- Greg Hagin, Senior Consultant
Bringing Kids to Work: Benefit or Boondoggle?
“My childcare provider had an emergency, so I had to bring Junior with me today. He’ll be quiet and won’t bother anyone.” Maybe you have heard this or something similar before. Maybe your company, like many employers, does not have a formal policy that outlines company practices regarding bringing kids to work. It’s helpful to recognize the many facets of this understandable and seemingly reasonable request.
Many companies have a casual attitude towards employees bringing kids to the workplace, especially on an occasional basis and/or at times when the employee parent faces a bind between caring for a child and reporting to work.
“My childcare provider had an emergency, so I had to bring my son with me today. He’ll be quiet and won’t bother anyone.”
Maybe you have heard this or something similar before. Addressing these requests on an as needed basis is an approach taken by many companies who wish to support parent employees and show appreciation for the many challenges of finding work/life balance while raising children. Employers should be aware of the many facets of this understandable and seemingly reasonable request.
What’s the real story here?
When would bringing kids to work become an HR issue? As often as not, employers would view it as disruptive if employees bring kids to work. Many of us would readily acknowledge that if this became a common practice, it could be problematic. But many would maintain that it is beneficial provided it is not abused. This approach seems logical, but it overlooks several risk factors associated with bringing children to work.
What are some considerations that are often overlooked? One thing that many employers fail to consider is that employee attitudes about children are diverse, and depend on each individual’s experience with children in their own private lives. Many parents deal with very real health issues in their relationship with children, such as infertility, post-partum depression, birth complications, miscarriage, and more. Parents often deal with emotionally charged child behavior issues like attention deficit disorder, depression, aggressiveness, and special needs. For many of these parents, work could be a welcome respite from their emotional rollercoaster at home, a break from the constant demands of parenting, or just a place to focus on something other than their own personal lives. Just the presence of that quiet youngster doing homework and minding his own business could not only distract from work, but also trigger a variety of emotions, which could negatively (and privately) affect another employee for days.
Depending on the nature of the business, there are also safety and liability issues which come into play with kids in the workplace, especially if the parent is called away to a meeting or cannot directly supervise the child at all times. A child may inadvertently damage something that belongs to the company or to another employee, and because everyone is so different, the effect on the workplace from one child to another could be completely different. And of course, the presence of a child could be distracting and reduce productivity.
What is the best practice with respect to this issue? Ultimately, this depends on the nature of the business, physical aspects of the workplace, and the frequency of occurrence. Increasingly, however, it makes sense to survey employees, or at least consider the many facets of this issue before adopting a formal or informal policy on kids in the workplace. A formal policy should address issues like frequency, distraction, fairness, risk, and responsibility.
The HR Manager consultants are available to assist you with your efforts in addressing this complex issue.