Babies at work: one company's unusual maternity benefit
Transport company BookingGo has become the latest employer to embrace a family-friendly culture by inviting employees – and their babies – to the officeJermaine Haughton
For small businesses, flexible working and large event days are not necessarily suitable or affordable, but bosses at BookingGo have started a shrewd and cost-effective initiative to make parents feel welcomed and valued by the company.
Following repeated calls for companies to do more to create good return-to-work schemes, managers at the ground transport arm of Booking.com – either working or currently on leave – are given the opportunity to bring their babies to the office for business updates.
Ryan Cheyne, People Director at BookingGo, says the move reflects the company’s willingness to support a caring and inclusive working culture. He said: “It’s not so much an initiative or formal policy, but a loose and relaxed approach allowing colleagues to stay in touch while they are off on maternity leave. We invite all colleagues to attend the quarterly business updates – there’s absolutely no pressure to do so and colleagues who do, use it as one of their KIT days.
“As a business we also encourage shared parental leave, so any fathers on paternity leave are also welcome to bring their baby in with them. We want to make sure that no feels left out while away from the business.”
Babies in the office
Cheyne insists the presence of the babies also brings a softer, fun dynamic to the office. He says the act helps build staff loyalty and engagement, and helps usher the transition for new parents back to work.
“Colleagues have been very responsive. We’ve had many attend the business updates, both on their own and with their young children. For colleagues bringing in their young child, it’s a great opportunity to see colleagues as well as finding out what is happening around the business. It adds a nice dynamic to the updates.
Could it work for you?
The informal policy is one that is in keeping with the culture of BookingGo.
“All attendees that have come along with their baby have felt very comfortable in doing so,” says Cheyne.” It’s all part and parcel of who we are as a business – we encourage a healthy work/life balance and this is one example of how we do so. We strongly believe that having a family shouldn’t hinder or exclude anyone from being actively involved in working life.”
A key concern of managers is the potential for young children to be a harmful distraction to employees – stunting productivity. But BookingGo director Cheyne says they haven’t experienced problems yet and the babies have a positive impact on business.
He explained: “[No challenges have been faced] so far – it’s viewed very positively by colleagues. Sometimes the babies cry or make noises, often at moments in the presentation that are very amusing but that just fine and it’s something we’ll continue to offer and encourage.
“Allowing colleagues and their children to attend the business updates hasn’t had a detrimental on the proceedings of the meetings – far from it, it builds on the close relationships that exist between staff.