The Grapevine

New Parents Can Now Bring Their Baby To Work Every Day, Thanks To New Washington State Law

baby bottle
If the company handles it properly, allowing parents to bring babies to work might not be as distracting as it seems. Photo courtesy of http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-176265329/stock-photo-an-elegant-businesswoman-working-while-holding-her-child-s-milk-bottle.html?src=5UgccIpbsdOaQERngR3uIg-1-104

With Netflix recently allowing new parents to take unlimited maternity and paternity leave, the discussion over how to maintain good business while keeping employees (and their babies) happy continues. Now, Washington state is rolling out a new pilot program that would allow new parents to take their babies to work with them.

Under the new law, known as the “Infant-at-Work Program Policy,” new parents (both mothers and fathers) at the Traffic Safety Commission will be able to bring their babies to the office. There’s an age limit: Babies must be at least 6 weeks old and can come in until they’re 6 months old, which is typically when they start to crawl or become “mobile.”

Allowing parents to bring their kids to work would in theory encourage them to come back to work sooner, and would boost retention of employees. Keeping parents close to their babies at a young age also “supports critical bonding, healthy infant brain development, and parental well-being,” the program officials state. “It also enables exclusive breastfeeding, which improves lifelong health.”

The question is: Will it work? Babies — little nuggets wrapped up in a mess of crying, changing diapers, and awful smells — might become a distraction for both the parent and co-workers. The office would need to adjust a lot of things to make it work, like giving the parent a spare room to change diapers or soothe a shrieking infant, allowing mothers to breastfeed during meetings, or giving the parent the flexibility to go home early if their infant is sick or uncooperative.

The notion poses a lot of challenges. It sounds difficult, and even impossible — but past experiments conducted by progressive companies in the U.S. have been successful. According to Bloomberg, there are more than 180 companies in the U.S. that allow babies to come into work with their parents every day, and many of them have proven that their family-bearing employees are much happier that way. It reduces the stress of worrying about the baby at home or at day care, and gives the parents more leeway to bond and care for their child.

“More than 80 babies have graced our offices, with both moms and dads participating,” Gay Gaddis, a female entrepreneur who pioneered bring-your-baby-to-work at her company, wrote in Forbes. “The program has been recognized by the White House and has become ingrained in our agency’s culture. More rewarding is that the program has enabled [us] to retain and attract amazing people — the lifeblood of the creative and technology sides of our business.”

But it’s all about flexibility and patience, as well as the willingness to make it work no matter what. “Eighteen years ago, I stopped asking whether women could have it all and started developing programs that truly supported men and women as they worked toward their versions of ‘leaning in’” Gaddis wrote.

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