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Slow Down! My Mommy Works Here.

Over the last decades, My Mommy (and Daddy) Works Here roadwork signs started appearing. These work zone signs brought doubletakes and were designed to bring an alertness to the driver. Oftentimes these included pictures of children whose parents work onsite. These campaigns have cropped up globally with a goal to humanize on-site workers and slow down drivers. According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, there was a 30% reduction of work zone fatalities the year after the signs were introduced. Impactful. Especially when we’re talking about saving lives.

The goal was to humanize and, therefore, change behavior. To acknowledge that the men and women behind the orange cones were often mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons and when one was hurt, many family members became victims too. To slow down. To stay alert. To allow Mom or Dad to come home alive and well after a day at work.

The pandemic brought a similar humanity to the workplace. For many it was the first time their boss, their coworkers, or, more broadly, their organization saw them as more than a resource to manage. Suddenly it was tangibly real that a working mother or father also had to manage virtual learning or care for an elderly dependent who could not leave the home because we could see it with our own eyes.

We were brought into the dining rooms (and sometimes newly defined office closets) of our fellow team members only to find out that they, too, had a dog that barked…a lot…or a fancy for collecting baseball caps, just like you!

A year into this and we have now memorized the books on our boss’s home office bookshelf or the deer head behind the CEO’s swivel chair. Like many things, what once was new has become familiar. The work zone signs are over twenty years old and no longer have the same wow-factor that they had when they were first introduced. And yet we still have mommies and daddies working road construction. We still have lives to save.

How do we not lose the awareness we’ve gathered in this time of intimacy and empathy with our employees? How do we ensure our Moms and Dads arrive home alive and well after a day at work?

The challenge to leaders and employees of all kinds will be to remember that our coworkers and team members are still human, even when, or if, they return to the office. Just because we can’t see Rona the pandemic puppy in the screen shot, or Grandma shuttling little ones off screen, doesn’t mean they are not still an important part of your employee’s lives. Out of sight, but not out of mind. And in fact, the realities of transitioning back into an office mean your team members are struggling with things like separation anxiety or change in routine. Remember, we as employers have a responsibility to return them well and alive after working.

In fact, we should consider how we exceed this minimum bar of survival to looking at how we support our people to thrive.

So maybe, like the sign has encouraged us to do for years now, we slow down and we stay alert to watch out for our people because someone’s mommy or daddy, son or daughter works here.


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