18 valuable pieces of advice from the best graduation speeches of all time

issa rae
Issa Rae.

“Ditch the dream and be a doer, not a dreamer.” – Shonda Rhimes’ 2014 speech at Dartmouth College

shonda rhimes dartmouth
Shonda Rhimes at Dartmouth College.

The world’s most powerful showrunner told grads to stop dreaming and start doing.

The world has plenty of dreamers, she said. “And while they are busy dreaming, the really happy people, the really successful people, the really interesting, engaged, powerful people, are busy doing.” She pushed grads to be those people.

“Ditch the dream and be a doer, not a dreamer,” she advised — whether or not you know what your “passion” might be. “The truth is, it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to know. You just have to keep moving forward. You just have to keep doing something, seizing the next opportunity, staying open to trying something new. It doesn’t have to fit your vision of the perfect job or the perfect life. Perfect is boring and dreams are not real,” she said.

Read the transcript and watch the video.

“Empathy and kindness are the true signs of emotional intelligence.” – Will Ferrell’s 2017 speech at the University of Southern California

will ferrell usc
Will Ferrell at the University of Southern California.

Comedian Will Ferrell, best known for lead roles in films like “Anchorman,” “Elf,” and “Talledega Nights,” delivered a thoughtful speech to USC’s graduating class of 2018.

“No matter how cliché it may sound, you will never truly be successful until you learn to give beyond yourself,” he said. “Empathy and kindness are the true signs of emotional intelligence, and that’s what Viv and I try to teach our boys. Hey Matthias, get your hands of Axel right now! Stop it. I can see you. Okay? Dr. Ferrell’s watching you.”

He also offered some words of encouragement: “For many of you who maybe don’t have it all figured out, it’s okay. That’s the same chair that I sat in. Enjoy the process of your search without succumbing to the pressure of the result.”

He even finished off with a stirring rendition of the Whitney Houston classic, “I Will Always Love You.” He was, of course, referring to the graduates.

Read the transcript and watch the video.

“As you leave this room don’t forget to ask yourself what you can offer to make the ‘club of life’ go up? How can you make this place better, in spite of your circumstances?” – Issa Rae’s 2021 speech at Stanford University

Insecure HBO Issa Rae
Issa Rae in HBO’s “Insecure.”

In the speech, Rae pulled lyrics from Boosie Badazz, Foxx, and Webbie’s “Wipe Me Down,” which she said she and her friends played on a boombox during the “Wacky Walk” portion of their own 2007 graduation ceremony at Stanford, to illustrate the importance of seeing “every opportunity as a VIP — as someone who belongs and deserves to be here.” 

Rae particularly drew attention to one line from the song that reads, “I pull up at the club, VIP, gas tank on E, but all dranks on me. Wipe me down.”

“To honor the classic song that has guided my own life — as you leave this room, don’t forget to ask yourself what you can offer to make the ‘club of life’ go up. How can you make this place better, in spite of your circumstances?” she said. “And as you figure those things out, don’t forget to step back and wipe yourselves down, wipe each other down and go claim what’s yours like the VIPs that you are.”

Read the transcript and watch the video.

“Not everything that happens to us happens because of us.” – Sheryl Sandberg’s 2016 speech at UC Berkeley

sheryl sandberg
Sheryl Sandberg speaks during a forum in San Francisco.

During the Facebook COO’s deeply personal commencement speech about resilience at UC Berkeley, she spoke on how understanding the three Ps that largely determine our ability to deal with setbacks helped her cope with the loss of her husband, Dave Goldberg.

She outlined the three Ps as:

· Personalization: Whether you believe an event is your fault.
· Pervasiveness: Whether you believe an event will affect all areas of your life.
· Permanence: How long you think the negative feelings will last.

“This is the lesson that not everything that happens to us happens because of us,” Sandberg said about personalization. It took understanding this for Sandberg to accept that she couldn’t have prevented her husband’s death. “His doctors had not identified his coronary artery disease. I was an economics major; how could I have?”

Read the transcript and watch the video.

“If you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options.” – David Foster Wallace’s 2005 speech at Kenyon College

David Foster Wallace
David Foster Wallace at Kenyon College.

In his now-legendary “This Is Water” speech, the author urged grads to be a little less arrogant and a little less certain about their beliefs.

“This is not a matter of virtue,” Wallace said. “It’s a matter of my choosing to do the work of somehow altering or getting free of my natural, hard-wired default setting, which is to be deeply and literally self-centered and to see and interpret everything through this lens of self.”

Doing that will be hard, he said. “It takes will and effort, and if you are like me, some days you won’t be able to do it, or you just flat won’t want to.”

But breaking free of that lens can allow you to truly experience life, to consider possibilities beyond your default reactions.

“If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable,” he said. “But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.”

Read the transcript and watch the video.

“Be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” – Nora Ephron’s 1996 speech at Wellesley College

nora ephron
Nora Ephron.

Addressing her fellow alums with trademark wit, Ephron reflected on all the things that had changed since her days at Wellesley — and all the things that hadn’t.

“My class went to college in the era when you got a master’s degrees in teaching because it was ‘something to fall back on’ in the worst case scenario, the worst case scenario being that no one married you and you actually had to go to work,” she said. But while things had changed drastically by 1996, Ephron warned grads not to “delude yourself that the powerful cultural values that wrecked the lives of so many of my classmates have vanished from the earth.” 

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim,” she said. “Maybe young women don’t wonder whether they can have it all any longer, but in case any of you are wondering, of course you can have it all. What are you going to do? Everything, is my guess. It will be a little messy, but embrace the mess. It will be complicated, but rejoice in the complications.”

Read the transcript and watch the video.

“Our problems are manmade – therefore, they can be solved by man.” – John F. Kennedy’s 1963 speech at American University

john f kennedy speech
John F. Kennedy at American University.

Against the tumult of the early ’60s, Kennedy inspired graduates to strive for what may be the biggest goal of them all: world peace.

“Too many of us think it is impossible,” he said. “Too many think it unreal. But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable — that mankind is doomed — that we are gripped by forces we cannot control.”

Our job is not to accept that, he urged. “Our problems are manmade — therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants.” 

Read the transcript and watch the video.

“Err in the direction of kindness.” – George Saunders’ 2013 speech at Syracuse University

George Saunders
George Saunders.

Saunders stressed what turns out to be a deceptively simple idea: the importance of kindness. “What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness,” he said. “Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded … sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.” 

But kindness is hard, the writer said. It’s not necessarily our default. In part, he explained, kindness comes with age. “It might be a simple matter of attrition: as we get older, we come to see how useless it is to be selfish — how illogical, really.” The challenge he laid out: Don’t wait. “Speed it along,” he urged. “Start right now.”

“There’s a confusion in each of us, a sickness, really: selfishness,” Saunders said. “But there’s also a cure. So be a good and proactive and even somewhat desperate patient on your own behalf — seek out the most efficacious anti-selfishness medicines, energetically, for the rest of your life.”

“Do all the other things, the ambitious things — travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, swim naked in wild jungle rivers (after first having it tested for monkey poop) – but as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness.”

Read the transcript and watch the video.

“Life is an improvisation. You have no idea what’s going to happen next and you are mostly just making things up as you go along.” – Stephen Colbert’s 2011 speech at Northwestern University

Stephen colbert
Stephen Colbert.

The comedian and host of the “Late Show” told grads they should never feel like they have it all figured out.

“[W]hatever your dream is right now, if you don’t achieve it, you haven’t failed, and you’re not some loser. But just as importantly — and this is the part I may not get right and you may not listen to — if you do get your dream, you are not a winner,” Colbert said.

It’s a lesson he learned from his improv days. When actors are working together properly, he explained, they’re all serving each other, playing off each other on a common idea. “And life is an improvisation. You have no idea what’s going to happen next and you are mostly just making things up as you go along. And like improv, you cannot win your life,” he said.

Red the transcript and watch the video.

“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.” – Steve Jobs’ 2005 speech at Stanford University

Steve Jobs Commencement HD
Steve Jobs at Stanford University.

In a remarkably personal address, the Apple founder and CEO advised graduates to live each day as if it were their last.

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life,” he said. He’d been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a year earlier.

“Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important,” he continued. “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Jobs said this mindset will make you understand the importance of your work. “And the only way to do great work is to love what you do,” he said. “If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”

Settling means giving in to someone else’s vision of your life — a temptation Jobs warned against. “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

Read the transcript and watch the video.

“We can learn to live without the sick excitement, without the kick of having scores to settle.” – Kurt Vonnegut’s 1999 speech at Agnes Scott College

Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut at Agnes Scott College.

The famed author became one of the most sought-after commencement speakers in the United States for many years, thanks to his insights on morality and cooperation. At Agnes Scott, he asked graduates to make the world a better place by respecting humanity — and living without hate. Hammurabi lived 4,000 years ago, he pointed out. We can stop living by his code.

“We may never dissuade leaders of our nation or any other nation from responding vengefully, violently, to every insult or injury. In this, the Age of Television, they will continue to find irresistible the temptation to become entertainers, to compete with movies by blowing up bridges and police stations and factories and so on,” he said.

“But in our personal lives, our inner lives, at least, we can learn to live without the sick excitement, without the kick of having scores to settle with this particular person, or that bunch of people, or that particular institution or race or nation. And we can then reasonably ask forgiveness for our trespasses, since we forgive those who trespass against us.”

The result, he said, would be a happier, more peaceful, and more complete existence.

Read the partial transcript and watch the video.

“If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.” – Oprah Winfrey’s 2008 speech at Stanford University

oprah commencement
Oprah Winfrey at Stanford University.

The media mogul told Stanford’s class of 2008 that they can’t sacrifice happiness for money. “When you’re doing the work you’re meant to do, it feels right and every day is a bonus, regardless of what you’re getting paid,” she said.

She said you can feel when you’re doing the right thing in your gut. “What I know now is that feelings are really your GPS system for life. When you’re supposed to do something or not supposed to do something, your emotional guidance system lets you know,” she said.

She explained that doing what your instincts tells you to do will make you more successful because it will drive you to work harder and will save you from debilitating stress.

“If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. That’s the lesson. And that lesson alone will save you, my friends, a lot of grief,” Winfrey said. “Even doubt means don’t. This is what I’ve learned. There are many times when you don’t know what to do. When you don’t know what to do, get still, get very still, until you do know what to do.”

Read the transcript and watch the video.

“The difference between triumph and defeat, you’ll find, isn’t about willingness to take risks – it’s about mastery of rescue.” – Atul Gawande’s 2012 speech at Williams College

Atul Gawande
Atul Gawande.

Pushing beyond the tired “take risks!” commencement cliché, the surgeon, writer, and activist took a more nuanced approach: what matters isn’t just that you take risks; it’s how you take them.

To explain, he turned to medicine.”Scientists have given a new name to the deaths that occur in surgery after something goes wrong — whether it is an infection or some bizarre twist of the stomach,” said Gawande. “They call them a ‘Failure to Rescue.’ More than anything, this is what distinguished the great from the mediocre. They didn’t fail less. They rescued more.”

What matters, he said, isn’t the failure — that’s inevitable — but what happens next. “A failure often does not have to be a failure at all. However, you have to be ready for it. Will you admit when things go wrong? Will you take steps to set them right? — because the difference between triumph and defeat, you’ll find, isn’t about willingness to take risks. It’s about mastery of rescue.”

Read the transcript and watch the video.

“Your job is to create a world that lasts forever.” – Stephen Spielberg’s 2016 speech at Harvard

Steven Spielberg Harvard commencement
Steven Spielberg at Harvard.

“This world is full of monsters,” director Steven Spielberg told Harvard graduates, and it’s the next generation’s job to vanquish them.

“My job is to create a world that lasts two hours. Your job is to create a world that lasts forever,” he said.

These monsters manifest themselves as racism, homophobia, and ethnic, class, political, and religious hatred, he said, noting that there is no difference between them: “It is all one big hate.”

Spielberg said that hate is born of an “us versus them” mentality, and thinking instead about people as “we” requires replacing fear with curiosity.

“‘Us’ and ‘them’ will find the ‘we’ by connecting with each other, and by believing that we’re members of the same tribe, and by feeling empathy for every soul,” he said.

Read the transcript and watch the video. 

“There are few things more liberating in this life than having your worst fear realized.” – Conan O’Brien’s 2011 speech at Dartmouth College

conan o'brien dartmouth
Conan O’Brien at Dartmouth College.

In his hilarious 2011 address to Dartmouth College, the late-night host spoke about his brief run on “The Tonight Show” before being replaced by Jay Leno. O’Brien described the fallout as the lowest point in his life, feeling very publicly humiliated and defeated. But once he got back on his feet and went on a comedy tour across the country, he discovered something important.

“There are few things more liberating in this life than having your worst fear realized,” he said.

He explained that for decades the ultimate goal of every comedian was to host “The Tonight Show,” and like many comedians, he thought achieving that goal would define his success. “But that is not true. No specific job or career goal defines me, and it should not define you,” he said.

He noted that disappointment is a part of life, and the beauty of it is that it can help you gain clarity and conviction.

“It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique,” O’Brien said. “It’s not easy, but if you accept your misfortune and handle it right, your perceived failure can be a catalyst for profound re-invention.”

 O’Brien said that dreams constantly evolve, and your ideal career path at 22 years old will not necessarily be the same at 32 or 42 years old. 

“I am here to tell you that whatever you think your dream is now, it will probably change. And that’s okay,” he said.

Read the transcript and watch the video.

“You are your own stories.” – Toni Morrison’s 2004 speech at Wellesley College

Toni Morrison Graduation Wellesley
Toni Morrison at Wellesley College.

Instead of the usual commencement platitudes — none of which, Morrison argued, are true anyway — the Nobel Prize-winning writer asked grads to create their own narratives. 

“What is now known is not all what you are capable of knowing,” she said. “You are your own stories and therefore free to imagine and experience what it means to be human without wealth. What it feels like to be human without domination over others, without reckless arrogance, without fear of others unlike you, without rotating, rehearsing and reinventing the hatreds you learned in the sandbox.”

In your own story, you can’t control all the characters, Morrison said. “The theme you choose may change or simply elude you. But being your own story means you can always choose the tone. It also means that you can invent the language to say who you are and what you mean.” Being a storyteller reflects a deep optimism, she said — and as a storyteller herself, “I see your life as already artful, waiting, just waiting and ready for you to make it art.”

Read the transcript and watch the video.

“I wake up in a house that was built by slaves.” – Michelle Obama’s 2016 speech at the City College of New York

michelle obama city college
Michelle Obama at the City College of New York.

In her 23rd and final commencement speech as First Lady, Michelle Obama urged the Class of 2016 to pursue happiness and live out whatever version of the American Dream is right for them.

“It’s the story that I witness every single day when I wake up in a house that was built by slaves,” she said, “and I watch my daughters — two beautiful, black young women — head off to school waving goodbye to their father, the President of the United States, the son of a man from Kenya who came here to America for the same reasons as many of you: To get an education and improve his prospects in life.”

“So, graduates, while I think it’s fair to say that our Founding Fathers never could have imagined this day,” she continued, “all of you are very much the fruits of their vision. Their legacy is very much your legacy and your inheritance. And don’t let anybody tell you differently. You are the living, breathing proof that the American Dream endures in our time. It’s you.”

Read the transcript and watch the video.

“Call upon your grit. Try something.” – Tim Cook’s 2019 speech at Tulane University

Tim cook tulane
Tim Cook at Tulane University.

Apple CEO Tim Cook delivered the 2019 commencement speech for the graduates of Tulane University, offering valuable advice on success.

“We forget sometimes that our preexisting beliefs have their own force of gravity,” Cook said. “Today, certain algorithms pull toward you the things you already know, believe, or like, and they push away everything else. Push back.”

“You may succeed. You may fail. But make it your life’s work to remake the world because there is nothing more beautiful or more worthwhile than working to leave something better for humanity.”

Read the transcript and watch the video.

Read the original article on Business Insider

For over 35 years, Rosanna Durruthy has advocated for a more inclusive corporate America as an openly queer leader. Now, as LinkedIn’s head of diversity, she’s clearing the path for other LGBTQ professionals.

Rosanna
Rosanna Durruthy, LinkedIn’s head of DEI, wants companies to prioritize inclusion as much as they prioritize diversity.

  • For Pride Month, Insider interviewed Rosanna Durruthy, LinkedIn’s head of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • A third of LGBTQ workers have faced discrimination at work, per LinkedIn research.
  • Durruthy, an openly queer Afro-Latina, shared her plans to promote inclusion for LGBTQ workers.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Several years ago, Rosanna Durruthy took a seat in the reception area of a New York City office. She was there to meet an executive with whom she had talked on the phone for weeks regarding a potential business deal.

When a secretary told the executive, a white man, that Durruthy had arrived, he walked into the reception area, looked around, and went back into his office. He repeated this two times.

“I thought you said she was here,” the executive said to the secretary.

“She is.” the secretary said, pointing to Durruthy, an Afro-Latina. A look of shock washed over the man’s face as if he wasn’t expecting to see a person of color, Durruthy said. He also ended the meeting abruptly despite their strong rapport over the phone.

Durruthy said these types of experiences are far too common for those with marginalized backgrounds. Because of this, she’s dedicated her 35-year career to forging a more inclusive corporate culture.

Today, Durruthy is the head of diversity and inclusion at LinkedIn, where she’s on a mission to inspire others to embrace their unique identity at work. A big part of that personal mission comes from knowing firsthand the pain of not being accepted for who you are in the corporate world.

For Durruthy, Pride Month is a time to double down on the work she’s spearheading. Executives need to focus not only on diversity, but inclusion, she said. One in three LGBTQ+ professionals face blatant discrimination and/or microaggressions at work, per a recent LinkedIn survey.

“As a leader, bravery has had to take different forms,” Durruthy said. “Making people visible often requires not just ‘marching people into a room,’ but having leaders take on new behaviors that allow them to be present when they’re interacting with members of their workforce.”

Durruthy spoke to Insider about the trials and triumphs of her ascension to LinkedIn’s head of diversity, lessons she’s learned along the way, and how she’s clearing the path for other queer professionals.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What does Pride Month mean to you personally and professionally?

Coming of age as a queer Afro-Latina, there was a time when being out just did not seem feasible as a professional. It felt laden with risk. Working now for a company where our mission is to create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce, it is inspiring and it’s exciting to know that Pride Month is more than the significance of a month. It is about the work created by organizations to create a space where we can each feel safe, where we can be ourselves.

It’s also the recognition that that’s still not an option for everyone. I have a great privilege to lead this work in an environment like LinkedIn, and from the work that we’re doing to create a safer platform for all members. In doing so, it also makes me feel very aware of how much further we have to go to be a part of creating the solution that allows others to feel as comfortable in their skin as I get to be in mine.

You mentioned there was a time where you weren’t comfortable being an openly queer Afro-Latina. When did that change?

I think it happened early in my career, but the irony isn’t lost upon me that it was really a personal reckoning when I was getting ready to accept my first chief diversity officer role [at beverage company Seagram.] It was obvious that I was Black. I was very clear about my Latina heritage and roots. I’m proud to be a Puerto Rican woman. But being gay was something that I was not comfortable with.

I realized I really had to have a conversation with myself about whether I was equipped to lead diversity and inclusion for a company and not be out. And so it was one of those moments where the function of my work itself forced me to come out as opposed to hiding because I felt it would be disingenuous to lead diversity and not authentically be who I am.

What made you want to become a corporate DEI leader? Was there a specific moment in your life where you realized that you had the potential to make a difference?

I think I’m one of those individuals who were fortunate and blessed at a really young age to be aware of what was going on in the world around me. My own intersectional identity gave me the ability, in some cases, to hide that I was gay. It gave me the agility to be in environments where people often assume that I was someone different. There were times where I was made to feel not fully a member of the Black community because somehow being Hispanic made me not qualify as Black at that time, or that being Black made me not Latina enough. So the intersection cuts both ways.

The journey to being myself really came from an understanding of the civil rights era. I saw the work that Martin Luther King, Jr. lost his life for. I knew that I wanted to make a difference when I grew up. And when I began my career, diversity and inclusion didn’t exist. So in many ways, I was preparing for something that didn’t already exist in the business environment.

I feel like it’s been a real journey to create something that’s necessary.

Has there ever been a time when you’ve had to help someone work through difficulties regarding queerness in the workplace?

Yeah, throughout my career, there have actually been numerous times. Even as we look at the most recent research that LinkedIn has released, we look at the fact that over half of LGBTQ professionals today believe that being out negatively impacts your job search, and more than a third of LGBTQ professionals have faced discrimination and/or microaggressions at work.

The work that I do in diversity is not something I do alone. It’s the kind of work that requires others to stand alongside you, not only members of our LGBTQ+ community, but allies as well to recognize and regard the importance of ensuring that everyone in that environment has the ability to realize great potential. But it only happens if the organization empowers and enables that.

Great companies are going to establish clear anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies. They’re going to create safe spaces for their employees and they’re going to enable brave conversations to take place because these aren’t one-sided conversations. And ultimately, they’re going to commit to inclusive hiring practices and goals, which means they’re willing to stand up and say, “I see you, and I want you in my environment, and I want you to bring your perspective to the work that we’re doing.”

And lastly, it’s not just about bringing people in the door; it’s about building inclusive leaders who are able to unlock the potential in each and every one of their team members, equipping leaders with the skills to understand and confront bias, to actively create a culture of inclusion, and to create the experience of belonging for another.

No one wants the mental stress of having to be someone that they’re not.

Earlier you mentioned the word brave. Could you tell me about a time in your career that you’ve had to be brave?

You just want one time? [laughs] As human beings, there’s always fear in creating something that hasn’t existed before. And the work of diversity, inclusion, and belonging is ultimately still a very new concept, despite the fact that I’ve spent the last 35 years doing this work. And the newness of the concept is this bravery to help people see that each and every one of us is different. We’re born different.

The real bravery of leadership is to create something that didn’t exist previously. When we talk about systemic bias, what we’re also talking about is the permission that society has given to create unfairness, to build in preferences that say you belong here when you come from certain environments or you look a certain way, or your degree is from a certain school, or you speak a certain way.

Ultimately that also lends to how you look, how you walk, the gender you possess, and who you live your life with. And I think bravery happens in each and every day when we say it’s not right, that we are excluding people, that we are designing systems and products and services to benefit some, but effectively are designed to exclude others, to ignore others in many instances.

What is a goal that you want to accomplish in the next year?

I personally would love to see us reach gender parity as an organization in leadership. It may not be in the next year, but I think the progress that we’re making will allow us to see it in a fairly reasonable period of time. And that we continue with the programs and the commitments that we’ve made over the next three years. We’ve pledged to double the number of Black and Latino underrepresented talent in the United States at the senior individual contributor level and beyond. So this year is largely about continuing to make a mark in that progression and that journey of doubling the number of people at LinkedIn who are Black and Latino.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A cofounder of Bleacher Report reflects on the two biggest decisions that changed the trajectory of his startup

Dave Nemetz By  Inna.lila 6 crop
Dave Nemetz.

  • Dave Nemetz is a cofounder of Bleacher Report and the founder of Inverse and writes a weekly newsletter on media and startups.
  • The following is a recent post, republished with his permission.
  • In it, Nemetz advises startup founders to focus on their personal journey and forget about the ‘what ifs.’
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In the movie “Sliding Doors,” Gwyneth Paltrow’s character follows two parallel storylines.

If she catches a train, her life takes one path. If she doesn’t, it leads in another direction. The film shows how a small, seemingly inconsequential change can drastically alter the course of your life.

Startups have sliding door moments, too. Over the course of building your company, you face several divergent paths. Some are obvious at the time, some only become clear in hindsight.

At Bleacher Report, we faced many such decision points. Two in particular stick out.

Read more: How to know when to sell your startup, according to a cofounder of Bleacher Report who sold his at age 28

Barely not Barstool

In the early days, our approach to content moderation was lax to non-existent. While everything published to B/R needed a sports angle, we took a loose interpretation of that lens.

As a result, the site had its fair share of unsavory content. This included posts and photo galleries that objectified women in sports. They had headlines like “Hottest WAGs (wives and girlfriends) in the NHL” or “25 Hot Cheerleader Pics.”

Looking back, I’m not proud to have contributed to the already misogynistic culture of sports. We accepted these posts as part of the “authentic fan conversation” encouraged within our community. In a development that should surprise nobody, they became some of our biggest traffic drivers.

So in a regrettable move, we took it a step further by launching a standalone section for this content called “Barely Sports.Cringeworthy, I know.

According to our logic, giving this content its own section separated it from our more sports-focused coverage. After all, we told ourselves, if Sports Illustrated had a swimsuit issue, why shouldn’t we have Barely Sports?

But we failed to recognize that by creating the section, we encouraged and legitimized more of this content. When Barely Sports launched, we got some notes from disappointed readers. And while I’d like to say that negative audience feedback was enough to sway us, the reality is a bit different. We changed our minds about Barely Sports not because of morals, but for money.

Our newly hired head of ad sales made nixing Barely Sports his first priority. To land deals with major brand advertisers, B/R needed to clean up our image. And that meant getting rid of the T&A.

Money talks. Barely Sports bit the dust.

We were all in on brand advertising as our business model. And we knew deep down that the B/R brand would be stronger if we took a more inclusive approach to sports fandom.

Around the same time, another digital sports publisher picked up traction by taking things further than we ever did. I’m talking, of course, about Barstool Sports. As B/R took a more centrist approach to covering sports fandom, Barstool leaned into the extremes. And they built an incredible business doing so.

Barstool pulled off the strategy that B/R abandoned by making two critical innovations:

  1. Barstool avoided depending on advertising as their only business model. Instead, their DTC approach cultivated an army of hardcore fans and monetized them directly.
  2. To buttress the brand against controversy, Barstool put the personas of their creators front and center. Rather than journalists or commentators, they branded them as outrageous characters straight out of pro wrestling storylines. If Barstool is the WWE, then Dave Portnoy is their Vince McMahon.

They played their game, we played ours.

Almost The Athletic

A bit later down the road, B/R faced another crossroads that could have altered our journey.

From early on, we viewed B/R as the sports fan’s replacement for declining local media. We talked about it in our very first fundraising pitch. With local newspapers collapsing and sports pages contracting, we planned to fill the void by empowering fans, bloggers, and up-and-coming writers to cover their teams.

But as the future we predicted played out, we saw a new opportunity: What if we hired displaced writers from local sports sections?

Many well-known beat reporters and columnists were losing their jobs and looking for new homes for their bylines. Hiring them could improve the quality of our coverage, bring some of their audience over, and boost our legitimacy. We seriously considered the idea. But after debate, we decided it wasn’t for us. Again, our business model was a major consideration.

These sports journalists were well-known in their local markets. But their name value didn’t register with the national advertisers we worked with. On top of that, our positioning in the market placed B/R as a fresh, young voice in sports. Hiring away experienced writers from the sports media establishment would dilute that story.

So instead we doubled down on hiring web-native writers who fit our mold. By establishing B/R as the place for fresh new voices in sports, we cemented our status as the place for big brands to reach younger sports fans. Of course, we weren’t the only ones to recognize the opportunity in realigning local sportswriting talent. I wasn’t surprised when a few years later, The Athletic emerged and gained momentum.

What made The Athletic’s approach to the opportunity work? It’s the business model, stupid.

Rather than advertising, they built everything around paid subscription. By quantifying the number of subscribers each new writer could bring, they knew exactly how much they could pay for talent. And their market positioning as the replacement for the local sports page was crystal clear.

It’s fun to reflect back on these moments. In an alternate timeline, Bleacher Report could have ended up more like Barstool. Or The Athletic. But, as far as we know, we only have one timeline.

Everything worked out great for Bleacher Report. So I guess you could say we made the right choices.

Barstool got huge then had a big exit. The Athletic may not be far behind.

When startups face these big decisions, they’re often framed in the most high-stakes way possible. One path could lead to success and riches. The other to failure and ruin.

The reality is a bit more nuanced. In most cases, both paths are viable. The key is heading in the direction that makes the most sense for your mission and business model. And remembering, too, that your competitors face their own forks in the road. Depending on the choices they make, they may cease to be competitors at all.

The internet contains multitudes. Even for digital sports publications, there are many paths to success. So don’t worry about the paths not taken. Focus on the one you’re on.

Dave Nemetz is the founder of Bleacher Report and Inverse and an expert on growing audiences and building communities. He writes a weekly newsletter about building and selling startups, growing audiences, and the mindset and creative processes employed by prolific makers.

Read the original article on Business Insider

An HR expert explains how companies can avoid ‘wellbeing tokenism’ when supporting employee health

Shot of woman sitting on a swiss ball while working at her computer in an office
Some companies often miss the mark, but health and productivity can coexist.

  • Employees shouldn’t have to choose between health and productivity at their job.
  • Supporting employees professionally in addition to promoting lifestyle changes is important for wellbeing.
  • Instead of marketing gimmicks, offer resources that have been proven to make an difference.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Corporate giant Amazon is taking heat over reports of its WorkingWell initiative, a physical and mental health program intended to improve employee health in the retail giant’s fulfilment centres.

A leaked pamphlet, which Amazon has claimed was created in error and is not being circulated, encourages workers to invest in their own fitness and become “industrial athletes.” One aspect attracting particular attention is a plan for “AmaZen Booths.” Also called Mindful Practice Rooms, these kiosks are intended for employees to take breaks from work, experience periods of calm, and access mental health resources. Amazon deleted a social media post about the booths after being mocked on Twitter.

The details paint an unflattering picture of the company in light of its unprecedented rise in revenues, profits, and stock value during the pandemic. Critics of Amazon say the company’s unparalleled financial success is on the backs of its 1.3 million employees who are subject to precarious employment contracts – issues that came to a head after an unsuccessful campaign among some US-based Amazon workers to gain trade union recognition.

Commentators are also saying that these workers experience higher than average rates of workplace injuries and are treated like “galley slaves.” In such conditions, it is argued, a wellbeing initiative is beside the point.

These programs are gaining in popularity: COVID-19 has raised “wellness” up the agendas of corporations like never before – and not always in a good way. Many companies have introduced exercise classes, fruit, and other sticking-plaster solutions rather than measures that assess risk, focus on prevention, and prioritize “decent work” as a driver of both wellbeing and productivity.

Having been a judge for the Global Healthy Workplace Awards since 2014, I have run a critical eye over many corporate wellness programs. Like other big companies, Amazon faces the challenging balance of promoting employee wellbeing without being accused of tokenism.

In trying to improve worker wellness, companies often miss the mark. Here are some things they should keep in mind:

1. Health and productivity can and must coexist

To imply that there should be a binary choice between health and productivity is facile and misleading. One of the more breathtaking things I heard from a senior executive of a large UK organisation during the pandemic was this:

Frankly, I think that job stress is a more effective driver of productivity for us than wellbeing programs.

Far from being a niche or outdated opinion, this thinking is representative of a significant proportion of business leaders around the world. As it happens, this large organization is also very keen to tell anyone who will listen that “employee health, safety, and wellbeing is their biggest priority” – though when I checked their latest report to shareholders and prospective investors, the words “revenue” and “profits” outnumbered mentions of “safety” by a ratio of 25 to 1.

2. Lifestyle evangelism is no substitute for decent work

The former chief medical officer of UK telecoms giant BT, Dr. Paul Litchfield, famously derided what he called the “fruit and pilates” approach to workplace wellbeing. He argued that no amount of healthy snacks in canteens, “step challenges” or company fun runs can compensate for jobs with impossible deadlines or targets, or the stress of reporting to a manager who is a bully.

One of the founding fathers of modern motivation theory, Frederick Herzberg, once said: “if you want someone to do a good job, give them a good job to do.” Wellness programs that ignore this simple idea are unlikely to have an enduring impact.

3. Context is everything

The AmaZen Booths are no more than a contemporary take on many successful community and workplace mental health programs such as the “Men’s Shed” movement, which originated among working men in Australia in the 1990s. It targeted older men, who can often find being open about mental health very difficult, by offering resources and support which encouraged reflection and “help-seeking”.

Similar booths have been used successfully by some UK employers. Electricity supplier E.ON created a “Head Shed” to encourage employees to find out more about mental wellbeing, for instance.

The real test of Amazon’s version is whether it is part of a genuinely coherent program of initiatives that assess and reduce exposure to risk, and convince employees that the company really is prioritizing their wellbeing over the long term. Having a well-branded initiative on wellbeing is never enough by itself, especially if many employees’ everyday experience of work is that it is intense, strenuous and toxic.

4. Employers: Beware of ‘fool’s gold’

Employers need to be more critical consumers of wellbeing “miracle cures” offered by commercial providers. I have seen too many employers divert resources from unglamorous but evidence-based interventions (like having access to a good occupational health nurse) towards those meant to “showcase” their commitment to health and wellbeing.

Used by themselves, laughter coaches and head massages are really no more than perks, with little or no direct impact on health or productivity. Even very popular initiatives such as Mental Health First Aid have very little strong evidence of any long-term benefit.

Sadly, in the drive for more productivity, the health and wellbeing of employees can be among the first casualties. Reports of Amazon’s WorkingWell program have, so far, not been flattering. Its challenge – like many other corporations – is to sweep aside the cynicism and demonstrate that its efforts will have tangible benefits for all of its employees and are not just PR spin.

Stephen Bevan, head of HR research development, Institute for Employment Studies, Lancaster University

The Conversation
Read the original article on Business Insider

I tried, and failed, to earn a living as an influencer. Here are 5 hard lessons I learned after gaining and losing thousands of social-media followers.

A picture of BTS on the left and the post author, Brian Patrick Byrne, on the right.
Brian Patrick Byrne built a following by posting videos and tweets about BTS.

  • I gained tens of thousands of followers by creating content about K-pop group BTS.
  • My biggest mistake was trying to change my brand in order to earn a living.
  • I ultimately decided that my mental health was more important than being an influencer.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In 2020, I lost my job and decided to spend my free time pursuing a dream I’d had since teenhood: becoming an influencer. I’d spent more than a decade idolizing YouTube stars like Tyler Oakley to the point that when I heard he was coming to Dublin, Ireland in 2012, I traveled to the city center from my home in the suburbs for the off-chance that I’d run into him.

Miraculously, I did, and our brief interaction helped encourage me to build my own internet following. I made over 70 videos. Some blatantly ripped off established influencers. Once, I filmed myself cooking while drunk in the hopes that it would attract an audience as it did for Hannah Hart. The video got fewer than 300 views and I made it private soon after. Later, I made a video where I crafted a giant serving of McDonald’s fries out of jello. And in another, I built a shirt out of sliced bread.

I tried everything to stand out, and yet I couldn’t even crack 1,000 subscribers – until 2020.

Picture shows Brian with YouTube star Tyler Oakley in Dublin, Ireland in 2012.
Brian with YouTube star Tyler Oakley in Dublin, Ireland in 2012.

At that time, I’d spent the best part of three years at NowThis, learning how to attract an audience of millions with short-form videos on Snapchat and TikTok. It felt like the perfect opportunity to try to become an influencer again. While at NowThis, I’d produced content about BTS, the biggest band in the world with a famously loyal and dedicated fanbase. One of my videos got close to 900,000 views on Twitter, and fans wrote thousands of affirmative comments praising me for reporting on the group without prejudice.

“It’s so rare to see some actual research on BTS and ARMY,” one wrote (“ARMY” is the name of the group’s fandom).

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>In just 7 years, <a href=”https://twitter.com/BTS_twt?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@BTS_twt</a> has changed the world. These are the 7 lessons the band has left us with since 2013 <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/7YearsWithBTS?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#7YearsWithBTS</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/ARMY?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#ARMY</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/BTS?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#BTS</a> <a href=”https://t.co/a2uON7mmoh”>pic.twitter.com/a2uON7mmoh</a></p>&mdash; NowThis (@nowthisnews) <a href=”https://twitter.com/nowthisnews/status/1271806529151184896?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>June 13, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>

It helped that I genuinely enjoy BTS’s music, which promotes a message of self love. As a 30-something who has long struggled with low self-esteem, I find lyrics like, “I’m the one I should love in this world / Shining me, precious soul of mine” surprisingly therapeutic.

I started a new YouTube channel where I combined my background in journalism and building audiences with my appreciation for BTS. I interviewed fans like a 62-year-old military intelligence analyst who said the group saved her life, and the father of a late model who met the group long before they rose to prominence – and yet predicted they’d be superstars.

During my most successful month on YouTube, my channel drew 508,729 views. My channel surpassed 13,000 subscribers, and I had even greater success on Twitter, where I posted news updates and explanatory threads explaining how the US music industry was stacked against BTS, a Korean group which, at that point, had never released a fully English-language song. My tweets generated thousands of retweets apiece and within a few months my Twitter following had surpassed 35,000. To be clear, these numbers are tiny compared to bonafide internet superstars. And as I soon discovered, it would be the closest I’d get to their level of success.

Here were the hard lessons I learned.

Lesson 1: YouTube ad revenue can be inconsistent, so don’t expect to make a living from ads alone.

I loved the content I was making, but it was effectively a full-time job. I spent much of my free time producing videos and coming up with ideas for new ones. And there were expenses involved, like $326 per month for a paid subscription to Mediabase, a music industry service that gave me access to specific radio airplay numbers for BTS songs, which I shared with fellow fans. These updates became the primary driver of my follower growth on Twitter.

However, I was earning hardly any money. My tweets made me nothing, but I thought that by building a following on Twitter, I could direct followers to my YouTube channel, which was monetized. I quickly learned that earnings from YouTube ads can be highly inconsistent. The views on my videos swung wildly, from highs of hundreds of thousands to lows of a tiny fraction of that, meaning I wasn’t developing a loyal audience who tuned into every video. As such, my earnings were unpredictable. One video that took me three weeks to produce currently has 43,121 views and made $76.34; another, in which I rapped in Korean with BTS’ SUGA collaborator MAX, has just 5,737 views and earned $18.67.

A screenshot showing Brian’s YouTube ad revenue for October 2020.
Brian’s YouTube ad revenue for October 2020.

Lesson 2: Before you ask your audience to pay you directly, do your research.

These ups and downs drove swings in my mental health. The correlation between YouTube views and ad revenue meant that when my videos did well, I felt elated and dreamt about how big my earnings might become in the future. But when my videos flopped, I felt paralyzed by fears that I was a failure, and struggled to focus on producing the next one.

With no other jobs lined up, and my savings starting to dwindle, I knew I needed to earn a reliable income – fast. Ad revenue alone wouldn’t cut it, so I drew inspiration from other influencers with loyal followings and started an account on Patreon, a paid membership platform. I set up multiple tiers, offering common rewards like exclusive content to subscribers in exchange for a small monthly fee.

I advertised my Patreon on Twitter – and immediately received a backlash.

While it made sense to try to diversify my income and not rely on YouTube ad revenue alone, I made a huge mistake by not speaking with others within the community first about whether starting a Patreon was a good idea. Basically, I didn’t do my research. Instead, I shared a news update about BTS and, in a second tweet, told my followers that they could support my content on Patreon.

The backlash came almost immediately. Hundreds of accounts condemned the fact that I was asking for money from a fandom that’s known for its ethos of volunteerism. Many fans before me had built followings by posting chart positions and other updates without asking for a dime. As a result, some stated I had established influence within the fandom for the sole purpose of reaping financial rewards. Several users with large followings, including those that had supported my work in the past, unfollowed or blocked me.

Lesson 3: Be wary of changing your brand after you’ve built a following. If you do, expect a large chunk of your audience to unfollow you.

While the criticism eventually passed, as it does for many things on the internet, my anxiety about my future did not. While I was still determined to make it as an influencer, I knew now that the following I had grown would not support me financially. Sure, I did have a handful of patrons, but like my YouTube channel, I earned a pittance: $190.97 in three months. This led me to my second mistake.

During a conversation with a more established influencer in the K-pop community, I learned that they had grown a significant subscriber base on Patreon by posting reaction videos to various K-pop groups. While I never found out how much they were making, their expression of disbelief as they talked about the sheer amount was enough to convince me to try the same thing on my YouTube channel. Until this point, I’d mainly posted content about BTS, so producing reaction videos of other groups was a significant pivot. That’s because on the internet, K-pop groups are like sports teams. If you declare yourself a supporter of one, fans may not be pleased if you start stanning their rival. In my case, I’d declared myself a BTS fan, only to later post content about a competitor, BLACKPINK.

The week I published my reaction to BLACKPINK’s “DDU-DU DDU-DU,” I lost 8,000 Twitter followers. After sharing the video on Twitter, my follower count started to freefall. I tried to address the mass unfollowing by tweeting that I didn’t intend to shade other K-pop groups, including BTS. But that only made things worse.

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/UNFX4dn45Mk” title=”YouTube video player” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe>

ARMYs expressed their outrage in the comments: “This my friends, is an example of a perfect clout chaser,” one wrote. “He identified as army, hopped off on a profit gaining train from us, and now he’s onto another fandom.”

Another posted: “Why do u think he used first army and now blinks [BLACKPINK’s fandom]? I don’t understand why both fandoms or others support youtubers when they only use kpop groups for views.”

Lesson 4: If you want to be an influencer, be prepared for regular, public criticism from strangers, even if you feel it’s unwarranted.

Through these missteps, I realized what it’s actually like to be an influencer: In exchange for the dopamine boost of watching your posts rack up thousands of likes and retweets, there exists a cohort willing to tear you down the moment you make a mistake. It’s a kind of bad-faith scrutiny that assumes you only have the worst intentions when the truth is often far more complex.

It was my own fault for not explaining that because I spent so much time producing content, I either needed to earn more money from it, or quit, and find something that did earn me a livable wage. I considered posting a long-winded response, but when I asked some friends, their reaction was mixed. Some supported me trying to clear things up, while another, who has a considerable following on YouTube, said I wouldn’t be able to change the assumptions people had already made about me.

“It happens as you grow,” they wrote to me in a DM. “People create narratives & backlash is bigger. You know how the saying goes. The bigger you are, the more hate you get.”

Lesson 5: My experiences taught me that being an influencer isn’t for me. But if you can avoid the mistakes I made, you could have what it takes to succeed.

For all the upsides to becoming an influencer – the dopamine rushes and the supportive comments – my mental health means more to me. I’m happier being a nobody. For you, though, things could be different. If you can avoid letting financial insecurity rush you into poor decision-making and have skin thick enough that bad-faith comments won’t wear you down, becoming an influencer may be for you.

Just recognize that it’s a lot easier to gain new followers than it is to convince them to spend money on whatever it is you’re creating. Understand that making a living on the internet is hard, and to succeed, you’ll need the patience and persistence it takes to find a means of monetizing your content that is palatable to your audience.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A business ethicist explains why billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos shouldn’t use tax avoidance strategies, even if it’s legal

billionaires 04
Ordinary people don’t have access to tax avoidance strategies like the superrich do.

  • Some US billionaires reportedly pay minimal amounts of federal income tax, or sometimes nothing at all.
  • While not illegal, tax avoidance strategies can seen as unethical, says business ethics scholar Erin Bass.
  • Regardless of ethics, if the super rich avoid taxes, it could encourage the public to do the same.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Some of the US’s wealthiest individuals reportedly pay just a tiny fraction of the billions of dollars added annually to their fortunes in federal income tax – sometimes they pay nothing at all.

Investigative journalism outlet ProPublica says it has obtained a “vast cache” of information from the Internal Revenue Service that purports to show the lengths that American billionaires go to to avoid paying taxes.

It claims to provide an insight into how prominent billionaires such as Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Michael Bloomberg take advantage of “tax avoidance strategies” beyond the reach of ordinary people.

Though there is general public consensus on the illegality of tax evasion – the act of deliberately not paying taxes that are due – much more variance exists in how the public evaluates and scrutinizes tax avoidance strategies that seek to minimize the amount an individual pays through legal loopholes. There is no suggestion that the billionaires in the ProPublica report did anything illegal.

A poll taken just before the 2016 election found that nearly half of Americans agreed with Donald Trump – another wealthy individual not averse to tax avoidance strategies – who noted that paying minimal or no taxes is “smart.” But two-thirds said it is “selfish” and 61% declared it to be “unpatriotic.”

Read more: ‘I love depreciation’: How big companies use Trump-like maneuvers to play the tax code in their favor

Rights and responsibilities

As a scholar who studies business ethics, I see these differences in how individuals view and rationalize tax avoidance as being dependent on a person’s ethical foundations. Ethical foundations are the principles, norms, and values that guide individual or group beliefs and behaviors. They can shape what people believe is important – such as fairness, care for oneself or others, loyalty, and liberty – and guide judgments about what is right, or ethical, and what is wrong, or unethical.

Philosophers have debated these ethical foundations for centuries, coming up broadly with three different perspectives that are worth exploring in the context of tax avoidance strategies.

Thinkers from Immanuel Kant to John Rawls have offered what has been called the deontological argument. This emphasizes ethics based on adherence to rules, regulations, laws, and norms. Such an approach suggests that “what is right” is defined as that which is most in line with an individual’s responsibility and duty toward society.

Meanwhile, utilitarian philosophers such as John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham put forward an argument that recognizes the costs and benefits, or even trade-offs, in pursuing what is right. Under this belief system, called consequentialism, behaviors are ethical if the outcome is beneficial to the greatest number of people, even if it comes at a cost.

A third perspective comes in the shape of what is called the virtue ethical foundation that is associated with Aristotle and other Greek philosophers. This suggests that what is right is that which elevates the individual’s virtues and efforts toward moral excellence – defined by both avoiding vices and striving to do good. In this way, ethical behavior is that which enables the individual to achieve his or her most excellent moral self.

On morals and money

When applied to the tax avoidance strategies of individuals, each perspective offers a unique understanding of why individuals differ on what they view to be “right.”

An individual who adopts the deontological perspective likely evaluates a public figure’s tax avoidance strategies – and that of others – with less scrutiny. As long as an individual follows the tax code, and acts legally, the tax avoidance strategies are likely to be viewed by that individual as ethical.

In contrast, a consequentialist is likely to evaluate tax avoidance strategies by also looking at how those taxes could have been used to benefit society – by paying for schools and hospitals, for example. When one individual – be it a billionaire or any other person – avoids taxes, it increases the costs experienced by everyone else while also decreasing the benefits experienced by society as a whole.

The cost to society in terms of lesser funding for programs and services supported by tax dollars may be even greater when a wealthy individual avoids taxes, given what is likely a higher tax responsibility than that of individuals with modest incomes. Thus, consequentialist individuals may well conclude that tax avoidance strategies are unethical.

An individual who adopts the virtue perspective of Aristotle might evaluate tax avoidance strategies in the context of an individual’s other virtuous behaviors. If someone avoids taxes but provides financial support to other institutions or entities that are meaningful to the tax avoider but also produce benefits for society, then the virtuous individual may view this behavior with less disdain.

For example, someone may use tax avoidance strategies and direct some wealth to provide funding directly to an academic health care center for cancer research. But if that person employs tax avoidance strategies in the absence of any other virtuous behaviors, then the tax avoidance is likely to be seen and rationalized as unethical.

Social influencers

So whether tax avoidance strategies are viewed and rationalized as ethical or unethical likely depends on the ethical foundations of the person judging such actions.

But when it comes to public figures and the superrich, there are additional ethical concerns at play here. Public figures are evaluated not just on their own personal morality, but also by what influence their behaviors could have on others. If the superrich avoid taxes, it might signal to the public to do the same, which could have greater consequences. The public often demands more of the superrich – and ethics are no exception. The expectation is that these individuals, as leaders in society, should create benefits for society through their behaviors. As a result, these individuals may be held to a higher ethical standard and their behaviors more closely scrutinized.

As such, the question of whether the tax avoidance strategies of the ultrawealthy are “ethical” depends not only on the ethical foundation of the individual who views and judges the behavior but also on the expectation of the ultrawealthy to create benefits for society.

This is an updated version of an article originally published on The Conversation on October 30, 2020.

Erin Bass, associate professor of management, University of Nebraska Omaha

The Conversation
Read the original article on Business Insider

3 ways to decide if starting a side hustle on top of your full-time job is right for you

woman typing on laptop
Many Americans have taken on side gigs as a way to earn extra money.

  • A side gig is a great way to add extra income or explore your passion outside of a full-time job.
  • Look at your savings and current workload to determine if the gig economy is right for you.
  • Network with other creatives to get a sense of whether or not the financial rewards are worth the extra work.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Side gigs can be a lucrative way to earn extra cash or expand your horizons – but is it worth the extra stress to have a side hustle and a full-time job?

Although the last decade has seen “the gig economy” blossom and prosper like never before, the concept of the side gig has existed for ages. Anyone looking to earn more money has found that an additional job of some sort is the quickest and easiest way to gain additional financial security.

With the pandemic, millions of Americans began picking up extra “gigs” working for companies including Instacart, Amazon, Uber, and countless other businesses that filled an important niche during COVID. Women were already at the heart of the gig economy long before the pandemic, and many more found themselves starting new side jobs over this last year and a half – perhaps while also holding down full-time positions and caring for loved ones … But working a full-time job and side hustle can be incredibly time consuming, and not always doable with everyone’s schedule. Here’s how to know if doing both may be right for you.

Working “second shift”

Before COVID, many women were likely already working a “second shift” as the primary caregiver for loved ones (such as children and aging parents) and were acting as the caretaker of their home. Once the pandemic hit, millions of women added “teacher” to their list of jobs, and the lines between work life and home life became particularly blurred … Even if your partner worked from home, you most likely continued to do a majority of the domestic work. As a result, it might not be possible to put extra time and energy into a side hustle right now.

And even if you have time for a side gig, taking it on might not be the healthiest option. Over time, it can become just one more ball to juggle rather than a financial relief or a place to put your passion and energy. Finding the elusive “work-life balance” – which, by the way, is a misnomer – becomes even more of a challenge and can take a toll on your mental and physical wellness. In fact, research shows that people who work more than 55 hours a week develop depression and anxiety at a higher rate than those who work standard hours.

We all need to give ourselves a little more grace and realize that working a full-time job, a side hustle, and taking care of a household isn’t always the right choice.

Is the side gig economy right for you?

If you’re deciding whether adding a side gig to your plate is the right move, consider the following:

1. Do you have an emergency fund?

If you have an emergency fund that can cover at least three to six months of non-discretionary expenses, that’s great! And it might mean that you don’t need to take on a side gig for the sole purpose of gaining extra income.

If you don’t currently have an emergency fund – or if it’s not enough to cover the essentials for a few months – then a side gig could be beneficial. Regardless, consider putting your emergency fund in an online account that generally pays higher interest.

2. How much do you have saved for retirement?

Ideally, you should save at least 15% of your net income for retirement. If you have access to a 401(k) through your full-time job and your employer offers a match, try to contribute enough to reach your match – and don’t forget that whatever your employer is contributing counts toward your savings target!

If you don’t have a retirement plan or can’t save 15% right now, that’s okay, too. We’re all at different places with our careers and savings goals. A side job that helps you bring in extra money can help boost your savings.

3. Can you devote energy to a side gig?

Extra money is certainly nice to have, but that is only one piece to consider. A side gig takes a lot of energy, resources, and time. Make sure it’s something you’re passionate about because there will be setbacks and days when you don’t feel like you’re making progress. Research and network with people who have similar side jobs to determine what it will take to add the job to your current load. If it seems like the side gig will add too much stress or unhappiness to your life – and take away from what you’re already doing – it might not be right for you.

Ultimately, it’s important to determine whether the financial rewards of a full-time job and side hustle outweigh the potential downsides. Burnout is real and very prevalent right now as people take on too many responsibilities. It’s important to make sure you have the time and energy not just for work and home life, but for yourself as well. If your side gig becomes successful enough, however, it might just be your ticket to pursuing your passion full time.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The dream of the techno-utopian workplace is dead. Remote work proved that digitizing the workplace isn’t liberating, it’s a company-controlled nightmare.

laptop screen showing video meeting with pixelated blue participants with crossed out eyes and frowns
  • When the pandemic hit, companies embraced remote work, especially as productivity began to increase.
  • Instead of investing in luxury office spaces, companies are investing in employee monitoring software to maintain a sense of control.
  • As companies put profit over workers, it is clear that technology in the workplace was never going to be liberating.
  • Katya Schwenk is a journalist writing about tech and surveillance.
  • This is an opinion article. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

When Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey abruptly announced last year that his employees could work remotely “forever,” the move was hailed as no less than “the end of the office as we know it.”

A year later, the mythos of the digital workplace persists. Companies now insist that the pandemic has heralded in a new, if inevitable, age of work – one in which technology is enabling “workforce liberation,” as one CEO wrote in March. “Once a futuristic vision,” Boston Consulting Group has pronounced, “the bionic company is here.”

The new cyborg workplace promised by corporate America is placeless; perfectly digitized and perfectly efficient. Its workers have been freed from the old shackles of the office. For years, business executives have pushed to better integrate technologies like artificial intelligence in the workplace, arguing that greater employee autonomy will follow. The pandemic, they claim, has proved this to be true. “We are seeing a human transformation right before our eyes,” Dell’s Chief Operating Officer Jeff Clarke told investors last year. Under this model, worker productivity has reached “an all-time high,” he said.

Don’t fall for this charade. A year into the pandemic, it is more clear than ever that Zoom calls and “people analytics” are no antidote to the woes of the office. Automation and new technologies have never liberated the workplace; they aren’t doing so now, either.

Instead, companies are deploying tech to cement their control over employees. This sort of control is certainly not new. In the early 20th century, Frederick Taylor pioneered a strategy of “scientific management,” which placed workers under close surveillance in a ruthless pursuit of efficiency. But the age-old trend accelerated rapidly when the pandemic forced more than a third of the US labor force to work virtually.

The ideal of a digitized, “flexible” workplace is a familiar one. It draws from techno-utopian thought birthed in Silicon Valley, which in the early days of the internet imagined technology as a democratizing force, a means to secure personal freedom.

“There was a strong sense back then … that wiring the world was good in and of itself,” Chris Hughes, a now-defected Facebook co-founder, told The New Yorker in 2019. It did not take long for this ethos to reach the workplace.

For years, gig platforms like Uber and Instacart have touted their “new model” for work – using the language of liberation to describe a labor model that, in reality, quite closely resembles exploitative practices of prior decades. Uber’s tech might be innovative, but its vision for labor is not.

An example of in-app messages sent by Uber in recent weeks
An example of in-app messages sent by Uber as part of their Prop. 22 campaign.

Uber’s lobbying campaign for Proposition 22 in California, which exempted app-based drivers from being classified as employees, deployed this same techno-utopian language. “We believe a better way to work is possible,” the company wrote to its employees, urging them to vote for the legislation. Ultimately, the ballot item passed, greenlighting an independent contractor system that takes advantage of drivers and is likely to be replicated across the country. The erosion of employee benefits is being dressed up in the language of innovation.

But the behemoth companies that have recently joined in to claim a liberated, office-free workforce were – just a year or so ago – fixated on the physical office.

From luxury offices to digital offices

In 2018, cloud-computing behemoth Salesforce unveiled its new corporate headquarters in downtown San Francisco: a 1,070-foot skyscraper that, to date, stands as the tallest building west of the Mississippi River. The building is decked out with the usual luxuries of tech campuses: lounges, meditation rooms, and a “media center.”

Then, in February, the company bluntly announced that its 9-5 workday was “dead.” Salesforce did not plan to wholly abandon its offices, president Brent Hyder assured employees, but instead hoped to “create the office of the future” – one that hinged on remote work, significantly reducing office use. Its skyscraper, which has indelibly changed the San Francisco skyline, quickly went from crown jewel to disposable commodity.

Salesforce tower
The Salesforce tower dominates the San Francisco skyline.

This about-face is less confounding if workplace technologies are understood to function in much the same way as meticulous office design. As Benjamin Naddaff-Hafrey writes, the utopian office – whether Salesforce’s skyscraper or Epic Systems’ bizarre, fairy-tale headquarters – entices workers to extend their hours, blurring the lines between work and leisure.

A virtual workplace, it turns out, does this better – or, at least, companies like Salesforce are banking on it. Studies have indeed demonstrated that “productivity” increases when employees work remotely, but attribute this effect, in large part, to longer working hours. Perhaps as a result, some studies have found that remote workers report burnout at higher rates than their in-person colleagues.

Companies, of course, could take measures to improve remote conditions by better regulating workers’ hours or easing expectations around productivity. But this is unlikely. For the most part, companies that have decided to adopt a remote or hybrid model have cited increased efficiency as a key reason for doing so.

A new form of employee surveillance

As companies invest in their virtual workplaces, they are at the same time investing in new technologies for worker surveillance. Employee monitoring has a storied history, particularly in the US, but its newfound popularity casts doubt on the “liberation” of employees in the virtual workplace.

One recent survey of 2,000 companies using remote work found a “rapid” uptick in use of such tools. More than three-quarters reported that they conducted employee surveillance. A stunning 57% of those companies said that they had implemented the tools within the last six months.

Driving the trend, the survey found, was fear held by company executives that they had “a lack of control” over their remote business. A majority reported that they “don’t trust” their employees to work without such digital supervision – an anxiety that will likely drive autocratic management practices in the virtual office.

Companies that peddle employee monitoring tools have happily capitalized on that fear, branding themselves as a cornerstone of the future of work. “With more and more employees working outside the office,” writes monitoring company InterGuard, “digital employee monitoring is more important than ever.”

Their tools are far-reaching. Teramind’s live demo of its monitoring platform demonstrates a sophisticated system, one that records keystrokes, sends live “alerts” when employees spend above-average time on social media sites, and ranks workers by their calculated “productivity.” This is our supposedly emancipated workplace.

Accidental accessibility

Yet, remote work – despite all of this – remains popular among workers. And for good reason: The fight for greater flexibility in the workplace, led by people with disabilities and working parents, dates back decades. If there is a grain of truth to companies’ claims of a liberated workforce, it is here. For many, remote work is an important accommodation. It is, maybe, a liberating one.

The issue is that the pivot to the virtual office was not intended as such. The change was forced by the pandemic and, subsequently, driven by the interests of employers – after years of companies refusing to make such changes. As StaffCop Enterprise, another employee monitoring vendor, explains it: “Gone are the days when remote work was only appealing to employees.”

As Marianne Eloise writes, disabled people still need accommodations, within a remote workplace or not. Unsurprisingly, there has been no new rush to provide greater accessibility. And many jobs, while increasingly digitized, cannot be done remotely – a reminder that the companies that claim to provide ubiquitous flexibility are generally doing so only for highly-paid, white-collar employees, widening the cracks of the fissured workplace.

A year of heightened virtual surveillance, amid false claims of freedom, has shattered the ideal of the techno-utopian office. Still, the status quo of the workplace is always under threat. Sometimes, this disruption does come in the form of technology: A ride-hailing app co-op that hopes to topple Uber and Lyft’s empire in New York City, for instance, or a company developing technologies that would aid worker unionization. But this is not innovation on its natural course; it is something we must fight for.

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Confessions of caregiver burnout: 5 women dealing with childcare and family needs reveal how the pandemic pushed them to a breaking point

Collage of Myka Harris, Shara Ruffin, Susan Foosness, Lidia Bonilla, and Jolene Delisle
Jolene Delisle, Lidia Bonilla, Shara Ruffin, Myka Harris, and Susan Foosness.

One morning in fall 2020, Myka Harris reached a breaking point.

As a small-business owner and single mom of a 5-year-old, she’d spent the first six months of the pandemic dedicating all her time to childcare and work needs. From staying on top of her son’s schooling to doing everything to buoy her business – a wellness center called Highbrow Hippie in Venice, California – she found herself exhausted and running on empty.

“I remember one morning just bursting into tears, lying on the ground, and crying,” Harris said, “because I just felt so overwhelmed and so alone.”

Like Harris, many Americans have taken on extra caregiving responsibilities while balancing their work in the pandemic, adding stress during an unprecedented situation. A new Insider survey of roughly 1,000 Americans found that this extra care was leading some of them, especially women, to feel stressed out and exhausted.

Women were more likely than men to report feeling at least somewhat burned out during the pandemic: 68% of women compared with 55% of men. So were parents who’d had to adapt to virtual schooling, care for a sick relative, or take on extra childcare duties.

These added responsibilities during a time of crisis have affected the mental health of working Americans and led some to leave their jobs.

An analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data from the National Women’s Law Center found that 863,000 women 20 and over left the labor force in September, the second-biggest decline during the pandemic after April 2020. By the end of the year, almost 2.1 million fewer women were working than before the pandemic, the analysis found.

Women gained 314,000 jobs in May. If the US continues to add this many jobs for women a month, it would take about 13 months to reach the pre-pandemic level, the NWLC said.

The Census Bureau found in August that working moms were more likely to take on most childcare and homeschooling duties during school closures. In its Household Pulse Survey in mid-July, 32.1% of women ages 25 to 44 said they were not working because of childcare needs, compared with 12.1% of men.

Though caregiver burnout is not new, Paula Davis, the founder of the Stress & Resilience Institute, told Insider that there’s no doubt that remote work, added care, or homeschooling had “contributed to a higher sense of burnout among people.”

“You’re talking about somebody having to almost try and do two full-time roles at the same time, and it’s virtually impossible to do both of those roles well,” Davis said. “So it’s going to be very, very exhausting for people.”

Insider spoke with Davis and five caregivers to learn more about how added care responsibilities during the pandemic had contributed to feelings of burnout.

“You’re having the two [parents] play many roles in one, which, for me, was beyond exhausting and really left me depleted.”

Shara Ruffin
Shara Ruffin.

Shara Ruffin, 35, is a licensed clinical social worker in Philadelphia who has a 6-year-old son and two soon-to-be stepdaughters. She helps others in social work pass their master’s, bachelor’s, and clinical licensing exams. Before creating her business, Journey to Licensure, she was studying for her own exam to become a licensed clinical social worker.

Ruffin was preparing to take the exam for the second time at the end of March 2020. As Philadelphia closed businesses, her contractual job at a long-term structured residential facility ended, and exam centers closed.

She began to worry more about her career and her three children who were now doing remote learning.

“My son had sometimes between 10 to 14 assignments to do,” Ruffin said. “Sometimes I would get so burned out that I just couldn’t do them. So they would pile up for, like, a day or two, and then we would knock them out.”

Ruffin said she felt as if she were “drowning in responsibilities.” She shared duties with her partner, but being at home led her to take on more of the care responsibilities. Both Ruffin and her fiancé were feeling exhausted.

“You’re having the two [parents] play many roles in one, which, for me, was beyond exhausting and really left me depleted,” Ruffin said.

When she needed a break, she would sometimes go next door to her son’s godmother’s house or to her mom’s place just for a moment alone.

Life now is completely different from 2020, Ruffin said. While balancing caregiving duties and studying “in a small, cramped apartment,” she passed her exam in November.

She said she wasn’t really feeling burned out now. Her children aren’t always at home, as her soon-to-be stepdaughters are with their mothers. Her son was recently doing remote learning at his godmother’s house or Ruffin’s mother’s place.

Ruffin, who was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder at 21, was able to get a therapist to help with her mental health after applying for state health insurance last June. She finished therapy in December.

“All the things that you would normally do to kind of get support and nurture yourself I wasn’t doing for the last year.”

Susan Foosness and her son.
Susan Foosness and her son.

Susan Foosness, 40, is the associate vice president of value-based care at Quartet Health. She and her husband took their 4-year-old son out of childcare in Durham, North Carolina, in part to make spots available for children of essential workers who might not be able to take time off work.

Balancing work with caregiving duties and concerns about her family and her mom’s health during a pandemic began to affect her. She said that multitasking made her feel as if she couldn’t produce the best-quality work.

“I end up just not doing great at work, not being a great mom, feeling guilty about that, and that all just kind of spiraled into this sense of burnout,” Foosness said.

For months she felt a sense of dread about the future and thought to herself that this way of living was not sustainable. These multiple roles took a toll on her last summer when she realized that the US wasn’t really opening up and that her son wouldn’t be going back to childcare in the fall.

Sometimes in between work Foosness would drive half an hour to visit her mom in an assisted-living facility during visitation hours — only 30 minutes, outside, with masks and social distancing.

To help with childcare, Foosness’ mother-in-law has for over a year watched Foosness’ son for 2 1/2 days a week. Foosness and her husband each take one day to be “on call” for watching their son. Her son is going back to daycare later this month.

Now with vaccines rolling out and more things open, she feels that she and her family can do more to help with burnout, such as spending time with friends and other family members, she said.

“All the things that you would normally do to kind of get support and nurture yourself I wasn’t doing for the last year,” she said, “and now there is sort of light at the end of the tunnel.”

“Even if I take a nap or go to bed earlier, I’m still tired in the morning or my mind is racing in the middle of the night.”

Burnout   Business Insider   Lidia Bonilla
Lidia Bonilla.

Lidia Bonilla, 42, is an entrepreneur and relationship coach who spent the early months of the pandemic in her Brooklyn apartment. She stayed in close touch with her 81-year-old father, who was living in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic and experiencing health issues.

After doctors told Bonilla that her father shouldn’t be living alone anymore, she moved to Santo Domingo in January to be his caretaker. Less than a month later, he was diagnosed with cancer. Since then, Bonilla has been by his side at home and at the hospital, all while trying to run her business remotely.

Bonilla said that navigating the medical system during the pandemic had been “nerve-wracking” and “emotionally exhausting.” For two weeks while her father was hospitalized with sepsis, Bonilla spent each night by his bedside. The day before speaking with Insider, she’d spent nine hours with her father, who’d been in the emergency room for dehydration.

As her parents are divorced and other close relatives aren’t available to help, Bonilla struggled with the duty of being her father’s caretaker, she said.

“For a while, I was resentful that I was here by myself doing this — why is this all my responsibility?” she said. “I don’t feel rested, even if I take a nap or go to bed earlier, I’m still tired in the morning or my mind is racing in the middle of the night, distracted and longing to cope.”

She recently hired a nurse to help take care of her dad, and on Saturdays she takes time for herself to go to the beach or meet up with friends. Still, she said she felt frustrated about being unable to do more for her father, while feeling as if she’s not doing enough for herself and her work.

Bonilla told Insider that though her father’s health was slowly stabilizing, she didn’t think she’d be able to leave his side anytime soon. She said she planned to stay in Santo Domingo, running her business remotely for the foreseeable future and keeping her life in New York on hold.

“I just felt so overwhelmed and so alone. You start to realize you just need a break.”

Myka Harris and her son.
Myka Harris and her son.

Myka Harris, 46, is the cofounder of Highbrow Hippie, a lifestyle brand and wellness center in Venice, California. Harris’ business, a hair salon and community space, was closed quickly in March 2020. Her 5-year-old son’s school also closed suddenly, and Harris spent the next three months with him at home.

“Trying to navigate your own stress and uncertainty while also managing a young child’s is challenging,” Harris told Insider. “I had to entertain, feed, and be with a child all day, where there’s no room for where he can entertain himself because he’s so young.”

Harris said she’d start her days early to work and research grants and loans for her business, enter “mom mode” during the day, and work again in the evening after her son went to bed.

Assuming the role of her son’s teacher was also time-consuming.

“Asking him to be focused and engaged was challenging. Mine is not one of those — he’s a very body-active child,” Harris said. “It became a battle every morning.”

After wrestling with virtual school, Harris transitioned her son to homeschooling and, later, a backyard pod with a few other families. In addition to her work, it was tough to stay on top of California’s ever-changing rules about whether her business could reopen; she said it made her feel constantly tired, sad, and uninspired.

“I remember one morning just bursting into tears, lying on the ground, and crying,” she said, “because I just felt so overwhelmed and so alone. You start to realize you just need a break.”

Harris said she’d strengthened her self-care routine with regular morning yoga and meditation and hired a nanny for a few hours several days a week to have her own time for reading, going to the park, and hiking.

“As we’ve reopened and more is happening, I’m more thoughtful about what I do and don’t want to do with my time,” Harris told Insider. “The pandemic showed me that self-care is not a luxury that we want to do, but it’s something we need to do.”

“I barely slept. I gained weight. I wasn’t taking care of myself physically.”

Jolene Delisle_28
Jolene Delisle.

Jolene Delisle (who preferred not to share her age) is the founder of The Working Assembly, a brand agency. She said the past year had been a series of highs and lows.

When her 25-person New York office was forced to close in March 2020, Delisle had to initiate layoffs, furloughs, and hiring and pay-raise freezes. Her 3-year-old’s preschool closed, and the babysitter for her 1-year-old contracted COVID-19.

“It felt like the world was crashing down,” Delisle told Insider.

Delisle and her husband, who also works at the agency, spent the next six months balancing caregiving duties for their kids while working from home.

“We’d wake up at 6 a.m. to work for two hours, trade off childcare during the day, then after they went to sleep at 7:30 I worked until 2 in the morning,” she said.

Even in the fall when business picked back up and they began hiring again, Delisle was still very stressed, she said.

“I barely slept. I gained weight. I wasn’t taking care of myself physically,” she said. “I couldn’t even see any light at the end of the tunnel. It felt like every good thing, even little milestones of my kids turning 2 and 4, felt like more of an emotional burden for me. I couldn’t even register or process what was happening.”

At the start of the new year, Delisle said, she made an effort to prioritize herself by going to therapy, working out with a virtual trainer, and going offline one day a week. “Those things have really brought me back into being a normal person,” she told Insider.

After getting vaccinated in late April, Delisle finally had “a moment where I actually breathed for the first time,” she said.

Caregivers should keep an eye on the balance between their resources and their demands.

paula davis
Paula Davis is the founder and CEO of the Stress & Resilience Institute.

Paula Davis described an equation with demands (including work or caregiving, or things that require energy) and resources (things like spending time with people or traveling).

“Burnout is more likely when your demands exceed your resources,” Davis said.

She added that a lot of the resources people used to balance these demands weren’t available during the pandemic.

Several of the caregivers told Insider they’d explored self-care practices such as exercise and meditation. Davis said that while these activities could be great mental-health and well-being strategies, “when we’re talking about burnout, we’re talking about something that is a workplace-culture issue.”

“And so frontline strategies like that are a really good first step,” Davis said, “but they’re not nearly enough to prevent burnout.”

Have you had your own experience with burnout that you’d like to speak about with Insider? Email Madison Hoff at mhoff@insider.com and Laura Casado at lcasado@insider.com.

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Some employees are quitting their jobs over return-to-office policies. A strategic-thinking expert explains how leaders can maintain a flexible approach to keep workers on board.

young workers in office
Some employees are quitting their jobs over inflexible return-to-work arrangements.

  • Some employees are becoming increasingly frustrated with their company’s return-to-work plans.
  • In some cases, they have even quit their jobs over inflexible work policies.
  • As offices reopen, an expert shared the best strategies leaders should use to keep staff on board.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

As the world starts to reopen, return-to-office plans are slowly coming into effect.

Companies, such as Apple, have announced a plan that expects employees to come back to the office three days a week from September. Other companies have not yet posted what their back-to-office plans are.

But for many, a return to office life isn’t a simple transition after so long. In fact, 55% of employees said they would prefer to remain remote at least three days a week, according to a January 2021 study from PWC that surveyed 1,200 office workers throughout November and December 2020.

Most recently, Apple employees revolted against CEO Tim Cook over the company’s new work policy in a letter signaling their frustration toward a three-day office schedule. The letter also addressed a growing concern that the new policy has already forced some of the staff to quit over its inflexibility.

So, how can leaders build flexible work environments and implement return-to-work strategies that retain workers and avoid employee resignations?

Rose Gailey, a return-to-work and organizational culture expert, and partner at Heidrick & Struggles, a management consulting firm focused on leadership and shaping corporate culture, discussed the subject with Insider and shared strategies leaders should adopt to retain their workers in their return-to-office plans.

An empathetic approach

“Employees will not leave a company solely because of the tangibles like pay or return to work – those may be factors, but they are likely to leave if they don’t feel valued, understood, and supported,” Gailey said in reference to a seemingly growing divide between employees and their leaders in some companies.

The leaders that handle this pivotal moment most successfully will be C-suite leaders that lean into their humanity and empathy, she said. “One clear lesson from the pandemic: new models have emerged and companies need to embrace greater levels of flexibility.”

One of the biggest mistakes leaders are susceptible to in their post-pandemic work plans is believing we can return to old models, Gailey said. “Companies should guard against assuming that an arbitrary return date will mean 100% normalcy.”

To address growing concerns around mass resignations as a result of companies’ return-to-office plans, Gailey expanded on the strategies she thinks company leaders should adopt to prevent employee walkouts.

Plan your approach

“Leaders need to approach returning to the office with the same level of planning and importance as the acquisition of a new company or the launch of a new product – clearly focused on executing a strategy through a foundation of a thriving culture,” she said.

Communicate with employees

Communication between employees and company leaders is critical, according to Gailey.

“Recent data suggests up to 47% of workers say their firm has not communicated with them about the return to office plans.” Companies, therefore, must rely on “sensitive, two-way communication, gather feedback [and] reflect it to employees.”

The mantra should then become “iterate, test and learn,” as companies continue ongoing dialogue with employees, she added.

‘Draft a vision for how to live your values’

For Gailey, any return-to-office roadmaps must be future-focused, rooted in culture and performance. “It can’t be about just getting people back into the office.”

She continued: “Draft a vision for how to live your values and challenge leaders to model inclusive behaviors by announcing policies and work structures with both clarity and agility,”

Building a flexible company culture

Authenticity and agility are key to building a company culture that enables flexible-working environments and fosters employee productivity and wellbeing, according to Gailey.

“Leaders have to embrace authenticity, double down on agility, and truly commit to the hard work of building a great culture.”

The past 15 months have accelerated long overdue changes for the American worker, Gailey said, “and have highlighted the idea that culture is not about the place you work – it’s about the spirit of an organization.”

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