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Q&A: BYOBTW (Bring Your Own Baby to Work)

November 18, 2015 / Uncategorized

ThinkstockPhotos-99948646Following up on our Virgin Disruptors event last month, I recently connected with Rich Sheridan, CEO, Chief Storyteller, and co-founder of Menlo Innovations. In this second of a two-part Q&A series (see part one here), we delve into how Menlo Innovations is being 100 percent human at its workplace.

Rich’s answers here struck a real chord with me on many levels. I strive to be the present dad to my son, the supportive spouse to my wife, the go-to friend and family member, and the best me to my employer and myself. I find unbelievable joy and hope that, as a culture, we’re taking a good look at where we are with our workplace habits, assessing how we arrived here, and discussing where we should go next.

One of the consistent themes that I hear in these discussions is that we must allow people to be themselves at work. And we need to give them the tools and workplace flexibility they need to be their best selves in all aspects of life. Let them fit in that run, go to their child’s soccer game, take a nap, learn something new, or (to the incredible point Menlo Innovations takes it) bring their baby to work.

I love the mentality Rich outlines, and it’s something I strive to do (though admittedly I’m not always successful). In the face of a new, untried idea, it’s easy to go negative. But the true answer is that you’ll never know until you give it a go. I laud Rich and his team at Menlo Innovations for their thoughtfulness about being more human at work. I hope more companies take this message to heart.

 

Shawn LaVana: One benefit Menlo Innovations has is that new parents can bring babies into work – and that this can happen for months at a time. I’ve been around for a bit in the benefits space and have never heard of this. What inspired this? How do coworkers feel about newborns in the office? What other unique benefits do you offer?

Rich Sheridan: The team loves having babies in the office. This isn’t daycare. The parent is responsible for their child. However, the team is often found “rescuing” a fussy baby. The Menlo babies (number 13 just arrived a few weeks ago and will be coming to the office soon) have all been raised by the Menlo village. Even our clients get into the act and find this part of our culture delightful. One of our clients recently invited John, a Menlo project manager, to bring 5-month-old Lucy to their office for a project status meeting. Since this client is only a few blocks from our office, John walked over to the meeting with Lucy in a stroller!

Since we’re in a northern climate, there are usually a few “snow days” every winter when local schools close. Menlo parents know they don’t have to scramble for emergency daycare options. They know they can bring their children to work with them. These are special days for us as the room is filled with the human energy of children. Delightful and less stress for parents.

SL: You’ve built a lot of “human” into the way Menlo Innovations works. How can others start to do the same?

RS: The broad advice I offer is this: “run the experiment.” A lot of the crazy things we’ve done over the years looked crazy to us as well when we thought of it. It’s so easy in that moment to say “Yeah, I don’t think will work.” And then we often catch ourselves listing all the potential negatives. You might imagine how many of those negative thoughts entered my brain when we first thought of telling Tracy she could bring little 3-month-old Maggie to work. Maggie was Menlo baby No. 1.

Instead of letting fear of the potential pitfalls get in the way, our attitude was, “Let’s run the experiment and see what happens. I told Tracy that we didn’t know how it would work, but I trusted the mom in her. I knew she would do the right thing if it wasn’t working. That was 13 Menlo babies ago!

Trust your team and try things. If they don’t work out, adjust and try again.

This post appears as the second in a two-part Q&A series with Rich Sheridan. Read the first post here.

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