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Trial program allows Wash. state workers to bring infants to work

The "Infants at Work" program, which is now statewide, follows a trial run in WSDOT's Vancouver and Olympia offices.

VANCOUVER, Wash. -- There’s a new program aimed at keeping some Washington State Department of Transportation employees, and their families, happy. The agency is now allowing parents to bring their infants to work.

The “Infants at Work” program, which is now statewide, follows a trial run in WSDOT’s Vancouver and Olympia offices. WSDOT says the idea supports a positive work and life balance for employees while supporting productivity, too.

“When your people are happy, they’re productive,” said WSDOT spokeswoman Celeste Dimichina.

The program allows eligible parents and legal guardians to have their infants at work from six weeks old to six months old. Parent work spaces are required to be safe and private, and separate rooms are provided for nursing mothers. There’s also a quiet room in the event of any noisy outbursts.

“In our bathrooms, there’s even changing stations which weren’t there before. It’s been a great program,” said Dimichina.

Chelsey Martin, an environmental assistant at the Vancouver office, was one of the first parents to participate in the pilot program. Her son Hendric, who’s now a year old, spent the first half of his life at the office with his mom.

“He was a great baby,” said Martin of Hendric’s calm attitude while in the office. “It was great. I think seeing a baby and having a baby around boosted employee morale.” Martin noted that she was able to return to work sooner than expected because of the program.

Angie Haffie, who’s Martin’s supervisor, will soon be taking advantage of the program herself. “I am about a month out,” Haffie said as she referenced her pregnancy. Haffie said she’s already looking forward to the financial benefits of being able to bring her baby to work. “It’s been so nice to know that, beyond my maternity leave, we have until the baby is beyond six months to be able to bring her in if I want to, and not have to worry about childcare right away.”

The pilot program began with five parents and babies and has since expanded to 18 employees. At the Vancouver office, an additional two employees are expecting.

Dimichina noted that some employees were initially skeptical of the program, but have since come to embrace it. “It was really nice to see that turnaround and that shift in the mindset of people,” she said. “They’re like ‘Oh, this isn’t as bad or as scary as I thought it was going to be.’”

“Even the people that were kind of skeptic of the program at first, once he was here, they said he was great,” said Martin of baby Hendric. As the toddler walked quickly and curiously around the Vancouver office on Thursday, Martin remarked with a smile, “He’s the youngest WSDOT employee.”

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