The Washington Post

At Matrix Group, a designated space for staffers’ children

Company: Matrix Group International.

Location: Arlington.

Employees: 44.

When James Wood’s 12-year-old daughter, Maddy, has to join him at the office, the developer never worries that she might be bored or make him distracted.

That’s because his employer, Arlington-based Matrix Group International, has a dedicated place for little ones to hang out. The Web development and design firm’s “kids room” is outfitted with a television, Nintendo Wii, a pinball machine, puzzles and books. It’s not meant to be used as a regular child care option, but rather as backup if, say, a babysitter gets sick or a summer camp session gets canceled.

With the kids room, “We can give them somewhere that they can go and entertain themselves so we can focus,” Wood said.

Use of the kids room comes with just one stipulation: Children who visit it must use the art supplies to craft a “Neo,” the company’s biweekly award for outstanding work. The recipient of the Neo also receives an Amazon gift card, but chief executive Joanna Pineda said it’s the children’s craft projects that get the most attention.

“People love them and treasure them,” Pineda said, with many staffers permanently displaying the glitter, crayon and construction paper creations on their desks.

The kids room was built when the company was moving its offices four years ago from Alexandria to Arlington. The firm had a spare room in its new space that it wasn’t sure how to use, and Pineda said she noticed an increasing number of her employees were having children. She thought they might find a kids room appealing, and instructed the contractor to build out the space accordingly.

“People don’t [use] it regularly, but life just happens,” Pineda said.

Sometimes, it’s not just children that let loose in the kids room. Pineda said employees will occasionally use the space to take a “brain break,” playing games to blow off steam and stimulate creativity.

Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post's national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economic news.



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