This idea is excerpted from Barbara’s book “Balancing Acts: More Than 250 Guilt Free, Creative Ideas to Blend Your Work and Your Life” (Dearborn Trade Publishing, 2003)
Research shows that one of the things employees want is a “feeling of being in on things.” Family members want the same thing–to be a part of one another’s lives outside of the home. That is why parents often annoy their children by constantly asking, “What happened at school today?” The exciting news is that there are many fun and interesting ways to involve your family in your work, and when that happens, you’ll be surprised at how much more willing they are to include you in their whole lives as well.
Manny Garza, the president and founder of Manny Garza Encouragement Ministries shares the impact sharing his work with his family has had on his daughter:
The impact of constantly finding ways to include my eleven year old daughter, Jordon, in projects for the ministry we operate has affected her more than her mother and I realized. One day recently we discovered that she had formed her own ministry. She had produced her own business cards on her computer. She also made a poster describing her ministry, demonstrating a clarity of vision that could be an example to businesses everywhere! She named her ministry “One Step Closer – We help you get closer to God..” She even gave a description of how she got started, giving me the credit for something I didn’t even know I had done. It just impressed on me so powerfully that sometimes the greatest influence we have in our children’s lives comes not so much from our words, as from our including them in the activities of our work.
- Videotape the place where you work. Do a “walking tour” showing where you park in the morning, where you enter the building and what it looks like on the outside, the reception area if you have one, the cafeteria or breakout room where you have lunch each day, and most importantly, your office, cubicle, or work area. (Make sure you have a family picture and family mementos VISIBLE in your workspace.) Include “hello’s” from some of your colleagues if you feel comfortable.
- Invite your family members, perhaps one at a time, to join you for lunch. Some parents allow their children to each have a special “Dad or Mom” (or Grandpa/Grandma, Aunt/Uncle) day when they get to take a day off from school to visit their family member’s workplace. Don’t forget to invite your parents, too. No matter what their age, they will be thrilled to see what you have accomplished in your work.
- Give your family members logo gifts from your organization so that they feel like they are a part of your worklife. By creating a feeling of partnership with your family, you are helping to stop feelings of jealousy that you care more about your job than you do about them. Also they will enjoy the pride that comes from advertising “their” favorite organization.
- Ask your family members to help you with a work project. It may be as simple as stuffing envelopes, or stapling papers, or filing and sorting; however, if it is done as a family, it brings closeness rather than separation. Have little children put stamps on envelopes while older children can information into the computer. Then plan some sort of celebration as a reward at the finish of the task. My family members are very involved in my work as a professional speaker and author. My daughter Erin creates all the bright-colored, laminated flip charts I post around the room or ballroom whenever I speak. My daughter Gretchen creates the wonderful slides I use in my presentations, and her husband Randy is my webmaster. My son Garrett at one time was involved in selling my books, and my husband Charlie often traveled with me and kept my financial records. It has become “our” business!
John Blumberg, a professional speaker from Naperville, Illinois, shared with me how he and his son,Ryan, found a fun and creative way to blend work and family:
My 14-year old son, Ryan, had been attending the National Speaker Association’s National Convention with me since he was 10. It had become an annual tradition for the two of us and we both looked forward to it. Ryan loved attending the Youth Leadership Conference, while I attended the “adult” version of the Convention! Each night we enjoyed heading up to our hotel room to compare stories of our day’s activities.
Now attending the convention for his 5th year, Ryan was becoming increasingly observant of all aspects of this annual event. We were sitting and waiting for the 7:00am NSA-style Sunday Mass to begin. It was early, and we had been up late, but Ryan was already observing. He leaned over and asked why some people had orange nametags. I shared with him that those were given to speakers who had obtained their Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designation, a significant designation within NSA that is earned by the speaker. I knew what Ryan’s next question would be: “ When are you going to get an orange nametag?”” My automatic pilot responded , “Soon..” The next logical question, “ How soon? “
I then explained all the paper work and data collection that you had to do to complete the application. It isn’t difficult, but it does take time. It was then that I saw the application challenge as an opportunity. And so I asked him a question, “Do you want to help me get that orange tag? “ He didn’t hesitate, “Sure! “
Within a week of returning from the convention, we picked a couple of nights to work on making a list of all the presentations I had done. I had fortunately kept one envelope for every speaking engagement with all the details inside the envelope. It would have been a huge chore going through this data gathering by myself, but with Ryan, it turned into an interesting project. As we listed the events, he would ask questions about many of them. It was fun to reflect on each of those audiences and experiences, and I know Ryan has a greater insight into what I do as a result of our working together. It was the perfect opportunity to blend work and family– and turn a chore into a JOY in the process!
- Don’t forget parents or other elders. Often our parents or older relatives have no idea what we do, so finding ways to include them in your work not only can help you but can also bring them great joy. Invite them to lunch if they live close or are visiting and introduce them to your co-workers and boss. Even if they live at a distance, you can find creative ways to involve them in your work such as asking them to do a research project for you at the library or watching for articles on a subject that relates to your work.
Organic, a web-design and e-services firm in New York City held a “Bring your Parents to Work Day” to help parents learn what their web-obsessed kids actually do for a living. The first event was a talk show during which the parents did their best to explain what their children do. Then they were told what their children really do and why. After pizza, the employees checked back in with their parents who now finally understood more about their careers. What a wonderful way to promote intergenerational understanding and communication!
- Bring home articles about your work, pictures of your boss and co-workers, and samples of your marketing materials. If you help to create a product, bring home examples to show your family. Children also love the fun little “gimmicky” things we often get at trade shows or from vendors. When you bring these things home, they know that you were thinking of them.
- Bring home a video of projects that you are working on to show your family. The more they feel involved in your worklife, the more understanding they will be when you have to stay late or work on weekends.
- When you receive an award at work, make sure you share it with your family. Invite them to the ceremonies if possible. If you receive a monetary reward, find a way to do something to share it with each family member such as an outing of some kind or a gift that you have all been wanting. You might even have a family conference to make that decision and let each family member have a vote. Let them really know that you couldn’t have done this without their support.
- When you are involved in a long project, give your family a calendar so that they know exactly the extent of your commitment. Each night at the dinner table they can check off a day, and you can report on your progress. This way, even if it is spread over several months, they can see an end in sight and also feel a part of the process. (This idea works especially well if you have to travel. Color code the travel days on the calendar,especially for young children, so that everyone knows what to expect and can plan around your schedule. They can also check off the days to visually “see” how long it will be until you return.) Use fun stickers to mark special points of progress or accomplishments along the way. And don’t forget to celebrate THE END!
- Invite family members to help with a project at the office. Burns Smith from Nationwide Insurance told me about one of the most memorable days his sons have ever had. It occurred when he brought them to work with him on a Saturday morning. The company had decided to dispose of a large pile of old videotapes, so this person took his two sons to the conference room, gave them the tapes, and a couple of hammers, and told them to destroy the tapes in any way they’d like. He said they worked for several hours, pounding the tapes, jumping on them, and strewing tape film they had pulled out all over the room. He says they STILL talk about that day many years later! Another person shared how she brought her children into the office on the weekend after a business trip. They helped her sort her “in” box to get prepared for Monday morning.
Lorraine Harris, the Human Resource Manager for the Lake County Health Department in Waukegan, Illinois, says, “Periodically, I take my ten year old daughter to work and have her do light typing, photocopying, sorting papers, etc. We discuss different events that occur in my job and compare how it relates to things she does at school such as comparing performance appraisals I do with report cards that she gets.”
Kha Thomas-Williams, the assistant City manager of Thomasville, Georgia, has her daughter help her with filing for her HR publications which accumulate all too quickly! She says, “Both my kids (8 and 11) help me set up meetings at offsite locations. They really like helping when the meetings are held at plantation locations because they get to see nature—the woods, lakes, and all the forest animals.”
Karen Petris of the Hartford Insurance Company had a Power Point presentation to do, so she made a big bowl of popcorn and asked her 11 year old son Stephen to help. He surprised her by creating some wonderful slides using the image of a house and adding accessories and other additions as the presentation went on. He ended up having fun doing the whole presentation, Karen didn’t waste her weekend with something she wasn’t good at, and the people to whom she was presenting loved the story of the “family affair!”
Barbara Glanz Biography
A member of the prestigious Speaker Hall of Fame and one of fewer than 700 Certified Speaking Professionals worldwide, Barbara Glanz, CSP, CPAE, works with organizations to improve morale, retention and service and with people who want to rediscover the joy in their work and in their lives. She is the first speaker on record to have spoken on all 7 continents and in all 50 states. Known as "the business speaker who speaks to your heart as well as to your head," Barbara is the author of twelve books including The Simple Truths of Service Inspired by Johnny the Bagger®, CARE Packages for the Workplace, and 180 Ways to Spread Contagious Enthusiasm™. Voted "best keynote presenter you have heard or used" by Meetings & Conventions Magazine, Barbara uses her Master’s degree in Adult Learning to design programs that cause behavior change. She lives and breathes her personal motto: “Spreading Contagious Enthusiasm™” and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.barbaraglanz.com.