Here’s an idea I’d like to see spread like wildfire.
(We really need some happier examples of things that spread quickly: Kudzu? A virus? We can do better.)
For now, though, the idea: Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa announced a new “infants at work” initiative Tuesday, whereby all new parents can bring their babies to work with them every day for up to six months.
“We want to practice what we preach and normalize a reality where having children and advancing your career are not mutually exclusive,” Beth Wood Shelton, Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa CEO wrote in a Facebook post announcing the policy.
She had me at “practice what we preach.”
She had me on my feet at “having children and advancing your career are not mutually exclusive.”
“As a workplace with nearly 50 full-time and 70 part-time employees, eight locations and a variety of office spaces — from cubicles and conference rooms to campgrounds and retail shops, we know this is ‘disruptive,’” Wood Shelton, a mom of three, wrote. “We know babies cry. We know they need attention and care and diapers and quiet places. And yes, we also know that productivity will dip for parents who are multitasking with their infant present. That’s true.
“But we also know that we want to attract and retain talented employees, provide economic savings for employees and support employees in their transition back to work,” she continued. “We want to support women who choose to nurse, and support babies in a developmental period of importance.”
I love this.
For far too long and in far too many industries, we have asked people to separate their lives into silos: Work! Family! And never the twain shall meet!
Here’s a workplace that prizes the brain power, skill set, perspective and lived experiences of its employees so highly that it has decided to acknowledge the biological, physical, emotional and financial reality of babies.
People have them. Smart, talented, hard-working people, in fact. Smart, talented, hard-working people who add value to their companies and, simultaneously, create and raise tiny humans. (The circle of life!)
What if, for a little while, while the babies are tiny and mostly immobile but super needy, we let the work/family twain meet? What if, in so doing, we made it easier for parents to keep their careers, and workplaces to keep their parents?
A page on the Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa website spells out some specifics around the policy.
Other staff members can volunteer to be “alternate care providers” for the infants if mom, dad or guardian needs to be baby-free for a meeting or other obligation. Infants can come to work with a parent or guardian up until six months or when they start crawling, whichever happens first.
Fourteen-week-old Finley DeRuyter is the only baby in the program so far, but the Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa says two staffers are currently on parental leave, and four additional full-timers are expecting babies in 2019.
I contacted Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana to see if they’re considering a similar policy.
“Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa has initiated a game-changing concept for all businesses to consider and take seriously,” CEO Nancy Wright told me, “especially as they discuss ways to attract and retain talented parents in the workplace.”
“We’ve spent hours thinking through contingencies and vetting our new program. We’ve read case studies and conducted interviews on feasibility,” Wood Shelton wrote. “We’ve developed policies about the ‘hows and wheres’ of who can hold babies and where crying is welcomed. And we’ve invested in change, not just in our future, but in the future for all working parents, to raise the bar on what we could and should be doing to advocate for equality.
“Empowering people is our rally cry,” she continued. “It’s tiny and comes in swaddling clothes. But it’s a start.”
A fantastic one.