If dogs can be in workplace, why not babies? Employer lets parents bring infants to office

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Most Moms Work Equivalent Of 2 Full-Time Jobs, Study Says

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Chelsey DeRuyter thought her job interview for a high-level post at a local nonprofit went well.

But after they started shaking hands and talking about possible next steps, she felt she had to stop them.

Nervously, DeRuyter told them she was expecting her first child. She hoped it wouldn't affect their decision, but she felt they should know.

She didn't have to worry.

Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa tapped DeRuyter as its new chief development officer, welcoming her and her new daughter, Finley, to the office.

The two are the first to benefit from the organization's infants-at-work policy, which was introduced in December.

"I feel really blessed to have this opportunity," said DeRuyter, 30, as tiny Finley bounced on her lap. "I feel empowered to both have a successful career and a family."

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How the infant-at-work policy works

The policy allows new moms, dads and guardians to bring their infants into work full-time for up to six months or when the child begins to crawl — whichever milestone comes first.

It adds to a suite of benefits, including an eight-week parental leave plan and a five-day bereavement benefit for miscarriages.

Girl Scouts of Central Iowa CEO Beth Shelton said the idea for the policy came from another expecting mom.

"I really had to pause and think about it," she said, "because like many people my gut reaction was about what would be the implications for the operations side of our workplace."

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Chelsey DeRuyter poses with her 14-week-old daughter, Finley, at Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa.

Chelsey DeRuyter poses with her 14-week-old daughter, Finley, at Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa.

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Chelsey DeRuyter poses with her 14-week-old daughter, Finley, at Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa.

» Most moms work equivalent of 2 full-time jobs, study says

After holding meetings, reflecting on the issue and researching other workplaces, her thoughts landed on the goals of the organization itself.

"Really at the heart of it, we decided our decisions have to be made to support the mission of our organization, which is to empower girls and women and make the world a better place, make tomorrow better," she said.

Employers constantly evaluate employee benefits as they seek to recruit and train talent — efforts that have only grown in importance during the current labor crunch: Iowa's November unemployment rate of 2.4 percent tied Hawaii for the lowest in the nation.

The new wave of employee benefits ranges from unlimited time off to subsidized public transportation. Some employers, including an Iowa insurance company, have even built pet-friendly workplaces — a trend that didn't go unnoticed by local Girl Scouts leaders.

"We as a society can get so behind having a dog in a workplace and yet we balk at the idea of having a child, when in fact they bring many of the same elements to the workplace," Shelton said.

"So to me it was a really stark way of saying if we can support a dog in the workplace, come on, we can support human children."

Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa employs about 45 full-time employees across eight sites, including about 30 at its Urbandale office. The local office is home to a quiet room for babies who are fussy or need to be fed.

The policy calls for other employees to volunteer helping out new parents, providing relief during restroom breaks or meetings. Shelton noted the policy also includes some caveats for infants who are overly disruptive and deemed to be a poor fit for the workplace.

But so far, the response has been nothing but positive. And it couldn't have come at a better time: Seven employees are expecting or just gave birth to infants.

Aside from supporting employees, the CEO said baby Finley's presence has boosted morale across the office. Leadership meetings frequently begin with a round of baby talk before moving onto business.

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"You can't not smile," Shelton said. "That can't not lighten the mood."

For her part, DeRuyter said the infant-at-work policy eased her transition to motherhood and a new job. She started in June and had Finley on Oct. 1.

The smiley infant is an easy icebreaker and an invitation for team members to drop by.

But the policy has also deepened her connection to the Girl Scouts, both as a nonprofit and an employer.

"It makes me that much more dedicated and motivated to be productive in my role. I really want to show that moms can make this work," she said. "So, I come in every day with a positive attitude and we have days that are easier than others but at the end of the day I still have been a lot more productive than I ever thought I could be."

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