I stumbled upon an online debate regarding the appropriateness of kids in the workplace, specifically in commercial offices. There was little middle ground: “Absolutely not, children should never be allowed in a place of business” or “It’s fine, with clear policies.” I believe that having kids in the workplace can work with a transparent and shared policy regarding when and what is appropriate, a policy that should consider all employees (even those without children).
I started my 1st business in my 20s (working out of a home office while breastfeeding an infant), expanded my 2nd company in my 30s (with a school-aged kid + an infant), and launched my 3rd in my 40s (with growing kids & aging family). My first dedicated office was in a small 10×12 spare bedroom. My first commercial office was a small 3-room suite adjacent to a gas station and strip mall. There were many evenings when work & life collided that I had to have my kid in the office.
At the height of the pandemic, many office workers grew to appreciate working from home for a more manageable work-life balance, greater autonomy, and increased time saved by avoiding commutes and office distractions; these arrangements have also historically performed well for WFH parents and caregivers. Post-pandemic, many companies are reevaluating physical office spaces, reconsidering their role beyond a mere company investment, and pushing employees to return to the office against significant employee pushback.
Commercial (physical) office spaces still hold business value, particularly for in-person collaboration, team bonding, and aligning on business goals. I can also appreciate the benefits of remote work, as someone who started working remotely in the 90s when it was called “telecommuting.”
Bringing employees back into the physical office also requires consideration for families that need to return to working outside the home. First, the responsibility to secure appropriate caregiving services during working hours is ultimately on parents and caregivers. Second, in reevaluating the benefit of physical office space, companies should also recognize the opportunity to identify and improve policies that empower employees to do their best work while achieving and maintaining a work-life balance that works for them. Work is life. Life is work.
Featured Image: Inspired by an old photo of my daughter (now in college) and her Girl Scout troop in one of my first commercial offices, earning their Technology/STEM badges