Corporate Responsibility: Parenting in the Workplace

By: Karla Jo Helms

When the Industrial Age changed the way we did business, it also changed the way children were raised. Children were no longer able to be with their mothers when the both parents had to work, hence a mother had to either pick a life away from groups and a working environment or one without seeing her children for the largest part of the day.

However, the 21st century has been changing all that. Women today are balancing their work life with their home life and corporations are taking heed. In the effort to retain high-quality employees, many corporations today are creating atmospheres that allow a better work-life balance. One of the ways businesses are doing this is by allowing babies in the workplace.

For six consecutive years, San Jose Magazine has named Valley Credit Union, San Jose, Calif., one of the "50 Best Places to Work in the Silicon Valley." The deciding factors to being named the winner of this award was the unique employee benefits, among them being "Babies in the Workplace" which allows its employees to bring babies up to eight months old to the credit union to be with their mothers at their work stations. According to Debbie Sallen, Valley's vice president of human resources, the program has been hugely successful with 42 babies that have come through the program.

UNCLE Credit Union earned the honor of being named Friendly Family Employer of the Year in Pleasanton, Calif. due to their Babies in the Workplace policy. The credit union's president and CEO, Jim Ott, expressed kudos for the program for its efficacy in reducing staff shortages, eliminating the need for temporary personnel during leaves, and reducing the cost of child care for the parent.

On the east coast, another CEO has babies in the workplace. Joy Gendusa of PostcardMania loves having infants at work and says it also improves her employees' morale. Her firm has been called the fastest-growing direct mail postcard marketing company in the nation by Inc. Magazine and initially hired young adults who had very little training or experience before, but who were very willing to learn. Gendusa's main focus was to give young, industrious adults a chance to prove themselves and she did - molding them into top-notch executives that handle her 160+ staff and oversee the $17+ million and climbing annual sales.

As her employees grew up, they bought their first homes, got married and started having children. This inspired Joy to make PostcardMania as welcoming to the new babies as it was to their parents. So far, five babies have been born into the PostcardMania family and have already being chosen for key positions at the company when they grow up. Soraia Marie, SVP Melissa Bradshaw's daughter, was one of the first to come to PostcardMania as a baby and since her first day, she has been given "title" of VP Baby Development.

"Being able to bring my baby to work was a big factor in being able to get back to my job so quickly," Bradshaw stated. "With perks like these, I couldn't wait to get back." Bradshaw, who is PostcardMania's senior vice president over all operations says that having Soraia at work allowed her the flexibility she needed to be able to get the hang of being a new mom as well as making sure the company still ran at its high production level.

Another advocate for Babies at Work, Carla Moquin, who developed an extensive website about the concept (babiesatwork.org) became intensely interested in the subject when writing as a freelancer for some extra money. Divorced with two young children, she had personal experience with trying to handle a full-time job and be a mother to a newborn at the same time. Despite finding and interviewing companies that had some type of infant in the workplace program, she found that the trend of parenting in the workplace was virtually unknown.

"A lot of companies don't actively advertise their program," Moquin said. Apparently Carla has found that some companies are insecure about promoting their program because they are not quite sure how the public will receive it. Yet she has found that those companies that do promote it often receive accolades from the public sector, so believes the concern is not really an issue.

Carla's goal is to increase awareness of parenting in the workplace as having viable benefits for employees and employers alike, such as:

&bullAbility for employees to return to work earlier
&bullHigher employee loyalty and retention
&bullIncreased morale
&bullHigher productivity
&bullLower healthcare costs

Whether lowering costs of having to replace employees or raising the disposition of the entire group, having infants at work seems to offer advantages to businesses. Gendusa of PostcardMania feels it is her responsibility to offer such a benefit. "My employees give me the better part of their days," said Joy Gendusa. "I want their lives at work to be as close to home as possible and if that means having babies at work, providing them a gym or setting up a sleeping studio for our IT guys that have to pull all-nighters, then that is what I will do."

Human Resources
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