This guest blog is by Taeler Houlberg, the Special Projects Coordinator for the Town of Bennett, CO.
In 2018, the Town of Bennett officially instituted an infant to work policy. Per the policy, Town employees, regardless of gender, are eligible to bring their infant to work if the infant is at least six weeks of age.
Eligibility for the policy ends when the “infant is deemed mobile” or at a supervisor’s
discretion. The policy is voluntary and approval is based on whether the employee’s job requirements, duties, and worksite are compatible with the presence, care, and safety of an infant.
However, the Town does attempt to honor requests for temporary, alternative work if an employee with an incompatible job asks to bring their infant to work.
Bennett’s management team firmly believes in the right for all employees to maintain a proper work/life balance.
The infant to work policy developed organically from a desire to allow new parents to remain with their infant during the earliest stages of life. It also allows new parents to return to work in order to continue to contribute to their department.
Danette Ruvalcaba, a Town employee who took advantage of the policy, said,
“Being at work with my baby allowed me to continue to excel at my profession without the guilt of not having the time to spend with my precious new addition.”
Additionally, the benefit is not just to the participating parent. Other Town employees have expressed enjoyment and workplace satisfaction from having a baby in the office and an unexpected level of camaraderie has developed from coworkers willing to step in if the baby needs to be held so the parent can quickly finish a project.
This camaraderie did not develop from the parent requesting that others help her, but rather from a sincere desire from coworkers to help.
When first mentioned or introduced to people, this policy faces a great deal of skepticism and the main argument against it is that an infant in the workplace is disruptive and the crying distracting.
From our experience in the Town of Bennett, we have found this to not be the case, but we understand that every work environment is different. For this reason, we have included accountability measures in our policy that help mitigate possible issues.
For instance, the parent/guardian is responsible for maintaining a safe work environment while caring for the child, and the infant must be located primarily at the employee’s workstation. The parent/guardian is specifically responsible for ensuring that the presence of the infant does not create workplace disturbances and may at any time be asked to move the baby to a quiet place.
The policy is also discretionary on whether work productivity continues and whether or not the employee’s supervisor believes that maintaining the policy is the best thing for the entire office.
The Town of Bennett’s infant to work policy was instituted to support the work/life balance of Town employees because we’ve found that supporting that balance increases productivity and encourages employee retention.
We’ve also found that, in general, employees are genuinely grateful for the
opportunity to balance their work and personal lives and for being trusted with the workplace independence that those policies require.