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When I was younger in my career (20's), and worked at smaller companies, I often brought my spouse and kids into work. I had good relationships with my co-workers, and even saw some of them outside of work at their homes/events/what not. Like I said, it was a smaller company < 50 employees so over 7 years you really got to know the people you work with.

Since then, I've moved to a new larger city, and the environment is much more "corporate". Everyone is quite busy, and I don't get into many long discussions about my family and children, nor do I hear much from my co-workers about their family and over the last 8 years can only think of one case where someone brought in their spouse and kids and I met them.

My wife says she feels a bit left out from my work life (missing going in, seeing where I work, seeing my co-workers, etc.) Based on the hustle and bustle of my corporate job, and the lack of deep conversation about my family and children with my co-workers, I don't honestly think the people I work with would care much about seeing my family. In fact, if I brought them all in to walk around and visit, I think it may be seen as a negative on me, as I'm putting personal conversations with my family over the priorities of the day.

What do you think? Would you look unfavorably on a worker that disrupted the day to bring his spouse and kids into the office, or am I way over thinking this, and it's not a problem whatsoever?

I work in the USA, for what it is worth, I also have 6 kids (and two of those would definitely be noisy/distracting to others at times).

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Apr 25 '18 at 21:03

12 Answers 12

103

Personally I find the whole notion of bringing the family in to the office for a visit deeply weird. I mean having them drop by for a specific purpose (such as meeting for lunch, or dropping something off to you) I get but specifically visiting the work place and having a tour? Sorry I just don't get that at all. I think most people understand that some times personal and professional lives cross over but there still have to be boundaries.

What do you think? Would you look unfavorably on a worker that disrupted the day to bring his wife/kids into the office, or am I way over thinking this, and it's not a problem whatsoever?

If this was a common occurrence (and by common I mean more than two or three times in a year) then yes I would look unfavorably on it. Unless the kids are as quiet as can be they are always going to produce some disruption, and while when I've been in management roles I've always taken the view that as long as an employee is getting their work done in an appropriate time frame I'm not too fussed how they spend their day family visits tend to cause disruption to the work days of multiple employees. Even those who have no direct interaction with the visitors can be disrupted.

My own opinions aside the acceptability of this is very much dependent upon the culture of the individual organisation and it does seem to be generally more common in smaller companies of the kind you mention you used to work at. More corporate environments (unless they make a big show of being family-friendly) tend not to look too kindly on this sort of thing.

Since then, I've moved to a new larger city, and the environment is much more "corporate". Everyone is quite busy, and I don't get into many long discussions about my family/children, nor do I hear much from my co-workers about their family and over the last 8 years can only think of one case where someone brought in their wife/kids and I met them

This to me sounds very much like the sort of environment where the whole "family visit" concept isn't really a thing.. I'd say that you've been taking the right course so far in keeping work and home life a bit more separated at this company.

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    You find the whole notion of bringing a family for a visit deeply weird but a specific purpose ok. I don't understand how a tour is not a specific purpose? Perhaps you meant to distinguish between a tour and a family generally handing out at the office – iheanyi Apr 25 '18 at 0:51
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    @iheanyi That sounds like nitpicking on the choice of words. It is clear from the context what he meant. The family spending the whole day "camping" in the visitor's lounge or the kids playing in the games room at the office are also "specific" purposes. I think what moto meant to say could be more accurately described as specific purpose that requires the employee's active involvement and is at least somewhat important for him to get through the day, but that's too verbose and ultimately makes the point less clear. The couple of examples he included makes it quite clear what he meant. – Masked Man Apr 25 '18 at 1:23
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    I politely disagree with the "deeply weird" remark, unless one's job is in something quite unusual, such as researching rendering feces into edible food. Wanting to show one's loved ones how they are provided for, and having them in turn be interested, is NOT an oddity. I agree, however, that random visits are to be avoided in this environment, and do agree with Max's solution. Note: I've worked in large and small environments, and was extremely annoyed by the boss' wife showing up randomly in one of them (small company). She served no purpose, and was distracting and directly obnoxious.. – NOP Apr 25 '18 at 1:58
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    @NOP ... but bringing them in so often that they don't feel "left out" of your work life? That goes way too far, don't you think? – Masked Man Apr 25 '18 at 3:34
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    @NOP I agree that the idea of the family knowing about work and perhaps even being interested in it isn't strange at all.. but that's where using words and having conversations comes in handy. Being shown around like tourists or visiting dignitaries is where it gets weird IMO. – motosubatsu Apr 25 '18 at 7:49
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I see no problem if your wife and kids comes in once in a while and you show them around.

You need to be certain that it does not disrupt your work and and your colleagues' work.

You can tell your wife/kids to come in just before lunch so you can go out and have lunch with them, or they can come in just before the end of the day so you can leave together.

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    Not disrupting anyone is a very important point. When in an open office with 50 people once per week there is multiple hours of a while department showing development of kids and have them run around, it can get annoying – PlasmaHH Apr 24 '18 at 18:35
  • I have worked in more than one place where it's again the law to show anyone around who is not cleared, so this answer is highly dependent on the particular office environment. The comment on the question suggesting asking the boss seems like the wisest course of action in light of the variability of work environments. – Todd Wilcox Apr 25 '18 at 13:38
  • @JeffO "All in all you're just another brick in the wall" – Mindwin Apr 25 '18 at 13:54
  • He also needs to make sure they don't have a rule against this. In general, I don't see an issue with him bringing them, but software development companies are an example of where there will likely be an issue if someone is allowed inside the building. – Panzercrisis Apr 25 '18 at 13:56
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You are right to be concerned about wasting company time, but there is another way

For example, you could have lunch with your wife in your office, or use your lunch break as the window of time to walk around with her and point things out.

If you encounter people that are busy with work, don't interrupt them with chit chat, instead point them out quietly to your wife. Using this strategy you can avoid being perceived as wasting company time and resources, while making your wife feel like she is more aware of where you are and what you are doing when you are working.

If you are concerned at all about company policy, it might be a good idea to consult your boss before you invite your wife. This will be especially true if you work in a sensitive environment, or in a building where access is controlled by security.

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    +1 for calling out the need to clear it with your boss. Most places I've worked have some sort of sensitive data (HR, payroll, proposals, etc) up on people's screens, so just bringing an unannounced stranger wandering through would be deeply problematic (not to mention the security aspect). There were always designated days where family could come in, and plenty of outside activities where we all socialized. – thanby Apr 24 '18 at 18:13
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I think this is strongly dependent on the specific company's culture, what your plans are when bringing the family in, and how often you bring them in.

Going based on the fact that this seems to be an uncommon occurrence at your office and not a normal thing, I have the following advice:

If you want to bring your family in once just to show them around the office, let them see what you do and where you do it, maybe introduce a few of your coworkers that you work closely with or w/e then it's likely alright. The key is to not disrupt your coworkers if they're clearly busy and to not do this often (once is alright, every few months is cutting it close, more often is probably a bad idea). Make sure that your children stay close and are respectful (don't bring kids who run around wildly or have trouble keeping quiet). I'd aim for doing this around lunch time or the end of the day, when people tend to be winding their work to take a break anyway so that any disruption you cause is minimal. You might also mention it in advance to your coworkers who might be disrupted by the visit (ask them if it'd be alright for your family to drop by on Wednesday around lunch). I'd also probably ask your superior if it's acceptable for a short visit just to show your family where you work (they'll likely give you an ok, but if they say no, then obviously don't bring them).

For the visit itself, keep it short and simple. Show them your office/desk, maybe introduce them to a couple coworkers if they aren't busy or take the initiative to do so themselves, show them some key locations in the office if applicable. Do NOT interrupt active meetings, people on the phone, or people who are clearly hard at work. Try to keep things short and don't spend a lot of time where your presence might distract others or prevent work from getting done. Aim for 15 minutes or less of time where you aren't behind closed doors in your own office.


To address the other issue you brought up, of your wife wanting to feel more included and all, there's another solution that would probably be better - especially given the culture. Go to a few of the coworkers that you work closer with or get along well with and tell them "Hey, I was wondering if you'd like to grab lunch with my family and I on [day]. You can bring your family too, and I was going to invite [other coworkers] as well."

This gives your wife the opportunity to get together with you during the work day, and meet some of your coworkers, without disrupting anyone in the office. You also get the opportunity to get to know some of your coworkers out of the office and maybe make some new/closer friends with them. You might also be able to combine this with the above tips (wife comes in, give her a quick tour as you gather everyone who's joining you for lunch, and then head out).

I'd try to keep the gathering fairly small though just so you don't overwhelm whatever restaurant you go to! Having a group of 5-8 people is fine, and you'll probably be OK getting a table (even if there's a bit of a wait) but if you're bringing 10+, it starts getting difficult (and restaurants start having rules about not splitting checks, mandatory tips, etc).

  • Your gathering idea is nice, but this gathering is not going to be small if OPs family alone consists of 8 people and coworkers will bring their families, too. – skymningen Apr 25 '18 at 9:27
  • Yeah, OP didn't mention anything about the size of his family. And besides, it seems the most important person to consider is the wife. Worst case, just have it be a gathering w/ coworkers and spouses, leave the kids home (or at school or w/e). Even with kids, I'm assuming OP has an averaged sized family, so spouse and 2-3 kids (which makes for 5 total), so you should be fine with a coworker or two without kids, or one with. Family of 8 (6 kids) is unusual these days; and it's not like we're talking about bringing parents/extended family. – Doc Apr 25 '18 at 15:19
  • OP wrote in his last paragraph that he has 6 kids. – skymningen Apr 27 '18 at 4:12
  • Oh, huh, I must have just missed that note. I see that two of those 6 he says would also be noisy/distracting, so that falls into my warnings there too. – Doc Apr 27 '18 at 15:33
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Bringing a family member to work is not inherently unprofessional, but the specific way that you do it might be. A good rule of thumb I use is to replace your family member with a customer/client/interviewee. If the visit would seem ill-timed or awkward for a client, then it's probably not a good idea for a family member either.

As an example, I used to work for a large company (office environment) that had a cafeteria on campus. My wife came up one day and joined me for lunch. I was able to give her a brief tour and introduce her to a couple of team members (who previously expressed interest in meeting her). Everything fit within the normal lunch hour when socializing typically happens, and was similar to what we commonly do for visiting clients or prospective employees. That sort of thing generally wasn't considered unprofessional as long as it was at a reasonable time, wasn't disturbing anyone, and was infrequent.

In contrast, doing that exact same thing for the company I work for now would be fairly unprofessional. I currently work in a mixed office/warehouse environment where many areas of the building require safety shoes and glasses to enter. A visit by a family member who doesn't know our safety rules would be quite unprofessional, even if they remained in the "safe" portion of the building. We receive visits from clients at another location off-site, so visits from family members would probably not be appropriate here. The same logic would also apply if you work in an environment with strict security controls. Don't try to take a family member anywhere that you wouldn't take a client.

When I was a kid, my father worked in a traditional, formal office environment. My mother and I might stop by during the day to drop something off, but nothing longer than a few minutes. On occasions when he'd have to work late or on the weekends, we might go spend a bit longer with him, taking him dinner or (when we were older) helping out by sorting or organizing documents. This was always after hours, though, where there was nobody to disturb and no chance of coming into contact with customers. Doing that same sort of thing during the day would have been very unprofessional. For children or for more formal environments, it's best to avoid normal working hours.

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UK view, depends on the company size. The office I work in has 9 people and whenever there is a new birth of a little human thing, she would bring in the baby with her partner and head off again. It's just nice to see every now and then. But only happened because she knew it wouldn't be effecting 10-50 people at once, just the 3 who are attracted to the baby.

TL;DR if its a big company, don't bother. maybe unless your boss is nice? lol

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The answer is not exactly clear cut: it depends on several factors, including industry, culture, opportunity and how much busy/free you are at work.

Whilst we have a pretty family-friendly culture, and are highly lenient to having children around, it would be unthinkable to take family visiting when I worked as a consultant in the telecom or utilities industry customers, or even on our HQ.

However, when I worked as expat in the telecom industry as IT manager, it was perfectly acceptable to show around friends and family.

On the other hand, when I worked in Academia, it was perfectly acceptable to have family visiting, and some colleagues even brought their children for days in a row in the school holidays.

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This is from a UK perspective.


I've been in organisations were staff can bring their kids to work for a short visit. I've been in others that expressly forbid children access for 'health and safety' reasons.

For the organisations that have allowed children to visit, the visit is always short (5-10 minutes), there are guarantees that the kids aren't too distracting, and the culture is such that people talk about their families.

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    One of my colleagues, in the UK, were recently visited by their spouse and two children at the office. Neither of the adults made any effort to regulate the behaviour of their children in a manner conducive to a professional environment. Consequently, several engineers were distracted for about half an hour. This was completely unacceptable. – Toby Wilson Apr 25 '18 at 12:53
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Is it unprofessional

Yes, anything that is not focused on your work is not professional.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Apr 25 '18 at 21:02
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It depends on the company culture, however bringing noisy children to the workplace is unprofessional. Most bigger companies I know do not allow relatives at the workplace. Your duty is to work (having a coffee with your coworker is ok most of the times). At my workplace this policy applies aswell, but we occasionally have some chit chat about family. I do not see any harm in asking your manager, about bringing your wife. About my personal opinion, I think it is unprofessionel and I do not get, why I would want my family at work. I can tell my girlfriend about my work, and I enjoy having a own life aswell. But that is just my personal view.

EDIT: I am from Germany.

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I work in a mid-size financial firm in NYC - a fairly "corporate" environment. It's not uncommon for employees to bring their families up to see the workplace, and it was the same in an even larger, higher profile company where I worked previously.

This usually happens when the family happens to be in the area for another reason - not coming to town explicitly to visit the office. Since they are in the area, they drop in to see the workplace and say hello. Obviously, extended or disruptive visits are out of the question.

Among the staff, those who are interested in meeting the family come over and meet them. These are generally close co-workers or workplace friends. Those who aren't interested or are busy, etc just go about their business.


Nobody has ever seem disturbed by any of this (myself included), and my impression has always been that the bosses liked the idea of an employee showing that they feel a personal connection to the firm and are comfortable enough in the workplace to show the family around.


What do you think? Would you look unfavorably on a worker that disrupted the day to bring his spouse and kids into the office, or am I way over thinking this, and it's not a problem whatsoever? I work in the USA, for what it is worth, I also have 6 kids (and two of those would definitely be noisy/distracting to others at times).

You're not over-thinking it - no. Company culture is important - you should always consider it, just don't obsess over it. Doing something that "isn't done" won't help you on the job, especially since you're fairly new.

As a general rule for you, I'd say you should wait a while and see what others are doing at your new firm. If you see others who are on your level, to exclude high level management etc (important distinction...) occasionally bringing up the family, then it should be OK for you to do the same, with a few stipulations:

  1. Don't bring all of your 6 kids at once - your wife and one or two well behaved kids at most. (Babies are often the best as long as they don't cry a lot - people generally like babies, and it's understood that sometimes babies have to "tag along" somewhere with mommy or daddy, etc.)
  2. Keep it brief and low pressure. Don't go around introducing them to everybody - that's potentially disturbing and might make some people uncomfortable. Probably best to wait for those interested to come over to you and you can then introduce the family - your friends and co-workers will probably do that. (If you have a personal connection with the bosses or your manager, then maybe bring them in for an introduction - a token of your respect.) Half an hour is usually plenty of time. Again - take your cues from what others are doing.
  3. Time it right: Don't do it the day after someone else just did it, and don't do it at a very busy time, etc. Friday afternoons or lunch hours seem to be popular times for bringing family around. In all such matters, be practical and use common sense - it's a workplace, not a living room.
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When I was younger in my career (20's) and worked at smaller companies

Smaller companies can tend to be, overall, much more integrated in terms of families than larger environments- obviously, this varies from workplace to workplace. You socialize more openly, get to know people better and as a result- families can become involved.

Since then, I've moved to a new larger city, and the environment is much more "corporate". Everyone is quite busy, and I don't get into many long discussions about my family and children, nor do I hear much from my co-workers about their family and over the last 8 years can only think of one case where someone brought in their spouse and kids and I met them.

Looking at this it pretty much spells out what the "norm" is here- big city, corporate environment, busy, no long discussions- the pattern here is clear: Work is work. Classically it could be said that in these situations, with these variables, it's the polar opposite of your previous employment.

The most important thing to highlight here is this:

Over the last 8 years can only think of one case where someone brought in their spouse and kids and I met them

Clearly, in this workplace, it's far from the norm. Traditionally in these settings, as a form of almost "office etiquette", employees won't bring their families in at all, it seems.

My wife says she feels a bit left out from my work life (missing going in, seeing where I work, seeing my co-workers, etc.)

The real question here is- is it you that misses them coming in, your Wife, or both of you? The black and white of it sounds more like it's something she misses doing.

From the layout of what you've said it seems that both of you need to accept that this is now a more corporate environment, not the closer-knit or "mixing pot" style workplace you used to be in. Business is business, taking time from work to spend with family rather than work is generally frowned upon.

Everyone understands that there may be exceptions to the rule, requiring you to keep your kid(s) for a period due to childcare issues, or on birthdays your partner dropping by for lunch- but tours, meeting people and seeing what goes on? No.

Bearing in mind that there's a lot of different factors at play here- I come from a mixed background of Healthcare and IT in Australia and the UK, both in centralised and rural locations- but in none of these environments was it ever considered acceptable to have your family, nevermind your partner, do more than briefly drop by for a, forgive the phrasing, "justified" reason.

For one, it can be seen as unprofessional from the standpoint that you are at work, which is to be divided from home- this is an office environment, shared with your coworkers and colleagues. Unless it's more of a "modern" workplace which if not encouraging it, doesn't prevent it, which from what you say this evidently is not, it's something of an unwritten rule to keep the two seperate. As said before, there's exceptions, but common sense applies.

Another is that socially speaking, bigger office environments just plain don't have the same level of a more laid-back view on these things. Bigger companies in big offices aren't exactly known for having employees families swan in and out for "brief visits". If you've not seen it happening, it's a clear sign it's not going to be accepted and it's a change that you and the family need to adapt to rather than the other way round.

Factoring the kids in as well, it's safe to say this isn't a good idea.

However- looking at positives here with a dose of optimistic speculation:

There's nothing stopping you from finding out if there's ever any kind of workplace activities, get-togethers, events or otherwise that mean your family could get involved. From team building to "bring your spouse to work day"- the sky is the limit. If you've been in this environment for as long as you have, if there are any colleagues you get along with well enough, perhaps it's an idea to suggest some kind of meal together or similar- either out or at your home.

This way it brings together the two worlds of home and work together, your wife won't feel left out and it could even be the start of a "thing", taking turns at who hosts, where you go, etc. Bringing families into it can hlp them mingle a bit and over time, bring you closer together- who knows!

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