If your son or daughter is with you today as part of Take Your Child to Work Day, here’s a handy checklist to help ensure your child benefits from the experience.
This checklist was developed primarily from the “Take Our Daughters and Sons To Work Foundation,” which offers a program that workplaces, and parents, can draw upon to make the day a more powerful experience. The foundation has activities for elementary, middle school and high school students, and guidelines for educators, parents and mentors. Among the foundation’s objectives is to remove gender bias on the job by exploring the topic with children through the lens of taking a child to work.
“The most successful days are creative and productive,” the foundation tells us. “Think about what makes your company unique, and most importantly, use your resources!”
Following are guidelines from the foundation for planning for the day, and evaluating it afterward. Notes in parenthesis are from the author’s experience. First, a plan-ahead tip sheet:
Ask who will be organizing activities for the event and inform that person that you would like to participate by bringing your daughter or son or by assisting with planning. (Note: many workplaces handle this quite informally. This is an opportunity to formalize it at your workplace.)
Ask your daughter or son if they would like to attend Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work Day at your office and explain to them what the program is about. (Note: Let them decide if they want to participate. Lack of buy-in can make for a very long day.)
Find out what your daughter or son’s career/professional interests are. Perhaps you can suggest a workshop to your workplace organizer based on this interest. (Note: Most elementary school boys want to be firefighters. It’s unlikely you will be able to cobble together such a workshop unless you are a firefighter.)
Review your daughter or son’s school calendar and see what is planned at school for that day.
Contact your daughter or son’s school to inform them that your child will be participating in the event. Ask your daughter or son’s teacher what school assignment needs to be completed for that day.
Request the agenda from your workplace organizer. Review it with your daughter or son and go over expectations for the day in regard to learning and behavior. (Note: Mentioning the agenda can lead to the creation of one.)
The foundation offers these tips to make the day of go more smoothly:
Students can learn from every employee and department
Ask employees from every level and department within the organization to share their work experiences and encourage girls and boys to ask questions. For example, ask the payroll department to demonstrate how employees get paid, explain why deductions are taken out, how time off is factored in, etc. (Note: Might want to limit the number of requests on this one, since not everyone may enter into the spirit of the day. You know who to ask and who to avoid.)
Keep activities short
Interactive activities that are 45 to 55 minutes in length are best. A recommendation for girls and boys ages 8-18. Younger students may have a shorter attention span during activities. (Note: You may want to limit the number of hours your child spends at work with you, to both avoid boredom on their part and that antsy feeling you get when you know you have stuff to do but can’t concentrate on it. For young children, adjourning after lunch may be a good idea.)
Introduce students to technology
Show girls and boys how important technology is to your business. Schedule time for them to work on computers or other office equipment. (Note: You may find out they know more about navigating around on your computer than you do. Showing them other aspects of technology at work — online work sharing, conference calls, webinars, etc., may be more insightful.)
Keep students safe
Provide adequate safety and protective gear for girls and boys if you work in such an environment. (Note: Children often do not associate safety with work. With younger children, make sure they understand that, even in an office, safety hazards exist. No climbing on chairs to reach things, carrying heavy loads by hand when carts are available, etc.)
Here’s what the foundation had to say in offering tailored bits of advice depending upon what kind of work environment you are taking your child into:
Show the future generation of workers how your company affects everyday life. Do you make the cereal they eat or build the car their parents drive? Coordinate interactive programs such as a roundtable discussion, provide a guided tour of the office, or have several departments conduct hands-on workshops based on their expertise. For example, girls and boys can create marketing materials with the advertising/marketing department, or learn interview techniques with HR.
This might be the first time the girls and boys participating in your day are on a college campus. Give them a tour. Break the students up into groups, assign one or two tour guides depending on how large the group is, and show them around the university. Another activity could be pairing the students up with professors, administrators, and student organization leaders, which would be a great way for girls and boys to learn about life at a university. Also, have various schools within the institution conduct an activity.
Have girls and boys take orders, greet and seat patrons, or learn the business side (ordering food and supplies, working with vendors, managing employees, etc.) by shadowing restaurant workers. Teach them table setting and etiquette. They can demonstrate what they learned by setting up the room/tables for lunch with their parents, relatives, or mentor. Another activity could be having the chef demonstrate making a dessert or main course dish. Time management, customer service, and tip percentage are just some of the things participants will learn.
Show girls and boys what goes into constructing a building or home. You can start the day by explaining the project your company is working on and showing participants the plans. Introduce the workers and briefly explain what their role is on the project. Break the participants into small groups and have them draw a model and build it. They can discuss their models at the end of the day. For lunch do something fun! Buy boxed lunches and if the weather permits pair up the girls and boys with construction workers on site and eat outside. Remember to provide safety clothing and accessories for all participants. Learn more about safety and insurance issues.
If you operate a business from home, freelance, or work from home on certain days, there are great ways to share that experience. Develop an agenda that will allow your child to see the many tasks you perform. Throughout the day, explain the benefits and challenges of working from home and demonstrate how you communicate to clients, colleagues, or supervisors. Have your child fax items, draft a newsletter article, or make a reservation for the two of you for lunch.