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Creating a dedicated "Quiet Space" at Work

Words

"There are too many books I haven’t read, too many places I haven’t seen, too many memories I haven’t kept long enough." - Irwin Shaw

Creating a dedicated "Quiet Space" at Work

Lizzie Williams

If you’ve ever been to my office at OST you’ve probably looked around at one of our gorgeous kitchens, the beautifully restored brick, or the custom shuffleboard table and thought, “Man! How do I get a job here!?”. It’s a seriously beautiful work space. However, one downfall of having an open-concept office, where even our conference room doors are glass, is there isn’t a ton of privacy. That can cause discomfort for those times when you receive a tough call, when you’re fighting a migraine, or you just need a minute to yourself. We recently recognized an additional need for a dedicated private space that, as a young company, we hadn't needed before - a spot for moms returning to work to pump their breast milk. In order to provide a private space that would be suited for all needs, our OST Well-being team decided to jump in and create a designated “Quiet Room” for team members seeking a mid-day respite.

When we decided to move forward with the creation of the Quiet Room we knew we only had one month until the first of our new moms would be returning to work. Since I haven’t had any children myself, I quickly started researching best-practices online for workplace pump rooms and talking to colleagues and friends who returned to work shortly after having babies. We put together a list of room must-haves, nice-to-haves and maybe-laters. We worked with our facilities team to secure a room and then we went to work drafting out a floor plan. Within just a few quick weeks we had a fully operational, comfortable, private space.

Once the new moms started returning to work we asked if there was anything else we missed, or things that we bought that they didn’t need. We've done our best to compile all the research, suggestions, and comments that we've heard and created a guide so other people who are looking to create this type of space in their own offices can have a solid starting point. I will say, one thing I learned through working on this project is that it’s really not that hard and it doesn’t have to be a huge investment, but it makes a BIG difference for the people using it.

CREATING A WORK-PLACE QUIET ROOM -- A "HOW-TO" GUIDE

THE SPACE:

  • Re-purpose an unused, or underutilized, conference room  - heck, even a closet! It does not have to be big! The room we used was a little 9’x11’ conference room that no one liked because it was small and had no windows. Some actually referred to it as “the interrogation room”.
  • If the door has glass panels make sure you get a full-coverage shade or replace the door with a solid one. (We swapped doors with an office that didn’t need it.)
  • Make sure the door has a lock!
  • To let people know that the room is in use we simply hung a “Do not disturb” on the handle. That works great for our office but other companies I know of have added the room to their reservable conference system so you can “check it out” when needed.

THE SUPPLIES:

  • Comfortable seating - with pillows and a blanket. (We found a couch from Target.com for $350 and had it delivered directly to the office - easy peasy!)
  • An additional seat or two, since the room might be used by more than one person
  • A foot stool (I snagged a $40 ottoman at Meijer & it works great)
  • A refrigerator is very helpful so moms can immediately put their milk away and don’t have to walk around the office carrying it. (Mini fridges are <$100)
  • A storage location so people can leave their pump at the office. (We used an old filing cabinet - not glamorous, but does the job!)
  • A small table
  • A trash can
  • Hand sanitizer
  • A mirror (I didn’t think of this right away but makes total sense)
  • Reading material (Ideas: Amy Poehler’s new book, a few magazines, etc.)
  • Kleenex
  • Paper towel + baby friendly cleaner for any spills
  • A power strip
  • A clock that can be seen from the couch

THE "ABOVE & BEYOND" SUPPLIES:

  • A sink
  • Phone chargers
  • TV (with a remote) 
  • If you have a lot of new moms it might be worth investing in a pump that anyone is welcome to use. They would just be responsible for bringing their own attachments.
  • A fan/white noise machine or a Bluetooth music player. Turns out pumps are not exactly quiet and some new moms can feel uncomfortable having their co-workers hear them pumping..
  • A plant (Just make sure if you don’t have windows in the room that it’s a shade-loving plant!)
  • Artwork - I mean, if you’re gonna do it, might as well do it right. :)

FINAL STEPS

The final step is so simple, but critically important -- you have to actually let everyone know that it has been re-purposed and your process around using it. :) 

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I’m sure that anyone who finds themselves in need of a little privacy will be incredibly grateful. I posted a picture of our Quiet Room on my Instagram feed a few weeks ago and I couldn’t believe how many people expressed that they wish they had something similar instead of pumping on the toilet, or how they had to run to their car when they learned of a death in the family. We all need quiet spaces at one point or another.

If you have any additional suggestions, let me know!

BEFORE PHOTO -- when the room was being used as a conference room. 

AFTER PHOTO - The official "Quiet Room" 

AFTER PHOTO - The official "Quiet Room" 

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Note: my cousin Laura mentioned that it might be helpful to include information about the legal rights that a new mom gets based on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Great idea, Laura! Here is what I found:

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (P.L. 111-148, known as the “Affordable Care Act”) amended section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) to require employers to provide “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.” Employers are also required to provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.” See 29 U.S.C. 207(r). The break time requirement became effective when the Affordable Care Act was signed into law on March 23, 2010. The Fact Sheet and the Frequently Asked Questions provide basic information about the law. (Via the US Department of Labor)