Today is Take your Daughter to Work Day in the US, and I imagine that along with those who are thrilled to have their pride and joy roaming the office corridors, there are also parents who are feeling more frazzled than usual, having to cope not only with the demands of their usual office day, but who also now need to keep their offspring occupied.
It is a characteristic of modern working methods that children seem so divorced from the world of work. Most corporate environments seem to abhor the idea that their employees might have lives outside their cubicle walls, filled with spouses, partners and growing children. Having pictures on your desk is fine; having the baby in a Moses basket on the floor while you’re still breastfeeding less so.
This is still a fairly recent phenomenon. I remember being thrilled on the occasions when I was taken to my mother’s office after school: I’d be given some unimportant filing to do, get my own chair at the conference table, and get to feel as though I was joining in with big, grown-up important stuff. True, usually I got bored and resorted to my drawing and colouring-in, but at least I was allowed to participate, however fleetingly.
Today, if you ask a child what their parents do for a living, you’re likely to get a very general reply, like “Daddy works in an office,” or “Mummy’s a businesswoman.” Getting any more information than that would require a child to have actually been to their parents place of work and seen what they do, or at least to have had it explained to them. My years of playing with businesscards and Rolodexes, on the other hand, meant that I could not only give the job titles and companies of both my parents, but could also tell you the names of their secretaries and immediate line managers.
One of the most glaring things I have seen with young people in the workplace today is how clueless they appear when they start their first job or internship. They have no experience of office life, no idea how to behave, and sometimes no idea how anything works. As a result, their first week is usually spent learning how not to jam the copier and how to place a call on hold. If they had been exposed to an office environment earlier, perhaps they wouldn’t be so overwhelmed. This doesn’t mean turning every office space into a creche or after-school daycare, but it would be nice to see more parents taking the time to show their children what they actually do for a living. So I’m in favour of Take your Daughter to Work Day. Just as long as the little ankle-biters don’t mess with my coffee.
[Image by Zsoltika]