Should we allow kids in the office?
It was working from home all over again. Except now our coworkers got to hear our “mom voices” and our kids ’…
Is it a good idea to allow kids in the office?
We did an experiment to find out. As we returned to the office following 2020, we ran into a bit of a stumbling block. Childcare had not yet sorted itself out and was hard to organize. Plans changed, then changed again.
I found myself caught up in the same challenge as many on our team. Working from home with kids was one option. Who am I kidding, no it wasn’t. Anyone with young kids will tell you how absurd that is.
The challenges surrounding working with kids really are dependent on the ages of the kids. I took all three of my kids with me to the office when they were newborns. The first three months they just slept like rocks. The little ones didn’t know how to sleep at night but nothing could wake them while at work. I would stare at them with jealousy as I nodded off standing up in the breakroom.
Nonetheless, I was grateful I got to have them with me when they were so little. I loved work and wanted to return and needed to return quickly. Having them with me felt like I had the best of both worlds for a while. My daughter and middle child was so quiet, she stayed at the office with me until she was almost 5 months old and no one knew she was there. She made up for that in later years. You can’t miss her now, she makes sure of it.
Because of that great experience, I advocate for our team to bring little ones with them now. Especially if childcare falls through and a partner or spouse is using the home office. Even if it is just part–time and for a few days a week, or a few hours each day, I think it can provide a vital connection to their team and some routine when a new parent’s world is turned upside down.
Older kids are a bit more complicated. As my kids got older I would bring them to the office after school and still do, but multiply that by several kids and we have ourselves a very loud and messy party.
Summer came around and everyone’s childcare plans fell through. What was the plan? What was my plan? We decided to let the kids come to the office. We thought if we give them their own playroom and set it up with games and art and snacks and movies it would be a blast. They play while we work.
What actually happened:
Those hilarious, messy, loud, and smaller versions of ourselves just ran around and looked for us and kept us from working. Zoom calls with children jumping in the background, fighting over toys, wasn’t unusual. It was working from home all over again. Except now our coworkers got to hear our “mom voices” and our kids ’ outside voices. We tried. We even had ambitious goals of it being a technology-free play area. So naive. And it was only the second day of summer. We needed a new plan.
The new plan came from an unlikely source. We were getting applications for internships and realizing that students did not know how to fill out applications, nor how to prepare for a simple interview. One had their mom stop by. I joked that one of our team members’ pre-teens could do a better job applying and interviewing.
That was it. We enlisted the help of the pre-teens.
The job of Summer Activities Coordinator was created. We had them fill out applications and attend a real interview with a non–parent team member. The pre-teens were then hired, onboarded, given swag bags, etc. They were required to create a plan with non-technology–related activities, keep a budget, purchase supplies, and turn in receipts each week.
It worked. The pre-teens got valuable, confidence–boosting, life experience, and the kids had a blast while we got to work.
The highlight of the program was when the kids wrote, directed, and performed a puppet show with puppets they all made. They invited our whole office to attend. It was amazing.
The downside of the summer program? We got ants. The kids eat a lot of snacks and we have carpet.
In short, should we allow kids in the office? Yes! But manage your expectations and have a plan. If working from home with young kids doesn’t work, working in the office won’t either. But with a bit of planning and improvisation, it can be an awesome memory for everyone and the highlight of your summer.