Now throw a baby into the picture.
Seems out of place, right?
One boss is hoping to eradicate the ‘strangeness’ associated with bringing a newborn to work. The Chief Executive of college admissions software company Embark, Sarita James, decided to return to the office when her baby daughter, Uma, was six-weeks-old.
However, after noticing how vulnerable and small Uma was, wrenching herself away from her newborn wasn’t a move she wanted to make. Nor did she want to take the 13-week maternity leave option or work remotely - she’d already experienced this before with Uma’s older brothers and found that she quickly became isolated.
Writing in The New York Times, James details her experiment of bringing her baby to work.
“I was already wearing her in a hands-free sling. She slept more than 15 hours per day and I knew that, despite my best efforts, much of that sleep would continue to be during the day rather than at night,” she wrote.
James, mindful not to create an unwelcome distraction, learned to schedule spreadsheet analysis for when Uma was sleeping, scheduling meetings and her work around her pattern. Eventually, she became confident enough to bring her baby to client meetings.
“Uma almost never cried as long as I fed her when she was hungry, changed her diaper when it was wet and stood up with her if I sensed she wanted a change of scenery,” she recalls. “I was fortunate; I don’t remember my boys being as quiet. But I also think Uma enjoyed being in a sling and baby carrying has been shown to reduce crying and fussing.”
Whilst she cannot say that Uma wasn’t distracting, she did have a positive impact on the office: “Uma seemed to help everyone forget their own agendas and insecurities and form deeper connections.”
By the time Uma was ready to start crawling, James knew that her experiment was over.
“I appreciated how lucky I was,” she explains. “If I’d been, for example, a cook, a doctor, a bus driver or a welder, I could never have tried it. But many parents - and not only the ‘lean in’ professional women that you might expect - might find this model works for them, if they can get their employers to agree.”
One organisation championing the presence of babies at work is the Parenting in the Workplace Institute. Over the past decade, the US-based group has recorded more than 2,100 babies being brought to more than 200 organisations from consulting, law and accounting firms to retail stores.
According to the institute, the main benefit is employee retention and satisfaction, without the costs associated with day care.
James concludes: “Of course, I’m a Chief Executive; I’m answerable to my Board but didn’t have a manager to tell me no. Still, I hope others will follow my example.”
Guide to Global Mobility