This year’s Spring brings more than rain showers and budding flowers to the Zutano hilltop in Vermont. Like in many years before, we are getting the maternity office set up and ready to welcome baby Alma, the newest member of Zutano’s baby to work club. Alma will be joining her mom, Krysta, who works in the graphics department, every day for the first year of her new life.
Way back, our founders started Zutano literally on the kitchen table of their New York City Greenwich Village apartment, shortly before their first daughter Sofia was born in 1989. Making it work has been the motto of the young entrepreneurs from the early days of Zutano and having a baby by their side was just part of this new company. Uli says, “I just couldn’t have imagined handing Sofia off to a day care provider during this first special year.”
Zutano made “Babies at Work” an official company policy over 15 years ago. By all accounts the Zutano baby to work program has been a huge success – now 26 babies later the Zutano baby to work program has become one of our most important and cherished benefits in the company.
The way that the program works here at Zutano is that the new mother or father moves to a private office space big enough to accommodate a crib. There is no outside daycare providers, the parent has their baby with them at all times and has the freedom to nurse and tend to their baby’s needs, as long as they stay on top of their work responsibilities. Zutano co-founder Michael Belenky says “The secret is flexibility. Babies have always been our inspiration and passion at Zutano. Having babies in our office has helped us to build a true sense of community and extended family. Young babies do a lot of sleeping and we have found that when babies have the security of having their mom or dad by their side and their needs met, they are mostly happy campers.” Being there with your baby to bond and experience your baby’s first giggles and maybe the first wobbly steps during that first year is priceless.
Here are a few things to consider if you think a baby-at-work program may be right for you:
Zutano is just one of more than 150 companies, including state agencies in Kansas and Arizona, that have babies-at-work policies. If you think this plan might work at your company, follow these tips from Carla Moquin, founder of the Parenting in the Workplace Institute:
- Ask yourself: Is it really doable? “Consider whether having a baby around will truly mesh with your job. Safety is key, so if you work in a factory, you’re probably out of luck — though you can ask to be moved to a desk job temporarily,” Moquin says. Also, if you frequently work off-site or meet with clients all day long, consider whether there’s an option to stay in one place
- Go in with a plan. Once you’ve figured out whether it can work for you, approach your boss with a solid plan for launching a babies-at-work program. Download a detailed list of business benefits — such as moms’ taking shorter maternity leaves — and a template for a company policy from
- Suggest a two-week trial run. “It’s much easier to get someone to agree to this plan if they don’t feel pressured to sticking with it if doesn’t work,” Moquin says. The first days will be rough for everyone, she notes, but don’t give up right away. “Once you and the baby get into a rhythm, work days will become easier.”