LaVallee’s Bakery Distributors opened in 1977 and has built a reputation for amazing tasting breads coupled with their top notch service. They achieve this success through what they refer to as “LaVallee’s Dozen: 12 Values We Live By.” Their values include – trust and respect, teamwork, empowerment, personal growth, optimism, customer service, commitment, dependability, quality, efficiency, preparation and preparedness and safety. These values drive the business to success.
As a family run business which also prides itself on family values, when two employees had children within a couple of weeks of each other, it was decided that they could bring their newborns to work with them. As a mother of three children, my initial reaction was “How in the world can you get anything done with your newborn with you at work?” However, after speaking with one of the mothers, Sarah (name has been changed to protect identity), it opened my eyes to how this can work and be beneficial in the right environment.
Some of the benefits cited by Sarah was that she was able to return to work sooner and was more focused on her job because she wasn’t worried about her baby being within someone else who might be irresponsible. Sarah felt she was more productive, not less, given she wasn’t preoccupied with the care of her baby. In the beginning the baby slept most of the day in a pack ‘n play in her office or the company library and didn’t pose much of an imposition on the workday. Now, eighteen months later, the children are active young toddlers, so a little harder to contain. While the children aren’t coming to work with their moms as much as they did as infants, they still come to work a couple of days per week. Sarah still feels strongly that having her child increases employee productivity and employee morale. She does admit, however, that there are “off” days where the baby doesn’t nap well or throws a temper tantrum and can disrupt her work. For the most part, however, Sarah has learned to manage her time with the baby in the office and the good days far outweigh the bad.
This really got me thinking about what makes this work at LaVallee’s and what pieces of advice other employers could draw from it? First and foremost is that this was supported from the top. The owners of the company believe strongly in family values and were willing to give this work arrangement a try. Beyond support from the executives, it might also be helpful to gauge the willingness of coworkers to work around this arrangement. Coworkers aren’t necessarily going to drive your final decision, however, you’ll also want their buy in before the babies suddenly appear at the office. It also takes a certain kind of employee to make this work. Let’s face it, an employee who is less than ideal would never be able to manage the needs of both a newborn and their daily work responsibilities at the same time. The employer should have the ability, at any time, to terminate this work arrangement if it’s not working.
If you are going to try a similar program, it’s important to keep in mind how you set parameters and maintain consistency. Who will be eligible (can’t just be women?) Will there be a threshold of who is eligible? Years of service or performance, or a combination of both? Is there a time limit to how long (or old) the children can be to come in to the office? Embarking on such a program can be a great benefit to employees, but must be thought out carefully. Kudos to LaVallee’s for being willing to step out of the box and comfort zone of corporate America to try something a little different.