Badger is a family-owned, family-operated, and family-friendly company. Our principles include a "personal and caring approach" and "a business environment that is respectful and supportive of all employees and of the people we serve". With this in mind we want to be supportive of the new parents in our extended work family while considering the well-being of all employees and productivity in the workplace. Head Badgers, Bill and Katie, after carefully weighing the pros and cons, became committed to the concept– and thus a new Badger workplace policy was born (no pun intended) to allow babies at work!
The idea behind the program is to encourage the baby/parent bond in its most critical time, the first six months of life. Most short-term disability benefits regarding pregnancies end after just six weeks, leaving the parent to find childcare as he or she returns to the workplace. Badger's policy allows the parent to bring the child to the workplace until a specified time: in most cases, until the baby is six months old or begins crawling.
The "Babies at Work" program was popularized by author and founder of the Parenting in the Workplace Institute Carla Moquin. Carla is committed to providing resources and education relating to parenting at work programs, and she has been instrumental in helping to develop Badger's approach to this complex issue. In a New Hampshire Public Radio interview, Carla touched upon one of the most important aspects to the program's success: "These programs need to be treated like any other workplace policy, with clear guidelines. What the companies that have done this have found is that when they have rules in place to anticipate problems, they have very few problems and they can address those on a case-by-case basis." There are logistical challenges, but Carla imparts her experience and a network of over 125 baby-friendly businesses that support and help to bring together a policy that is best for baby, parent, and business.
Badgers Emily & Amanda with
Eilen & Teagan - the 8th and 9th
babies at Badger.
Badger's Baby Policy
Bill and Katie have been committed to this idea from the very beginning, so there has been a great amount of support "from the top". To begin, Human Resource Coordinator Jay Smeltz contacted Carla Moquin and drafted a "Memo of Understanding," outlining Badger's Babies at Work Policy:
◊ Badger is to review the request on a case-by-case basis with the employee, his or her team leader, and the Human Resource department. It is understood that not all departments can make adequate accommodations for babies due to safety concerns, or due to the close proximity to other employees.
◊ The duration of the agreement is to last until the child is six months old or until the baby starts crawling, whichever comes first.
◊ Badger will pay the parent 30 hours per week during the agreement, leaving 2 hours per day to attend to the child as needed. It is understood that the parent will need to attend to the needs of the child, whether it be feeding, changing, comforting when fussy, or any other issues that may arise during the day. These hours must be tracked appropriately, and the employee, HR representative, and team leader will work together to make an optimal schedule for all involved. An employee can also work from home, where applicable, to make up remaining hours in the normal work week.
◊ Parents may use paid time off or unpaid time off to tend to the needs of their family.
◊ Babies are to remain with the parent or designated substitute in his/her office, and the parent is responsible for things such as diaper storage and disposal.
◊ The parent will designate two voluntary, alternate care givers within the company to attend to the child while the parent is unavailable due to meetings, telephone call, or other event.
◊ If there are conflicts or complaints, the parent, team leader, and HR representative will meet immediately to address the problem. Badger reserves the right to terminate the Baby at Work agreement at any time if the conflict cannot be resolved.
◊ Safety is the number one concern with a baby on the premises, and the parent agrees to take every precaution to ensure the safety of the baby while at Badger.
◊ Necessary communications must be made by the parent and his or her team leader to insure that all deadlines, staff coverage and other needs are adequately met.
◊ During the times when the infant is fussy or crying, the parent must make every attempt to minimize the disruption.
◊ The parent, team leader, and HR representatives discuss these points at length, and sign off on the appropriate paperwork.
Badgers Amanda & Teagan
Benefits and Concerns
Badger's experience thus far has been that the benefits far outweigh the concerns or inconveniences. For the parent and child, the benefits include making breastfeeding easier and allowing for the inherent health benefits for both mother and child, enhanced bonding, lessening of daycare costs and more financial stability, great social network and extended-family support for both parent and child, and an easier transition in to off-site child care. The benefits for Badger include having the mother back to work sooner (not needing to hire temps), morale-boosting, solidified employee commitment, and creating a whole new style of teamwork for the company. Badger, in a sense, creates its own "village" to support both parent and child.
Of course, there are concerns: concern for other employees’ environments, distraction, and possible favoritism, among others. That’s where Ms. Moquin’s experience and advice comes in handy. Badger approached these concerns head-on with the intention of addressing conflicts and concerns swiftly and decisively. The thought process was that we can try this with both feet on the ground and both eyes open. If it does not work then we will not do it anymore – but it is worth a shot!
Badger has had nine successful babies at work using this program, starting with Melinda, who brought the idea to Bill and Katie, and her daughter, Audrey. Since then the response has been overwhelming, and we are hoping to keep this policy active and healthy. Like any newborn work policy, it must be nurtured, and through hard work and the cooperation of all of the Badgers, it has evolved in to a solid program that is good for all!
Stephanie and baby Liam at a Badger retreat.