As they say, don't be part of the problem, be part of the solution. We are honored to introduce Gay Gaddis, owner of T3, a very modern, integrated marketing services agency with offices in Austin, Texas and New York. Gay founded T3 when her now grown children were 8, 5 and 4. Gay's progressive T3 and Under Program enabling new moms and dads to bring their babies to work has received a great deal of press and public praise.
T3, truly a marketing think tank, is the largest privately held, woman-owned agency in the United States. Gay is convinced T3 would never have reached this size if she hadn't found a creative way to keep her best employees -- and their kids -- happy.
You recently decided to permit your employees to bring their newborns to work. What were the circumstances that led you to that decision?
When four of my top employees told me in one six-week period that they were pregnant, I realized that their good news could spell disaster for my company. We had fewer than 25 employees at the time, and the soon-to-be moms were our head of publicity, a media buyer, the manager of print production, and a senior account executive. Each had client and supplier relationships that were vital to our business. Plus, conducting four executive searches at the same time would be costly. So I decided to try something radical and allow new moms and dads to bring their babies to work.
How has this new child-friendly environment impacted your business, productivity and/or morale?
Of course there are a few difficulties here and there with crying babies and such, but overall what we call the T3 and Under Program has proved to have a positive effect on the company. Having the babies around adds to our family-friendly atmosphere. We all have lives and that doesn't stop because of our work. We have a responsibility to keep women working and I've found that if you can ease the anxiety at the early stages of motherhood by allowing moms and dads to bring their babies in, it increases employee morale and retention. On a productivity standpoint, because we're retaining such great talent, the Program also benefits our work and client relationships. I can't measure in hard numbers the impact of the goodwill that our family friendly policies have had on productivity, but our local newspaper routinely names T3 one of the best places to work in Austin.
Speaking of crying babies, how is the physical space laid out? Where are the babies in relation to the workspace?
Our office is set in five historic homes in Austin, Texas. We have a lot of space so we could put in cribs and baby swings. We try to give the new parents privacy and an office of their own or if we have several new parents at one time, we pair them together. That way, the new parents and their babies aren't encroaching on other employees. The moms are so thrilled to be close to their babies that none have ever dropped a ball when it comes to work. When one had to run to a meeting, another babysat. We also made sure that the employees who couldn't stand the sound of crying babies didn't sit near the "romper room." After the youngsters become more mobile, we arrange for them to be put on a priority list at a neighborhood day-care center.
Have any unexpected challenges arisen as a result of the T3 and Under Program?
The only unexpected hitch came when an employee told me the program wasn't fair. She never planned to have children, but her elderly dog was like a child to her. I decided to let her bring him in. Of course, once you let one dog in, its "Who let the dogs out?" In addition to more dogs, we also had a goat that someone's child was raising in 4-H. A flea outbreak soon followed, and with the office getting a bit chaotic, I made some rules. No more goats. Dogs have to be on flea and tick protection, and owners need to clean up after them both inside and outside. So far, 33 babies and a small army of dogs have "grown up" at our company.