But in the past 15 months, we’ve lived through a pandemic and a global recession, which led to mass burnout and a spike in voluntary resignations. This new normal means hybrid offices and awkward first encounters with coworkers.
One of the many changes 2021 has brought to the US job market – 9.2 million job openings. Job seekers have the advantage while on the hunt, but they need to know how to use it.
Navigating all the changes in our “work life” over the last year would make anyone’s head spin.
Here are five things any worker who feels they are struggling with should know when trying to excel in their career.
Remote work eliminated work-life balance, but some companies are looking to compensate
The pandemic transformed our living rooms into our office spaces – not the healthiest change for those who already struggled with taking their work home with them.
Burnout has left 61% of Americans feeling at least somewhat burnout and more than 80% have reported that COVID-19 has been a source of change in their lives. With the pandemic causing undue stress on everyone, an unhealthy office culture only adds to the pressure.
Employers need to lead the way in implementing wellness techniques that teach their employees how to care for themselves, take their PTO, and take advantage of flexible work environments.
Low pay and unreasonable working conditions across the retail, hospitality, and fast food businesses have created a crisis of, “rage quitting.” While it may feel good to walk out without notice, sometimes it is better to salvage professional connections.
Telling an employer you’re leaving is never easy, but it’s important to be candid.
Whether it be because of recession or resignation, a lot of candidates are on the job hunt.
Searching for a new role can be intimidating, but job seekers should always start by identifying which industries are hiring and what connections they have within them. After finding the job posting of your dreams it’s all about perfecting your résumé, cover letter, and interview techniques.
Never underestimate the need to customize your application for every job posting – learn from the experts about how to stand out as the pool of job seekers grows.
Tips and tricks to help you land a coveted remote job
As lockdown dragged on, people were eager to return to in-person socialization, but the same can’t be said for in-person work.
Freelancers and remote workers were quick to open their inboxes to provide their years of expertise to “conventional workers” who had to quickly set up home offices and adjust to Zoom meetings. And some vacation hotspots welcomed remote workers to bring their laptops and soak up the sun and WiFi.
For those who have been sold on remote work, staying at a company that is committed to providing flexibility is a priority. While many companies – such as Apple, Indeed, and Airbnb – have extended their work from home policies through much of 2021, finding a company that is committed to the practice permanently can be difficult. And the demand is high.
To set yourself up for success, learn what companies are hiring remote workers, how to talk to your boss about working from home, and what can make you stand out when applying for a remote job.
Whether virtually or in person, you spend the majority of your day with your coworkers. If you like them enough, you might even plan on getting them a gift as a thank you for all the good times in and out of the office.
Giving a gift to a great boss – someone who makes a big difference in how you approach daily work activities and grow professionally – can feel a little tricky. Since they’re your manager, it’s important that your gift maintains professionalism but still gets the message across that you appreciate their hard work.
Below, we’ve rounded up 38 great gifts for your boss, from useful desk accessories to gorgeous notebooks.
See all 38 affordable gifts for your boss:
This list includes a Sponsored Product that has been suggested by Crowd Cow. It also meets our editorial criteria in terms of quality and value.*
The makers of our favorite magnetic desk toy have a new way to reduce stress and keep your boss entertained. With these colorful magnetic blocks, they can take a mental break or use the opportunity to refocus their mind as they build creative sculptures.
If they spend a lot of time in the kitchen, they probably already know the merits of high-quality olive oil. A drizzle of Alive from Brightland adds a vibrant, zesty flavor to any dish. Plus, the beautiful bottle will look great on display in their kitchen.
Studies focused on the benefits of adult coloring books often reveal mandalas are the most effective designs for relaxation and induction of a meditative state. Their complex geometric patterns can be traced back to both ancient Buddhist and Hindu traditions.
This affordable book contains 50 mandalas that vary in complexity and detail, so you can work your way up to the most challenging patterns slowly or you can work on a simple design when time is limited.
The Google Nest Mini offers a compact, affordable smart speaker with Google Assistant built-in. They’ll love being able to dim lights, control the volume on their TV, check the weather, and more, all with just the sound of their voice. Read our full review of the Google nest Mini here.
This option is best for people who prefer Google’s tech ecosystem. You may also want to consider the Amazon Echo Dot for Amazon users.
A personalized video message from their favorite celebrity
If your workplace is less formal, you could get them a personalized message from their favorite celebrity. Whether they love a certain musician, reality TV star, comedian, or actor in a show you’ve both bonded over, there’s a good chance you can find them on Cameo. The price will depend on the star, but there are plenty of options.
Michelin-starred chef Hooni Kim’s debut cookbook is a crash course in the essentials of Korean cuisine. The book’s tagline of “traditional flavors, modern recipes” is exactly what you should expect — from its take on Dolsot Bibimbap to Budae Jjigae to Hanjan’s Spicy Rice Cakes.
Under Armour’s Sportmask was designed with athletes in mind, as reflected in its breathability, water resistance, and UPF 50+ sun protection. Thanks to the Sportsmask, they won’t have to sacrifice their workout routine or their comfort.
Most of us are spending a lot more time at home these days. And it’s more enjoyable to do that when you’re wearing some of the most comfortable slippers on the planet. We are big fans of the ReNew Slippers from Everlane — and they’re relatively inexpensive.
Muji’s fine 0.38mm tip pen is a cult favorite — including among our teammates. According to the company, the water-based ink enables smooth writing, minimal bleeding, and a mechanism that helps keep the ink from drying out. If they write handwritten notes for work, they may have an outsized appreciation for this small but impactful upgrade. They’re sold out on Muji, but you can still find them on Amazon.
A set of notebooks with a bullet journaling system
This unique, thoughtful gift embosses books with “from the library of [their name]” by pressing down on it like a hole-puncher — it’s the kind of thing most people would never buy themselves but will genuinely cherish if they receive it as a gift. They can use it on books as well as envelopes.
Three months of great hardcover books delivered to their door
Book of the Month has been around for more than 90 years — and it’s credited with hand-selecting and helping popularize books that range from Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” to J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye.” With your gift, your boss will get to choose between five new hardcover options the book club suggests every month.
If they’re getting tired of their office being in their living room, they’ll appreciate this kit that takes a bit of the strain out of working from home. A conference call bingo card, desk yoga guide, and fidget cube are just a few of the quirky (yet useful) items they’ll find in this set.
If you and your boss have a humorous rapport going, they could get a kick out of this witty take on the everyday office signage. Plus, the sleek wooden and gold design let the sign speak for itself without appearing as overly kitschy.
Not that we’re encouraging sleeping on the job, but this mini pillow does make spontaneous naps very tempting. It’s the smaller but equally comfortable and supportive version of one of our favorite pillows and even has its own pillowcase and travel bag.
First impressions matter, which is why they should be pulling out business cards from a handsome leather case. It has a no-fuss, invisible magnetic closure and can hold up to 20 cards. Choose from pebbled or smooth leathers in a variety of colors, or upgrade to premium leather. You can also add a monogram for an additional $10.
A soft throw to fight freezing office temperatures
Popular women’s workwear brand MM.LaFleur makes excellent pants and blazers that are definitely an investment, but totally worth the price. Its Bento Box contains these stylish and comfortable wardrobe staples to take the headache out of getting dressed in the morning.
It’s a pretty vase that pulls double-duty, holding both the fresh bouquet that brightens their day and the electronics that keeps them productive. There’s a groove at the bottom of the stand to keep unsightly charging cords out of the way, too.
If there’s anything that can power them through a long workday, it’s cold brew. Just combine water and ground coffee (not included), and stick the bottle in the fridge for a refreshing caffeinated treat.
The Korean sheet masks in this box are sure to bring some much-needed relief to any stressed-out boss. The brands, which often use out-of-the-ordinary ingredients, are usually difficult to find outside of Korea, but FaceTory makes them both accessible and affordable.
Mix and match jars of fig preserves, triple berry preserves, apple butter, pumpkin butter, and more to create a sweet breakfast starter kit. The size is also perfect for their desk if they ever want a small and sweet afternoon pick-me-up.
This portable cable charges up Apple devices quickly and claims to be six times stronger than the standard lightning cable, boasting a 10,000-bend lifespan. The knotted cable also looks great and makes it easy to fish out the charger from their bag.
A versatile toiletry bag to bring on their travels
Dagne Dover’s durable and quick-drying neoprene is most notably featured in the brand’s popular backpacks and gym bags, but it’s also well-suited for this small bag that organizes your boss’s life on the go. It includes a removable air mesh pouch and is available in a range of dusky colors and camo patterns.
Away’s highly popular mini versions of its internet-famous suitcase are back. The light and stylish polycarbonate accessory can store and protect your boss’ essentials like jewelry and accessories — and it’s nowhere near as expensive as a real suitcase.
Crowd Cow specializes in environmentally conscious seafood and meat that doesn’t sacrifice quality, all the way down to its 100% carbon-neutral packaging. If you’re not sure which gift bundle is best based on your boss’ dietary preferences, stocking stuffers like jerky and rubs also make great choices.
*Sponsored by Crowd Cow
Desk cable clips that keep cords neat and organized
This small but practical gift will sort out their jumble of cords for good. If you’re worried that the set doesn’t look significant enough, you can pair a few of these cable clips with a nice card and some candy.
The ergonomic comfort of a classic tall cup plus Hydro Flask’s signature double-wall vacuum insulation makes this a coffee or tea vessel they’ll always keep on hand. It keeps their beverage hot for up to six hours and includes a press-in lid to prevent spills.
Send them this assortment of sweet and savory popcorn to get the new quarter started. This particular edition contains four decadent flavors of Moose Munch: classic caramel, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, and milk chocolate s’mores.
Amazon’s newest version of its bestselling smart speaker has an improved sound and look. Whether they want to coordinate a smooth-sailing smart home experience or enjoy music out loud, the Echo Dot can keep up.
A reusable utensil kit that helps them cut down on waste
When they leave the office to grab lunch (or if they’re into camping and hiking), they can use these stainless steel utensils instead of plastic or paper options. It folds up conveniently so it can go with them anywhere.
Let’s say your colleague shows up for your Zoom meeting crying. When you ask what’s wrong, they share that they’re having a tough time balancing the demands of work with three young children at home, caregiving for aging parents, and dealing with a spouse who travels constantly for work.
So, what does this colleague look like? Did you picture a woman?
If so, you’re not alone. Like so many of us, you may have some implicit gender bias about things like who’s more likely to cry at work, who takes care of young children, or who is a caregiver for aging parents.
Gender bias is the tendency to associate certain traits with one gender over another. Sometimes, this means favoring one gender over the other. And gender bias is just one of many biases that we need to be aware of – and work on – to support our colleagues during stressful times.
But let me start with some good news if you’re struggling with the assumptions you made: If you have a brain, you have bias. We tend to think of bias as a bad thing, but it isn’t always.
Bias is a natural byproduct of the way our brains work. Biases help us categorize objects so that we can quickly determine what’s safe and what isn’t. Biases help us make decisions more easily so that we don’t have to tap into our cognitive bandwidth every time we decide something. A bias toward eating more vegetables and less dessert is a healthy bias, for example.
For most of us, starting at a young age, we start to discriminate between those who are like us – the “in group” – and those who are not like us – the “out group.” Recognizing our in group can help us develop our sense of identity, belonging, security, and safety – but it can also lead to harmful prejudices.
So, let’s look at some biases we should all be aware of, especially when creating a climate of openness and trust for our colleagues who are experiencing stress.
Be aware of discrimination and its effects
Chances are, you’re working with colleagues who are part of marginalized populations, which are groups that may experience discrimination because of unequal power relationships across economic, political, social, and cultural dimensions. Here are just a few:
Military combat veterans
People with physical disabilities
People with mental illness, including substance abuse and other addiction disorders
People on the autism spectrum
Of course, your colleague doesn’t have to identify with one of these categories to be subject to discrimination. Perceived discrimination consistently has been shown to be associated with diminished mental health, and even the anticipation of discrimination can lead to higher stress levels. Constantly feeling on edge or unsure about how you’ll be treated can trigger a long-standing stress response.
Whether it’s related to ethnicity, sexual orientation, or beliefs, feeling undervalued and uncertain about the future directly impacts mental health now and in the future.
Learn about stereotypes and microaggressions
So what can we do about discrimination issues? We need to be mindful of our own stereotypes and microaggressions. Stereotypes are oversimplified ideas about a particular type of person or a group of people.
So, if you’re speaking with a woman about her stress, make sure you don’t assume that she’s the primary caregiver at home. If you’re speaking with a colleague with a disability about his stress, don’t assume that his stress is related to his disability.
And what about microaggressions? According to Columbia University’s Derald Wing Sue, “microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.”
So, if you’re speaking with a non-native English speaker about stress, don’t “compliment them” for being able to speak so clearly or fluently. If you’re speaking with a non-binary colleague about their stress, don’t say, “I can’t keep up with your latest pronouns.”
Finally, we shouldn’t assume that the stress a colleague of ours is experiencing right now is about their marginalized group experience. And we also shouldn’t assume that it isn’t. There’s more about other people’s experiences, cultures, and backgrounds than we can ever truly understand. So be thoughtful, careful, compassionate, and open to feedback about how you’re speaking and showing up for everyone – equitably.
While making work friends can be awkward, one way to break the ice is to start complaining.
Complaining about work tasks means you trust the other person not to spill your secrets, and can lead to closer friendships down the line, according to The Cut. One researcher calls productive work gossip “pro-social,” or gossip that can lead to warning your peers about difficult managers or other information that results in more productive work.
Some experts, however, warn against getting too chummy with your coworker. While some lighthearted gossiping can be positive, there are certain phrases or conversations that can make you sound unprofessional (and even harassing).
“Negative comments about a coworker to another coworker will make you look worse than the person you’re talking about, and guess who will be the one who looks bad when it gets back to the person you’re talking about?” Randall says.
Don’t tell your coworker you like the way her pants fit on her
Be selective about what you compliment.
Commenting about a coworker’s physical appearance is considered unprofessional, Randall says – and worse, could be sexual harassment.
Don’t tell a coworker, ‘You people are always causing problems’
Topics like religion, politics, and child-rearing sometimes come up in the workplace, Randall says. But to negatively comment about any group is unwise and unprofessional, and it could get you in trouble for harassment.
Never ask a coworker if she’s pregnant
This question rarely results in a positive outcome.
“If your coworker is not pregnant, you have insulted her,” Oliver says. “If she is pregnant, she probably isn’t ready to discuss it yet. Keep observations like this to yourself.”
Don’t say, ‘I’m sorry to be a bother’
“Why are you saying you’re a bother?” Pachter asks.
And if you are truly sorry about something you haven’t done yet, why would you go ahead and do it anyway?
“Excuse me. Do you have a moment?” works much better, she says.
Don’t tell your coworkers you are looking for another job, or ask if they know who’s hiring
“Sharing this with your coworkers may cause them to instinctively distance themselves, knowing you will no longer be a part of the team,” Randall says.
“They also might unintentionally leak the information to your supervisor, which could explain your lack of productivity and absences, resulting in a poor reference or an invitation to pick up your paycheck earlier than you expected,” she says.
Don’t say: ‘See this rash? I’m expecting the lab results tomorrow.’
“Except for maybe your mom or spouse, no one really wants to see or hear about peculiar rashes or any nausea-inducing medical conditions,” Randall says. “Limit your sharing to a cold or headache.”
Try not to start all of your sentences with ‘I think’
Saying “I think” is sometimes acceptable, but only if you truly are unsure.
“Using ‘I think’ can make you appear wishy-washy,” Pachter says. When you know something, state it directly: “The meeting will be at 3 pm.”
Don’t tell a coworker you were surprised when she was asked to present
You might as well say, “It should have been me.”
“The professional response would be, ‘Congratulations,'” Randall says.
Don’t say: ‘Do you mind covering for me while I’m in Bora Bora?’
Flaunting your luxurious lifestyle with your colleagues may set off a jealousy epidemic, Oliver says. In general, it’s best to avoid bragging about how great your life is.
Don’t ask your coworker if you’re invited to a party you overheard him talk about
“This is the grown-up world – not everyone will be invited to everything,” Randall says. “Besides, are you prepared for the answer?”
Don’t tell your coworkers you’re stealing office supplies
You just admitted to stealing, a cause for termination and, at the very least, loss of trust, Randall says.
Don’t bring up personal relationship issues
“Intimate details about your personal relationships can divulge unfavorable information about you,” Randall says.
Sharing intimate details about your love life falls into the “too much information” category, she says, and “if it doesn’t enhance your professional image, or enrich workplace relationships, you should keep it to yourself.”
Don’t call your coworker a “credit snatcher”
Maybe your colleague or boss took credit for your work, but carping about the problem to your coworkers rarely helps, Oliver says. Instead, it’s best to address the issue with the person who took credit for your idea.
Don’t comment on your coworkers hair or ask to touch it
Commenting on a coworker’s hair or asking to touch it isn’t just inappropriate, it could be considered harassment or a racist microaggression.
Don’t tell your coworkers you’re suing the company
“Whether the charge is legitimate or not, spreading it around will not serve you well – just ask your attorney,” Randall says.
If you’re really suing your employer, it’s best to conduct yourself with discretion and dignity and continue to perform your duties to the best of your ability. If this becomes impossible, you should consider resigning, Randall says.
“But if this is your go-to threat when you’re unhappy about something, stop it,” she says.
Rachel Gillett contributed to an earlier version of this article.