No, actually, it wasn’t something in the office water cooler. The office baby boom — all those pregnant coworkers — that’s a real and predictable phenomenon and the focus of a recently published study [PDF] out of Sweden. Researchers Lena Hensvik and Peter Nilsson summarized their findings in “Businesses, Buddies, and Babies: Social Ties and Fertility at Work” for the Institute for Labor Market Policy Evaluation.
What they found was come compelling evidence for office baby fever. In short, the chances of an employee showing up at work pregnant increased if a coworker recently had a baby. The chances are even greater the closer in age and educational level — and sex — the two coworkers are.
Anyway, baby fever doesn’t exactly work like the stomach flu.
Researchers found a one-year lag time between the birth of a co-workers child and the pregnancy of the influenced co-worker. So the blushing announcement and the office baby shower aren’t sending female’s ovaries into overdrive. They aren’t even making the decision to get pregnant until after the first baby was born. Or, more to the point for Swedes, sneaky workers aren’t timing pregnancies so they can have overlapping maternity leaves (or so their partners can have overlapping paternity leaves, lovely as they sound).
Now that sex thing is interesting, because the Lesvik and Nilsson looked only at females age 20 to 44 who worked in Swedish firms of 50 or fewer employees. But it does bring up an interesting question: whether male coworkers’ partners’ pregnancies had any influence on the father-to-be’s female coworker’s fertility. Make sense?
All of this leads me to one of my favorite viral videos from YouTube (that I can’t find at the moment — I’ll keep looking) one that I also think is entirely appropriate for the holiday weekend. The one where someone brings a baby to work and everyone is distracted and they wind up going home early. My kind of baby fever.