There is a lot of debate around office etiquette. In the past, Marketplace Weekend has spoken with Ask A Manager’s Alison Green about the right way to handle job interviews and how to dress for the office. Now we’re taking on the topic of kids at work. Is it ever appropriate?
Green said it can be complicated. “It really depends on your office culture,” said Green. “There are some offices where it would never be okay to do it, there some where it’s okay if it’s an emergency. So you’ve got to have a good feel for your office’s particular culture, which is so often the case about these workplace question. But I will say if it’s okay to do it in your office, it’s really important to be thoughtful to minimize the impact on your coworkers. So making sure that your kid doesn’t make a ton of noise and isn’t racing through the halls, and rifling through papers and has something to occupy them and keep them busy if they’re older than a baby.”
Marketplace Weekend listeners submitted questions about the issue of children in the workplace.
Christina Mayer wrote in: My son is seven months old. While on maternity leave, I brought him to meet my manager and co-workers. Since then, several co-workers in other departments have asked me repeatedly to bring my son back to work so they can enjoy “baby time.” We’re allowed to work from home so some days I come and leave after morning meetings. My question is — is it okay to bring my crawling but otherwise laid back baby for an hour once or twice a year? What’s the etiquette for babies at work?
Alison Green: I think an hour once or twice a year is going to be fine in most offices, especially if your co-workers are clamoring to see your baby. I think the danger is when people take it a little too far, where they hear that enthusiasm and so the kids start coming in all the time and then you get people who maybe aren’t as okay with it but feel awkward about saying something. So I think just be careful to keep it to once or twice a year. Be careful about noise. Don’t stick the baby with someone else to babysit while you go to a meeting.
Listener Rachel Senate wrote in with another comment: As a child-free woman myself I can tell you with certainty that employers take our child-free status for granted. I have never and will never cost my employer even one day of maternity leave, additional insurance costs, calling out with a sick child, leaving work to attend school events, etc. I’m dependable always, unless there is a huge emergency. But it seems like the child-free among us are always somehow picking up the slack for parents when duty calls, even though it has nothing to do with us.
Alison Green: I hear from a lot of child-free people who are frustrated that their employers don’t give them the same flexibility that they give parents. Everyone understands a parent needing to leave to pick up a child from day care, but non-parents will often have a tougher time if they want to leave early to take a class or play in a volleyball league or whatever it might be. Ideally employers would find ways to be flexible with everyone, not just people with kids. But in reality, the way it plays out, the needs of people with kids often end up taking priority. I think what managers need to do is keep an eye on how this stuff is playing out over time and make sure that whatever flexibility they’re offering is distributed evenly. I think too it can help to be explicit with employees about what kind of flexibility you can offer. A lot of times people without kids will assume that they can’t get a flexible schedule to accommodate something like a hobby or a class because in past jobs they’ve seen that it’s not considered a good enough reason for that flexibility. So proactively letting people know that you’re open to those kinds of arrangements for any reason can help even with that balance.
To see more answers to questions about kids (and pets) at work, tune in to the full segment using the audio player above.