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First Day at School

Posted on Wed, 2018-08-15 10:50 by Martin Dempsey

My youngest has her first day at school this month.  I’m sure there will be tears, potential for tantrums and plenty of histrionics but my wife will eventually calm down. 

However, it really is a nervous experience for everyone involved.  No matter how confident and good-natured your child is, you see a little anxiety in them as they head into a new era of their life.  They suddenly seem tiny again when faced with a school building and the throng of pupils, and parents do what they do best – worry on behalf of their kids!

Schools work hard to minimise the anxiety for their new pupils.  They invite the kids to visit in advance, all the children get a “buddy” from an older class to look after them, the teachers ensure that the first few days are as fun-packed as possible (to delude children into believing it will always be like that!)

The anxiety that we project onto our children in these circumstances is because as adults, we try to hide our fears and nerves but we feel the exact same thing.  All over the world, there are people preparing for their first day at a new job each Monday.

They will worry about what to wear, where they’ll get lunch, how they’ll be greeted.  They’ll lie awake the night before, imagining the worst possible scenario for meeting their new boss.  They’ll set their alarm an hour earlier than necessary and get to their new company so early that the doors are still locked.

So, how do companies prepare for new staff and why does it matter?  Research undertaken on behalf of the CIPD assesses that it takes a new member of staff more than half a year to become fully productive.  Equally, staff happiness has a direct impact on things like absenteeism and productivity.

HR departments do a fantastic job inducting new people into the organisation, showcasing the company values and explaining the company processes.  Many of us have sat through an excellent induction only to realise a week later, when it matters, that we can’t remember what was explained to us on those first few days. 

Does workplace design have any part to play here?  Naturally, my answer is “of course”.  On its own, it can’t make people assimilate but the space should be designed to be naturally welcoming.  It should have an intuitive flow to it, like a kitchen where you instinctively know where everything is. 

Getting it right can make a difference on that nervous first day, but equally importantly, it can shorten that period of half a year to full productivity by creating a collaborative, communicative environment where new staff can learn from their experienced colleagues.

As for my daughter’s first day at school?  It’s her teacher I’m really worried about!