Is Your Company Ready for Bring Your Parents to Work Day?

The parents who call their son’s boss because he was denied a raise, or because he came home from work upset, is laughable, but then again, is it? I’m not acquainted with the phenomenon myself, but I’ve heard what’s known as “helicopter parenting” doesn’t end once a child enters the workplace. The same parents who called their Millennial child’s camp counselors or teachers because their child found the homework assignment too hard, or because a classmate looked at the child the wrong way, now are having an impact on the workplace.

No one could have had a more devoted mother than I did, but as much as she held my hand (once even journeying into New York City from our home in Connecticut to wait in a nearby restaurant while I had a job interview), the thought of her calling a boss to clean up after me sounds like a horrible embarrassment.

But it looks like many of those in the younger generation don’t feel there’s anything embarrassing about a parent calling a boss on behalf of a child. In response, some companies are organizing a Bring Your Parents to Work Day. They’ve found that welcoming the young employee’s parents into the office can keep the new hire with the company for the long term. Jena McGregor reports on the trend in The Washington Post, quoting Rich Stoddart, CEO of Leo Burnett North America: “Showing the workplace off to parents, and better communicating with them, could stoke higher engagement among employees and make them less likely to leave. ‘If their kids say they want to do something else,’ Stoddart says, parents ‘might just ask, are you sure you want to do that?’”

The article goes on to note that some companies are careful not to link Parent’s Day to the Millennial generation, but it’s a good bet that the majority of those whose parents are alive and well enough to make a trip into the office are not much older than around 30. I guess these companies don’t want to take the chance of insulting Millennials by suggesting they need more handholding than older generations.

While I don’t think a parent has a place in employer-employee relations, I see the advantages and pleasure of sharing your work life with a parent, and other family members. It reminds me of how companies years ago would have annual company picnics, in which employees could bring their whole family if they wanted to introduce them to colleagues. I never experienced a Parent’s Day in any office I’ve worked in, but that didn’t stop me in my last two jobs from bringing my mother into the office to see where I worked and introduce her to colleagues. Now that she’s gone, I’m glad I was able to share that with her. I also am glad I got a chance to hear her reflections about seeing my workplace. With more young people the children of households with two working parents, having a mother and father see an office and meet co-workers can offer a chance for helpful discussion. My mother and I were able to talk about how my workplace was the same or different from the places where she worked, along with challenges that are new and those that remain the same, regardless of the generation.

As long as an adult child has a good relationship with a parent, whom they are lucky enough to still have in this world, that parent is probably going to be one of that person’s most influential sounding boards. Convincing parents you’re on the side of their child may not be such a bad idea.

Once you decide you’re going to have a Parent’s Day, what do you think it would involve? Would it be like Bring Your Child to Work Day, in which the parent simply accompanies their employee child throughout the day, sitting in the employee’s cubicle, drawing in a coloring book while the employee types out e-mails? Seriously, once you decide to have parents in the office, you’ll need to come up with a structured program of some kind.

If I were a company planning out such a day, I’d put the parents to work. For instance, if I were in a job connected to marketing, I’d have the parents offer insights about new ideas for products or branding, turning them into an informal focus group and brainstorming engine. If I were in a less creative area of the company, I might have the parents—outsiders observing the workplace with fresh eyes—offer suggestions on creating more efficient routines based on what they’ve observed. Or maybe I’d get their thoughts on the workplace environment. One way or another, it’s a good idea to give the visiting parents a specific job or role to play for the day, so they won’t become bored and be ready to leave after an hour or two.

Do you think there’s any chance your office will institute a Bring Your Parents to Work Day? What do you think that day would involve, and what would be the benefit to the company?