Infant at Work Program Expands in Arizona

In his State of the State address on Monday, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey shared his plans for improving our beloved Grand Canyon State. He made many promises about education, public welfare and safety, business, the economy, healthcare, the prison system and reducing recidivism, and more in 2017. One subject that particularly caught my attention, of course, was the Governor’s policy outlines pertaining to families.

He suggested that a Good Samaritan bill be drafted to protect children from being left in hot cars. He recommended screening babies for Severe Combined Immuno-Deficiency (SCID).

And Governor Ducey announced his plans to expand programs that allow babies to accompany their parents to the workplace with the Infant At Work Program.

infant at work program father takes his baby to work

That’s right – he wants every day to be Take Your Child To Work Day at more state agencies. At present, the Department of Public Health and the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) already participate in the Infant at Work Program. He did not name specific agencies for the expansion, and not every one will qualify (I think it’s fair to guess we all agree that corrections officers probably shouldn’t be participating, for example), but the change could go into effect as early as next week.

According to Governor Ducey, “The bond between a newborn baby and its mother is uniquely special …. It’s a win-win-win – increased productivity, quality employees less likely to leave state service, and most important – happy babies.”

Under the program, employees can bring their infants to work from 6 weeks to 6 months, at which time they become more mobile, posing a safety hazard. This applies to both mothers and fathers.

Working parents face a host of challenges, not the least of which being the exorbitant and rising costs of child care. Programs like this provide parents with the opportunity to be more hands on and build strong attachments with their babies (please note: it is not my intent to say that parents who do not have programs like this available cannot build strong and healthy attachments with their babies; furthermore, research indicates that it is advantageous for children to have secure attachment to multiple loving caregivers).

Critics of the program worry that a parent with their baby in arms may decrease productivity. But let’s be honest: parents away from their babies are often distracted and sometimes quite anxious which greatly hinders productivity as well. It can also help reduce turnover, as many capable employees never return to work after getting a taste of full-time parenting. Recruiting and re-training for the same position can have detrimental impacts on productivity – and the bottom line, too.

Another productivity factor is the effect of breastfeeding. When breastfeeding parents are at work, they must take frequent breaks to pump milk for their babies which can cut into working time as they step away into a private area. They must set up, pump, break down, store milk and wash the parts, then get back to their desks. An infant at work can easily (and discreetly if desired) be fed as his parent checks off the daily to-dos. Breastfeeding goals can be more easily met when the baby is allowed to nurse throughout the day. (another note: I fully support non-breastfeeding partners participating in this program and believe that parents who do not choose to breastfeed benefit just as much so. This is only one aspect to consider.)

The Infant at Work Program requires a delicate balance of more structure yet more flexibility in the work day, all in all, but results in fantastic outcomes for all parties.

In today’s world where parents are pressured to have it all, to be excellent career-minded success stories and also model parents, this program is a baby step toward the sustainability of being a working mom or dad.

It is a part of the solution of the elusive work-life balance. And I, for one, think that this measure is a wonderful and creative program for families and would love to see it adopted by more companies across our great state.

Tell me what you think in the comments below.


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