Using Digital To Address The Mental Health ‘Silent Epidemic’

Digital tools and platforms are a natural fit for overcoming the top barriers to getting mental healthcare: accessibility, cost and social stigma, says Emily Thayer, a Senior Consultant within Cognizant Consulting’s Healthcare Practice.

Untreated mental health conditions have long been a top healthcare concern. In 2019, fewer than half of Americans with a diagnosed mental illness received treatment for that condition, according to the US National Institute of Mental Health.

Not only is untreated mental illness detrimental to patients’ health — it’s also a strain on national healthcare costs. In fact, mental health disorders cost the US economy an estimated $4.6 billion per year in unnecessary ER visits and $300 billion in lost workplace productivity, making mental health disorders among the most costly untreated conditions in the US.

The pandemic has only accelerated the need for care — according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, over 40% of US adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression in January 2021, compared with 11% in the first six months of 2019. Given the well-documented therapist shortages that have resulted, the concern of connecting patients with care has only grown more acute.

It’s no wonder, then, that interest and investment are growing in digitally oriented mental healthcare, from platforms that match therapists with patients, to chatbots, to online cognitive behavioral therapy tools. Although emerging digital solutions are nascent and will inevitably encounter friction, virtual remedies show great promise in lowering the barriers that both practitioners and patients face.

Consider how digital tools can address the top three factors that have historically kept patients from seeking mental health care: accessibility, cost and social stigma.

Improving accessibility to mental health treatment

As of May 2021, over 125 million Americans live in a behavioral or mental health professional shortage area. This gap will continue to widen as the pandemic exacerbates the therapist shortage.

To expand accessibility to behavioral health services, companies like Quartet and Talkspace are using telehealth platforms to connect patients and therapists. By leveraging clinical algorithms, these platforms identify available therapists based on the patient’s symptoms, state of residence (due to cross-state licensing restrictions), insurance carrier, preferred mode of communication (synchronous video or audio and asynchronous text messaging) and desired appointment cadence.

In other words, if you have a connected device, you can receive on-demand care for your behavioral health condition. Digital accessibility also addresses physician shortages and burnout on a national scale.

As these entities are still relatively new to the market, challenges and questions remain, such as the fundamental disconnect between virtual treatment and physician intervention in a clinical setting. As patient adoption grows, enough accurate data will be generated to prompt when physician intervention is necessary.

Additionally, these telehealth platforms are more geared toward mild cases, as these services do not replace the necessary stages of the care continuum that may be needed for more serious mental health conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Lowering behavioral healthcare costs

An estimated 47% of US adults with an untreated behavioral or mental health illness do not seek treatment due to high costs.

Many entities in the private and public sectors are turning to virtual services to help patients better afford behavioral and mental health services. For instance, traditional in-person therapy ranges from $64 to $250 per hour, depending on patient insurance, whereas digital solutions can cost under $32 per hour.

Accordingly, many workplaces are incorporating digital solutions into their employee-sponsored health plans through health platforms like Ginger, which offers 24×7 access to behavioral health coaches via asynchronous texting for low-acuity conditions like anxiety and depression.

Recent moves by the federal government further bolster the effort to make behavioral healthcare affordable. In addition to the US Department of Health and Human Services announcing an additional $3 billion in funding to address pandemic-related behavioral and mental health issues, the Biden administration has signaled commitment to expanding access to telehealth services for underserved communities. Such efforts will need to be combined with further work in the private sector to ensure mental healthcare affordability through virtual means.

Overcoming negative social stigma

Perceived social stigma is an additional barrier for many people seeking mental health treatment. In a study of patients with schizophrenia, 86% of respondents reported concealing their illness due to fears of prejudice or discrimination.

To circumvent these challenges, some mental health providers have embraced artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots and online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) tools. Although chatting with a bot may seem counterintuitive to the “high-touch” nature of the healthcare industry, the anonymity of this approach can ease patient anxiety about opening up to another potentially judgmental human.

In a randomized control trial with a conversational agent that delivers CBT treatment, patients reported a 22% reduction in depression and anxiety within the first two weeks. This study shows promise for the effectiveness of chatbot-based therapy, particularly for younger generations, many of whom already share many intimate details of their lives on digital forums and hence have a higher level of acceptance of these tools. Older generations may view the adoption of this new behavioral care model with more incredulity and hesitancy.

A virtual future for behavioral healthcare

It is clear that the virtual care industry is poised for future growth, as there is a clear correlation between our understanding of behavioral healthcare challenges and the evolution of treatment modalities to bridge those gaps.

While digital services may not be a cure-all remedy for behavioral health, they certainly offer a promising long-term solution to one of the country’s most prominent and costly diseases.

To learn more, visit our Healthcare solutions section or contact us.

Emily Thayer is a Senior Consultant within Cognizant Consulting’s Healthcare Practice, who specializes in driving digital transformation. Emily has a proven track record in both the private and public sectors, most notably in health plan strategy and operations, business development and project management. Emily earned her bachelor’s degree in business management and psychology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and University of Oxford, and an MBA from Washington University in St. Louis. She can be reached at Emily.Thayer@cognizant.com

Source: Using Digital To Address The Mental Health ‘Silent Epidemic’

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Why Women Are More Burned Out Than Men

Statistics show that stress and burnout are affecting more women than men en masse. Why – and what happens next?

When Jia, a Manhattan-based consultant, read Sheryl Sandberg’s bestselling book Lean In in 2014, she resolved to follow the advice espoused by the chief operating officer of Facebook.

“I’d just graduated from an Ivy League business school, was super pumped up and loved the idea of leaning in,” says Jia, whose last name is being withheld to protect her professional reputation. “Learning to self-promote felt so empowering, and I was 100% ready to prove that I was the woman who could have it all: be a high-powered career woman and a great mother.”

But today, the 38-year-old strikes a different tone. For years, she says, she feels like she’s been overlooked for promotions and pay rises at work on account of her gender, particularly after becoming a mother in 2018. Since then, she’s picked up the brunt of childcare responsibilities because her husband, who is a banker, has tended to travel more frequently for work. That, she adds, has given her a misguided reputation among her colleagues and managers – the majority of whom are male – for not being professionally driven.

Then when Covid-19 hit, it was as if all the factors already holding her back were supercharged. When her daughter’s day care closed in March 2020, Jia became the default caregiver while trying to stay afloat at work. “I was extremely unmotivated because I felt like I was spending all hours of the day trying not to fall off an accelerating treadmill,” she explains. “But at the same time, I felt like I was being trusted less and less to be able to do a good job. I could feel my career slipping through my fingers and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.”

In early 2021, Jia’s therapist told her she was suffering from burnout. Jia says she’d never struggled with her mental health before. “But now I’m just trying to get through each week while staying sane,” she says.

Jia’s story is symptomatic of a deeply ingrained imbalance in society that the pandemic has both highlighted and exacerbated. For multiple reasons, women, particularly mothers, are still more likely than men to manage a more complex set of responsibilities on a daily basis – an often-unpredictable combination of unpaid domestic chores and paid professional work.

I could feel my career slipping through my fingers and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it – Jia

Though the mental strain of mastering this balancing act has been apparent for decades, Covid-19 has cast a particularly harsh light on the problem. Statistics show that stress and burnout are affecting more women than men, and particularly more working mothers than working fathers. This could have multiple impacts for the post-pandemic world of work, making it important that both companies and wider society find ways to reduce this imbalance.

Unequal demands

Recent data looking specifically at burnout in women is concerning. According to a survey by LinkedIn of almost 5,000 Americans, 74% of women said they were very or somewhat stressed for work-related reasons, compared with just 61% of employed male respondents.

A separate analysis from workplace-culture consultancy a Great Place to Work and health-care start-up Maven found that mothers in paid employment are 23% more likely to experience burnout than fathers in paid employment. An estimated 2.35 million working mothers in the US have suffered from burnout since the start of the pandemic, specifically “due to unequal demands of home and work”, the analysis showed.

Women tend to be dealing with a more complex set of work and personal responsibilities, leading to stress (Credit: Getty)

Experts generally agree that there’s no single reason women burn out, but they widely acknowledge that the way societal structures and gender norms intersect plays a significant role. Workplace inequalities, for example, are inextricably linked to traditional gender roles.

In the US, women still earn an average of about 82 cents for each dollar earned by a man, and the gap across many countries in Europe is similar. Jia’s firm does not publish its gender pay-gap data, but she suspects that it’s significant. Moreover, she thinks many of her male peers earn more than her, something that causes her a huge amount of stress.

“The idea that I might be underselling myself is extremely frustrating, but I also don’t want to make myself unpopular by asking for more money when I’m already pushing the boundaries by asking my company to make accommodations for me having to care for my daughter,” she says. “It’s a constant internal battle.”

Research links lower incomes to higher stress levels and worse mental health in general. But several studies have also shown more specifically that incidences of burnout among women are greater because of differences in job conditions and the impact of gender on progression.

In 2018, researchers from University of Montreal published a study tracking 2,026 workers over the course of four years. The academics concluded that women were more vulnerable to burnout than men because women were less likely to be promoted than men, and therefore more likely to be in positions with less authority which can lead to increased stress and frustration. The researchers also found that women were more likely to head single-parent families, experience child-related strains, invest time in domestic tasks and have lower self-esteem – all things that can exacerbate burnout.

Nancy Beauregard, a professor at University of Montreal and one of the authors of that study, said that reflecting on her work back in 2018, it’s clear that Covid-19 has amplified the existing inequalities and imbalances that her team demonstrated through their research. “In terms of [the] sustainable development of the human capital of the workforce,” she says, “we’re not heading in a good direction.”

A pandemic catalyst

Brian Kropp, chief of human resources research at Gartner, a global research and advisory firm headquartered in Connecticut, US, agrees that while many of the factors fueling women’s burnout were in play before the pandemic, Covid-19 notably exacerbated some as it forced us to dramatically overhaul our living and working routines.

When the pandemic hit, many women found that their domestic responsibilities surged – making juggling work even harder (Credit: Getty)

Structures supporting parents’ and carers’ lives closed down, and in most cases, this excess burden fell on women. One study, conducted by academics from Harvard University, Harvard Business School and London Business School, evaluated survey responses from 30,000 individuals around the world and found that women – especially mothers – had spent significantly more time on childcare and chores during Covid-19 than they did pre-pandemic, and that this was directly linked to lower wellbeing. Many women had already set themselves up as the default caregiver within their households, and the pandemic obliterated the support systems that had previously allowed them to balance paid employment and domestic work.

That’s exactly what Sarah experienced in March 2020, when schools across New York first closed. “Initially the message was that schools would stay closed until the end of April, so that was my target: ‘Get to that point and you’ll be fine’,” recalls the Brooklyn-based 40-year-old. Now, more than 18 months into the pandemic, her two sons, aged 6 and 9, are only just reacquainting themselves with in-person learning, and Sarah’s life has changed dramatically.

In April 2020, for the first time ever, she started suffering from anxiety. The pressures of home-schooling her children while working as marketing executive for a large technology company overwhelmed her. She couldn’t sleep, worried constantly and felt depressed. Worst of all, she felt like whatever she did was inadequate because she didn’t have enough time to do anything well.

Six months into the pandemic, it was clear something had to change. Sarah’s husband, a lawyer, was earning much more than her, and had done so since they got married in 2008. So, in August 2020 the couple jointly decided that Sarah would leave her job to become a stay-at-home mother. “Before this, I never really knew what being burned out meant,” she says. “Now I know beyond a shadow of a doubt.”

Sarah’s experience is emblematic of a much broader trend. In September last year, just as the pandemic was gaining pace, more than 860,000 women dropped out of the US workforce, compared with just over 200,000 men. One estimate put the number of mothers who had quit the US workforce between February and September last year at 900,000, and the number of fathers at 300,000.

As women lost crucial social lifelines during lockdown which may have been emotional and physical outlets for stress, it’s clear that the abrupt avalanche of extra domestic responsibilities pushed many who were already busily juggling home and work life further than they could go.

‘What’s the cost?’

One of the greatest concerns workplace experts harbour is that poor mental health among women in the workplace could discourage future generations from setting ambitious professional goals, particularly if they want to start a family. That could exacerbate the gender inequalities that already exist in terms of pay and seniority in the labour market.

Data indicate that this is indeed a legitimate concern; statistics collected by CNBC and polling company SurveyMonkey earlier this year showed that the number of women describing themselves as “very ambitious” in terms of their careers declined significantly during the pandemic. Data from the US Census Bureau shows that over the first 12 weeks of the pandemic, the percentage of mothers between the ages of 25 and 44 not working due to Covid-19-related childcare issues grew by 4.8 percentage points, compared to no increase for men in the same age group.

In terms of [the] sustainable development of the human capital of the workforce, we’re not heading in a good direction – Nancy Beauregard

Equally, there are concerns about how new ways of working such as hybrid could impact on workplace gender equality. Research shows that women are more likely than men to work from home in a post-pandemic world, but there’s evidence that people who work from home are less likely to get promoted than those who have more face-time with managers. “Women are saying, I’m working just as hard and doing just as much, but because I’m working from home, I’m less likely to get promoted,” says Kropp. “That’s extremely demotivating.”

Dean Nicholson, head of adult therapy at London-based behavioural health clinic The Soke, suggests that perceptions of fairness – or otherwise – could impact on women’s workplace participation. “When the balance of justice is skewed against us in the workplace, then it’s invariably going to lead to negative feelings, not just towards the organisation, but in the way that we feel about ourselves and the value of our contribution, as well as where we’re positioned on a hierarchy of worth.”

To prevent an exodus of female talent, says Kropp, organisations must appreciate that old workplaces practices are no longer fit for purpose. Managers need to fundamentally rethink how companies must be structured in order to promote fairness and equality of opportunity, he says. That means pay equality and equal opportunities for promotion, as well as creating a culture of transparency where everyone – mothers, fathers and employees who are not parents – feels valued and can reach their professional potential while also accommodating what’s going on at home.

Steve Hatfield, global future of work leader for Deloitte, notes that mothers, especially those in senior leadership roles, are extremely important role models. “The ripple effect of what they’re seen to be experiencing right now has the potential to be truly profound on newer employees, and so it’s up to organisations to prove that they can accommodate and cater to the needs of all employees,” he says.

As such, Hephzi Pemberton, founder of the Equality Group, a London-based consultancy that focuses on inclusion and diversity in the finance and technology industry, emphasises the need for managers to be trained formally and to understand that the initiative to create a workplace that’s fit for purpose must come from the employer rather than the employee. “That’s absolutely critical to avoid the risk of burnout,” she says.

But Jia, who says she’s now on the brink of quitting her job, insists that notable changes need to happen in the home as well as the workplace. “What’s become abundantly clear to me through the pandemic is that we all have a role to play in understanding the imbalances that are created when stereotypical gender roles are blindly adhered to,” she says. “Yes, of course it sometimes makes sense for a woman to be the default caregiver or to take a step back from paid work, but we need to appreciate at what cost. This is 2021. Sometimes I wonder if we’re in the 1950s.”

By Josie Cox

Source: Why women are more burned out than men – BBC Worklife

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How To Intervene When a Manager Is Gaslighting Their Employees

Summary

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where an individual tries to gain power and control over you by instilling self-doubt. Allowing managers who continue to gaslight to thrive in your company will only drive good employees away. Leadership training is only part of the solution — leaders must act and hold the managers who report to them accountable when they see gaslighting in action. The author presents five things leaders can do when they suspect their managers are gaslighting employees.

“We missed you at the leadership team meeting,” our executive vice president messaged me. “Your manager shared an excellent proposal. He said you weren’t available to present. Look forward to connecting soon.”

In our last one-on-one meeting, my manager had enthusiastically said that I, of course, should present the proposal I had labored over for weeks. I double-checked my inbox and texts for my requests to have that meeting invite sent to me. He had never responded. He went on to present the proposal without me.

Excluding me from meetings, keeping me off the list for company leadership programs, and telling me I was on track for a promotion — all while speaking negatively about my performance to his peers and senior leadership — were all red flags in my relationship with this manager. The gaslighting continued and intensified until the day I finally resigned.

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where an individual tries to gain power and control over you. They will lie to you and intentionally set you up to fail. They will say and do things and later deny they ever happened. They will undermine you, manipulate you, and convince you that you are the problem. As in my case, at work, the “they” is often a manager who will abuse their position of power to gaslight their employees.

Organizations of all sizes are racing to develop their leaders, spending over $370 billion a year globally on leadership training. Yet research shows that almost 30% of bosses are toxic. Leadership training is only part of the solution — we need leaders to act and hold the managers who report to them accountable when they see gaslighting in action. Here are five things leaders can do when they suspect their managers are gaslighting employees.

Believe employees when they share what’s happening.

The point of gaslighting is to instill self-doubt, so when an employee has the courage to come forward to share their experiences, leaders must start by actively listening and believing them. The employee may be coming to you because they feel safe with you. Their manager might be skilled at managing up, presenting themselves as an inclusive leader while verbally abusing employees. Or they may be coming to you because they feel they’ve exhausted all other options.

Do not minimize, deny, or invalidate what they tell you. Thank them for trusting you enough to share their experiences. Ask them how you can support them moving forward.

Be on the lookout for signs of gaslighting.

“When high performers become quiet and disinterested and are then labeled as low performers, we as leaders of our organizations must understand why,” says Lan Phan, founder and CEO of community of SEVEN, who coaches executives in her curated core community groups. “Being gaslighted by their manager can be a key driver of why someone’s performance is suddenly declining. Over time, gaslighting will slowly erode their sense of confidence and self-worth.”

As a leader, while you won’t always be present to witness gaslighting occurring on your team, you can still look for signs. If an employee has shared their experiences, you can be on high alert to catch subtle signals. Watch for patterns of gaslighting occurring during conversations, in written communication, and activities outside of work hours.

Here are some potential warning signs: A manager who is gaslighting may exclude their employees from meetings. They may deny them opportunities to present their own work. They may exclude them from networking opportunities, work events, and leadership and development programs. They may gossip or joke about them. Finally, they may create a negative narrative of their performance, seeding it with their peers and senior leaders in private and public forums.

Intervene in the moments that matter.

“Intervening in those moments when gaslighting occurs is critical,” says Dee C. Marshall, CEO of Diverse & Engaged LLC, who advises Fortune 100 companies on diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies. “As a leader, you can use your position of power to destabilize the manager who is gaslighting. By doing so, you signal to the gaslighter that you are watching and aware of their actions, and putting them on notice.”

If you see that a manager has excluded one of their employees from a meeting, make sure to invite them and be clear that you extended the invitation. If a manager is creating a negative narrative of an employee’s performance in talent planning sessions, speak up in the moment and ask them for evidence-based examples. Enlist the help of others who have examples of their strong performance. Document what you’re observing on behalf of the employee who is the target of gaslighting.

Isolate the manager who is gaslighting.

If this manager is gaslighting now, this likely isn’t their first time. Enlist the help of human resources and have them review the manager’s team’s attrition rates and exit interview data. Support the employee who is experiencing gaslighting when they share their experiences with HR, including providing your own documentation.

In smaller, more nimble organizations, restructuring happens often and is necessary to scale and respond to the market. Use restructuring as an opportunity to isolate the manager by decreasing their span of control and ultimately making them an individual contributor with no oversight of employees. Ensure that their performance review reflects the themes you and others have documented (and make any feedback from others anonymous). The manager may eventually leave on their own as their responsibilities decrease and their span of control is minimized. In parallel, work with human resources to develop an exit plan for the manager.

Assist employees in finding a new opportunity.

In the meantime, help the targeted employee find a new opportunity. Start with using your social and political capital to endorse them for opportunities on other teams. In my case, the manager gaslighting me had a significant span of control, and my options to leave his team were limited. He blocked me from leaving to go work for other managers when I applied for internal roles. I didn’t have any leaders who could advocate for me and move me to another team. I was ultimately forced to leave the company.

In some cases, even if you can find an internal opportunity for the employee, they won’t stay. They will take an external opportunity to have a fresh start and heal from the gaslighting they experienced from their manager. Stay in touch and be open to rehiring them when the timing is right for them. If you rehire them in the future, make sure that this time they work for a manager who will not only nurture and develop their careers, but one who will treat them with the kindness they deserve.

During the “Great Resignation,” people have had the time and space to think about what’s important to them. Allowing managers who continue to gaslight to thrive in your company will only drive your employees away. They’ll choose to work for organizations that not only value their contributions, but that also respect them as individuals.

By: Mita Mallick

Mita Mallick is the head of inclusion, equity, and impact at Carta. She is a columnist for SWAAY and her writing has been published in Harvard Business Review, The New York Post, and Business Insider.

Source: How to Intervene When a Manager Is Gaslighting Their Employees

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13 Ways to Invest in Yourself

When you hear the word “investing,” you probably think about stocks, bonds, maybe commodities. It’s far less likely that your reflex will be inward – but indeed, you can, and should, invest in yourself, too.

Investing is an enormous industry solely dedicated to the idea of using capital to create more capital. We highly suggest you do it. But in many instances, investing time and energy – which, just like money, are in finite supply – in yourself can lead to a meaningful payoff, too. And sometimes that payoff includes the accumulation of wealth.

It’s just a matter of application, and making a plan.

To that end, here’s a rundown of 13 different ways to invest in your career, your mind and your happiness that have nothing to do with buying low and selling high. Becoming a more marketable worker, earning a chance to be your own boss and simply broadening your horizons can yield rewards, too.

Find a Mentor

Spending time with a mentor is one of the best investments you can make. Mentors are plentiful. It doesn’t cost much to talk with them – just the price of a cup of coffee, or maybe an Uber trip if your mentor works elsewhere. And they can provide you with a wealth of benefits: They can improve your current job skills, help you network within your field and potentially become an employer in the future.

What workplace mentorship looks like will vary from one employer to the next. But in almost all cases, it could and should involve a senior employee acting as a guide for a newer worker with less company-specific experience. In some cases where management is willing to provide time off and funding, leadership “camps” and team-building experiences can also make employees more effective.

But what if your employer doesn’t facilitate such programs? Be the organizer of a formal, company-wide effort that pairs newer workers with veterans. It’s not a difficult sell. Your boss will benefit from a staff that at the very least better knows one another, and they’ll probably appreciate the subsequent synergies too. Meanwhile, you’ll make new intra-office contacts.

You can find mentors outside of your workplace, too. A simple way to start is by simply reaching out to leaders and other knowledgeable members of your field for “informational interviews” – nothing more than a cup of coffee or lunch to talk about the profession.

Depending on the topic, you might be able to find more plentiful outside resources. For instance, small-business entrepreneurs have a host of options at their fingers, such as Score.org, which pairs individuals up with local SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) chapters to pair them with one of more than 10,000 volunteer business experts.

More Education for a Career Change

Many young college graduates might be happy working in the field they just finished studying, but some individuals further into their careers might be mulling a change – perhaps a pivot toward one of these top jobs of the future.

In many cases, however, these individuals don’t feel they can because they lack a degree related to their new dream job. Or if they do “change things up,” they make a move within the industry rather than taking on a whole new category – even when that new job could prove more lucrative.

Knight Kiplinger points out the benefit of such an investment in his “Keys to Financial Security”: “A $30,000 pay hike can be viewed as an annual return on a capital investment, like earning a continuous yield of 6% on $500,000 of savings. You know how hard it is to save up $500,000. Maybe that $30,000 boost in salary is easier to achieve.”

There’s good news for the hesitant, however. More than 80% of people who changed careers after they turned 45 years old found success in their new field, according to the American Institute for Economic Research.

For some occupations, such as teachers and nurses – two of the most popular second careers for older rookies – might require a brand-new degree. But the advent of the internet has changed the way we learn. Traditional college classrooms are still an option, though career-changers with families who might need to work at the same time they’re going back to school have plenty of internet options. Roughly one-third of college-level studies are now done online, and many employers see this classwork as credible.

Professional Certifications

In some cases, a college degree might not be the right kind of continuing education for you. Some employers are more interested in specialized skills and credentials. Company hierarchies in the modern workplace are optimized by a diversity of detailed, focused knowledge that sometimes comes in the form of a professional-level certificate.

And at the least, there aren’t many industries that don’t encourage the attainment of specialized credentials.

Take the finance industry as an example. Most career-minded jobs in the sector require a minimum of a college degree. But some of the most successful financial planners are Certified Financial Planners, with a CFP designation. Chartered Financial Analysts (CFAs) also enjoy a high-level of credibility within the investment management arena. There’s even a professional designation for investment professionals that specialize in analyzing stock charts: Chartered Market Technicians.

The technology arena arguably offers the most, and most diverse, options for readily attainable certifications. Certificates aimed at demonstrating expertise in Cisco networking, Microsoft systems and coding languages such as Java and C++ can all be earned in just a few months.

In most cases, these certificates can be secured while you work a full-time job. Some employers will even pay the costs associated with them.

Join Toastmasters

Even when Toastmasters International was in its infancy nearly a century ago, the organization invoked the occasional eye roll. Some outsiders snickered as the seemingly silly gathering of like-minded people that just wanted to practice public speaking in front of other members wishing to do the same.

However, the clubs – all 16,800 of them that meet regularly in 143 different countries – are no joke. Aside from a judgment-free, supportive environment where individuals can get comfortable confronting the one thing they fear more than death itself, Toastmasters is a chance to network with other aspiring business-minded individuals in the area.

And the organization certainly has its share of high-profile success stories. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, comedian and actor Tim Allen, the late iconic Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy, and the late James Brady, former presidential press secretary, are all former Toastmasters members, along with a whole slew of other recognizable names that leveraged their Toastmasters experiences into successful careers.

Toastmasters charges $45 in semi-annual dues as well as a $20 new member fee. Meeting frequency varies by club but typically are held weekly or every other week, for one to two hours per meeting.

Move

It doesn’t sound like a way to invest in yourself. It sounds more like a chore, or even just a flat-out expense. But you might find that simply moving from one place to another can open all sorts of doors … and not just career-oriented ones. New locales bring new people into your life, new kinds of entertainment, lower expenses and new scenery that can make your life better in a myriad of ways.

The latest relocating-minded trend is an exodus from the nation’s biggest cities and the establishment of new roots in less urban areas. Bustling New York City lost 76,790 residents in 2019, and 143,000 in the year before that, mirroring a bigger trend evident across the entire northeaster portion of the country. Lousy weather is cited as one reason for the growing disinterest in the region, though the bigger concern is the sheer cost of living in places such as New York City and Washington, D.C.

Conversely, there are still good reasons to head toward the pricier parts of the country, particularly for people looking for jobs in the financial and tech arenas. Most Wall Street-type jobs require you to actually live somewhere near Wall Street, and Silicon Valley in northern California is the nation’s technological development hub. If you want to work there, you typically have to be there.

If you’re broadly looking for a place to start, consider these states with the fastest rates of job growth. And if you’re looking to figure out how much to budget, Moving.com says the average cost of a long-distance move (1,000 miles) is $4,890, based on a two- to three-bedroom move of about 7,500 pounds.

Start a Side Gig

The idea of a “job” has changed dramatically in just the past few years. Gone are the days when individuals clocked in at 9 a.m., worked for an employer that was trusted to remain in business, and then clocked out at 5 p.m.

The new normal is … well, there is no new normal, given the statistics.

Roughly one-third of U.S. workers claim they utilize “alternative work” arrangements as their primary source of income. That is, they don’t necessarily run their own businesses per se, but rather are contracted, self-employed people that rely on middlemen to connect with a stream of customers. Think driving for Uber, completing projects through Amazon Mechanical Turk, or picking up regular work at a website like Freelancer.com. In some cases, these workers might see more income by being self-employed. But certainly, some see less.

It doesn’t have to be an either/or matter for the entrepreneurial-minded, though. Side gigs can be managed without “giving up your day job” by doing work outside of regular work hours.

The effort is arguably worth it. A recent survey performed by The Hustle found that the average side-gig operator spent an average of 11 hours per week as their own boss, and earned $12,609 per year – an average of about $22 per hour. Real estate, management and money-related side gigs appeared to be the most lucrative, according to the survey.

The payoff can be more than in immediate income. You can use a side gig to hone new skills or test new ideas that can be used to fuel a career shift.

Set Up a (Real) Home Office

Whether you’re self-employed or just one of the lucky corporate employees who are allowed to work from home, there’s much to be said about a space that functions and feels more like an office and less like a bedroom or basement. Indeed, you might be more productive working at home, for yourself or for an employer.

Despite all the noise often made about the pros and cons of working from home, it’s not as widely available an option as you’d think. Only 7% of employers facilitate work-from-home options, according to Fundera, even though the option saves companies an estimated $44 billion per year. Fewer than 4% of employees (including freelance workers) are allowed to work from home for at least half the workweek, says Small Business Trends.

In other words, if you do have an employer that allows you to work from home, be sure to perform just as you would if in an office setting. Companies remain broadly suspicious of the practice.

The one area where it pays to spend more than you might like to on a home office is on a new computer. It is, for better or worse, the centerpiece of the modern work world. Not only are computers used to create and store documents, they’re also becoming the key means of communication with clients and customers. They’re even replacing phones with apps such as Skype. An unreliable or underpowered PC can quickly turn into a nuisance.

Get Healthy

The benefits of living a healthier lifestyle are clear: A longer life, feeling better and being able to physically do more are all good things.

However, there’s a financial upside to eating better and getting more exercise too. More than one, in fact. Chief among them is the sheer cost of being unhealthy, and as such, needing to see a doctor more often.

As part of efforts to make health insurance, and therefore health care, more affordable for everyone, deductibles have soared in recent years. In 2008, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average deductible for a single-person health plan was $735. It has since soared to $1,655. Premium prices are up, too, at $7,188 annually as of 2019, and the maximum out-of-pocket expense in 2019 for an ACA-compliant plan was $7,900 for individuals, and $15,800 for family plans.

Although health insurance is effectively a must-have, using it can prove expensive.

The other financial upside to healthier living: Feeling better, or not being distracted by fatigue, lets your mind stay sharp during sales calls, when meeting new people and when simply being sized up (literally and figuratively) by someone interested in your work. Every interaction or connection is in some way an effort to sell something. Being at your best makes it likelier you’ll perform well.

Get Organized

Most individuals who live disorganized lives, personally and professionally, would argue they don’t have time to organize. In reality, it takes more time, energy and money to not be organized.

Did you know the average American spends 2.5 days per year trying to track down lost items? That’s the case, according to a study by Pixie, a smart-location solution for missing objects. Did you also know that the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (yes, it’s a thing) reports that between 15% and 20% of the average household’s budget is wasted by buying items to replace ones that simply can’t be found? Here’s the kicker: NAPO also estimates that 40% of housework currently being done in the U.S. wouldn’t be necessary if we were willing to de-clutter.

It’s not just time and money. Your mental well-being is at stake, too. People who have successfully mastered the art of self-organization find they’re less stressed, sleep better and ultimately end up being more productive. In the workplace, a more organized desk, office, briefcase or vehicle makes a good impression on prospective clients, co-workers, even your boss.

Keep Your Brain Sharp

By many measures, it’s a cruel trick. Never before have people been expected to stay as focused as they are now, yet never before has it been so difficult to prevent your mind from being overwhelmed by a constant barrage of digital data.

Your smartphone has much to do with that. We check our phones for no particular reason about once every 12 minutes; some of us, more frequently.

But the challenge extends beyond just phones. On average, says productivity expert Chris Bailey, we’re distracted by something every 40 seconds. Bailey also says all the regular distractions we experience ultimately extend the time needed to complete a task by 50%. Plus, it can take several minutes just to resume the work being done before the distraction took place.

So, how do you keep your mind sharp in this kind of environment?

For one, try to put down the phone a little more often. Then, start following some of the other steps on this list.

Staying in shape isn’t just a good way to cut down on medical costs – it also helps brain health as you age. Art Kramer, professor of neuroscience and psychology at Northeastern University, tells Kiplinger that people who do more aerobic exercise tend to be better at solving problems, have better memory and show lower rates of dementia.

You want to “network,” too – but not just professionally. Being socially active has many positive effects on the brain, including areas that have to do with memory. So, as you can, try to interact with friends and family more often.

Build Your Own Website or Portfolio

The upside of building your own professional website or portfolio will vary from one person to the next, and with the intent. But if there’s any arguable reason not to invest in yourself in this way, cost isn’t it. The hosting price for a low-end (though still professional-looking) website can be less than $10 per month; for those willing to make a longer-term commitment, requesting and registering the domain name is often free.

What you can do with even the simplest of websites, however, is almost limitless.

Chief among those options for a job-seeker is the use of a website as a digital resume of sorts. But a website can provide a potential employer with work-related details that might otherwise be difficult to present with just one sheet of paper.

In that same vein, a website could serve as a repository of past work for individuals who offer services on a regular basis. Writers, artists and architects are just some of the people who benefit from being able to publicly showcase their work.

And naturally, any entrepreneur with e-commerce ambitions will want to develop a website, and spring for a few more of the bells and whistles required to do business online.

Hire a Career Coach

Sometimes it’s difficult to push yourself to the proverbial next level, whatever that might mean in your given field. Stagnation can sap creativity, and disappointment can quell drive. It’s all too easy to become complacent and resign yourself to doing the exact same thing until it’s time to retire.

A career coach might be just the kick in the pants you need.

But first, you need to understand what a career coach is, and what it isn’t. Career coaches aren’t headhunters. They also can’t tell you what sort of job you should be seeking. And they most certainly won’t be able to help if your impasses are personal rather than professional in nature.

A career coach can, however, help you identify your strengths and weakness as other people see them, assist you in formulating a career-advancement strategy and advise you on how to make a successful career change.

They’re not necessarily cheap. On a per-hour basis, they can charge anywhere between $75 and $250. Some ask for a longer-term, multimonth commitment that can cost a total of anywhere from $1,000 to $2,500.

But they can be worth the outlay. A promotion-related raise or a job offer with a new employer can easily fund such an investment within just a year.

Read Books

There’s a universe of great information floating around, ready to be gleaned. Much of it can’t be found at your workplace. Instead, it’s at a bookstore – or, for the more economically minded, a library.

The statistics on the matter are nothing short of amazing. Fast Company says the average CEO reads 60 books per year. Ben Eubanks, human resources analyst with Brandon Hall Group, believes “people who are successful are often crazy about reading. They make time for that because they understand how important it is, and it’s kind of like a secret weapon.” However, a person in the United States only reads between two and three books per year, most of those purely for pleasure.

A lot of that has to do with time available, but if you have recreational time you aren’t spending on reading, you might consider re-allocating it to hitting the books.

The upsides? Aside from the knowledge and perspective gained from teaching yourself about something new, reading also expands your vocabulary and opens up opportunities to discuss new ideas with your boss (current or prospective). There’s something powerful about being able to say, “That’s something I was just reading about the other day.”

One word of caution: Reading a work-related book just for the sake of being seen reading a work-related book can easily backfire. Most experienced managers can spot an effort get the wrong kind of attention. They might not like the tactic. Just read a book on faith that it will eventually matter, even if that means with a different employer.

By: James Brumley

Source: https://getpocket.com/

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Related Contents:

Mandatory Face Masks In The Workplace, Everything Employers Need To Know

A well-fitted, clean face mask is essential to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Different states and territories may have different rules about wearing face masks or coverings at work. This can depend on whether an enforceable government or public health direction applies so make sure you check if any of these directions apply to your business. You can be held legally accountable if you do not fulfil your employer health and safety obligations, as well as if you put your employees’ health at serious risk.

In this post we explain why ensuring your employees have correct face mask protection is crucial to avoiding legal issues and keeping your staff and customers safe. We’ll explain how to make sure you adhere to the rules correctly, avoid fines, and help you protect your staff and customers.

What are my employer obligations for employee face mask protection?

Workplace health and safety legislation in each state and territory stipulate employers’ obligations to protect workers from harm and provide a safe working environment.  This means ensuring that all employees wear face masks in the workplace if a health direction is in place to this effect. Even if there are no mandatory face mask restrictions in your workplace’s area, a health and safety risk assessment that you conduct in consultation with your workers may conclude that wearing face masks is a reasonable control measure to manage the risk of infectious respiratory disease transmission.

If a requirement to wear face masks is in place and an employee doesn’t have a clean mask to use, you must provide them with this protection. The type of face mask used will depend on the setting and it is your responsibility to provide training, instruction and correct information on how to handle the appropriate use, storage, decontamination and disposal of face mask protection where a government or public health direction is in place, or your risk assessment concludes that wearing masks is a reasonably necessary control measure.

How do I as an employer ensure we comply to the face mask rules correctly?

With active restrictions, it’s essential you regularly check up to-date public health orders on government websites. You have an obligation to conduct a risk assessment in consultation with your workers with respect to COVID-19 and it may be a mandatory requirement in specific circumstances such as where a worker has tested positive to COVID-19. When conducting a risk assessment, take into account how people move around the workplace, if your employees have contact with the public in the workplace as well as if there are any vulnerable workers in your business, then factor this in.

If wearing face masks is mandatory, it’s important to communicate this clearly. For employers, a written communication to staff can be a reassuring record of their responsibility to enforce the public health order.

As part of your duty to keep your staff safe, it’s vital you ensure employees have a clean supply of face masks in the workplace, and that they are properly informed on safe handling, use, storage, decontamination, and disposal of face masks.

Providing personal protective equipment such as a face mask can be an effective control measure to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and comply with health and safety obligations in the workplace. Therefore, if you run out of your supply of face masks, or they become unusable, you will need to replace them as soon as possible, this may mean closing the workplace temporarily, whilst more protection is purchased. If your employee’s mask becomes unusable during work-related travel, be assured you may reimburse them any costs in purchasing new protection and ask them to keep receipts and records.

What if my employee refuses to wear a face mask? 

First, discuss with the employee the reason for their refusal, if there is a valid reason such as a medical condition or illness or a disability. It is recommended to seek expert advice on alternatives for individual employees who fall into this category as employers need to balance an employee’s anti-discrimination, unfair dismissal, and general protections while ensuring that their refusal does not cause the business to breach its health and safety and public health directive obligations. At Employsure we offer expert advice to ensure a fair and safe workplace.

If the employee refuses to wear a face mask and has a valid reason, consider alternative duties for the employee or if the employee is able to work from home, you can allow then to do so. If working from home is absolutely not an option, then you can agree with the employee to take any accrued annual or long service leave or leave without pay while you investigate alternative options for the employee’s ongoing employment.

If the employee steadfastly refuses to wear a face mask and it is not for a valid reason and no agreement can be reached, employers may be in a position to initiate a disciplinary process. Always seek expert advice before initiating such a process.

Remember, it’s your responsibility to keep your employees safe and eliminate or reduce health risks as far as reasonably practicable. Gather as much expert knowledge as you can and be armed with information to adhere to your employer obligations. 

Employsure

Source: Mandatory Face Masks In The Workplace, Everything Employers Need To Know – Dynamic Business

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“Face mask wearers don’t get lax about washing hands, study suggests”. CNN. Feuer, William; Higgins-Dunn, Noah (8 June 2020).

“Asymptomatic spread of coronavirus is ‘very rare’, WHO says”. CNBC. “Q&A: Masks and COVID-19”. World Health Organization. 7 June 2020. Archived from the original on 27 July 2020. For more details on fabrics, see also

“Advice on the use of masks in the context of COVID-19”. World Health Organization. 5 June 2020.

“Advice on the use of masks for children in the community in the context of COVID-19”. World Health Organization. 21 August 2020. For an overview, see “Q&A: Children and masks related to COVID-19”. World Health Organization. 21 August 2020. “Q&A: Masks and COVID-19”. World Health Organization. 7 June 2020. Archived from the original on 27 July 2020.

“Use of cloth face coverings to help slow the spread of COVID-19”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 3 April 2020. López, Canela.

“Celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Hudson were criticized for wearing face masks early in the pandemic. Here’s what changed”. Business Insider.

“Transcript for CDC Telebriefing: CDC Update on Novel Coronavirus”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 12 February 2020.

“Fact check: Medical discharge document includes outdated CDC guidance on face masks”. Reuters. 3 July 2020. Fisher, Kiva A.; Barile, John P.; Guerin, Rebecca J.; Vanden Esschert, Kayla L.; Jeffers, Alexiss; Tian, Lin H.; Garcia-Williams, Amanda; Gurbaxani, Brian; Thompson, William W.; Prue, Christine E. (17 July 2020).

“Factors Associated with Cloth Face Covering Use Among Adults During the COVID-19 Pandemic – United States, April and May 2020”. MMWR. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 69 (28): 933–937. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6928e3. PMID32673303. S2CID220606747. Jingnan, Huo (10 April 2020).

“Why There Are So Many Different Guidelines For Face Masks For The Public”. NPR. Mills, Russell (29 July 2020). “CDC director: Face masks “our most powerful tool” to fight COVID-19″. 102.3 KRMG. Brooks, John T.; Butler, Jay C.; Redfield, Robert R. (14 July 2020).

“Universal Masking to Prevent SARS-CoV-2 Transmission – The Time Is Now”. JAMA. 324 (7): 635–637. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.13107. PMID32663243. Henry, Tanya Albert (17 July 2020).

“CDC’s Dr. Redfield: This is why everyone should be wearing masks”. American Medical Association.

“Personal Protective Equipment: Questions and Answers”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 8 August 2020. Archived from the original on 10 August 2020.

“Considerations for wearing cloth face coverings : help slow the spread of COVID-19”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 28 June 2020. Miller, Sara G. (13 August 2020).

“Does your mask have a valve on it? It won’t stop the spread of coronavirus, CDC says”. NBC News.

“Scientific Brief: Community Use of Cloth Masks to Control the Spread of SARS-CoV-2”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 10 November 2020. Public DomainThis article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.“Interim Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations for Healthcare Personnel During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 15 July 2020. Archived from the original on 30 July 2020.

“Strategies for Optimizing the Supply of N95 Respirators”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 28 June 2020. Archived from the original on 28 July 2020. Public DomainThis article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.“When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 27 July 2021. Archived from the original on 28 July 2021. Aubrey, Allison (27 July 2021).

“CDC Urges Vaccinated People To Mask Up Indoors In Places With High Virus Transmission”. NPR.

3 Tips for Increasing Happiness at Work

Given that many of us will spend up to one-third of our lives at work, it’s not surprising that happiness at work is a topic of concern. Research shows that our happiness at work determines how motivated, productive, and engaged we are.

As an ACHIEVE trainer for the Psychological Safety in the Workplace workshop, I have had many discussions with participants and teams about workplace well-being and satisfaction. I am often asked, “What actions and circumstances best lead to happiness at work?” 

The answer? Happiness at work is complex. Various influences and factors contribute to our well-being at work including organizational culture, the alignment between our values and the organization’s, and the level of job compensation and security.

While some of these factors may be beyond our control, happiness can be enhanced through specific behavioural and cognitive practices, referred to in positive psychology as “positive interventions.”

Here are three positive interventions you can use to increase your happiness at work:

Strive for the Happiness Zone

Research shows that 40 percent of personal happiness results from our own actions, behaviours, and thought patterns. This 40 percent zone is where you have some control over your happiness and where practicing positive interventions will be most helpful. However, this practice will be different for everyone. Some people are happiest when they accomplish a goal at work, while others feel most happy when they are connected and collaborating with colleagues. It’s important to understand which activities contribute to individual happiness at work.

Prioritize the behaviours, actions, and conditions that lead to a sense of well-being during the workday.

One way to begin is to prioritize the behaviours, actions, and conditions that lead to a sense of well-being during the workday. Take note of activities that seem to uplift your mood during the week. Carefully observe your workdays, becoming mindful of the activities, behaviours, or situations that create a sense of a good day versus a bad day. Look for a pattern across the days and weeks. Are there certain activities, situations, or circumstances that consistently seem to contribute to a positive workday? Make a conscious effort to prioritizing doing more of them.

Focus on Meaningful Interactions

The importance of interpersonal connections at work is noted in ACHIEVE’s book, The Culture Question: How to Create a Workplace Where People Like to Work. People are more apt to feel satisfied and engaged when they have positive relationships at work.

A first step to creating meaningful connections at work is to improve your listening skills and increase the depth and value of your interactions. During a workplace interaction, consciously choose to actively listen to what someone has to say and invite them to share more during the conversation. Researchers refer to this as listening generously – we allow the person to have the entire spotlight to feel genuinely listened to and validated.

Simple responses like “That’s great, I’d like to hear more,” or “It sounds like this is important to you, I’d like to learn more,” can make a team member feel more valued, resulting in increased well-being at work. As the listener, you feel good too because you are creating a more meaningful interaction. Remember, the more connected and positive interactions we have with work colleagues, the happier our work experience.

Generate Gratitude

Completing a gratitude exercise even once a week has been proven to increase happiness over time. There is no better place to practice gratitude than at work, given the amount of time we spend there.

People are more apt to feel satisfied and engaged when they have positive relationships at work.

One of the most simple and effective ways to practice gratitude is by keeping a gratitude journal. Record the things in your workweek you felt grateful for. Examples may include compliments you received about your work, small wins or accomplishments, or completing a difficult task. To make this team-based, try keeping a gratitude jar.

Invite your colleagues to join you in recording things they are grateful for. Use sticky notes, or if you are a virtual team, post something on a virtual collaborative whiteboard. On Friday, go through the notes. The best part of this simple exercise is the immediate uplift in mood and perspective shift that occurs from recognizing just how many things went well during the workweek.

Workplace happiness takes effort and practice, but the result is improved well-being, greater productivity, and stronger workplace connections – all of which can result in decreased stress and more work satisfaction. Happiness at work is truly worth the effort.

By:Jennifer Kelly

Source: 3 Tips for Increasing Happiness at Work | ACHIEVE Centre for Leadership

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How to Hire With a Vaccine Mandate in Place

Asking prospective employees about their vaccination status can be awkward–and possibly lead to legally sticky situations. Some prospective employees will appreciate it if your company is mandating Covid-19 vaccinations. While surgical-grade facemasks have proven somewhat effective at preventing the spread of Covid-19, a vaccine is currently the only true way to protect yourself and others from getting sick.

Others are less convinced. And if your company is in a hiring bind, as many are these days, you might need to codify and justify your safety policies. Here’s a primer on how to hire with a vaccine mandate in place.

Be transparent.

Nicolas Holand–founder of GooseSmurfs, a gaming company based in Indianapolis–has needed to hire nine new workers since July, when he added the vaccine to his company’s job requirements. He wants to avoid compromising the safety of his existing 46 employees.

“We also emphasize that this is a good thing for the candidates who may soon work in the workplace,” says Holand, noting that employees who are vaccinated are at a lower risk of contracting Covid-19 than those who remain unvaccinated. “They are more protected and resistant to any potential infection of Covid and therefore their workdays won’t be affected,” he adds.

While Holand says that so far, all of the candidates he’s hired has agreed to GooseSmurfs’s vaccination policy and most of them already had their full dose. The founder suspects he’s had a smoother time with the process because the company has been transparent and direct with its requirements on the job post itself. He says most candidates who were hesitant about the mandate likely didn’t apply. “Overall, being straightforward about the policy made the hiring process easier and seamless,” he says.

Make the vaccine a condition of employment.

When people take a job, they do so with an understanding of a job’s requirements. As an employer, you don’t want to violate that contractual agreement because it could lead to turnover. That’s why it’s crucial to outline any vaccine policies with candidates before they accept the position, says John Hooker, professor of business ethics and social responsibility at Carnegie Mellon University.

Additionally, if you have a policy in which some workers are required to be vaccinated, such as those in the office, and others are not, that rationale should be clear upfront. “It’s critical to have these kind of [policies] run across the entire company, as opposed to allowing them for some people and not for others,” says Hooker.

And if you do require a vaccine for some and not others, Hooker suggests making your reasoning known: “There must be a reason for that distinction and it shouldn’t be arbitrary.” Employees are less likely to push back on policies when they understand the rationale behind them, he says.

Don’t ask about a prospective worker’s vaccination status.

If you have a mandate in place, you likely want to know whether you will have to accommodate a new employee who isn’t vaccinated. While it’s fine to ask about a person’s vaccination status, you can’t make your hiring decision based on that person’s status alone. If a candidate is turned down for a job, and is told it is because he or she won’t receive the vaccine, they can file a discrimination lawsuit.

It is illegal both under federal and state laws to discriminate against an employee based on his or her medical condition with regard to employment decisions. It is, however, difficult for applicants to prove that a company didn’t hire them because of a health condition, says Jared Pope, HR law specialist CEO of Work Shield, a Dallas-based HR software company.

If you do decide to pass on candidates after having a conversation about their vaccination status, be cordial. Thank them for applying and let them know that you’ll keep them in mind should a position open up that would be a better fit.

An even better idea? Don’t ask at all. Talk about the company’s policy regarding vaccines during the interview process. Let the candidate know if any exceptions can be made if they choose to move forward. “Questions about the workplace can be asked and answered in an interview, and are not discriminatory or illegal in nature,” says Pope. Down the line, you can require proof of vaccination, he adds.

By Brit Morse, Assistant editor, Inc.@britnmorse

Source: https://www.inc.com/

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The Pandemic Led Many Women To Rethink Work. Here’s What They Want Most From Employers

No one had it easy during the pandemic, but the data shows that women may have had a harder time than men. At the end of 2020, women held 5.4 million fewer jobs than they had in February 2020, before the pandemic began. Meanwhile, men lost 4.4 million jobs over that same time period.

While working-age women overall have largely recovered since the depths of the pandemic, mothers have repaired their losses more slowly.  As of July 2021, nearly 1 million fewer mothers were actively working than in July 2020, according to Misty Heggeness, principal economist and senior adviser at the Census Bureau.

There are things employers can do to help. In a panel discussion on Tuesday hosted by the Independent Women’s Forum, a national organization dedicated to developing and advancing policies for women, experts discussed what employers can do to keep their female employees, especially those with children, on the payroll. Here are three things women say they want:

1. Accessible child care.

Many of the current struggles women face derive from finding adequate and affordable child care, said Angela Rachidi, senior fellow and Rowe Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that researches government, politics, economics, and social welfare.

She noted that many employer policies don’t completely meet a family’s needs, such as providing access to a convenient childcare provider. It’s also not particular to the pandemic, she noted that workplaces should be focusing on policies that offer more flexible, more affordable options, as opposed to just blanket childcare subsidies.

“I think that that’s where our focus should be,” said Rachidi. “It should be not only our government policies, but again, our workplace policies to make child care better, and meet the needs of families.”

2. Workplace flexibility.

Flexibility is vital to all working parents–not just mothers–but mothers are often quicker to express a desire to have the flexibility to work a reduced schedule, if need be, said Rachel Greszler, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington D.C. So if the goal is to keep working parents on the payroll–or get them back–allow them time off during the day if needed, or the ability to structure their own hours.

If you’ve offered more flexibility during the pandemic, think about maintaining those policies or asking employees their thoughts on new schedules. “The pandemic has allowed employers to see that they’re able to have these policies. And not only the paid family leave, but the remote work and the flexibility. And I think just will become a silver lining coming out of all of this,” said Greszler.

3. Paid-time off.

Paid-time off is useful for parents, who need the time to care for an infant or an ill loved one. President Biden’s American Families Plan includes $225 billion to create a paid medical and family leave program. The program would eventually guarantee 12 weeks of paid leave, and providing a federal subsidy for workers of up to $4,000 per month. The Department of Labor found that 95 percent of the lowest-wage workers, mostly women and workers of color, lack any access to paid family leave, so the program is needed.

But to keep women in the workforce long term, you should offer both paid leave and increased flexibility, said Greszler, because paid family leave, while necessary may have a lower utility for women on a day-to-day basis than, say, malleable hours.

“I don’t think [a lack of] paid family leave is is holding women back,” said Greszler. “Women increasingly value flexibility far more than family leave.”

Even so, both policies can be done and the balance of the two may also help employees be more productive. In 2019, for example the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation decided its generous 52-week paid parental leave policy was not working because too many workers would be out at the same time, creating more disruption that it was worth. Instead, the organization decided to offer half as much paid leave and a $20,000 stipend to new parents to help cover expenses and childcare.

Source: The Pandemic Led Many Women to Rethink Work. Here’s What They Want Most From Employers | Inc.com

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The Unspoken Reasons Employees Don’t Want Remote Work To End

It’s no secret that employee-employer tensions about heading back to the workplace are growing. As more employers push to get employees back in-house, the workers themselves are taking a harder stand. An April 2021 survey by FlexJobs found that 60% of women and 52% of men would quit if they weren’t allowed to continue working remotely at least part of the time. Sixty-nine percent of men and 80% of women said that remote work options are among their top considerations when looking for a new job.

The “official” reasons that they don’t want to head back to the workplace are well-documented. They’re more productive. It’s easier to blend work and life when your commute is a walk down the hallway. But, for some, the reasons are more personal and difficult to share. Who will walk the dog they adopted during the pandemic? They gained weight and need to buy new work clothes. The thought of being trapped in a cubicle all day makes them want to cry.

We spoke with several people who shared their very personal reasons why they don’t want to return to work. (Because of the sensitive nature of some of the comments, Fast Company has allowed some of the individuals to use a pseudonym to protect their identities.)

‘I need to nap during the day’

Since 2013, when a backpacking incident caused a spine injury that required two surgeries, Lynn (not her real name) has been dealing with chronic pain and sleep issues. As a result, she’s often tired during the day and realized she wasn’t at her best, especially after lunch, when fatigue would often set in.

“When I’m in meetings, and people throw questions to me, I can’t really answer instantly [or I] say the wrong things,” she says. She didn’t feel comfortable talking to her boss or colleagues about the issues she was facing and was dealing with anxiety, depression, and hair loss in recent years as a result of her sleep issues. But, during the pandemic, she’s been able to adjust her schedule so she can take a nap during her lunch hour and rest periodically when she needs to do so. (Research tells us that naps are good for our brains.)

Since she’s been working from home, her productivity has soared—and her supervisor has noticed and begun complimenting her on her work. She feels sharper and healthier. Her biggest concern right now, she says, is that she will have to give up the balance she has finally found.

‘I’d give up my raise for remote work’

Melvin Gonzalez, a certified public accountant (CPA) for Inc and Go, an online business formation website, is facing a dilemma. “I love my career, love my job, and have amazing benefits which include a lifelong pension—something very rare in today’s labor force,” he says. “However, as with everything in life, there is a price to pay: my commute,” he says. Gonzalez travels two hours each way, which adds up to more than 20 hours per week just getting to and from work.

Gonzalez said he never really considered how much time he was spending on commuting until he worked from home during the pandemic, He used the extra time—the equivalent of a part-time job—to go to the gym, spend time with his wife and children, and still get his work done.

Now that he’s facing heading back to the office, he’s not ready to give up that time. He and his colleagues have shared their concerns with their employer, but he doesn’t think remote work will continue to be an option. He says he’s even willing to give up a raise to keep his flexibility. “This has certainly become my main concern about going back to the office,” he says. “I believe my mood for work will not be the same.”

‘I’m in recovery’

Until the pandemic hit, Frank (not his real name) worked at a high-end restaurant in Philadelphia. What his co-workers didn’t know at the time was that he was struggling with alcoholism. The environment, where he had ready access to alcohol and co-workers who loved to go out for drinks after work, made it difficult for him to quit.

But, while many saw their substance abuse issues increase during the pandemic’s isolation, Frank was able to get his addiction under control, he says. Now that the restaurant is resuming full service again and inviting him to return to his old job, he has concerns about whether that will put his recovery in jeopardy. “Most people don’t recover because they’re not willing to change their lifestyle,” he says. If he refuses to return to his old job, money will be tight, but he’s pretty sure he can make a go of it. “I also don’t want to admit to all of my co-workers that I’m a recovering alcoholic,” he says.

‘I don’t want to give up my side hustle

“My reluctance is really the opportunity cost of commuting,” says Shondra (not her real name), a public relations professional in New York City. Before she was laid off in April 2020, she would wake at 6 a.m. to have enough time to get ready, walk her dog, commute, and start work by 10 a.m. After she was laid off, she started picking up freelance work, which turned out to be lucrative—and which she could easily do from home.

Shondra has a new employer, but the plan about whether or not employees will be required to be back at the office full-time is “very unclear,” she says. For now, she has plenty of time to complete her responsibilities for her employer and work on her freelance projects. That won’t be the case if she goes back to her long commute. Plus, the thought of being on mass transit with so many other people gives her pause from a safety perspective, she says.

She’s waiting to see what happens but is reluctant to give up the freelance work that got her through her layoff. “It’s given me the opportunity to build a nice nest egg, in case—God forbid—something like that happens again,” she says. “I don’t want to lose this opportunity by having to return to the office full-time.”

Gwen Moran is a writer, editor, and creator of Bloom Anywhere, a website for people who want to move up or move on. She writes about business, leadership, money, and assorted other topics for leading publications and websites

Source: The unspoken reasons employees don’t want remote work to end

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3 Critical Metrics You Need to Assess the Overall Health of Your Workplace

Early on in the summer, no one would fault you for exuberantly plotting your back-to-the-office plan. Hospitalizations for Covid-19 were waning and it suddenly seemed like life was once again approaching normal. However, with the more contagious Delta variant now spreading across the U.S., you’ll want to assess the potential health risks of opening up the office.

Here are a few questions you should ask yourself before bring employees back:

How safe is your physical workspace?

Your office or physical space may have been suitable for work prior to the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean it will be moving forward. One major example is air quality.

Business owners need to focus on having enhanced ventilation and filtration, says Dr. Joseph Allen, director of the Healthy Buildings program and an associate professor at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Breathing and talking constantly admit respiratory aerosols that can build up indoors unless diluted out of the air or cleaned out of the air through filtration. And most buildings are designed to a minimum standard that was never intended to be protection against infectious diseases.

Before fixing anything, though, you have to know what your system is doing. Dr. Allen recommends every company “commission” their building, a process by which the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems of a building are tested for performance and functionality. “It’s the equivalent of giving your car a tune-up every year, and it’s not done enough,” Dr. Allen says.

There are also many ways to measure and verify the performance of your building, he adds. You can hire a mechanical engineer to determine how much air flow you’re getting. Low-cost real-time sensors can be used to verify ventilation rates. In a typical building, carbon dioxide concentrations are going to be about 1,000 parts per million, and ideally to slow the rate of infection levels, they should be under 800 parts per million.

And fixes don’t have to be laborious or expensive. Bringing a bit more outdoor air in can be as easy as opening windows or spending a couple of dollars to upgrade to quality air filters such as MERV 13 filters. Portable air filters are a bit more expensive at roughly $100 a piece, but they can greatly improve air quality.

How many employees are vaccinated?

You can absolutely ask employees whether they’re vaccinated, and if you’re bringing people back, or considering doing so, it’s not a bad idea. Northwell Health has done numerous surveys to assess their 15,000-person workforce to determine who is vaccinated and the reasons why those who have not gotten the vaccine are hesitant.

“When we started evaluating metrics around why people weren’t getting vaccinated, we got better insight into how to communicate with them and manage our concern,” says Joseph Moscola, executive vice president of enterprise services at Northwell Health.

One survey revealed that 7 percent of Northwell’s workforce didn’t get vaccinated because they were scared of needles. So the company crafted safe environments with music and comfortable chairs to help make the experience more inviting for those employees. Moscola says Northwell is aiming for a vaccination rate of 90 percent or higher before it considers its space safe. Currently 77 percent of Northwell’s 75,000 employees are fully vaccinated.

Also remind people of the risks of not getting a jab. While a vaccinated individual may still get Covid, they’re significantly less likely to have severe symptoms or be at risk of hospitalization than unvaccinated folks. That’s why it’s crucial to continue to encourage workers with any symptoms to stay home and get tested, as well as follow CDC and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) directives in the workplace. It’s also crucial to educate employees and your community on the advantages of vaccination.

Are employees are taking care of themselves?

One way to stay abreast of the physical health of employees is to check in and see if they’re taking care of themselves. This can be done through surveys, asking people if they describe themselves as healthy and well and also how often they take advantage of any medical benefits.

Self-insured employers also have access to claims data through their third-party administrator that can share general information like what percentage of employees had a primary care visit in the past 12 months, or what percentage of people have been seriously hospitalized, says Dr. Shantanu Nundy, chief medical officer at Accolade, a benefit provider for health care workers.

Consider also assessing how employees are doing mentally, he adds. You can ask employees to take surveys such as the Maslach Burnout Inventory, a psychological assessment comprising 22 symptom items pertaining to occupational burnout; the PHQ-9, a nine-question questionnaire measuring depression; and the GAD seven, a seven-item questionnaire measuring anxiety. Employees may not feel comfortable sharing this information, so it’s best to make it optional and tell employees that results are kept confidential.

Want some more information and tips?

Find more information on what you can do as an organization, manager or employee:

“While a lot of people are dealing with clinical depression or clinical anxiety, many are dealing with a new kind of emotional stress due to the pandemic, which can include not feeling safe or heard or included in the workplace,” says Dr. Nundy. “These surveys can offer a comprehensive clinical health and environmental view of how your workforce is doing.”

Source: 3 Critical Metrics You Need to Assess the Overall Health of Your Workplace | Inc.com

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