Children …. Should they be seen in the workplace?

Or in other words seen and not heard!

What does your gut say?

Be honest! I bet your answer is a “No”! But why? Why do we exclude our children from the places we expect them to understand by the time they reach 21 or so – having, if they are lucky experienced for a few days, weeks – or if they’ve had a part-time job, maybe a a couple of years cumulatively!

And yet, society expects young people to drop in to work life and survive, thrive & grow – develop all the good practices we, as adults in our 30’s, 40’s and older take for granted – but how can they? We don’t really allow them to, after all!

How often have you ever taken your child to work with you or seen one of your colleagues do it?

Last week I took one of mine with me for two days. She is a sensible, well-behaved and intelligent young lady who I knew I could trust. We went prepared with a backpack of stuff for her to do whilst I got on with work and we sat in the “Hot-desking” area of our office, near the kitchen/toilets, just so we would be less distracting (because I try to be considerate to my fellow co-workers in case my daughter was distracting in ANY way!)

Prior to bringing her in I had completed ALL the approvals required – spoken to my manager & filled in the Facilities forms so that she was cleared to stay in the building …. thus my H&S duties were fulfilled!

Unfortunately, and despite my employer having a clear policy of ALLOWING children to accompany their parents to work – even placing the forms on our intranet so that they can be accessed and completed easily (not hidden away where no one knows) on our second day I had a departmental meeting scheduled which I planned to attend for approx 10 minutes, then excuse myself from – having moved my daughter around the corner from where we were holding said meeting so that she could see me!

Whilst standing outside the room waiting for the meeting room to be emptied by the previous users I was tapped on the shoulder – to whit I turned around and found a senior member of staff (Who I will not specify) facing me, and they went on, in front of several of my colleagues to inform me that “I could not leave my daughter unattended” …. (She could see me, I had not gone anywhere at this point and this person was making assumptions) … and …. “What if a fire alarm went off?” ….. and “Some of the staff are not DBS checked!”

What was I supposed to say?

How was I supposed to respond right then?

I was not only surrounded by colleagues but my daughter could see me – and this individual knew this – another way she was exercising power. She also knew I am relatively knew ( I’ve only been here just over 4 months) so don’t have the power of longevity or even having completed my probation period!

It isn’t just these. It’s the personal things – the prodding with a finger to get my “attention”. The “pointing finger” to make her words have weight. the use of “protection” measures as if I was an uncaring, thoughtless parent putting my child at risk – along with everyone else – ” you’re putting the rest of the staff in a very difficult position” were her exact words at some point. HOW??? I hadn’t asked anyone to look after her! I hadn’t asked anyone to watch my daughter, or look out for her and walk of and leave her by her self! I hadn’t put her in anyone’s care but my own and this individual was using any mechanism under the sun to make it seem like my daughter was at risk for some reason.

As you can probably imagine, I made my excuses to my manager and left – his initial response on seeing us walk past was “oh, is your daughter going to join us in the meeting?” almost made me cry.. I told him I would email him later and explain, AFTER, I’d calmed down. I’d already asked if it was fine for me to work from home the following day (the Friday) which he’d said it was, so I was comfortable packing us both up and leaving.

So we did.

I wasn’t calm enough to email my HOD until after lunch on the following day – but by this time I could put into words everything I’ve explained above plus my considered response which was the following:

  1. I had completed all the H&S procedures BEFORE bringing my daughter in and had therefore completed my requirements.
  2. I had not left my daughter unattended AT ALL during the two days she was with me – with the exception of this meeting which I had NOT YET BEGUN and was not yet present at – and indeed she would be within visibility of me at all time – for the 10 or so minutes I planned to attend before excusing myself.
  3. If a policy of allowing child-aged visitors is in place then working practices should adapt to allow for this – staff are GOING to need to attend meetings etc and the FRC should find mechanisms to allow for this if possible – either through being considerate with staff needing to NOT attend said meeting directly (which would have been my chose option) or possibly having the flexibility to Work From Home & Dial-in more readily available when childcare (or any other caring responsibilities) cause problems.

I have, I decided, no problem with the member of staff in discussion having the opinion that the should be NO policy of allowing staff to bring their children to the office – BUT – in that case the policy should be officially reversed and Agile working will need to be the default rather than the exception as we move to embrace all our employees needs!

Is that too much to ask for?

Someone please tell me!

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