The Kids Are Alright

Before the term “work-life balance” had even registered as a trendy corporate buzzword, Sietec was leading the way by showing how offering flexible options for staff can benefit everyone.

When Leanne, Sietec’s Group Accountant, was due to return to work after her 12 weeks maternity leave, the reality of leaving 3 month of Holley in daycare, was an option that was going to be too much for her to bear.

She approached Sietec’s Managing Director, John McAdams, with a plea and a plan.  After mentioning something about a “disaster waiting to happen”, John then agreed in that same email to trial it for a month.  So what happened when Sietec decided to let babies into the workplace?

Leanne & Holley’s Story

I had planned “pre-arrival” on sending Holley to daycare once my three months maternity leave was finished but the reality of that idea “post arrival” was far too much to bear – 12 weeks was only little and I just wanted her close. What was I thinking that I could send her to daycare at 3 months!!

So after a few days of stressing & fretting I started writing, editing & rewriting an email to John to ask (beg?)  if I could bring my wee bundle into Sietec instead … because she REALLY was a GOOD baby.

Although hesitant at first, John agreed to a trial and I suddenly realised that having a baby in-house at work, was going to be very interesting!  For those first few weeks it really tested my organisational skills but then we got into the swing of things and all was good. She spent most of that time feeding or sleeping and I worked super super fast when she was asleep.  The staff were wonderful and John was a doting Boss. When I arrived at 7:30 am, there was always someone downstairs waiting to help me carry either Holley in her capsule, the ever expanding baby bag, exersaucer, walker etc and someone else would be there to help carry it all down again at the end of the day.

The difference in staff AND customers when walking into the office and seeing her was amazing, she had a “softening” effect on everyone. The surprise on customer’s faces when they realised there was a baby in the office and those that wanted to see and talk babytalk to Holley was . If any of the girls were going up the road they would ask if they could take her for a walk, and now and then, she would be taken upstairs with her walker so she could roam the big open space without so many things to crash into. The engineers (most being father’s themselves) were fantastic and were always returning “lost property”.

On top of the enormous cost-saving of not having her in daycare, I felt so lucky to have had her with me in those early months so I could see her grow and change, and they were right, they grow so fast!

Five months later, I felt she was needing more stimulation and at 8 months old – I decided we were both ready for daycare.

Holley, now 6, is still a regular sight around the Sietec offices and you’ll find her visiting during school holidays where she either reads, does her art, watches movies, plays with “sunshine online”, listens to music, or visits “Aunty” Krystle upstairs who lets her play with her phone and occasionally takes her out for lunch.


Alayne & Harley-X’Aviah’s Story

Not only was I lucky enough to be offered employment by Sietec but considering I am a solo mum, Sietec also proved to be ‘about the people’ when they kindly confirmed I was able to bring my son to work if / when needed.  If Harley-X ends up working at Sietec in future, he would be the only staff member able to say honestly “I’ve been here since I was four years old”!

I get the best of both worlds having a full time career and being able to pay the bills and I get to spend time with Harley-X – ‘some’ time is better than no time …… they grow up way too quick!  It’s also reassuring when School Holidays are upon us and Harley-X just wants to come into work, so he mustn’t find it an issue being here lol

I think my son keeps a certain ‘light heartedness’ within the firm.  Its rather amusing seeing the child come out of the grown man!  Sometimes I used to walk past John’s office and would see he and my son sitting around John’s meeting table with paper galore, cellotape, scissors and pens and I’m thinking “should I have a giggle at John’s inner-child being present or shall I tell my son to stop disturbing John?!”

There are sometimes challenges and I occasionally have to remind my son there’s a time and a place for everything – know when people are busy and you can catch up with them tomorrow instead, know there’s no running in the corridors and definitely no yelling out for me.  In addition, have you ever tried to have a child up by 6am and out the door by 6.30am ……. That’s always fun, especially in the middle of winter when you don’t drive!

I’m very grateful my son tries to accommodate my need to work so we can survive and also how Sietec accommodate my need to be the best mum I can.  But the best thing about having Harley-X at work with me is the fact that I CAN have him here and he takes it on board – If I wasn’t able to have Harley-X here I probably couldn’t work full time and (hopefully) provide him with the best upbringing possible at the moment.

Sietec really is a rarity, I don’t know of any other work place that allows you to take your child / children to your workplace …… not only allows it but supports and understands it.  Management are not just ‘suits’ here, they’re very much human and understand the ‘struggle’ some of us go through and try to accommodate their staff in ways you’d never imagine

The influence(s) must be positive as Harley-X either wants to be a Policeman or ‘Just like John’.  I’d be proud of either, he can’t go wrong really

John’s Thoughts:

When Leanne approached me, it was clear that she did not want to give up work, her friends of twelve years, her position in the company and to some extent her way of life, BUT, this new person in her life was a priority too.  My take on that was it doesn’t have to be a major upheaval but to put some thought into how can we achieve a workable arrangement for her and us – simple answer move home to the office – a cot in her office!!   WHY NOT!     This person, now christened Holley, had more mothers, aunties and uncles than any child in NZ and every single day!!  For a few minutes each day work stopped for everybody checking on Holley.  She became the absolute centre of attraction and so Leanne got the best of both worlds and Sietec enjoyed the unique atmosphere of people being brought together and no disruption to the business  (if we had needed to replace Leanne the disruption would have been significant).

Having set a precedent it was now the most natural thing to do to allow babies/children to come to the Office.

As is the case with Harley –  he has been a fantastic distraction, especially for me.   I have entertained him for years after school and built cardboard garages from boxes/sellotape/staplers and even set him up with his own laptop!!   He knows every person in Sietec by name and most of the names of their children.     We often visit the Two Dollar Shop and waste money on things that only last five minutes but give him so much pleasure.  Last week Wesley’s little boy of 3 years came in and we all went up to the Two Dollar Shop with Harley holding his hand and history repeating itself!

Overall it means happier staff, without the stress of having to cope with the demands that come with daily life, both before children get to school age and beyond.

It’s easy for companies to say that their people are their most important asset. It’s somewhat harder to actually incorporate that philosophy into everyday business the way the Sietec team has done here – very nicely done!