Baby inclusive businesses allow parents to bring their kids to work

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Sunday is Mother’s Day and for moms and even dads who chose to go back to work after their little one is born, the guilt can sometimes be unbearable but what if you didn’t have to leave your baby behind?

Menlo Industries and The Little Seedling are two very different businesses. One focuses on the design and development of software, the other sells products for babies and children. However, both places have something in common. They are both baby inclusive businesses.

“I honestly couldn’t work if I couldn’t bring my son with me,” says Ali Sandefur, a sales associate at The Little Seedling. “When they posted a job opening I was like that’s perfect because I can bring my kids to work.”

Currently that’s 3-year-old Rowan and come this summer a new baby girl.

“We get so many compliments like that’s so cool you get to bring your kids to work,” says Sandefur.

According to the store manager, Marie Friesan, bringing the kids simply made sense.

“We decided we wanted to get moms and parents back in the working field,” says Friesan.

According to Parenting in the Workplace Institute, over 40 states have baby inclusive business. Michigan offers six.

At Menlo Innovations, their first baby arose out of necessity when one of their employees wanted to come back to work but daycare wasn’t possible.

“He was like just bring her with you,” says Anna Boonstra, an experience manager and also a “Menlo Mom”. She brought her daughter Flynn to work with her everyday until the little girl was 6-months-old.

“You have this newborn that has only been around for a couple months and now you have to drop them off somewhere and the stress of that is a lot so being able to bring them with you helps to focus,” says Boonstra.

Flynn , like the 20 other Menlo babies before her, would often be found in a swing or wrapped up with her mom right at her desk.

“I really liked being able to be there for all of the first and not get pictures of it from daycare,” says Boonstra.

If parents do need to step away and change or feed the baby, Menlo offers them a “mothers room” which does give them a little more privacy.

“When you are doing work you need to do work and if you’re taking care of the baby the baby comes first, you are taking care of the baby,” says James Goebel, the Chief Operating Officer at Menlo Innovation.

“The baby might be on a conference call with a client,” says Goebel. “The baby might be walking around with the CEO.”

While Menlo babies typically only stay in the office until 6-months-old, the “junior associates” at the little seedling come in a variety of ages.

“Right now we have Charlotte who is 5 months, just turned 5 months and I think our oldest is 6 and a half years old,” says Sandefur.

One of the benefits to having the kids at The Little Seedling, there is no shortage of product testers

“They try to start helping and ring up guests like I’ll show you where that is,” says Sandefur. “It’s really fun.”

According to Parenting in the Workplace Institute, other benefits include higher morale, increased team work, increased employee retention and earlier return to work of employees after a baby’s birth.

“I think normal jobs people will be like oh I’ll take my full 12 weeks but here everyone likes what we do and it’s nice to be with their kids and also just working with them,” says Friesan.

A recent study by Wallet Hub ranked Michigan 29th for best states for working moms.

“We expect our associates to do an hours worth of time in about 45 minutes because we know at least 15 minutes they are attending to their child,” says Friesan.

However, there can be a downside to having offspring in the office.

“It can be challenging at times because everyone has their good days and bad days,” says Friesan. “There are some customers who don’t want to be bothered by the kids.”

As for employees juggling meetings and feedings?

“I actually felt like I wasn’t less productive when she was here,” says Boonstra. “Just having the piece of mind he’s there and he’s ok and you’re nearby if he needs something is going to make you work better.”

Their advice to other businesses looking to become baby inclusive, just try it.

“I do think there are a lot of business that could adopt it but maybe not every business,” says Sandefur.

“Bring that baby to work for a week and if doesn’t fit with how your culture is set up you at least tried,” says Boonstra. “I think you’ll be surprised how it impacts your team and the joy it brings.”

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