With many businesses planning to increase their head count in the next 12 months, employees are finding themselves in the driver’s seat with unprecedented leverage when it comes to how and where they want to work. For employers, this shift in power has caused a whole new set of challenges, compounded by a critical worker shortage. In fact, according to the most recent Vistage CEO Confidence Index, 62% of CEOs recently said hiring challenges are impacting their ability to operate at full capacity,
The rapid adoption of a flexible, hybrid work model because of the pandemic has meant a reexamination of what’s needed to retain and attract talent. Leadership is operating without a playbook rather than leveraging best practices and proven strategies; it’s no mystery why many CEOs are struggling to design the workforce they need.
There are some important factors that can make or break an organization when it comes to navigating these uncharted waters. In much the same way colleges recruit athletes, businesses need to design a smart strategy that appeals to current and prospective employees on multiple levels to be competitive. While the Vistage report found that 51% of organizations are refining recruitment strategies to boost their position in the talent wars, there are some vital steps all businesses should take right now, including:
Offer career trajectory and focus on leadership development
People are hungry for a career with meaning and purpose rather than just a job where they punch the clock. Half of the businesses surveyed are focusing on developing their existing workforce, which is vital since leadership development is the most under-invested, under-utilized aspect of both retention and company culture. These actions create opportunities to free up talent to take on more strategic, meaningful roles as they develop their careers.
Offer a robust compensation and benefits plan, beyond salary
Salary is certainly one of the most competitive advantages, and 79% of business leaders have recently increased salaries, while 22% are offering hiring bonuses, according to Vistage’s report.
Still, other factors should be considered to up the ante. Stock ownership plans, spot bonuses, comp days, and additional perks can boost employee loyalty and are now expected to be part of the compensation package by many employees. Robust health insurance, tuition reimbursement, and skill-building opportunities are other benefits important to today’s workers.
Embrace a unique culture from the top down
People want to feel they belong and are valued at work, which is where unique company culture comes in. The only way to create an authentic culture is to root it in a company’s mission, vision, and values and bring it to life through leadership.
Offer flexibility to foster motivation
While many are looking forward to collaborating in person with colleagues again soon, more workers want flexibility through a hybrid approach to work. CEOs need to decide what will work for their employees and their company going forward.
To compete in these new talent wars, however, CEOs must do more than design smart, competitive strategies for hiring. They must also accelerate their decision-making. The rapid human capital disruption that was ushered in by the pandemic has not slowed.
Vistage reports that 38% of CEOs believe that employees are leaving their organizations for higher salaries, and 18% believe they’re seeking better career/development opportunities. To win today’s talent wars, company leaders must focus on key decision areas – and be prepared to move fast.
Win before the war
It is vital that businesses not give employees reasons to leave. Make sure employees feel heard and valued. Continuously sell the benefits of being a part of your organization, and let them know where the company is going and how they are critical to getting there. Do not give them a reason to answer a recruiter’s call or make a call of their own.
Choose your battles
Identify key employees and proactively engage and connect with them. Whether it’s through salary increases and spot bonuses, or strategic investment in their career trajectory, identifying whom you want for the long term (and, as important, those you don’t) will ensure the strongest workforce.
Expect some losses
People, including the ones you know you need, will leave. CEOs need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Many will need to give up some control and empower managers to make more decisions about how their direct reports will work. There is no playbook for the rapid change the business world has seen, but when executives trust their managers, better and faster decisions can often be made.
The next 12 to 18 months will likely see as much trial and error as the past 18 months. No one is going to nail their hiring and retention strategy right out of the gate, but by being open to learning from challenges and working with managers, leaders can make better decisions and ultimately create a winning strategy.
Remote working appears to be here to stay.However, as we all start to get “back to normal,” some companies are combining remote and office work.
The challenge now, of course, is to coordinate this new normal and to ensure that companies remain productive while their employees have a good work-life balance.
In addition, remote working has meant more meetings with more people, more emails, and longer working hours.
Therefore, some companies have decided to implement rules in their working day to prevent workers from burning out.
One of these measures is the so-called “core hours,” when workers must be available for Zoom meetings, joint projects with other departments, or any other activity that involves teamwork.
These hours would be set between 10 am and 2 pm, or 1 pm and 4 pm, although it depends on the company. However, they wouldn’t exceed three or four hours a day.
The rest of the time would be hours free from any meetings, so employees can organize their working day and make better use of their time without being tied up in last-minute meetings.
This is nothing new, however.
A lot of companies have been doing this for decades – it’s a savvy way of avoiding afternoon meetings dragging on past the end of the working day, which can have a negative impact on teams’ personal lives.
But the pandemic has led many to jump on the trend.
Google, Dropbox, and Slack have set up meeting-free hours
Google established a week without meetings while companies like Dropbox and Slack have also set up a “meeting-free hours” strategy during the working day.
Laura Ryan, international human resources director at Dropbox, told Insiderhow a simple review of her calendar meant she was able to cut up to 15 hours of meetings per week.
Dropbox has implemented a strategy of “core collaboration hours,” in which it set aside certain hours just for meetings so employees could then freely and flexibly structure their working day as they wished.
This is something that companies such as Slack have also done.
“If you give people from 9 am to 5 pm to organize meetings, they will up with non-stop meetings all day. So they won’t be able to get anything else done,” vice-president of the Slack Future Forum Brian Elliot told The Wall Street Journal.
The Slack Future Forum is a consortium launched by the company to help other companies reflect on the future of work.
In Spain, a pilot program has been launched to trial the 4-day working week in order to improve work-life balance and productivity.
However, how the working day itself is organized – that is, the hours worked in the same day – varies depending on the sector and the company.
One example of a Spanish startup at the forefront of remote working and flexibility is Irisbond, a company that manufactures eye-tracking devices and technology.
Irisbond’s offices are designed as collaborative spaces for working in the cloud and using applications to communicate between team members such as Discord, Slack, and Google Meet.
In addition, their teams are self-organized and share results or the status of their projects only every two weeks, which slows down the flow of information.
When Insider asked Irisbond’s CEO and founder Eduardo Jáuregui about flexibility, he said: “The team can come to the office in the morning, go home for lunch, and finish the day from there. This makes it easier for everyone to have lunch with their family or at home.”
Whether it’s crying babies, loud neighbors, or simply endless thoughts running through your head, sometimes you just can’t fall asleep.
Regardless of how hard you try, the consequences the following day are always unforgiving: crippling fatigue, poor concentration, and – above all – struggling to think of anything other than your bed.
However, as researchers from the University of California at Berkeley found, sleep deprivation can have serious social consequences, and they aren’t just limited to how you perform at work or throughout the day.
It isn’t just your health that suffers from night-time restlessness; you can end up completely sabotaging your social life too.
Sleeping too little leads to reclusive behavior
Led by postdoctoral fellow at the Walker’s Center for Human Sleep Science Eti Ben-Simon, the team found that a lack of sleep can lead to unsociable and reclusive behavior – and that it can have the same effect on the people around you.
According to the researchers’ findings, published in Nature Communications, people who sleep badly more often are lonelier as a result.
While it’s already a well-known fact that social isolation can cause sleep disorders, it hasn’t been clear whether a lack of sleep could also lead to people feeling lonely.
The less you sleep, the more physical distance you need from others
To conduct their study, the scientists performed an experiment in which one group of subjects didn’t sleep for a night, while another group was allowed to sleep in.
Both groups received a video the following day in which they were faced with people approaching them, where they had to gauge how close was “too close”.
The results were pretty clear: those who hadn’t slept felt their space was invaded between 18% to 60% faster than those of the group who had.
This led participants to create more of a social distance between themselves and others if they missed sleep on a given night, according to the researchers.
Too little sleep leads to unsociable tendencies
The researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to prove that the results weren’t accidental.
While the “near space” networks in the brains of well-rested participants didn’t show any abnormalities, those of the other group were “braced” and on alert for potential threats.
Not only that, but the “theory-of-mind” network, an area of the brain responsible for empathy and sociability, was less pronounced in those with sleep deprivation.
Interestingly, the results showed that those who were suffering from sleep deprivation didn’t just have issues with shying away from those around them.
Another experiment, in which researchers used videos to evaluate people who had slept well and those who hadn’t, showed that those who hadn’t were perceived by viewers as worse in terms of their potential for cooperation and sympathy.
Your own lack of sleep can have a knock-on effect on those around you
“The less sleep you get, the less you want to socially interact,” said Matthew Walker of the University of California.
“In turn, other people perceive you as more socially ‘repulsive’, further increasing the grave social-isolation impact of sleep loss,” he continued, saying: “Sleep deprivation can turn us into social lepers.”
Worse still, those who have to deal with people suffering from a lack of sleep – or even, in the case of this study, those who watched videos of them – also end up being “infected”, leading to an almost viral transmission of the feeling of social isolation wherever there’s a lack of sleep.
“It’s perhaps no coincidence that the past few decades have seen a marked increase in loneliness and an equally dramatic decrease in sleep duration,” said Ben-Simon.
“On a positive note, just one night of good sleep makes you feel more outgoing and socially confident, and furthermore, will attract others to you,” said Walker.
My phone is vibrating – but I don’t have to look at it. I know exactly what the display says.
Somewhat exasperated, I take a sip of water. I’m one of those people who, if it weren’t for modern technology periodically reminding them to hydrate, would probably end up looking like a prune in a very short space of time. I rarely manage to empty a whole glass in one go.
There is, however, one exception to that rule: at around two o’clock in the morning, after a few too many tipples, I no longer need an alarm to remind me to drink water.
As if by magic, I’m able to knock back glasses of water at an astonishing rate, as if Nestlé might rock up to the local reservoir at any moment.
I’m currently in the middle of a last-ditch attempt to avoid a hangover – because last night, once again, I didn’t follow the recommendation to drink a glass of water with every helping of wine.
Alcohol doesn’t actually dehydrate the body
According to molecular biologist Patrick Schmitt, drinking water wouldn’t have helped anyway. Neither did my sorry attempt to ease the threatening symptoms by drinking copiously after the event.
“It’s a misconception that drinking water helps you avoid a hangover,” said Schmitt.
According to the results of a study published in the 1950s, it’s true that the body excretes more water while drinking alcohol.
“However, the wrong conclusions were drawn from these results,” said the scientist. “It was thought that, as the body was excreting more water, it would therefore become dehydrated – and this was simply accepted as a conclusive explanation for why we get hangovers.”
However, the hypothesis was never tested, let alone confirmed.
When we metabolize alcohol, our bodies are processing the compound ethanal. Some may lack the enzymes to effectively expel alcohol from their bodies, which scientists think is part of the reason we get hangovers.
According to a report in the Berliner Morgenpost, Schmitt decided to conduct his own study and monitor the hydration of his subjects.
The study found that alcohol consumption doesn’t lead to dehydration, despite increased fluid excretion. “This means that the body does not lose any significant amounts of water,” said Schmitt.
“That recommendation to drink a lot of water when consuming alcohol is based on exactly this misconception,” he explained. “Since the body isn’t actually getting dehydrated, drinking water alongside alcohol has absolutely no effect on whether or not you end up with a hangover.”
Drinking water will have a negligible effect on a hangover at best
If you think logically about it, there’s water in both wine and beer – they are drinks, after all.
Though alcohol is present in both these drinks, you’re also adding liquid to your body when you drink them. “You’re never really ‘dehydrated’. It’s not too dissimilar to the myth surrounding coffee.”
Only if you drink the alcohol in a very concentrated form – in other words, if you’re throwing back shots – is the alcohol content in your stomach very high for a very short period of time.
“If you then drink a sip of water, the stomach mucosa may be slightly less affected, for a short while,” said Schmitt. “Though this hasn’t yet been investigated, we know it has no effect on a hangover itself in any case.”
Drink water instead of alcohol – not in addition to it
If you start drinking water the next day, it’s too late by then anyway.
You can drink as much water as you want – it will have little to no effect on your pounding skull.
“At most, it might alleviate the symptoms of having a dry mouth from drinking and cigarettes – but obviously I’m not going to tell anyone not to drink water if they think it makes them feel better,” said Schmitt.
Of course, that also applies to the evening itself. “You can tell yourself your hangover will be less painful if you drink water with every glass of wine but that won’t make it true.”
That said, to make it abundantly clear, drinking water obviously isn’t going to do any harm – it’s relatively pointless if you’re trying to alleviate a hangover but it’s hardly likely to make it any worse.
“Besides, you can’t drink alcohol if you’re busy drinking water,” said Schmitt.
I had all my vaccines growing up, but when I was about 16 I got into the natural-health scene through the book “Fast Food Nation,” which talked about the unhygienic handling of meat in the American food supply.
It started with vegetarianism and made me feel like I had some special insider knowledge. From there, I got into fasting, detoxification, sunlight, walking barefoot, and so on. Through that, I developed a general mistrust of the medical community.
Late last year, somebody in our extended family got COVID-19 really bad and ended up with permanent lung and heart damage. Still, when the COVID-19 shot came out, I was very anti-vaccines.
I thought they were unnecessary. I’m young and fairly healthy, so the odds of me getting COVID-19 and dying are ridiculously low.
I was hesitant about whether the vaccine was rushed.
It was a new technology; I had no idea how this whole mRNA thing worked. You read all these posts on Facebook.
I didn’t feel I necessarily needed the vaccine. There were risks with it – it wasn’t a good idea to get it just yet.
Weighing in the back of my head, though, was that COVID-19 is not just the flu. Out of the people that survive, how many people end up with long COVID-19? How many people that come out of it end up with permanent damage? We still don’t have a whole lot of data on that yet, as far as I’m aware.
I was at this junction where I realized I’m probably going to be exposed to COVID-19 at some point.
I don’t want to have to figure out the rest of my life with a possibly preventable condition.
So I did a little risk-benefit analysis. And that’s where I started to really delve into the other side of the data.
I started doing pro-vaccine research and learned a lot.
When I saw the data, the whole risk of the vaccine just went completely down in my mind. It’s basically harmless.
When it comes to stuff like heart inflammation, which is the main thing I’m concerned about, even if you develop heart attacks, blood clots, I figure that these are all things that the medical community has been treating for decades. We have a whole cocktail of drugs and procedures that can keep you alive and get you through it.
If you get COVID-19, they send you on the ventilator, and all you can do is pray. That’s where the decision was made for me.
Emotionally, I didn’t want to get the vaccine, because I have all these years of conditioning and messages of fear.
All told, I was researching for about six weeks, gathering the data and trying to understand the different arguments.
It’s almost embarrassing to admit how uneducated I was about all this stuff.
For example, one of the big arguments against vaccines that always made sense to me was that if the vaccines work, why does everyone need to get them? It sounded perfectly reasonable to me.
And then I learned about how these variants start coming about. When you get the virus, it’s able to replicate a lot easier in your body because you don’t have antibodies to it. The more it replicates, the more it mutates, which increases the chance of a new variant.
The reason for everybody to get the vaccine is to make sure that the virus doesn’t mutate to a point where it’s resistant to the vaccines – now even the people with vaccines are in danger. As soon as I read that, I said to myself, “Oh my God, it all makes sense.”
Now I have to completely change my worldview in the face of this new data – that’s what people should be doing, in my opinion. You shouldn’t get attached to a belief. You should always be flexible.
When I had the first shot of Pfizer on July 19, I had anxiety.
I made an appointment at a CVS and started taking vitamin C and zinc a week in advance in an attempt to boost my immune response and hopefully mitigate any potential side effects.
The first 30 minutes I was shaking and had chills.
I went to the ER and sat right outside the waiting room for about an hour just to make sure if I got anaphylaxis I was right there and they could hop on it.
I’m a little frustrated about education on vaccines.
Whenever I hear stuff in the media in terms of vaccines, it’s always “It’s safe and effective, go get it.” There’s never a whole lot of data explaining why it’s safe and effective.
That took a lot of digging for me. It’s not so readily available. And then once I got the data, I thought, “Why didn’t I know this stuff?”
I think a lot of the mistrust about vaccines has to do with the fact that we’re so disconnected – not just from each other but also from these institutions.
It’d be different if the general public had access to all the studies the same way that medical students and doctors do. We can all look at this stuff and understand it if we all have the basic education and are able to read and interpret these studies in an educated way.
At the end of the day, something I’ve fought with my whole life is making decisions based on emotions, and it’s done nothing but put me in bad places. It’s a goddamn struggle to overcome.
What I would suggest to anybody who’s on the fence is to do the research, look at the data, listen to both sides, and don’t just listen to the people saying it’s dangerous – listen to the people saying it’s safe, and try to figure out why they’re saying that, and find the studies and the data.
I don’t talk to any of the anti-vax people directly about it, because I know how they’ll respond, and it won’t be productive unless they’ve shown the desire to listen to the “other side.” But I’ve been active on Reddit, sharing my point of view in case it helps others who are on the fence and willing to consider both sides.
For many of us, the past year has disrupted deeply ingrained habits. Some people report exercising less, others are drinking more. As we look forward to life returning to some semblance of normal, it’s worth considering what scientists have learned about how to create good habits and break bad ones.
Habits are like shortcuts – they’re things we can do quickly and without thinking because we’ve done them so often they’ve become automatic, says behavioral scientist Katy Milkman of the University of Pennsylvania.
One important feature of habits is that they’re triggered by cues in our surroundings, says Wendy Wood, a social psychologist at the University of Southern California whose research focuses on how we form and change habits. The trigger could be a time of day, a particular place or a different activity. Getting out of bed each morning and shuffling to the kitchen, for example, might trigger you to scoop some beans into a grinder and go through the motions of making coffee. Habitual behaviors generally offer a reward – in this case, a freshly brewed cup.
In an ideal world, good habits such as exercising, healthy eating, and reading would be as easy to acquire as brewing coffee. Unfortunately, that’s frequently not the case.
“Oftentimes, the things that are immediately rewarding in our environment are not the things that meet our long-term goals,” Wood said. “We haven’t managed to organize the environment in a way that allows us to easily form good habits.”
So, how might we go about doing that? Knowable talked to an array of behavioral scientists to learn more.
The pandemic introduced new public health behaviors, such as mask-wearing and social distancing, and people continue to grapple with adopting behaviors to meet individual goals, whether exercising more or eating better. Two experts weigh in on the science of behavioral change, both personal and pandemic-related.
We’ve long been told by society that the new year is the perfect time to make a fresh start. Milkman agrees, but she points out that the year is filled with additional opportunities – such as birthdays, holidays, and even ordinary Mondays. Her research has shown that people are more likely to visit the gym around fresh-start dates like these.
Because changing habits means disrupting your routine, it can be more effective to add new behaviors or remove unwanted ones when other big changes are happening, adds Wood – such as when you move, change jobs, or go on vacation. During the pandemic, for example, many people got into the habit of cooking more at home and therefore eating healthier, she says.
But a fresh start alone isn’t enough. The majority of New Year’s resolutions don’t succeed, after all. “Most stuff requires more than a single moment of motivation,” Milkman said.
Timing is important for making good behavior stick.
“The rewards for habit formation need to be immediate,” said Wood, who coauthored a paper on the science of habits in the Annual Review of Psychology and wrote the 2019 book “Good Habits, Bad Habits.” That’s because dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in reinforcing behaviors in the brain’s reward pathway, operates on a time frame of seconds.
Unfortunately, many desirable behaviors don’t have immediate rewards. For example, if you take up running for the first time, it will likely be difficult and painful for the first week or two, and the benefits won’t be apparent so quickly. This lack of immediate gratification can be de-motivating. On the other hand, sitting on the couch and watching a movie brings an immediate reward – so it’s easier to make a habit of it.
Given dopamine’s short timeline, Wood says strategies that rely on long-term rewards, like paying people weekly or monthly if they exercise more, don’t build habits. They’re not tapping into the brain’s habit-learning mechanisms. So you need a different strategy. Milkman, for example, used to allow herself to listen to her Harry Potter audiobooks only when she was at the gym. That way, exercising gave her the immediate gratification of hearing the next chapter of a compelling book and helped her build the workout habit.
The initial change of integrating a new behavior into your routine is the hardest, says Elliot Berkman, a psychologist specializing in addiction, goal-setting, and motivation at the University of Oregon. “It does often feel contrived and forced.” But he advises that people should take that weird, uncomfortable feeling as a sign that they’re developing a habit.
Consistent but flexible
Consistency is important when establishing new habits, researchers say, but there is also a danger of being too rigid. Milkman and her research collaborator, economist John Beshears of the Harvard School of Business, learned this lesson when they worked with Google on how to get the company’s employees to exercise more at the on-site gym.
In her new book “How to Change,” she describes a study in which she and Beshears split 2,500 employees into two groups: one that received a reward if they went to the fitness center every day at the same time for a month and another that received a reward for working out every day, regardless of the time of day.
Milkman hypothesized that the group with stricter guidelines would build stronger habits. That’s not what happened. In reality, when people in that group weren’t able to go at their designated time, they ended up not going at all. Those in the other group just found another time. Forty weeks later, people in the group that had more flexibility were still exercising more often than the others.
Start small, be prepared
A new habit needs to begin with smaller steps, says Alan Stacy, who studies health habits and addiction at Claremont Graduate University in California and coauthored a paper on addiction in the Annual Review of Clinical Psychology.
With running, for example, Stacy suggests that the first step might be to find a time – waking up 20 minutes earlier or using part of your lunch break.
The next step might be to set up cues that keep leading you in the right direction, such as putting on your running shoes before having your morning coffee so you’re all ready to go and less likely to abandon your plan. (Or go a step further, and sleep in your running clothes, as Wood has done in order to “remove friction” from her desired goal.)
Stacy’s research on promoting healthy habits such as condom use among drug users also illustrates the importance of preparation. In one study, enrollees in an educational program for drug offenders received basic information about the health benefits of condoms. Roughly a third of them also did exercises on a computer that presented them with choices for handling various situations, such as whether to put condoms in their pocket or purse before going to a party or bar. Then the computer program prompted them to visualize what they would do if they ended up leaving home without condoms and asked them to describe the steps they would take in their own words.
Compared with participants who only got the health information, those who did this additional exercise and practice steps reported more frequent condom use when the researchers checked in on them three months later.
“People need to get ready for the behavior,” Stacy said. Breaking the behavior down into smaller steps and tying it into a concrete chain of activity can help reinforce it.
Breaking a habit
Most of us know which behaviors are beneficial and which are detrimental. So why do we still do things we know are bad for us? This was the question that drew Stacy to this area of research. Growing up, his father was addicted to alcohol and later, when Stacy worked as a musician, he saw people overusing alcohol and drugs despite knowing the consequences. “I was always interested in why people do things when they have the knowledge,” he said.
Some of the strategies that researchers recommend for creating habits, such as preparation, can also help people break them. Stacy and his team are developing an app to help people with drug, cigarette, or alcohol addictions choose alternative behaviors they can plan in advance. Being around other smokers, for example, can trigger the urge to smoke. The app presents alternatives such as walking away to get a coffee instead.
Stacy and his colleagues are currently testing the idea that rehearsing these alternatives beforehand with the app, which gives feedback about progress, will help people become more likely to actually do them when the situation arises.
Instead of trying to simply eliminate a bad habit, Berkman recommends replacing one behavior with another. For example, one study found that having a healthier snack helped participants replace their habitual snack. “It’s much easier to say, ‘When I have an urge for a cigarette, I’ll do this behavior instead’ than ‘When I have an urge for a cigarette, I’ll just not smoke.'”
This might mean chewing gum or drinking tea instead. The replacement behavior should offer an immediate reward and, ideally, shouldn’t replace one bad habit with another.
Understanding the motivations and triggers for a habit can also help to break it. Berkman and his team are working on a project to see if smokers trying to quit using nicotine replacement therapy are further helped by thinking about all the ways that cigarettes are embedded in their lives. “It gets built into your whole world,” Berkman said.
For one person, smoking may be a way to take a break from work. So helping that person find another way to serve that same function – maybe taking 10 minutes every couple of hours to chat with a friend or read a magazine – gives them other ways to fill the need of having a break. For another person, the physical aspect of holding something in their hand might be more important, and so replacing smoking with an activity like knitting could help.
Wood suggests trying to take time to think instead of acting on autopilot – say reflexively pouring a second glass of wine after finishing the first. People tend to fall back on their habits when they’re distracted or feel pressed for time, she says. But when they have a few moments to think about their actions, they can make better decisions.
How long does it take to make a new habit or truly break an old one? Unfortunately, there’s no magic number, says Benjamin Gardner, a social and health psychologist at Cambridge University. Studies of habit formation generally suggest a timeframe that ranges from a couple of weeks to a couple of months.
People often assume you either have a habit or you don’t, Gardner says. “But it varies on a continuum.” And even once you have formed a habit, it is always possible to backslide. The good news, however, is that it’s easier to rebuild that good habit than to create one from scratch – how easy depends on how strong the habit was to begin with. Gardner compares the process to water finding its path again: Even if it’s been dry for a while, you can still see the remnants of the trench.
The COVID-19 vaccines and our ability to go, at least somewhat, back to our pre-pandemic way of life is yet another life-changing event. This new chapter could be a good opportunity for making changes – creating good habits and trying to break some bad ones.
It won’t necessarily be easy, but by harnessing strategies like making fresh starts, building in immediate rewards and replacing unwanted behaviors with desired ones, it might not be as hard as we fear.
This article is part of Reset: The Science of Crisis & Recovery, an ongoing Knowable Magazine series exploring how the world is navigating the coronavirus pandemic, its consequences and the way forward. Reset is supported by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
Knowable Editor’s note: The text of this article was amended on July 20, 2021, to include reference to Wendy Wood’s 2019 book on making and breaking habits.
Over the past year, a lot of brands have started to do a much better job when it comes to representation in their marketing. Whether it’s in diversifying the speaker lineup at conferences or ensuring the visual imagery portrayed in ads and photography looks more like the people who are attending the conferences and or consuming the content, there is a noteworthy positive change.
For instance, a few months ago, I talked to the chief marketing officer of one brand whose team had even gone so far as to put clear metrics in place as to what representation should look like, by matching it to the latest population demographics of various groups from an ethnicity standpoint, and noting that negative stereotypes should be avoided.
Even though there’s plenty of progress happening on the representation-in-marketing front, there are some common mistakes being made that prevent the brands creating them from getting the results they seek.
When you’re looking through a conference lineup, and you see the same usual speakers and then one person who is part of an underrepresented group, it feels like the brand did it to check their “diversity and inclusion” box. As a consumer, it feels kind of insulting.
Same goes when you’re looking at the makeup of a brand’s internal team, and they’ve got one person who looks different from all the rest.
If you really want to signal to your customers that they belong with you, particularly your diverse and niche consumers, don’t make representation feel like an afterthought or something you have to do.
Instead, focus on diversifying your network and circle of influence so you’ve got plenty of diverse talent to feature for events and to work with on your team.
2. Thinking that photography is enough
I recently conducted a representation-in-marketing research study with more than 1,000 consumers. One thing that came through loud and clear was that consumers want more than just representative photography from a brand.
Your customers want features, storylines, and more in-depth content from people who look like them and have backgrounds similar to theirs.
That may mean featuring more diverse experts in your educational content, spotlighting the stories of your customers from a number of different backgrounds in your ads and social media content, or showcasing testimonials from your diverse and niche consumers on your sales pages.
Photos can be bought, but real stories and expertise from real people cannot.
If you want to make diverse and niche consumers feel like they belong with you, go deeper than the photos. David’s Bridal does a great job of this. They feature a lot of user-generated content on their social channels that features a broad variety of customers. And on their website, they feature the wedding stories of an impressive cross-section of their diverse customers.
3. Not building a truly inclusive brand
Increasingly, consumers are looking beyond just a brand’s marketing in terms of the products, services, and experiences they deliver to determine whether or not they are truly representative.
They’re turning their attention to the internal teams and board of directors to see if they’re representative as well. If representation only matters in your marketing, and not in your team building, then consumers get the signal that diversity, inclusion, and belonging aren’t as important to you as you would have them believe.
The fix is to build an inclusive brand from the inside out. Your customers, particularly diverse, niche, and marginalized consumers, want to spend their money with a brand that aligns with their values. They prefer to steer clear of the brands that are only being representative in their marketing just to get diverse and niche consumers to spend money with them, and those they don’t feel truly value or care about those who are a part of their community.
Representation matters. More and more, this is becoming accepted. But not all representation is created equal. Avoid the mistakes above to ensure your representation efforts are seen as authentic and by the customers you want to serve.
Being a barista can be a challenging job. They’re on their feet all day, maneuvering equipment that is messy, and potentially dangerous with exposure to loud noises, hot liquids, chemicals. On top of all that, they have to deal with customers, some of whom are finicky and downright rude.
Want to make your barista’s life easier? Below, here’s some barista-recommended etiquette to keep in mind when grabbing your morning brew.
1. Curiosity is welcome, but keep the line moving
If you’re new to the scene, the million and one options on the average espresso bar’s menu can be a little intimidating. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, said former Starbucks employee Laura LeMoon, 35.
Most baristas are happy to help you pick out a drink – just bear in mind they might not have time to explain every item if there’s a line out the door.
2. Don’t demand ‘service with a smile’
Baristas are known for their friendliness, but not every cafe requires their employees to force smiles and fake pleasantries. This may be a good thing, considering that at least one study on the coffee industry found that faking positive emotions is detrimental to a barista’s physical and mental health.
If a barista is busy or just not in the mood for idle chit chat, respect their need for space.
3. The customer isn’t always right
When it comes to coffee, it’s OK to be particular, says Abby Seitz, 24, a former barista at a local cafe in Jerusalem, but don’t be rude if the drink you receive is different than what you expected.
“Don’t act surprised when your cappuccino doesn’t have the same thick layer of foam if you order your drink vegan,” Seltz said. “Soy and almond milks don’t foam as well as their dairy counterparts.”
4. Be patient
“It truly sucks to be stared at and be told what to do while we’re making the drinks we’ve been trained to make,” former Starbucks employee Lisa Marie Basile told Insider.
Whether you’re waiting for the barista to perfect your drink or there’s a large group ahead of you, it’s rarely the barista’s fault if the line’s slow. If you’ve got somewhere to be in a hurry, it may be best to brew your coffee at home.
5. Make yourself comfortable – but not too comfortable
We’ve all seen the meme of the guy with his bare feet up on the coffee table and his newspaper spread a mile wide. Don’t be that guy, said Alyssa P., 39, a former barista in Pittsburgh, and avoid “taking up space, assuming women want to chat with them, and being otherwise loud and obnoxious.”
Remember, it’s not your home. Leave your shoes on, and keep your belongings close by. Also, don’t try to control the atmosphere. The barista can’t constantly change the station or turn the music up and down to satisfy everyone’s taste. Bring headphones if you have musical preferences, and wear layers if there’s a chance you’ll find the environment too hot or too cold.
6. Be a respectful remote worker
Coffee shops expect people lingering over laptops, but not all locations are equally accommodating. Choose a place with plenty of seating, and share your table or move on if the place starts to get crowded.
“Be mindful and make room for new customers,” said Luka Sanchez, 26, owner of Common Grounds lounge Cafe in Jefferson Valley, New York.
7. Be courteous if you come in as a group
Whether its an organized book club or casual get-together of friends, coffee shops are great locations for groups to gather. Just keep in mind, “there’s a certain crowd size that is appropriate,” said Clinton Owner, 41, a former barista at Dino’s Cappuccinos in Yellow Springs, Ohio.
At Dino’s, says Owner, a group of more than five would began to dominate the atmosphere in a way that made the space unwelcoming to other customers. Choose a space that’s large enough to allow for your whole group, plus others.
8. Spend money and don’t forget to tip
Baristas are happy to accommodate you. That said, your purchases help pay their wages. And if you’ve been there awhile, buy something else. According to Kat Möller, owner of Kat’s Coffee in Thalpe, Southern Province, Sri Lanka, “one item per hour would be appreciated.”
“Specialize and pick your own niche,” is a piece of advice most entrepreneurs will have heard at some point throughout their careers, however, 29-year-old Tugrul Cirakoglu seems to really have taken it to heart.
In September 2014, after graduating and struggling to find work elsewhere, Cirakoglu started a cleaning company that started by cleaning up after parties, and has since progressed to tidying up after hoarders and clearing crime scenes, according to an interview he gave to Vice Nederland.
This specialty is referred to as “trauma cleaning”. Taking on the tough jobs that seemingly no one else wants to do seems to work out in Cirakoglu’s favor, at least financially, as according to his interview with Vice, he’s regularly called out to clean-up jobs that can earn him up to several thousand dollars a day.
The Amsterdam-based cleaner regularly posts images online to showcase his work. However, a word of warning that some of the images on his Instagram account make for graphic viewing that requires a strong stomach, so scroll his feed with discretion.
How it all started
For Cirakoglu, it all started with much more inoffensive work.
Though “student digs” and “post-house-party” scenes aren’t exactly renowned for being the cleanest places on Earth, they’re certainly not in the same ballpark as most of the jobs Cirakoglu comes across nowadays.
Five years ago, Cirakoglu had earned a Master’s degree in Management & International Business, yet he was still struggling to find a job.
A post shared by Schoonmaakbedrijf Frisse Kater (@frissekater) on Feb 8, 2017 at 8:03am PST
With a little over $300 in start-up capital, he founded his company, “Frisse Kater”. Though it initially focused on “deep-cleaning” after house parties, Cirakoglu soon started noticing that, the dirtier the job, the better they paid.
“The more extreme, the more lucrative,” appears to be the rule, according to the entrepreneur. It’s for this reason that Cirakoglu decided to focus purely on extreme and exceptionally dirty jobs.
He promises his customers such a thorough cleaning job, that it will be “as though nothing had ever happened”.
A post shared by Schoonmaakbedrijf Frisse Kater (@frissekater) on Feb 8, 2017 at 8:05am PST
Often, there are serious issues with hygiene in the homes Cirakoglu visits.
From hoarders who compulsively collect objects in their homes to the point where they’re drowning in clutter to people who soil themselves and their own homes, there are probably few things Cirakoglu hasn’t seen.
In May, a housing association asked Cirakoglu to shovel 150 kilograms of human feces out of a bathroom as residents had complained about the stench. Though the toilet had been clogged for some time, the resident had just continued to relieve themselves to the point where it had overflowed with waste and covered the floor.
A post shared by Schoonmaakbedrijf Frisse Kater (@frissekater) on Jun 19, 2019 at 1:00pm PDT
“In the end, the resident would simply go to the threshold of the bathroom and use the doorstep to relieve themselves,” Cirakoglu told Vice.
In 2017, Cirakoglu was called out to a job in Eindhoven, where it turned out that a large individual had passed away without anyone noticing. The death had remained “unattended” for five months, to the point where there was very little left in the way of discernable remains. The odor was so substantial that, when the police opened the windows, the guests in the hotel opposite were forced to leave.
The bodily fluids and human waste had spread over 10 square meters of floor space over the months. The house was in such an unimaginable state that the landlord was willing to pay the first price Cirakoglu offered in order to clean the house thoroughly.
A post shared by Schoonmaakbedrijf Frisse Kater (@frissekater) on Aug 18, 2017 at 12:50pm PDT
As well as places where incidents have occurred, Cirakoglu often attends to scenes where violent crimes have taken place. The cleaner explained that certain types of accidents or death entail more cleaning than others.
Heavier-duty jobs can cost up to $4,000
Cirakoglu divides his jobs into categories to ascertain a price. The “heavier” the category, the higher the price. For example, cleaning out 150 kilograms of human waste from an overflowing bathroom would fall into the heaviest category, costing around $4,000 a day, he told Vice.
Even for a job in the lightest category, you can easily make somewhere in the region of $2,000. Last year, Cirakoglu made nearly $300,000 in turnover and he thinks he can definitely increase that figure to $1 million a year.
He’s earned this enviable salary despite working in a field he was never trained for – he is self-taught and for four months, he read everything there was to find on the internet about the toughest cleaning jobs.
A post shared by Schoonmaakbedrijf Frisse Kater (@frissekater) on Aug 26, 2018 at 8:12pm PDT
He learned everything about cleaning up bodily fluids, which cleaning materials to use, as well as which disinfectants and which degreasers are the best for which jobs. From brushes and shovels to gloves and disposable overalls, he researched it all himself.
He didn’t have to go through any kind of inspection for a permit as there isn’t one for this sort of field, which Cirakoglu finds “weird”. The only licenses required are those for transporting medical waste, which can’t just be disposed of in normal trash receptacles. Otherwise, there are no other permits or laws, according to the self-made cleaning entrepreneur.
Hazardous air and blood
Not only is the work incredibly dirty; it can also be rather dangerous.
Cirakoglu explained that, when someone has passed away and their remains are left for a considerable period of time, their body begins to decompose and produces a sort of dust.
A post shared by Schoonmaakbedrijf Frisse Kater (@frissekater) on Aug 27, 2018 at 12:33pm PDT
As soon as you start sweeping or vacuuming, you start unsettling this dust and blowing it around into the surrounding air.
“If you breathe it in, you’re basically breathing in parts of the deceased person. You can get contract all sorts of diseases from that,” he told Vice. He also warned that you need to be careful with blood – even if blood from a deceased person has been around for some time, there’s still a risk of infection.
Customers pay a danger premium for these kinds of jobs
When Cirakoglu gets called out, he goes armed with special equipment like special vacuum cleaners equipped with heavy filters that prevent bacteria from being blown into the air. The equipment also comes at a hefty price – according to Cirakoglu, this type of cleaner can cost up to $1,600.
The extreme situations in which the cleaner finds himself aren’t what stop him in his tracks; it isn’t the dirt or the graphic scenes but the devastating story behind each one.
A post shared by Schoonmaakbedrijf Frisse Kater (@frissekater) on Sep 7, 2018 at 1:37am PDT
“I don’t find it shocking that people are murdered; that’s been happening for as long as we can remember. What surprises me is the prevalence of loneliness and mental health problems in the Netherlands,” he told Vice, highlighting the fact that the notion of a person willing to use a clogged bathroom for months on end is in stark contrast to the beautiful image of the Netherlands often painted out.
“You ask yourself how someone can lie dead in his home for five months unnoticed without anyone caring,” reflected Cirakoglu. “It’s then that you really start to notice that the Netherlands is actually one of the most individualistic countries in the world.”
Planet Earth is 4.5 billion years old. While 750 million years may seem like nothing in relation to its age, a lot of can change in the space of 750 million years.
300 million years ago the world consisted of just one single continent: Pangaea – 200 to 150 million years ago it started to split into two parts: Laurasia and Gondwana.
With time and a very slow shifting of our tectonic plates, our planet morphed into what it is today.
A digital globe rendering of the Ancient Earth makes it possible to see where your hometown would have been 750 million years ago – 150 million years before the first multi-cellular life forms developed.
Using data from a software platform called G-Plates, scientist Ian Webster created a digital globe where you can see where and when you would have lived at various points in Earth’s history.
The map consists of 91 paleogeographic maps spanning the Phanerozoic and late Neoproterozoic periods, illustrating the ancient configuration of the ocean basins and continents, as well as important features including mountains, shallow sea, and deep oceans.
We searched where New York City would have been at different stages throughout history – the pale pink marker shows where New York City would have been.
Around 400 million years ago, the first vertebrates began walking on land. The Earth’s landscape looked very different to how it does now.
When the first dinosaurs began roaming Earth 220 million years ago, New York City was far closer to Morocco than it is today.
While the continents of North America and South America may look a lot more familiar than the previous landscapes, hominids were only just starting to appear at this stage.
Researchers have suggested that the Earth’s plates will eventually meld into a “supercontinent” in roughly 300 million years, which they’ve dubbed Amasia.