Optima Office, an accounting and human resources firm based in UTC, has expanded on the hybrid office theme by adopting a formal policy of letting employees bring home to the office by bringing their children to work.
“It’s about being flexible and putting your employees first and thinking what is best for them, what is best for their families, as long as it’s not disruptive and they can focus,” said CEO Jennifer Barnes.
The woman-owned firm has had an informal arrangement since Barnes started bringing her infant son to work earlier this year.
“I’m one of those CEOs, if it’s a benefit I can have, if it’s a way I treat myself, I give those same benefits to my team,” Barnes said. “As a CEO, I’m not going to treat myself to a different standard.”
Since she founded Optima Office in 2018, the company has let employees bring their children or dogs to work as needed.
“It’s never been a policy. It’s been, ‘Hey, if you need to bring in your kid,’” Barnes said. “This is a flexible office, it’s been almost like an unwritten rule, that people knew that if they needed to bring a child or animal to the office, they could.”
Barnes said that she recently made the practice official company policy in hopes that it will serve as a model for other companies.
A Bit of Joy
Optima uses a flexible work schedule, with employees working at home part of the week and in the office part of the week.
“We’ve always had hybrid. It’s just more efficient. The majority of our work force is working parents. They don’t need to work 40 hours a week (in the office),” Barnes said. “Generally speaking, we want everybody in the office at least two days a week. If you’re in administration or reception, that’s more like four days a week.”
Barnes figures that the policy on bringing children to the office would work for a variety of companies, although she said that other companies that are owned or run by women may be more amenable to it.
“It’s definitely doable and I think it’s greatly appreciated by parents,” Barnes said. “If parents can manage their child and they’re enjoyable to be around in the office, then I figure, ‘Why not?’”
Barnes said that Optima has a young staff- most are in their 20s – and she expects that as they have children, that they’ll take advantage of the program.
The policy isn’t meant to be a substitute for full-time childcare.
“We don’t want people to take advantage of it and have their kids there 40 hours a week,” Barnes said.
Sarah Walker, Optima’s office manager and human resources coordinator, said that when she was a single mother, being able to bring her daughter to work now and then was a godsend because it was sometimes hard to find day care.
“There’s a little disruption every now and then when you have a screaming baby, Walker said, adding that “Obviously, when they’re younger, they require a bit more attention and when it comes to nap time or hungry time.”
As a rule, “It worked out great, and we all adore all the kids that come in,” Walker said. “It just brings a bit of joy, a boost of joy for the work week.”
CEO: Jennifer Barnes
Business: accounting and human resources firm
Notable: Optima is a fully woman-owned business with more than 300 clients in the Pacific Southwest