Associate Principal, Leadership & Professional Development, Korn Ferry
When the clock is about to strike 3 p.m. on a weekday, my pulse begins to race, my concentration at work falters, and all I can think about is my child’s safety. For caregivers of brown and Black children, this can be the most stressful hour of the day. We think to ourselves: Will our children be safe on their way back home from school?
This sense of insecurity did not emerge for me until the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, I dropped my son off to school in the morning, and because we had access to after-school care, he never had to walk home alone. During the pandemic, however, childcare became extremely limited, and many parents, like me, were placed on waiting lists.
School buses were limited too. This created a dilemma for many working parents trying to figure out how to balance it all. It required creative scheduling each day as I adjusted meetings to ensure I had space to pick up my son from school. There was another option: my son could walk home from school. This should be such a simple solution. However, as a woman of color, living in our heightened racial and political climate, it was not simple at all.
Leading up to and following the murder of George Floyd, the vulnerability many children faced “walking while Black” caused very real fear for me and several of my friends. My anxiety was at an all-time high every time my brown son left the house. And when it was time for him to come home, I wanted to be there, promptly, to ensure he was safe.
I would not have been able to manage my work and home lives as successfully as I did during the pandemic had I not been working remotely—and for that I am grateful. Nevertheless, I could not coordinate my schedule every day, and my son still had to walk home alone sometimes. Eventually, I purchased an Apple Watch just so he could text me when he was leaving school, and I was able to track his location.
While this somewhat put my mind at ease—and became my new normal—it is an oversized solution for a relatively simple problem. My family is fortunate enough to be able to purchase a tracking device for my child, but what about the families who cannot afford that kind of expense?
Organizations can help reduce this sense of anxiety employees feel while working by following these three practices:
With this knowledge, organizations have a unique opportunity to implement change management initiatives that support employees who experience this 3 p.m. weekday anxiety. The return on investment of discretionary effort by employees impacted will be exponential because they feel valued, seen, and heard.