Forbes | Balancing career and caregiving can come with sacrifices for employees, including using vacation time, reducing their hours, turning down a promotion, quitting a job, or leaving the workforce entirely. However, The Best Place for Working Parents recently found that when employees receive caregiving support from their employer, it positively impacts both their personal and professional employee outcomes.
For example, the employees of companies who offer onsite childcare are over four times more likely to report social well-being at work. Employers who provide this benefit are also over seven times more likely to retain talent- specifically, women, who are most likely to be caregivers.
Yet, even in a post-pandemic world, employers still have a false impression of caregiving. Bank of America’s latest Workplace Benefits Report shows that while 56% of U.S. employees identify as caregivers, employers believe only 35% of their employees fall into that category. Additionally, while 89% of employers offer some support, more than half of employees can’t identify programs offered.
In September, childcare prices grew by 1.7%, marking the most significant month-to-month increase since September 2022. A clear indicator of employer misjudgment is their solution to this issue. As a solution, with childcare becoming less and less affordable for working families, some employers have allowed parents to bring their babies to work.
- promotes work/life balance,
- accommodates the needs of working parents,
- allows for employee social well-being,
- retains female talent (similar to onsite childcare),
- fosters a supportive environment, and
- is family-friendly.
However, there is a catch: employers offering this program ask that babies sit with working parents in extra cubicles or empty conference rooms for the day, aren’t disruptive or cause others to lose focus, and aren’t getting into trouble. Most organizations offering this as a benefit aren’t hiring childcare providers for additional support.
Sure, a mother can bring a clean, fed, sleeping baby to work. But how predictable is the behavior of a daycare-aged child? And what about the parent who is struggling with nursing, has a colicky baby, or simply isn’t comfortable with bringing their child to the workplace? Bright Horizons data suggests that bias will start to surface; mothers will be seen as less devoted to their work and will have to prove themselves more in the workplace.
Caregivers, especially mothers, should feel comfortable embracing their individuality at work. Embracing your authentic self at work can promote better collaboration, problem-solving, and well-being. However, they, as working mothers, should not have to bring their children to the office in an attempt to allow employers visibility into their authentic selves. Bringing your authentic self to work means being genuine, honest, and authentic to your personality, values, and beliefs while on the job.
This policy is a poorly conceived approach to paid caregiving, an insufficient way to relieve the disproportionate share of childcare responsibilities shouldered by women, and an erroneous intent to allow working mothers to bring their authentic selves to work. Mary Beth Ferrante, founder and managing director at WRK/360 and training director and certified facilitator at FairPlayLife, agrees:
“Bring your baby to work policies always raise a red flag. The well-intentioned policy is often setting working parents up for failure. Parenting is a full-time responsibility. Expecting employees to do their job while simultaneously caring for their children is unrealistic and ignores caregiving work as both valuable and challenging.”
Ferrante also highlights the potential of this benefit alienating working mothers caring for children with disabilities or special needs. “How do those situations impact the employee’s ability to grow in their career or even keep their job? Yes, bringing your baby or child to work due to a childcare disruption can be a huge stress relief. However, it should never be a substitute for genuine support through paid family leave, affordable high-quality childcare, and career and workplace flexibility.”