Being a relatively new organization, Natrona Collective Health Trust has experienced many firsts. Last spring, the Trust was made aware of an exciting upcoming first: the first Trust baby was due to be born in November! Being a family-friendly workplace with a mission centered around youth, the staff immediately began to plan on how to best support mom and baby before, during, and following parental leave.
The first few months of a child’s life are crucial to brain development, and those first experiences can shape their lifelong health. By supporting parents in the workplace, an employer can contribute to a healthier community. The Trust began to explore policies to support its newest addition, including an option to bring the baby to work.
While snuggling a baby at the office may seem like the ideal work environment for some, it also has the potential to cause complications, and Paula Mongold, the Trust’s VP of Operations, wanted to give the process structure to make it a successful first experience, both for the baby and the organization.
“I had second-hand knowledge of infant-at-work programs, so I knew the concept wasn’t new,” Mongold said. “My nephew’s children were able to go to work with their mom as part of the State of North Dakota’s infant at work program, so I decided to reach out to them to learn more about the program.”
Through her research, Mongold found that in addition to North Dakota, at least five other state governments have adopted infant-in-the-workplace programs. In addition, a multitude of private businesses have similar policies, many with the guidance of the Parenting in the Workplace Institute (PIWI), a Utah-based nonprofit focused on providing resources and mentorship to organizations wishing to develop such programs.
Following a conversation with the PIWI Executive Director Carla Moquin, the NCHT Baby at Work policy was born.
“Carla provided policy templates, forms, waivers, advice, and encouragement to get the program running,” Mongold said. “Her organization has helped successfully welcome over 2,000 babies into their respective workplaces. She stated the only time an organization had an issue was when they welcomed babies to work without a policy in place first.”
Some important components of the Trust’s policy include:
Eligibility requirements: For example, the parent’s work assignment must be in an environment that is suitable for the baby’s physical safety.
Alternate care providers: The parent designates at least one other employee in the office who can assist with childcare if the parent needs to attend a meeting, eat their lunch, or run to the restroom.
Illness/Disruption: If the baby is sick or fussy to the point that it creates prolonged disruption in the workplace, the parent is required to find alternate childcare or keep the child at home.
Consideration for all staff: In order to be respectful of the entire team, the Trust’s policy outlines procedures for those who may wish to have a baby-free environment or who need to voice a complaint or concern about the baby’s presence.
Following months of anticipation and preparation, the Trust welcomed its pilot baby to the program in February. While the initial excitement created some distraction, soon baby, mom, and the rest of the office slipped into a routine.
The fact that he is an exceptionally well-behaved baby has made the transition easier, but even when he’s not at his best, the staff have made a conscious decision to normalize the occasional disruption as part of providing a supportive culture. Sometimes this means hearing another tiny voice contributing at the board room table or consulting a coworker over tummy time on her office floor. The entire office has made an effort to embrace the baby-at-work culture as part of its overall effort to improve the lives of young people in our community.
The Parenting in the Workplace website hosts a variety of templates that can assist organizations who want to implement an infant-at-work policy. Those who want to discuss NCHT’s process in implementing the program can contact Paula Mongold, VP of Operations.