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Unionized nursing homes were safer in the pandemic, this week in the war on workers

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Laura Clawson

Unions have increasingly bargained for the common good in recent years, as when teachers negotiate lower class sizes and more school nurses or counselors, or nurses negotiate for improved staffing ratios so they can give every patient the attention they deserve.

Union opponents often try to claim that these are really self-interested measures that only benefit workers (as though there’s anything wrong with benefiting workers), not also students and patients. These are of course the same people who always come up with excuses for how larger classes and more patients per nurse are reasonable, as they are hostile not just to workers but to investments in the public good.

All of which is to set up why this study of resident mortality and worker infection rates in union versus nonunion nursing homes in 2020-2021 is interesting and important.

As the study, by Adam Dean, Jamie McCallum, Simeon Kimmel, and Atheendar Venkataramani notes, “nursing home residents have accounted for roughly one of every six COVID-19 deaths in the United States,” making nursing homes a major site of mortality.

So, how did union and nonunion nursing homes compare? After a lot of data and statistics, “we found that unions were associated with 10.8 percent lower resident COVID-19 mortality rates, as well as 6.8 percent lower worker COVID-19 infection rate.”

Imagine if 1 in 10 of the nursing home residents who died of COVID-19 … hadn’t.

Laura Clawson

This blog originally appeared at Daily Kos on May 14, 2022. Reprinted with permission.

About the author: Laura Clawson has been a Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006. Full-time staff since 2011, currently assistant managing editor. 

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Rapid Grocery Delivery Service Buyk Accused of Wage Theft by Former Workers

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Amir Khafagy - Type Media Center

Before the Russian-funded delivery startup collapsed, Buyk sold itself as a way for workers to escape the gig economy. Former workers say it failed to deliver.

In early March, 28-year-old Michael Perez received an alarming email from one of his co-workers at Buyk, the Russian-funded, New York City-based ultra-fast grocery app.

Because of the severe sanctions against Russia, the letter announced, the company had lost access to its investors and was forced to furlough 98 percent of its workforce. For Perez, the letter was just one more disappointment in a long string he had experienced working for the company.

Prior to its abrupt closure, Buyk was one of the largest and most rapidly growing ultrafast grocery delivery apps in New York City, promising its customers deliveries in 15 minutes or less.

Three former Buyk workers said that the company delivered something else: wage theft and mistreatment. Two of the workers accused Buyk of misclassifying them as independent contractors instead of employees, stealing their tips, and failing to provide them pay stubs. The third accused the company of failing to pay his full wages and firing him when he complained.

Buyk’s PR representative, Tom Kiehn, and lawyer, Mark Lichtenstein, both declined to comment for this story.

Rise of an Industry

The pandemic has been a boon for ultrafast grocery delivery companies, which have exploded in number in New York City since 2021. Venture capitalists have showered billions on these startups, which promise to deliver everything from six-packs of beer to extra creamy cashew milk in 15 minutes or less.

When Buyk first entered the New York market, some observers raised questions about the viability of its business model, noting that the company relied on low-paid labor.

“A big challenge will be that it’s impossible to use such a cheap workforce in New York as they’re used to in Russia,” Boris Ovchinnikov, co-founder of the Russian research firm Data Insight, told Bloomberg.

Buyk promised that it would use a different model, investing deeply in labor development. Unlike Samokat and previous gig economy startups, which relied on contract workers, Buyk said it would hire full-time staffers and deliver them benefits like medical insurance, commuter compensation and a 401K plan.

Broken Promises

Perez first learned about Buyk last August, when he spotted an appealing online ad for bike couriers. The ad, placed by a company called Food Start, offered a flat rate of $17 per hour, flexible working hours and the opportunity to work from a single location.

Perez found the job more difficult than he expected. Management prioritized delivery speed over couriers’ safety, he said, and several of his co-workers were hit by cars as they were out making deliveries. Couriers were asked to deliver groceries that exceeded Buyk’s maximum order weight of 26 pounds, he added, which made it difficult for them to deliver the orders on time.

At the end of each week, Perez would text his manager with a timesheet showing his hours worked. According to a lawsuit Perez later filed against both companies, he routinely worked forty-five hours per week, but never received overtime pay. The lawsuit also alleges that Buyk improperly classified him as an independent contractor instead of an employee and illegally withheld his tips.

Regulating The Industry

The rapid growth of the ultra-fast delivery industry has led many small business owners and elected officials to fear that the industry could undercut the city’s bodegas and corner stores, the same way that Uber and Lyft devastated the yellow cab industry.

New York City Councilmember Gale Brewer has called for the city to investigate whether Buyk and other ultrafast delivery companies’ “dark stores” are violating zoning rules. She argues that since the stores are not actual stores but are mini-warehouses, they should not be located in commercially zoned districts.

Council member Christopher Marte recently announced his intention to introduce a bill to prevent grocery apps from advertising 15-minute delivery times, as well as to limit the weight of groceries workers have to deliver.

Upon hearing the allegations against Buyk, Marte stressed the importance of recognizing workers as employees of the companies they work for.

“We want to make sure their employers see them differently from gig workers because they’re employees, unlike Uber or Lyft workers that go to and from different points,” he said. “ They should be employees and have the benefits and protections employees have.” 

Now out of a job, Perez has found himself right back where he started. He still gets emotional when he reflects on how much he gave to Buyk and how little he has to show for it.

This post originally appeared at In These Times on May 11, 2022. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Amir Khafagy is a journalist, activist, organizer and performer. His work has been featured in CityLab, Jacobin, City Limits, The Indypendent, Counterpunch and The Hampton Institute. He is currently completing an MA in urban affairs at Queens College.

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Safer Surveillance: How Much Is Too Much?

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When we think of surveillance in a business, there is no doubt that it is a double edged sword. It can’t be denied that surveillance can be an important part of keeping workers safe and providing security for staff – not only against outsiders, but also from the potential actions of other members of the team, whether intentional or otherwise.

However, surveillance can also be used in an extremely negative way. Many workers see business surveillance as little more than an excuse to spy on staff. It has even been noticed that some organizations go beyond looking at employees’ work activities, to also view their personal accounts. 

“Despite it being around for a while, we have noticed an increased use of email, internet and telephone monitoring,” says HR specialist Vanessa Bell speaking with The HR Director “more employers are also taking it upon themselves to check in on employees’ social media platforms and regularly monitor the posts being uploaded”. 

The kind of creeping invasion of surveillance might all be fine in the hands of professionals with a desire to keep the business and its staff safe. But where do we draw the line between valuable security work to keep staff safe, and simply unnecessary snooping? Of course there has to be a balance, and the best way to understand where to find that balance is to understand the kind of things staff surveillance might be used to defend against. 

Insider attacks

It is unfortunately the case that insider attacks – those perpetrated by individuals working for an organization – are on the rise. In fact, recent statistics revealed that over 60% of data breaches come as a result of an insider attack. 

“As a business leader, the last thing you want is an attack from a user with existing access to your environment,” says M.K. Palmore speaking to Security Roundtable “it doesn’t really matter whether a breach is caused by malice, negligence or mistake. Insider threats are particularly pernicious because of the knowledge, access and information malicious insiders may possess, and because even individuals who are cybersecurity-aware can make inadvertent or careless errors.” 

It is naturally the case that one of the only ways to defend against these kinds of attacks are through closer monitoring of staff. However, this is not the only time that we see staff surveillance occurring. In some cases, the surveillance can occur in something of a test format. 

Penetration testing

The term ‘ethical hacking’ can be controversial – how can hacking ever be ‘ethical’? The truth is that ethical hacking can play an important role in keeping any business secure against cyberattacks. However, having it carried out can create a situation where staff feel that they are being spied upon.

Perhaps the most common form of ethical hacking is known as penetration testing. A penetration test is an assessment of a business’ current cybersecurity measures to check for potential vulnerabilities and weaknesses. These tests utilize “the tools, techniques and procedures used by genuine criminal hackers including phishing, SQL injection, brute force and deployment of custom malware.” 

Penetration testing can be extremely effective. But there has been some controversy around the use of elements such as fake phishing emails and ‘social engineering’ tactics. These are designed to replicate tactics used by criminals, but it functionally can involve the penetration testing conducting surveillance on staff without their knowledge. 

Invasion of privacy?

It is important to consider whether staff surveillance is necessary for the protection of the business and for members of staff themselves. To some, it seems less for their good and more like a simple invasion of privacy. It has been argued that with potential changes being made in the future for data privacy, this could have an impact on surveillance.

In Europe, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was brought into effect, and there has been talk of similar legislation likely to become law in the US. Should this occur it could offer some protection for staff against some types of surveillance. 

What to do if your business surveillance is too much

If you feel that workplace surveillance is becoming a major issue, it is a good idea to take these concerns to management. Remember that it is often the case that these changes to monitoring are made with the thought in mind to help keep businesses and their staff more secure. It could well be the case that overzealous changes have been implemented without anyone thinking through the negative consequences for staff. 

Staff surveillance has huge advantages for both businesses and members of the team, if it is carried out correctly. Staff should feel that they have the opportunity to discuss changes to their monitoring without fear.

This blog was printed with permission.

About the Author: Dakota Murphey is a freelance writer based in the UK, specializing in Digital Trends in Business, Marketing, PR, Branding, Cybersecurity, Entrepreneurial Skills, and Company Growth. Having successfully contributed to a number of authoritative online resources, she has secured a platform to share her voice with like-minded professionals

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A Guide to Workplace Bullying

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Michael Metcalf, Author

Bullying is an all-too-common workplace issue. And if reports are correct, it seems to be on the rise.

Workplace bullying is one of the most damaging issues for any organization, as it can affect employee productivity, financial performance, and brand strength. On top of that, there’s no moral justification for letting it happen.

Employees deserve to work in comfortable environments of psychological safety. They should be able to relax, be themselves, and collaborate with others without fear or emotional upset.

Workplace Bullying Statistics in 2021

  • 1 in 4 UK workers have been bullied at work. The same amount also reported feeling left out in the workplace too.
  • One survey of 3,000 American adults found that workers across the age, gender, and education spectrum experience high levels of hostile behaviors at work.
  • 37% of Australian workers report having been cursed or yelled at in the workplace.
  • 1 in 5 American workers have been subjected to some form of verbal abuse, unwanted sexual attention, threats, or humiliating behavior at work.
  • 1 in 8 American workers have experienced direct verbal abuse or threats.
  • 8% of women aged 25-34 report having had unwanted sexual attention in the workplace during the last month.
  • Men aged 25-34 without a college degree report the highest levels of bullying, with 35% having experienced bullying at least once recently.
  • 1 out of 5 students in the US report being bullied, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.
  • Workplace bullying is estimated to cost Australian businesses more than $6bn per year.

Why is it important to deal with workplace bullying?

It’s fairly easy to understand why this is important. Bullying is a workplace issue that can have tons of negative impacts on employees, management, company culture, and overall productivity.

If bullying becomes widespread enough, stories can leak out to the public and damage your brand – nobody wants to do business with a company of bullies, and not many people want to work in a place where bullies can get away with it.

Workplace bullying can have mild to severe impacts on victims, including:

  • low morale/loss of motivation
  • inability to concentrate or complete tasks
  • lowered productivity
  • social anxiety and avoiding people
  • anxiety and depression
  • stress, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and other mental health issues
  • reduced confidence and self-esteem
  • sleep problems
  • other consequences of stress like digestive issues and a weakened immune system
  • more frequent absences from work because of the above issues

If it’s obvious that one person is a bully, others might alter their behavior to avoid their attention. They might be reluctant to do anything distinctive that makes them stand out, or they could shy away in situations that require collaborative creativity. And even when bullies are dealt with by management, there’s a loss of productivity while they have to go through disciplinary procedures, maybe even getting suspended too.

Bullying can cause trust issues within your teams, too; not just directly between the bully and the bullied employee, but across the organization, fostering a culture of secrecy, gossip, and paranoia if left unchecked.

There’s also a measurable financial cost to bullying. If staff leave due to being bullied, there are the obvious costs of replacing them and training new staff. But there’s also the possibility of dealing with costly legal action if things get to a certain point, too. And higher incidences of sick leave and lower productivity will have a financial impact, as well.

No matter how competitive and high-pressure your work culture is, when positive aggression tips over into harmful bullying, you have to act quickly and decisively to stamp it out.

What should I do if I’m being bullied at work?

The first thing to do if you’re wondering how to deal with bullying at work is to tell someone about it.

It’s not always easy to do, of course. You might have a more reserved personality type, or you could have had a bad experience in the past when trusting someone with a personal problem.

But talking is almost always your best starting point, whether it’s with your line manager, a colleague, a close friend, or a family member. Getting it out of your head means you’re under less of a mental burden keeping it a secret, and talking it through will make you feel better. What’s more, you might end up getting some great advice on how to deal with the situation.

It’s also important to keep records of everything. Bullies can spread their deeds out into multiple small-scale transgressions, which individually, don’t seem much. It’s hard to complain about little things without feeling a bit silly – which is the reaction they’re looking for.

But if you note down details of each occurrence, you can build up a timeline that clearly illustrates a campaign of workplace harassment over time. You can take a report like this to management, presenting irrefutable evidence that you’re being victimized. If it’s noticeably affecting your job performance, any competent manager will want to intervene straight away.

Another option is to be proactive and confront the bully yourself – fight your corner.

You might think back to a parent telling you to “stand up for yourself” in the school playground when someone was bullying you – it’s easier said than done. Or how about “just ignore them” – well-meaning advice that’s nigh on impossible to follow when somebody really has it out for you. But if management isn’t being especially helpful, it might turn out to be the most effective strategy.

Instead of going in all guns blazing, you could take a less confrontational route.

You could try letting the bully know how their words or actions made you feel. They’ll already have a good idea, of course, if their actions are intentional, but by putting it all out there, it might cause a wave of guilt causing them to stop.

Try to figure out why they have a problem with you. Offer to lay it all out on the table, apologize for anything you might have done to upset them, and clear the air. This strategy won’t work for every situation and does take a bit of bravery, but it might be the quickest, most effective way to solve your bully problem. You might even end up becoming friends with them.

What are the signs that someone is being bullied at work?

There’s a bunch of different bullying at work signs that you should look out for. When coworkers are having problems with a bully, they might be reluctant to bring attention to it. So here are some of the signs to look out for:

  • They’re absent from work more often
  • They seem dissatisfied, downbeat, and unmotivated
  • They’re not performing so well at their job
  • They make excuses for avoiding work-related social events
  • You hear others gossiping about them

You might see one of these signs on its own, which doesn’t necessarily mean they’re being bullied. There might be a perfectly reasonable explanation.

But if you start noticing a couple of these signs together, something is probably going wrong for your coworker behind the scenes. Reach out, talk to them, and offer to help.

Final thoughts

Bullying and harassment in the workplace is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. Certain social movements from the 2010s onwards have given more people the confidence to speak up when they witness injustice in their organization, but there’s still a long way to go.

Tackling bullying takes a combined effort from coworkers and management. Workers need to be supported both with the presence of official procedures and the confidence that their complaints will be taken seriously.

If workplace bullying goes unchecked, the negative effects on employees, management, and the public reputation of the company can be enormous – so it’s something to deal with swiftly and judiciously.

Read the full article here.

This blog was printed with permission.

About the Author: Michael is a passionate writer and has written for other major publishing sites such as Trello, Unilever, and Timetastic. At F4S, he writes research-based articles and guides covering leadership, management, and everything involving workplace wellness.

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Nursing Workplace Violence

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While workplace violence in healthcare has been a persistent problem for many years, the rates have spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nurses report escalating rates of COVID-related violence directed at them by frustrated and angry patients and their families.

A 2021 Workplace Health & Safety survey of registered nurses reports that 44% experienced physical violence at least once during the pandemic from patients, family members, or visitors. Over two thirds encountered verbal abuse at least once. RNs who provided direct care for patients with COVID-19 experienced more violence than nurses who did not care for these patients. Nurses also faced difficulty reporting these incidents to management.

The healthcare industry leads all other sectors for non-fatal workplace assaults. Within healthcare settings, violence in emergency departments has reached epidemic proportions during the pandemic. Emergency nurses are particularly vulnerable. Nearly 70 percent of emergency nurses report being hit or kicked at work.

Workplace violence injures healthcare professionals physically and psychologically, resulting in lost workdays, burnout, and turnover. The escalating rates of violence undermine efforts to provide quality patient care and hinder effective responses to combatting the COVID-19 virus.

The State of Workplace Violence Against Nurses

The rates of workplace violence have increased rapidly since the pandemic began. In August 2021 at a hospital in San Antonio, Texas, family members of COVID-19 patients physically and verbally abused healthcare workers for enforcing mask and visiting restrictions. Across the country, healthcare professions who advocate for vaccination and masking mandates have been subjected to online verbal abuse and threats of physical harm toward them or their family members.

Incidents of workplace violence are not restricted to the United States. A patient with COVID symptoms in Naples, Italy grew impatient waiting for treatment and spat at a doctor and nurse. His actions led to a shutdown of the entire ward and quarantine of all staff. In the United Kingdom, patients spat at and verbally abused staff who asked that they wear masks. In Mexico, healthcare workers accused of spreading the virus, have been assaulted and doused with bleach on public streets.

Nurses have become especially vulnerable to these kinds of physical and verbal assaults. Tina M. Baxter, an advanced practice registered nurse who provides consulting services for healthcare organizations, attorneys, and insurance professionals, has personally experienced workplace violence on several occasions.

She points out that “violence as a whole has increased during the pandemic and the lack of civil discourse in society, too often resorting to violence has become the first instinct instead of the last resort…Nurses are the most convenient target as we are with the patients the majority of the time. It is often the nurse who is tasked to enforce the rules about visitation, masking, and other mandates.”

A recent brief prepared by National Nurses United (NNU) support’s Baxter’s observations. NNU identifies multiple factors fueling COVID-related workplace violence. Nurses constantly face patients and families reacting with anger related to understaffing and increased wait times for care. They frequently deal with aggressive family members who refuse to adhere to visiting and masking requirements. The pandemic fatigue felt by many people and the misinformation spread by untrustworthy media and online outlets have also escalated the violent incidents.

The Influence of COVID on Rising Verbal and Physical Attacks

The recent Workplace Health & Safety survey connects COVID-related violence to the strained relations between nurses and patients. Over 67% of the nurses reported incidents of physical violence or verbal abuse between February and June 2020.

One in ten RNs indicated that reporting the violent incidents to management has become more difficult during the pandemic than before. Underreporting violence during the pandemic may be due to busy workloads, non-standardized reporting procedures, unclear definitions of what constitutes violence, and a perceived lack of management support.

Stressful conditions and more intense patient and family interactions are among the major forces behind the increased risks for aggression and violence toward nurses during the pandemic. Priscilla Grace Barnes, a registered nurse, personal trainer, and nutrition coach, explains that “part of being a nurse isn’t solely caring for the patient, it’s educating and communicating with the family. Many times this communication involves difficult situations around rules and regulations nurses have no control over. We are put in very tough situations.”

The pandemic may have helped spread the mistaken assumption that violence is part of the nursing profession. Many nurses believe that they have a responsibility to provide compassionate care even to those exhibiting violent behavior. As a result, nurses feel they must tolerate unsafe and dangerous conditions, rationalizing that the increase in violence stems directly from the anger and frustration experienced by patients and their families.

The Long-Term Impacts of Nurse Violence

A 2021 research study published in Healthcare reports that nurses who have experienced direct and indirect exposure to workplace violence are two to four times more likely to experience post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and burnout than nurses with no exposure.

According to the International Council of Nurses (ICN), rates of anxiety, trauma, and burnout have spiked dramatically since the onset of the pandemic. ICN data shows that the number of nurses reporting mental health distress has increased from 60% to 80% in many countries. Failure to address these mental health pressures will impact the already existing nursing shortage. ICN estimates a potential shortfall of 14 million nurses by 2030, which amounts to half the current nursing workforce.

Government, healthcare organizations, and nursing associations must address the pressing need for mental health support and preventive care for nurses. Barnes argues that healthcare facilities must promote psychological wellness to ensure nurse safety: “Nurses are caregivers. We live to serve. But caregivers have to be well. Working in a hospital I often felt like I was pouring into a cup that had holes in the bottom of it – no matter how much I gave, the cup was never full. This only leads to burnout of those who are the lifeline to the hospital – nurses.”

Despite the generally high regard for nurses held by the general public throughout the pandemic, negative public perceptions have also emerged about workplace safety and mental health challenges in the nursing profession. These unfavorable views may deter prospective nurses from entering the field at the time when they are most needed.

Preventing Workplace Violence Against Nurses: What Needs to Happen?

Even before the pandemic, healthcare workers experienced one of the highest rates of workplace violence compared to all other U.S. workers. According to a 2018 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of violent injuries has steadily increased since 2011. Because the problem has reached epidemic proportions, nurses, medical facilities, and government agencies must work together to develop concrete measures to prevent the escalation of workplace violence.

One of the first issues to address is the culture of acceptance about violence in nursing. Rhonda Collins, the chief nursing officer at Vocera Communications, a healthcare technology company, cautions that “workplace violence should not and does not ‘come with the territory’ of being a nurse. Healthcare leaders must aggressively act to address this epidemic by validating concerns and ensuring nurses are heard and respected when reporting violent acts.”

Addressing Workplace Violence During COVID and Beyond

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem of escalating workplace violence in nursing. The healthcare industry and the nursing profession must embrace a cultural shift toward accountability and responsibility, providing a safe environment for all healthcare personnel, promoting positive patient care outcomes, and increasing the effectiveness of nursing practice.

Addressing the problem of workplace violence in nursing is in everyone’s interest. Nurses deserve to work in safe settings, performing their duties without fear of injury. Healthcare organizations will face greater nursing shortages due to injury or burnout, impacting the quality and cost of patient care. Effective workplace violence prevention initiatives must include transparent zero-tolerance policies, clear communication and procedures for incident reporting, and educational and support programs.

Read the full article including access to proactive approaches and training to prevent workplace violence here.

This blog is printed with permission.

About the Author: This article was written by Priscilla Barnes, Tina Baxter APRN GNP-BC and Rhonda Collins, DNP, RN, FAAN, and was reviewed by Elizabeth M. Clarke, FNP, MSN, RN, MSSW. Learn more about them here.

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Workforce Development Strategies: Make Your Staff Remarkable

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M. Alan Shapiro, Author

Investing in the right workforce development strategies is a win-win situation for employers and employees. When teams are competitive, productivity increases.

In today’s highly competitive global economy, companies need to continuously enhance their processes for better efficiency and stay on top of the competition. One of the ways to achieve peak productivity is through workforce development. 

Workforce development is an employment initiative that aims to maximize employees’ potentials and provide opportunities to handle problems effectively. It is an essential process in business development that can help create and retain a high-quality workforce. Generally, this involves a change in culture and systems to provide economic prosperity to individuals, businesses, and communities. 

In March 2020, employee retention rates reached an all-time low. This data should keep employers on their toes since poor employee retention can cost the company a lot of time and money. Workforce development strategies can help improve an employee’s attitude towards work and make them feel valued.

When a team is highly engaged at work, they get more motivated to work smarter and harder. All of these positive and mindful actions can contribute to a company’s success. After all, employees perform better when they are satisfied at work. 

The Benefits of Workforce Development

Workforce development positively affects both employers and employees making it a worthwhile and rewarding investment. The following outlines the benefits of pursuing this initiative:

  • Lower turnover rate

When an employee quits their job, it usually costs the company about a third of their annual salary. The process of recruiting and training new hires is expensive and can adversely affect productivity. So, a lower turnover rate can save the company a lot of time and resources.

  • Increased job satisfaction

When employees feel valued and trusted, they are more likely to stick with the company for the long haul. If they are presented with professional and personal growth opportunities, they would be more fired up to do their jobs and provide excellent outputs.

  • Improved productivity and operational efficiency

Workforce development strengthens an employee’s skills and allows them to reach their maximum potential. In addition, it aims to retain and ensure fulfillment for team members, encouraging them to make business operations smooth-sailing and highly productive.

  • Proactive problem resolution

Competent and proactive employees are every company’s best defense when problems arise. Better yet, if they can handle possible glitches even before they happen. Having a trained team that knows how to deal with disputes properly and proactively reassures vendors, clients, and customers. 

  • Enhanced innovation and creativity

A workplace that fosters leadership development and professional growth is an ideal environment for innovation and creative pursuits. Through workplace development activities, employees can effectively communicate their ideas and collaborate as a cohesive team.

An empowered team is an asset to the company and can significantly contribute to the success of any project. On the other hand, a workforce that feels neglected by their employer is likely to leave at the first sign of conflict. 

Workforce Development Strategies You Can Consider

The key to reaping the optimum benefits of workplace development is applying the following strategies:

  • Make it about learning and not training

For most employees, the word “mandatory training” may bring to mind sessions with monotonous lectures while cooped up in a cold conference room. To change this notion and inspire them to participate in learning activities, employers should present programs as opportunities to develop a new skill or interest. 

These learning opportunities may include online programs, mentorship, individualized performance reviews, and group brainstorm sessions. 

  • Let employees take the lead

Far too long, employees have taken a backseat when it comes to their professional development within the workplace. A vital strategy is to allow them to determine the scope and delivery method of the learning activities. Employers can also motivate them to participate by letting them learn at their own pace through accessible and easy-to-follow programs. 

With this tailored approach, they can focus on learning new skills in the most effective way possible. In addition, it can increase the team’s enthusiasm and engagement while curbing resentment towards management.

  • Choose updated delivery methods

To make self-directed learning a reality, the company can consider using a more modern way of delivering development opportunities. They have to keep up with the times and introduce methods that are straightforward yet stimulating. 

Since traditional learning methods are not working anymore, more organizations are now adopting online employee development programs. Not only does it allow employees the freedom to choose their schedules, but it also prevents the interruption of their workflow. Some online learning tools include resource banks, webinars, discussion forums, and self-paced eLearning modules. 

  • Enhance overall communication

As mentioned earlier, when employees are in tune with their company’s goals, they become more inspired to give their best efforts. There should be regular and transparent discussions about the employees’ goals and the company’s objectives to foster a supportive and collaborative working relationship. 

Employers must provide clear expectations and be transparent about the workforce development programs that they want to implement. They should let employees know that they are open to feedback and suggestions. Employees, on the other hand, can take this opportunity to inform their employers if the programs have made a significant impact on their performance or not. 

Staying Competitive in the Global Market

The right workforce development strategies can remedy low retention rates. When team members feel that their professional growth is nurtured, they are more likely to stay and grow together with the company.

Investing in continuous employee development is a win-win situation both for employees and employers. The workers can take advantage of learning and growth opportunities while the management can leverage their employees’ enhanced skills. Employees can also discover new skills and talents that can help them stay competitive in the workplace, which is also to the company’s benefit.
Having a highly-qualified and remarkable staff would significantly improve the organization’s productivity and efficiency, making them fierce competitors in the global economic arena. But to achieve this level of success, employers must remember that employees are the heart of any workforce development program. They must be given the freedom to choose how, where, and what to learn. 

This blog is printed with permission.

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Causes of Workplace Burnout and How to Avoid It

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Madeline Gray, Author

Workplace burnout can affect anyone from any walk of life, regardless of their profession. It often stems from an excessive workload and, if untreated, can seep into all aspects of day-to-day life, affecting mood and general welfare. 

Over half (52%) of U.S. workers surveyed in a recent study by Indeed reported feelings of burnout, with two-thirds saying the pandemic has contributed negatively to this feeling. But why is it such a prevalent problem? And what can be done about it? 

Here, we highlight some of the leading causes of burnout, and examine how it can manifest itself in our daily lives, as well as offering solutions to avoid this feeling altogether. 

What is Workplace Burnout? 

It is common for everyone to not feel themselves at times, especially when work or home life is particularly stressful. However, workplace burnout is a term used to describe the specific feeling of stress or exhaustion brought on by our working environment or job in general. 

Whilst burnout isn’t a medical diagnosis, it can have detrimental impacts on both our physical and mental health. This is why treating it, or avoiding it altogether, can go a long way to helping maintain a healthy workforce. 

Workplace burnout can manifest itself in a number of ways, from reducing feelings of accomplishment to a complete loss of self-identity. But what factors can bring on this feeling, and how can you identify burnout? 

What Causes Burnout? 

One of the key contributing factors is a lack of work-life balance. Particularly during the pandemic when more workers have been operating remotely, it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between home and professional life, especially when you’re working in the same space where you spend your leisure time. 

Another common cause of burnout is feeling out of control when it comes to completing your responsibilities. If you aren’t given the ability to affect decisions that will influence your role directly, this can lead to feelings of disillusionment within the workplace, causing additional stress.

What Are The Symptoms?  

There are plenty of signs to be aware of that  indicate you or a colleague are suffering from workplace burnout. Becoming overly cynical at work, or irritable with customers and coworkers are both indicators. 

Furthermore, if these feelings begin to affect your day-to-day routine, such as inhibiting your ability to sleep, or feeling unmotivated to complete everyday tasks, then it’s even more important to start addressing the problem. Other symptoms can include feeling like you’re always underachieving, and generally doubting your abilities to effectively contribute in the workplace. 

How to Avoid Burnout 

When it comes to avoiding workplace burnout, the buck ultimately has to stop with employers. Creating a professional environment that is conducive to productivity and healthy working is pivotal to both the success of the company, and the general welfare of the workforce. 

Setting unrealistic deadlines, poor channels of communication, and excessive workloads can all contribute to feelings of burnout amongst employees. With the added pressures brought on by the pandemic, it has become even more important for employers to manage their workers effectively, and research would suggest that they have. 

According to a recent study by McKinsey, 80% of employees felt that their company’s leadership has been proactive in looking after the health and safety of workers during this time. By taking a more personable approach, instead of treating employees like robots, workplace burnout will become a far less prevalent issue. 

What Can Individuals Do?

Whilst much of the responsibility lies with employers, there are several measures that individuals can take to protect their own wellbeing. 

According to this guide on workplace burnout, one of the best ways to protect against it is by setting boundaries with both yourself and co-workers. Particularly when working from home, your home life can easily be diluted by professional responsibilities, contributing to feelings of stress and stopping us from switching off. 

Setting boundaries begins with creating a routine you will stick to. This will help you to distinguish between work and home life, as well as managing the expectations of your colleagues by informing them of your availability. 

Another potential measure is to make a conscious effort to improve your communication with management. Lack of communication or feedback on work can be a major contributing factor to burnout. 

Whilst this can be more challenging when working remotely, maintaining good communication channels with senior staff can help provide more clarity on day-to-day tasks, making you feel more in control. Furthermore, if feelings of stress or burnout do begin to creep in, it is worth communicating this with colleagues to prevent the situation from getting out of control.

This blog is printed with permission.

About the Author: Madeline Gray is a freelance writer with a particular interest in employee welfare, and has created content for established companies based all around the world. She has a degree in creative writing and is always eager to expand her knowledge around different subjects.

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Environmental Protection and the Protection of Those Preserving Tomorrow

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Dan Matthews, Author

Many of us are concerned about the environment and our impact on the planet but, fortunately, there is a bright future ahead. People are more interested in sustainability than ever before and as technology evolves, we see more companies using new forms of green energy to make their products.

However, while these changes are helping the environment, the workers that bring these solutions to reality must still be cautious of new hazards that are  dangerous if not handled appropriately. 

Clean Energy is the Future

Many years ago, we wouldn’t even be talking about changing our manufacturing processes, but as the world evolves, more people are witnessing our negative environmental impact and are demanding change. Many companies are jumping on board as they look for new forms of sustainable and renewable energy that will produce clean power and the same high-quality products without the harmful side effects.

According to the Environmental Defense Fund, these clean industries are growing by leaps and bounds. Currently, 2.2 million workers are performing energy-efficient jobs, and the renewable energy sector has brought on almost one million workers over the last couple of years. These positive changes will mean great things for our environment, but hard work is necessary to bring them to life and employee safety is key.

Employee safety should always be at the forefront of management’s minds as safe and happy workers are more eager  to show up to work and are often more productive because of it. However, the typical safety mindset must be shifted as new dangers become apparent. 

New Employee Dangers

One example of a new danger is the generation of biofuels which produce lower carbon emissions than fossil fuels. While the result is great, the creation of biofuels often involves dangerous substances like gasoline and numerous acids, which can be dangerous when they are touched or inhaled. To stay safe, workers must always use protective gear, including gloves and safety goggles, that management should provide.

Solar energy is a very popular form of alternative energy that has many families excited as they place solar panels on their homes. However, solar installers and other employees who regularly work with the energy can be subject to thermal burns, electrical shock, and potential falls from the top of high buildings. This is another circumstance in which  protective gear is essential in addition to adequate training before anyone does the job.

Even folks working in recycling jobs face their share of challenges, especially when it comes to recycling items from construction sites which can include anything from hazardous materials to dangerous machinery with moving parts. Employees must work with extreme caution to avoid harm and use protective gear to stay protected. Of course, renewable energy jobs will also require safety protocols against common threats that impact any industry, including slips, trips, and falls.

Employer Responsibility

It should be stated that it is not all doom and gloom when it comes to renewable materials. In fact, it can be argued that sustainable practices may actually increase worker safety by using materials that are overall cleaner and less toxic, making them less dangerous if inhaled. Also, many of these processes use automation that keeps the worker less involved in the actual process and out of harm’s way.

Even if that is the case, it is still the responsibility of management to ensure the safest work environment possible. Keeping employees safe is the right thing to do, especially in this changing world with a complicated healthcare system and physician shortages that require an employee to wait longer to get the help they need. When employees are not working, they can’t get paid and provide for their families, and companies lose valuable productivity. 

If you are an employee who feels that your company does not have your best interest at heart, then it is your right  to make your concerns known. Talk to management and tell them what bothers you and what needs to change. If your concerns fall on deaf ears, then you may need to take legal action or file a workers compensation claim. Remember that you are not telling on anyone, but instead, you are doing what is right to protect yourself and your coworkers, and you cannot be discriminated against for your actions.
In the end, it is a great thing that our world is turning towards renewable energy and sustainable practices. By protecting the workers that are helping our planet, everyone’s a winner in the end.

This blog is printed with permission.

About the author: Dan Matthews is a writer, content consultant, and conservationist. While Dan writes on a variety of topics, he loves to focus on the topics that look inward on mankind that help to make the surrounding world a better place to reside. When Dan isn’t working on new content, you can find him with a coffee cup in one hand and searching for new music in the other.

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How the Wage Gap is Affecting Women’s Mental Health

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Gemma Hart, Author

In America, women earn 82 cents for every $1 earned by a man. This significant wage gap is not only affecting women’s financial security and independence, it’s also having a negative impact on women’s mental health.

Why Do Women Earn Less than Men?

Perhaps the most common question relating to the gender pay gap is, why do women earn less than men in the first place? Sadly, many explanations for the gender pay gap are dissatisfying and generally unfounded in facts.

The most common explanation given by organizations is that men typically have the freedom to work in more senior positions that demand longer working hours. This is because, despite the fight for equal rights, women are typically the caregivers of their children. They must balance their family commitments while trying to climb the career ladder.

Even today, in the 21st Century, the workplace inherently favors men over women. It still favors unsocial work hours over flexible schedules, those without family commitments over those with children. Too often, women’s roles are put in certain boxes and these boxes can limit their personal and professional potential, resulting in low pay, job dissatisfaction, lost identity, burnout, and ultimately mental health problems.

The Gender Pay Gap and Mental Health

Gender discrimination and the daily experiences women face are structurally embedded in our society and have a significant impact on women’s mental health, often resulting in anxiety and psychological trauma.

Unfortunately, some women blame themselves for considering alternatives like perhaps if they’d delayed having a family, made themselves more available at work, or worked harder for longer, they would have a more successful career. For many, it feels like the best solution is to work harder and do better. However, this can simply exacerbate the symptoms of mental health, causing burnout and an increased risk of depression and anxiety disorders.

How Women’s Mental Health is Affected

There are many ways the gender pay gap impacts the lives of women. They include:

Chronic Stress:

Many women experience chronic stress as a result of the wage gap. They often feel pressured to work harder and for longer periods to keep up with their male colleagues and maintain their job security. Add this to the constant demands of family and home life; chronic stress can quickly set in.

“Chronic overload at work, deadline pressure, double load and family strain […] and a lack of success have a high potential to generate chronic stress […] this gradually leads to exhaustion and a weakening of the immune system. In the long run, this can be seen in different physical and psychological symptoms,” says Dr. Claudia M. Elsig MD at The CALDA Clinic.

Physical Sickness

For many women, experiencing gender discrimination in the workplace directly correlates with worsening physical health, reduced living conditions, and for some substance abuse.

More than 1 in 10 women report experiencing gender-based discrimination at work. And, as such, they are more likely to struggle with reduced physical health. This is particularly true for women who have experienced sexual harassment.

It is extremely common for women to experience high levels of stress due to gender discrimination and this can lead to numerous chronic conditions, from high blood pressure to diabetes.

Poor Living Conditions

A direct result of the gender pay gap is that many women find themselves living in worse conditions than their male counterparts. Despite working in the same level of seniority and performing the same professional tasks, women are still paid less than men and this can mean they have less access to things they need to live well.

As a result, women can find it takes longer to get out of debt, save for retirement, and buy houses, in comparison to men. Understandably, this can cause high levels of stress and also result in women struggling to afford quality food, health insurance, safe housing, and so much more. Understandably, and perhaps inevitably, women’s mental health can be severely impacted as a result.

Depression and Anxiety

The wage gap between men and women is one of the most common causes of rising rates of depression and anxiety among women. In fact, women who earn less than their male counterparts are 2.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Anxiety and depression negatively impact women in the workplace, impacting everything from their job performance to their physical health.

Final Words

Change is needed. Women are still overlooked in the workplace and, as you can see above, they continue to be greatly impacted by the gender pay gap. There is a direct correlation between the wage gap and womens’ mental health and it is time to value all employees equally, regardless of their gender. Working to reduce the gender pay gap will not only help to create a more equal society but also a healthier one.

This blog is printed with permission.

About the author: Gemma Hart is an independent HR professional working remotely from as many coffee shops as she can find. Gemma has gained experience in a number of HR roles but now turns her focus towards growing her brand and building relationships with leading experts.

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The ACLU of Illinois Seeks a Playbook for Acceptable Progressive Union Busting

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The staff union and management are locked in a battle over who can be included in the union.

Aunion fight that is playing out in Illinois highlights how progressive organizations can use technical objections to the scope of a proposed union to effectively pursue union-busting while maintaining plausible deniability that they are doing so. This effort to have it both ways makes sense when you consider where this labor battle is happening: at the ACLU. 

The past two years has been a landmark one for unionization at the ACLU, part of the broader, ongoing wave of nonprofit organizing. As the pandemic raged in 2020, workers at several ACLU state branches unionized–including in Kansas, where the staff faced a corporate-style anti-union campaign. In January of 2021 about 300 staffers nationwide formed the civil liberties group’s largest staff union, called ACLU Staff United. In subsequent months, more state ACLU staffs across the country have successfully unionized, and ACLU staff union drives are underway in other states, like Virginia and Illinois*. Workers have vowed to continue until they have successfully unionized every state office. 

Though common sense might tell you that an organization that proudly declares that it “has championed the right of workers to organize unions since its inception more than 90 years ago” would be an easy place to unionize, that has not been completely true. While most of the union drives at the ACLU have secured voluntary recognition from management—a necessary baseline for any employer to be considered pro-union—that has not been the case in Illinois. In late June, workers there asked management to recognize their staff union, part of the National Organization of Legal Services Workers. More than five months later, they are still waiting. 

An ACLU of Illinois employee who is a member of the proposed staff union, and who asked for anonymity in fear of workplace retaliation, said that organizing there started in late 2020, after internal efforts to improve the workplace fell short. Employees were particularly upset after an internal staff committee aimed at improving diversity, equity and inclusion was disbanded, even as the organization lost staff members of color year after year. In June, 20 staffers signed an open letter to management requesting recognition for a union covering 27 people. 

“We expected the ACLU to live up to their values” and voluntarily recognize the union, as other state ACLUs had done, the employee said. “But instead we had a strange reaction.” Middle managers were told to keep quiet about the union, and workers were told that they could not use a Zoom background that advertised their union, according to the employee. 

For months now, management and the union have been locked in a stalemate over the issue of how many workers will be allowed to be members of the unit. Restricting the size of a proposed unit is a common tactic by employers, who often seek to assert that as many employees as possible are managers or supervisors, and are therefore not eligible to be union members. These sorts of negotiations, though cloaked in legalistic language, are usually more about power than about law—how fiercely management chooses to argue over vague job descriptions comes down to whether they are comfortable working with a staff union, or whether they see it as a priority to make the union as small and weak as possible from the very beginning. 

Fed up with the delays, the ACLU of IL Staff United finally filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board in early October, seeking a resolution. The union had a two-day hearing at the NLRB that concluded on November 1. Though the timeline is not certain, the union expects to get a ruling on the size of its unit soon, and then it can proceed to a formal vote for certification.

“We were fed up, and decided if they weren’t going to be good faith partners,” going to the labor board was the only option, the employee says. “We’re deeply disappointed that the ACLU forced us to spend time and resources going before the NLRB. It’s not a good use of anyone’s time. We’d rather be doing the civil rights work everyone is here to do.”

The ACLU of Illinois said that executive director Colleen Connell was unavailable for an interview. Instead, the organization sent a statement attributed to Connell, which said that she has always been willing to extend voluntary recognition to “an appropriately defined bargaining unit of ACLU employees.” 

“To date, we have not been able to extend voluntary recognition because the Union’s proposed definition of the bargaining unit includes a number of positions that are supervisory, managerial, or confidential in nature and cannot, therefore, be lawfully included. We discussed these issues at length with the Union’s organizer prior to the Union filing its representation petition,” the statement says. It goes on to portray the dispute as one in which management is actually trying to protect employees, saying “our objections are not driven by a desire to defeat the Union’s representational objective. Just the opposite. NLRB law and policy makes clear that unionizing employees’ rights are frustrated by the inclusion in a bargaining unit of supervisors, managerial employees, and confidential employees.” 

That assertion of concern for “employees’ rights” is sharply at odds with what employees themselves say they want. Eleven positions in the proposed bargaining unit are in dispute, representing 40% of the total proposed union. The staff union filed a 50-page brief with the NLRB arguing that management has “taken dramatically expansive definitions” of who should be excluded from the unit, and that these “overbroad” arguments are inconsistent with labor law. 

The workers in Illinois are receiving vocal support from their colleagues across the country. “We’re disappointed that ACLU of Illinois leadership continues to drag out the union recognition process by failing to agree to a fair and inclusive unit,” said ACLU Staff United, the organization’s national union, in a statement. “It seems so easy for management to forget that the ACLU was founded over 100 years ago with a commitment to protecting workers’ rights. Staff at ACLU affiliates across the country and at the national organization have unionized to create a better ACLU and address pay inequities, lack of workplace diversity, remote work policies, and organizational transparency.”

There is no question that the ACLU of Illinois will eventually have some sort of staff union, covering at least some of its employees. But the outcome of its dispute will be significant. If successful in drastically restricting the size of the unit, management will have demonstrated a successful playbook for kneecapping a union’s power while insisting that you are pro-union, in line with your organization’s stated values. 

For workers at the ACLU of Illinois, the process has been eye opening—and has left them “surprised, disappointed, and disheartened.” 

“We came to work at the ACLU because we believe in civil rights,” the employee says. “And that includes labor rights.” 

This blog originally appeared at In These Times on November 15, 2021. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Hamilton Nolan is a labor reporter for In These Times. He has spent the past decade writing about labor and politics for Gawker, Splinter, The Guardian, and elsewhere. You can reach him at Hamilton@InTheseTimes.com.

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