Balancing the overlap of parenthood and workplace

Turning up to work with children in tow can be hard for all concerned, but sometimes parents don't have a choice. A pupil-free day, a babysitter not being available, day care closed or a sick child can leave parents with no option but to lug them into the office.

Turning up to work with children in tow can be hard for all concerned, but sometimes parents don't have a choice. A pupil-free day, a babysitter not being available, day care closed or a sick child can leave parents with no option but to lug them into the office.

How to handle the scenario with your boss and colleagues is usually

a challenge.

Dan Brown has had to bring her children, aged eight and 11, into the office on a few occasions since landing a full-time role with yoga and running apparel retailer Lululemon six months ago.

"It's mainly been during school holidays that I've had to bring them into the office," the brand's community manager says. "Or, if one of them is sick, then I've got the flexibility to work from home.

"It's not a problem here, thankfully. We're responsible for our work-life balance and our employer creates that space for us.

"It's been hard in other jobs not to have that flexibility. Trying to drop the kids off to school and be at my desk by 9am used to create a huge amount of stress, but here no one's watching the clock. We're treated like adults, which is refreshing."

Red Balloon is another company that is understanding of children in the office.

The company's head of employee experience, Megan Bromley, says: "We understand that people have lives outside of work, so we would never prevent a mother or father from bringing their little one in if they needed to."

One staff member worked from home last week simply to fit in with the school schedule and a doctor's appointment for her daughter.

The company offers parents a great deal of flexibility so they can get daily home tasks done without feeling they are removed from the business, Ms Bromley said.

"Life can get significantly more complicated when there are children involved, so we offer flexibility to our employees so that they may work from home, alter their start and finish times, or access leave when required to plan their days around their other commitments."

But not all workplaces are quite so accommodating. If you do need to bring children to the office, make sure you warn your boss, HR expert Mike Roddy, of Randstad, says.

"Even in the interview stage, you should be saying to your employer that there might be the odd occasion where you need to bring kids to work."

The age of the child, their temperament and the office environment need to be taken into consideration, Mr Roddy says. If they are likely to misbehave, don't bring them into the office.

"Obviously, children aren't conducive to some workplaces, such as factories and worksites. And toddlers are pretty distracting for your colleagues, so I'd suggest asking your boss if you can work from home instead.

"It's about having an open dialogue with your boss. The key thing here is the relationship between the employee and their boss."

Thanking colleagues for their understanding when your children have been at the office can also help.

"But if you do bring children into the office, there should be no stigma there from colleagues," Mr Roddy says.

Employers are starting to understand the need to cater for families, but the switch is slow, meaning employers are effectively shutting the door on top talent once they have families, he says.

Employees should be able to ask for every second Friday afternoon off to watch their son play sport, Mr Roddy says, and the employer should accommodate that.

But that is not commonplace. In fact, Australian employers still have a long way to go before they can claim to have family-friendly workplaces. We are well behind workplaces in Asia, he says.

"There is no doubt that one of the great challenges for this country is workplace flexibility. Most parental schemes are clumsy, and don't offer the flexibility that families need."

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