Honey, have a good day at work.
I packed you a peanut butter and jelly sandwich,
and two Oreos. Your milk money is in your briefcase,
in the pocket next to your flash drive.
Don’t forget to eat your apple.
That’s my prelude to tomorrow – traditionally the fourth Thursday in April. Except I’m proposing a twist (if not Twister) on the job.
“Taking Your [Inner] Child to Work” Day
Beyond tomorrow’s annual “kid accompanies parent to work” event, for the other 364 days of the year, children in body are not a requisite accessory. A child-channeling spirit, however, can make all the difference in your work experience.
And still, I hesitate as I put pen to paper.
People have written about the office as classroom or play space for years. Awards are given to companies where employees have lots of fun.
Even the most mature adults have mastered some “child like” practices at work:
- Passing notes in the form of texts during meetings
- Taking afternoon naps as a result of endless trans-Atlantic conference calls (“best” case), and chronic exhaustion (“worst” case)
- Stealing the occasional unhealthy snack otherwise known as Starbucks where a Mocha Caramel Latte puts fruit roll ups and the aforementioned Oreos to shame
- Dressing “casually” when the “parents” (a.k.a. permissive bosses) say “yes” unless of course “grandma and grandpa” (a.k.a. the most important clients) are in town
Not exactly what I’m talking about when I refer to one’s inner child!
Expecting our offices to become moon bounces is a little far fetched but it’s also too much to expect any adult to enjoy work life without the occasional opportunity to jump up and down, giggle, bump and fall awkwardly, perhaps throw a fit, and then get up, and move on.
It’s you, as the employee, who ultimately defines and designs the messes, the playmates, the craft projects, the [nice] games, the [reasonable] tantrums, the rules to follow and break…at work.
It’s also ironic because the question we most often pose about work — “how was your day“ — seldom inspires child-like imagination. It’s you who must ask yourself and answer different questions if you want your office to become your occasional playground, art room, summer camp, swimming pool.
Consider the following:,
- What makes me laugh…at work?
- How do I get dirty…at work?
- What do I get to make with my own two hands…at work?
- What leaves me deliciously breathless, sweaty, pooped…at work?
- When my friends make me sad or mad, how do I make friends with them again…at work?
- When is “Follow the Leader” my most favorite office game and, when it’s not, what can I play instead?
- When and how do I take work timeouts?
If your answers are elusive, you certainly don’t need to quit your job. It may be helpful, however, to exhibit some six-year old behavior — stomp your feet, clench your fists, and yell emphatically yet out of earshot of the adults in the room, “I don’t know, just tell me!”
After you calm down, you might find the answers you seek by:
- quitting, at least temporarily, the more adult procedures, and
- allowing yourself to get just a little more messy, playful, creative, feisty.
Only then will you realize that your most dependable touchstone resides within. The child you’ve known all your life, the one who you take to work everyday — with or without PB&J, cookies or a flash drive – holds your hand and the answer.