Kids in the office: Delightful or distraction?

Mike Bebernes
·Senior Editor

"The 360" shows you diverse perspectives on the day’s top stories.

What's happening:

Babies are popping up in all sorts of new places. A handful of politicians have garnered attention recently by bringing their young children to work. Sen.Tammy Duckworth brought her 10-day old daughter onto the Senate floor for a vote last year. New Zealand's prime minister took her baby to the United Nations. A countryman of hers fed an infant while presiding over Parliament.

Acceptance of children in the workplace is spreading beyond these high-profile examples. More and more companies are establishing rules that allow children to accompany their parents in the office, whether just on occasion or regularly.

Four states — Arizona, Kansas, Nevada and Washington — have Infant at Work policies that permit some state workers to bring babies to the office up to age 6 months or until they can crawl.

Why there's debate:

Proponents of these policies say they can help alleviate the sometimes overwhelming cost of childcare and improve employee work-life balance. It can also benefit employers, some argue, because workers may choose to take less parental leave if their office environment is more flexible.

Supporters also make the case that exposure to a parent's work life can help children better understand why their caregiver spends so much time away. It can also make a worker's colleagues see the individual as a complete person rather than just a co-worker.

The policies have gotten pushback for a number of reasons. Chief among them is how disruptive kids can be, especially toddlers. A parent bringing a child to work may benefit one employee, but it could hurt the productivity of an entire office. Others point out that only a limited number of workplaces are appropriate — either for logistical or safety reasons — for children to be present.

Some favor a middle ground where it's understood that kids can be brought to the office only in the case of a rare emergency or that only infants who are too young to crawl are allowed.

What's next:

California's legislature recently passed a bill that would make it the fifth state to allow government workers to bring babies to the office. A similar bill was recently proposed in Utah.



Exposure to working life can deepen the connection between parent and child

"I encourage all of you not just to bring your kids — girls and boys — to work. Bring them into your work. Whether you work from home or bring them to the office as I do, show them how hard and fulfilling and fun it can be, all at the same time. And help them understand how and why it fuels you personally and professionally to make an impact on the lives outside the four walls of your home." — Christine Taylor, CNN

The modern economy leaves parents with fewer childcare choices than in the past

"The reality is that most Americans can no longer rely on the traditional nuclear family to raise the next generation. Our villages have dissolved, and while we often call on family, friends or, as is usually the case, paid childcare to fill in the gaps, the idea that our work identities are somehow fully separate from our home selves clearly has damaging consequences for all." — Kaitlin Solimine, Guardian

Seeing a co-worker as a parent can be humanizing

“There will be times when your child is sick, or has an important event, and when people you work with know your kids, there’s a caring there that they would not otherwise have.” — Workplace expert Cali Williams Yost to New York Times

Businesses don't provide enough support to working parents

"In banning children from professional settings while failing to provide alternative childcare options, employers put working parents in an untenable position." — Darlena Cunha, Quartz


Children are too disruptive

"It turns out, kids can be noisy! And it can be tough to focus on work if your colleagues’ kids are anything other than quiet and well-behaved." — Alison Green, Slate

Only children up to a certain age should be allowed

"There's a certain period — after that first crazy month but pre-crawling — when babies are super portable. Set up a bouncy chair or a Pack N' Play, and they're gonna make themselves at home (and sleep) wherever they are." — Heather Marcoux, Motherly

Many workplaces are inappropriate for kids

"It really depends on your office culture. There are some offices where it would never be okay to do it; there are some where it’s okay if it’s an emergency. … 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 co-workers. " — Alison Green, Marketplace

Kids at work policies are unfair to employees without children

"I think childless co-workers get taken advantage of because they have to pick up the slack for co-workers who leave early. They have to listen to babies’ cries, they don’t have any free time of their own, yet their co-worker has to go attend to an infant who is whining and teething." — Dori Monson, My Northwest

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Cover thumbnail photo illustration: Yahoo News; photo: Getty Images