Infant at Work Program at the Washington State Department of Health

By Michelle Jorgensen

Michelle Jorgensen and Connie Dunn with the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) presented on the Infant at Work (IAW) Program at DOH at ICSEW’s May 17th general membership meeting.

DOH implemented the Infant at Work Program on July 1, 2015. DOH was the first State agency to allow employees to bring their infants into the workplace while they work. Secretary Wiesman implemented the program in Clark County and strives for DOH to be an employer of choice for Washington. The benefits for the agency are: employees return to work sooner, recruitment advantage, increased employee retention, lower turnover costs, increased employee loyalty, and lower health care costs from increased breastfeeding rates.  The benefits for the employee are: lower day care costs, easier breastfeeding, employees feel supported by employer, and increased bonding time.  The policy allows for one infant to come to work with a parent who is a permanent state employee.  The infant is eligible from age 6 weeks to 6 months.  The employee must have their supervisor’s permission and have the work environment that would support an infant.  There is no traveling with an infant in State cars.   DOH has installed changing tables in both the men’s and women’s bathroom on at least two floors of each building.  Funding is not available to install tables in every bathroom on every floor yet.  DOH found that having a baby in meetings and at work makes for a happier work environment.  Even the grumpiest of employees seemed happier after interacting with the workplace baby.

DOH has had 14 babies participate in the program. Most of the participants have been successful, but a few have not been good candidates for the program.  Human Resources will be sending out a survey in July to all DOH employees to gather feedback on the program.  Connie Dunn participated in the program and found it to be very successful.  It allowed for more bonding time, successful breastfeeding, and gave her the opportunity to return to work sooner.  Connie was a skeptic of this program at first but quickly became a supporter.

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For more information on the Infant at Work Program at DOH contact Kim Kenderesi at 360-236-4058 or Kim.Kenderesi@doh.wa.gov.