Is your latest addition to your small business head count someone who can’t talk or feed himself? No, not your cousin Steve… we’re talking about a baby.
There are certainly benefits to establishing a baby-friendly business. Parents won’t spend the work day agonizing about how their baby is doing. Moms and dads can better manage their time and won’t need to rush to pick up their child from daycare at a certain hour. It could also help retain employees, given that for some parents, it’s not cost-effective to send their child to daycare if most of their paycheck ends up there.
If you plan to bring an infant to the office or allow employees to bring their young children to work, there are a few steps you need to take to get your space ready. Here are some tips for setting up a baby-friendly office.
1) Set aside some space for the baby — Designate a quiet room with a door for the baby. The baby will need a place to retreat, whether to nap, feed, or for when the office becomes too loud or overstimulating.
2) Invest in some basic baby equipment — You will need a refrigerator for milk and food, a changing table, a place to dispose of diapers, a pack and play for naps, and a comfortable chair or couch. A baby monitor will allow you to leave the baby alone in the room to sleep. If you’re worried about the cost, you may be able to pick up many of the items second hand from consignment stores, Craigslist, garage sales, or mother’s groups.
3) Toys, toys, and more toys — Books and toys are a must to help entertain the baby. Keep a basket of toys available, from mirrors that encourage tummy time to board books that babies can flip through, chew on, and read. Have a blanket you can spread on the floor where the baby can play. Young babies can also lounge in a swing or bouncer. As they get older, they can transition to an exersaucer or a jumperoo. These tools are essential if you need a few minutes to make a phone call or have a quick meeting.
4) Baby-proof the office — Cover the outlets, and remove or secure heavy or tempting objects that could fall on the baby. Consider installing a gate if there’s a big staircase. This is especially important as the baby becomes increasingly mobile.
5) Get a sling — For the times that the baby wants to be close to mom or dad, carry the baby in a sling such as an Ergo or Bjorn. That leaves your hands free so that you can continue to make phone calls and type. The baby can stay close and content, as well as sleep and even nurse in the sling.
6) Establish a routine with your baby — Though it can be easier said than done (and certainly there will be days the baby won’t want to participate!), try to get your baby used to a loose routine or schedule. This will get easier as your baby gets older. Common routines include a pattern of “eat, play, sleep,” and introducing certain cues to signal that it’s time to sleep, such as a lullaby or a special book. As babies age they will also start establishing certain times when they will be ready for a nap. That way both you and the baby know what to expect throughout the day: The baby will feel more comfortable knowing what comes next and you will be able to plan ahead — to a degree, at least.
7) Set up office hours and arrange for help — For critical meetings, phone calls, and just some quiet, undisturbed time to tackle a few tasks, hire a mother’s helper or sitter to watch the baby for a few hours. Set up a regular block of time so you can schedule client meetings, lunches, and other duties ahead of time. Consider a service like Tungle to let people know the best times to reach you.
8) Line up back-up help — For unexpected, urgent meetings, you may need to hire a sitter in a pinch. Your regular helper may not be available, so have back-up numbers ready just in case. Hire these sitters occasionally so your baby can get used to having that person around and so the sitter can become familiar with your routine. You can also tap services such as Care.com and Sittercity.com for help.