Take Your Child To Work Day: Make It Meaningful
Every year, on April 28 workplaces across the country and around the world open their doors to millions of children who will get to see firsthand what it is that mom or dad does all day while they are at school.
Of course depending on your line of work, or how many high level meetings you have planned, the idea of having the kiddos tag along for the day may or may not sound like your idea of a fun day at the office. Admittedly many of today’s workplaces are much more open and focused on “work-life balance” than they were in 1992 when co-founder Gloria Steinem first conceptualized “Take Your Daughter To Work Day” so designating only one day out the year to allow kids at work may seem a bit antiquated.
However, Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work (TODASTW) Day shouldn’t just be about hanging out with mom or dad at the office for the day. Although the kids might be bummed to hear that it won’t be a day full of playing computer games and lunch out with mom or dad (all while getting out of school for the day) here are some tips and resources for helping your company make the most of TODASTW Day (or any other day you decide to invite kids into the office for that matter).
This might be the #1 factor in determining whether or not your workplace decides to officially sanction a TODASTW Day for your employees, i.e. is your workplace environment conducive to having children on-site?
- Is it safe (for kids and employees)? Mostly industry specific and there are ways around this, but bringing in a bunch of kids to the production floor of a major manufacturer or a corrections facility could be challenging.
- Does the date itself work based on when your company’s “busy season” falls? Realistically having kids at work isn’t going to help productivity for the day, so if it really isn’t a good time be upfront with employees and consider rescheduling for a less hectic time of the year.
- Can everyone participate if they want to do so? Not just about whether or not an employee has children (many employers allow extended family, or other kids from local organizations like a Boys and Girls Club to participate), but more about equity among all employees. Again, somewhat dependent on industry, but if some jobs are too risky to have the employee’s child accompany them for the day, consider whether or not there may be other departments that would be willing to play host for at least part of the day.
- Do your employees have to travel a lot or go from one facility to another during the work day? If so, and kids are riding with someone who isn’t their parent/guardian, you might need waivers.
Your organization probably doesn’t have a TODASTW Day policy in their handbook and you don’t need one. But there are existing policies that should be up-to-date before you decide to start allowing parents to bring their kids to work with them, on “The Day” or any other day for that matter.
- Safety: Again, top of the list, especially since you are dealing with minors here, but all company policies regarding safety procedures, requirements, certifications, etc. need to be followed. Even if that means little Johnny has to watch mom from the other side the glass at the lab in the clean room, safety must come first.
- Visitors: Treat the kids like you would any other visitor to the office or plant. Sign in at the front desk, wear a name tag, accompanied by the employee hosting at all times, put notice of their visit on the calendar, whatever the usual procedures are for guests, follow them.
- Kids at Work/Work-Life Balance: In light of the recent flurry of opinions being voiced around whether or not it was appropriate for Adam LaRoche’s son to accompany him to work every day, expect a lot more organizations to spell out what is “acceptable” when it comes to bringing kids to the office. Again, if the work environment and company culture is the right fit, some companies pride themselves on the fact that kids are welcome. While these companies are more the exception than the rule right now, as younger employees looking for that infamous “work-life balance” begin to take the dive into parenthood, they may drive more employers to offer this as an option. This may not necessarily mean changing diapers in your office becomes the norm, but other “family friendly” practices such as on-site childcare could see a nice bump in coming years.
Ideas & Resources
Make it Meaningful:
In its original incarnation of “Take Your Daughter To Work” Day back in the 1990’s I distinctly recall going to the office with my dad and playing some combination of Tetris and Solitaire the entire day while he worked.
As a 10-year-old, I was quite pleased with my day (plus I got to miss school), but in retrospect, it was probably not exactly the inspiring, empowering workplace experience Gloria Steinem had in mind for the young girls accompanying their parents to the office that year.
If you only have the chance to bring kids into your workplace once a year, please try to make the most of it—for their sake.
Depending on how involved your company decides to get in the planning, ask some industry experts to come speak to the students during the day to boost the educational value of the day (and give mom/dad a break to get some work done). Help employees designate certain tasks that the visiting kids can assist with, either as a group or individually, to give them a true sense of what it’s like in the “real world”—nothing life-or-death but still true to your organization’s line-of-work.
Get Everyone Involved:
Depending on the size of your company “everyone” may or may not be realistic, but in order to make the day as meaningful as possible, ideally the kids will get a taste of what other people aside from their parents do at your company.
Try having each department represented at a luncheon put on for the kids visiting that day or rotate the kids through to other (willing) employees who may want to share their passions for what they do with youth—think of it as highly accelerated job rotation program.
Schools & Other Youth Organizations:
Whether or not you decide to share your workplace with kids on TODASTW Day or any other day(s) during the year, keep in mind that your employee’s kids aren’t the only children out there who might benefit from seeing how the workplace really works.
In fact, President Obama and the White House are asking companies to consider a sort of reverse TODASTW Day if you will.
Assuming your workplace is set up well to accommodate a meaningful experience for kids, they are asking that you as the employer reach out to your local Boys and Girls Club, local school district, or other organization for at-risk youth and set up a day to show them what happens at your company on a day-to-day basis. While it’s probably too late for the April 28 date this year, consider making it into an in-house community service project of sorts later in the year, or start getting ready for next April.
The TODASTW Foundation:
According to their website: “The Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work Foundation is dedicated to developing innovative strategies and research-based activities in informal educational programs that empower girls and boys in all sectors of society to confront and overcome societal messages about youth so that they may reach their full potential and live fulfilling lives.
Through its leadership, expertise, and collaborations, the Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work Foundation advocates for changes in social policy and public awareness on behalf of youth.”
As the “official” non-profit representing organizing the annual “holiday” their website is a goldmine of creative ideas, templates, and guidance for any company considering going all in for the day. Of course, even if you haven’t planned an all-out bash for the kids this year, the organization does have a place to “register” your company as a participant and helps them track how many children participate in TODASTW Day each year.
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