be a working mother, once told me how hard it is to juggle being a parent and a daytime job. Sometimes, everything worked fine and it boosts herself as a mother and employee. Other days are hell. She feels stressed when her child is sick and her job demands more of her precious energy. It’s like ripping her soul apart to attend to the two important things in her life.
The sad thing is my friend is not alone. It’s a story that most working parents are familiar of. Some give up their jobs to find more flexible job opportunities. Some continue to sacrifice the precious family time to give way to their career.
Let us be clear: a strong family-friendly work culture is more than celebrating the “take your sons and daughters to work day” once a year. It takes commitment—beginning from workplace design to how the management runs the office.
Having experience in working with Sydney architects and workplace designers, I saw how the industry do their best to make the office a better place for everyone, including working parents. Here’s how your company can create a kiddie-friendly office:
Provide a waiting space where the kids can stay
Designate a place where your employee’s children can stay. This way, you can manage and attend well to the young guests of your company. Their Mum, Dad, or any relative can drop them and they can stay there during office hours. They can also come in if it’s snow day or when classes ended early.
A separate room or area also ensures that the parents can work without being disturbed by the kids. Sure, the kids can come to their mum or dad’s table, as long as they keep it peaceful. The office can only handle a great kid’s energy, not its chaos.
Make it spacious
A spacious lobby or nursery allows your kids to run or roam around to play while waiting for their parents. When you promote physical activity, they don’t get bored or moody. The company can provide puzzles, board games, toys, picture books, and art materials to keep them busy. Don’t crowd the area with furniture as toddlers need space to explore and move around.
Employ kid-proofing features
Use childproofing products like door jammer stopper, door guard to avoid noisy doors. The tables and chairs must have no sharp edges to avoid accidents. The nursery should have no access to the balconies or terraces unless the place is perfectly secured.
Use easy to clean flooring
Kids, especially toddlers cause a lot of mess. Whether they’re eating or playing, expect dirt and spills on the floor. To avoid this kind of damage in the future, lay easy to clean carpets and rugs. Also, don’t let the kids play with pens and paint unless it’s water based.
Use durable furniture
Aside from choosing furniture with no sharp edges, invest in high-quality, sturdy pieces of furniture. Let’s start with the couch. While adults enjoy them for sitting and relaxing, toddlers might jump on them for fun. Dark leather couches are ideal in a kid-friendly lobby or holding room. One can easily wipe the dirt from the leather surface.
Display things with caution
The decoration is an important part of office design. In the lobby, interesting decor pieces makes waiting worthwhile. However, if you’re willing to keep kids waiting in the lobby, you have to keep the displayed items out of their reach. Hang expensive paintings high on the walls. If you have delicate figurines, put them in a locked glass shelf. You can also put boundaries like the ones you see in museums.
Conduct programs that promote family bonding
Now that you have kid-friendly rooms and lobby areas, it’s time to launch events that focus on the family. Aside from the epic ‘bring your child to work day’, the company might also host a family picnic day or a family dinner where your employees can bring their spouse and kids to meet your colleagues’ families. You can also conduct seminars on work-life balance and invite counsellors and experts who can speak and attend to your employee’s family-related issues.
Rules, rules, rules
With every privilege comes policy. Having children in the office is okay, as long as they don’t affect the performance of the employee and their co-workers, damage the company’s property, and maintain the professional work environment.
However, before completely diving into this situation, the company must review their General Liability Insurance policies for coverage of incidents. They must consult legal counsel prior to allowing children in the office. There are cases where the employers may be held liable for incidents involving employees’ children in the workplace. But, if a child is brought to the office because of an unavoidable situation, the child remains the responsibility of the employee.