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How to support employees who are feeling lonely at work

It’s been a tough couple of years for socializing. From pandemic lockdowns to remote work, building and maintaining relationships has become more difficult than ever. Unsurprisingly, this has led to many more people feeling lonely at work.

This isn’t just bad news for those individuals, though; it’s also bad for business. According to research done by Gallup, when women have a best friend at work, they’re twice as likely to be engaged as those who don’t. And the social aspect is a “major reason” why two-thirds of women work.

It’s not surprising when you consider that 32% of adults worry something will happen to them and nobody will notice. The same proportion feel they have no one to turn to.

Our working lives can play a huge role in how lonely we feel. Colleagues can become an important part of our support network. Not connecting with them on a social level can be isolating and lead to feeling lonely at work and in life.

What can you do to support employees who feel lonely at work? Let’s take a look.

Encourage open communication

When you can’t talk to your colleagues about your feelings, it’s hard not to feel lonely at work. 

One way to combat this is to support an open culture where conversations about mental health are welcome and encouraged.

The less someone feels able to discuss what’s on their mind, the more isolated—and therefore lonely—they’re going to feel.

Leaders within the organization set this example by how they talk about their own experiences. You don’t have to go into graphic detail, but letting employees know you really do understand can go a long way towards convincing them you’ll listen.

Educate employees—and yourself

The sad truth is that most of us aren’t taught how to look after ourselves or others through traditional education. This is despite it being an important part of having happy, healthy relationships.

It’s therefore important to do what you can to educate yourself and your employees around managing mental health. It’s also critical to know what to look for in others. 

The more employees who are trained on what to look for, the more open people will be about mental health. They’ll also be more able to spot signs in their colleagues and offer them the help they need.

Not only that, but they’ll be able to spot the symptoms in themselves. From there, they can explore how to mitigate and treat those feelings.

Have a buddy system

Buddy systems can be really good to help new employees navigate what can be complex hierarchical and social structures within a business. It ensures they have someone to talk to without worrying about asking their boss too many questions. Having even one person to go to can make a big difference when it comes to feeling lonely at work.

Encourage employees to create ERGs

Employee resource groups are a great way for employees to meet their colleagues. This is especially important in larger businesses where they may only regularly deal with members of their immediate team. Employees will be more likely to meet people they have things in common with through ERGs. This can make it easier for them to form friendships and not feel lonely at work.

Show employees you appreciate them

A little appreciation goes a long way. Show employees you appreciate them with a simple thank you, a small gift, or a shoutout in a meeting. The impact on people’s confidence may surprise you.

Hold regular retreats

Regular, in-person retreats can be a great way for remote teams to get to know each other. They can even help in finding solutions to complex problems.

When organizing retreats, be mindful of who’s going and what’s involved. Say you have a wheelchair user, the last activity you want to offer is rock climbing with no alternative. That will definitely make them feel lonely at work and even less like their colleagues understand them.

It can help to have a wide variety of socializing activities during the retreat. That way, there’s something for everyone.

 Try to include employees when asking for ideas, too. They may well come up with things you hadn’t, and they’ll feel appreciated just because you listened to their ideas.

Organize social activities

Activities don’t just have to be for retreats. You can do smaller ones every so often, too.

These could be online, in person, or a combination, depending on where your employees are based.

Everything from a book club to a quiz night can help employees to bond.

Let them be themselves

Most businesses are afraid of letting employees be themselves while talking about the business on social media. This then translates into employees being wary about how they talk about work to their colleagues. And reinforces feelings of isolation and being lonely at work.

Some employees may also come from a background where they’re not accepted for who they are. This could be because of their sexuality, race, religion, disability, or something else. 

Encouraging employees to be themselves—and embrace that—will grow their confidence. This can then help them find more like-minded people who really do understand them. 

They’ll also feel more comfortable in their role and want to stick around because work has become much more than just a job for them. 

And that’s something that a lot of people really want.

They’re not just looking to pay the bills. They want to make a difference in the world, and spend time with people they actually like. They want to work smarter, not harder.

Conclusion

Feeling lonely at work is a bigger issue than many business owners realize because we simply don’t talk about it. And if we don’t talk about it, that means it doesn’t exist, right?

Ah, if only.

It’s only when we talk about something that we realize how prevalent an issue is, and we start to consider what we can do about it.

And, as we’ve explored in this post, there’s plenty that businesses can do to support employees who feel lonely at work.

Providing a dedicated space for employees to connect, whether they’re remote, hybrid, or on-site, is important. If you’re interested in how technology can help your team members build real, authentic connections, drop by Workrowd.com. We’ve got a suite of tools to boost engagement and retention, and support anyone who feels lonely at work. Write us at hello@workrowd.com to learn more.

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Top tips for practicing mindfulness at work

The idea of mindfulness at work may sound like a bit of a contradiction. Mindfulness and work don’t necessarily go together in many people’s heads.

There are so many things to do, how can you possibly be in the moment enough to be mindful? And why should you?

Well, it turns out that practicing mindfulness at work can benefit you while you’re working, and when you get home (or turn your work laptop off for the day).

Mindfulness at work can reduce stress levels, help us solve problems better, lower blood pressure, improve gastrointestinal issues, and even relax aching joints that come from sitting at a desk all day.

So, with that in mind, why wouldn’t you want to practice mindfulness at work?

Here are some ways you can be more mindful at work, and encourage your employees to be, too.

Single task

An ability to multi-task is often seen as impressive. Some people wear it as a badge of honor. It can also make us feel more productive. 

But, in actual fact, those of us who multi-task are less productive

Multi-tasking makes you more prone to errors because you’re not giving something your full attention. Meaning you’re more likely to make silly mistakes that you wouldn’t normally. It can also increase your stress levels as you hop from one task to the next.

It takes our brains a while to focus on a task. Jumping from one to another and back again means you never get the chance to reach a state of flow. That’s where you focus on something you find equally engaging and challenging. It’s a great way to grow your skills and feel a sense of achievement.

However, if you’re multi-tasking, that isn’t going to happen. It’ll be harder to learn new things and you may find you get less done because you’re not fully concentrating.

Single tasking is a great way to practice mindfulness at work because your only focus is whatever you’re working on right now. Reaching a state of flow means you can get more done, the workday will go faster, and what you do will be of a higher quality.

Listen to music or soundscapes

The noises around us can have a huge impact on how we feel. Meditation music, classical music, or soundscapes can really help us be present and focus on the task at hand. 

Studies have even shown that listening to classical music can increase productivity.

There are lots of videos on YouTube for this, and they range from hip-hop music to coffee shop noise. Or you can just ask your smart speaker to play some meditation/classical music.

Be present in your body

Another part of mindfulness at work is paying attention to your body. Sitting at a desk all day can be bad for your posture. 

When you’re in tune with your body, you’ll be more likely to notice when something has become misaligned, you’re sitting differently, or you feel uncomfortable.

While those smartwatch reminders to get up every hour can be annoying, they’re there for a reason—movement is your friend! It’s what stops your joints from seizing up and can pull you back to the present moment.

When the reminder goes off, go make a drink, use the restroom, or just walk up and down the stairs. These small movements can make a big difference to how our joints feel, as well as to our long-term posture.

Eat away from your desk

When you eat at your desk, or even while watching TV, you pay less attention to what you’re eating. It takes 20 minutes for our brains to realize when we’re full. If you’re not eating mindfully, you’re more likely to keep eating even if you’re full, and you’re also more likely to absentmindedly snack.

If you work from home, consider using your lunch break to cook yourself something fresh. Focus on the process and how the ingredients work together.

Then, when you’re eating, pay attention to what you’re eating. How does it feel? What does it smell like? What sounds does it make? Considering how food impacts your senses will keep you in the moment. This will help you feel calmer and enjoy your meal.

Listen to your mind and body

If you’re struggling to concentrate on something, or you’re feeling fidgety, don’t force yourself to push through. A five-minute break could be all you need. 

Mindfulness at work is all about paying attention to the signals our minds and bodies send to us. 

We don’t always have to act on them, but sometimes, acting on that need for a break can allow us to return to a problem with a fresh perspective and finally solve it. It can also calm our nerves before a big presentation.

Educate your team

While mindfulness is becoming increasingly popular, there are still people who wrinkle their noses at the concept and think it’s woowoo or just not for them. 

However, many of the people who feel this way don’t know what it actually is. It’s therefore important to show your team what mindfulness at work is, how it could benefit them, and ways they can incorporate it into their day.

You could do this through a short training exercise, or by setting an example yourself. Mention that you take meditation breaks or that you eat away from your desk. 

Employees follow the examples their leaders set. The small steps you take set the precedent for everyone else on your team.

Conclusion 

There are simple actions you can take every day to practice mindfulness at work, and to encourage your employees to do so, too. 

Over time, this can become part of a team’s or company’s culture, helping employees to feel calmer at work. This will ultimately make them better at problem solving and happier in their roles.

If you want to cultivate more mindfulness at work, consider starting a mindfulness and/or meditation group. Employee groups are a valuable tool in the effort to drive culture change, and Workrowd provides an easy way to launch, manage, and measure them. Send us a message at hello@workrowd.com to learn more.

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7 key drivers of mental wellbeing in the workplace

Mental wellbeing in the workplace should be a priority for all businesses all year round, not just during Mental Health Awareness Month.

When you show employees that you really do value their mental wellbeing in the workplace, they’re going to be more loyal. They may then refer candidates when you’re hiring, which is one of the best ways to bring in new employees. They’ll also stick around for longer, and be able to deliver better work.

But how can you support mental wellbeing in the workplace? We’ve listed out seven simple ways below to get you started.

Prioritize health

It’s all too common for employees to push themselves to the point of burnout to achieve a deadline. If they regularly feel the need to do this at your company, it’s a sign of a toxic work culture

Chances are, employees feel like they have to follow the example set by the higher-ups, meaning they feel pressured to achieve tight (maybe almost impossible) deadlines.

This doesn’t have to be the case, though.

You don’t have to push employees to the point of burnout to achieve deadlines. You can prioritize their health and still get things done. It’s about pushing back when clients or colleagues demand tight schedules that you know are unsustainable. 

If you explain that the deadline is impossible and mental wellbeing in the workplace is important, people will be impressed by your integrity and how much you stand up for your employees. It will earn you a lot of points inside, and outside, of your business.

Make space for quiet

Most open-plan offices are so noisy it can be difficult to concentrate, especially if someone is sensitive to noise because of ADHD, autism, fibromyalgia, or another condition. It can be hard to block out the noise, but not everyone works well with, or likes to work wearing, headphones.

Having somewhere quiet to work can really help employees concentrate.

This applies to working from home, too, because constant Slack or Teams notifications can distract employees from deep work. This is especially true if they feel like they have to respond right away every time they get a message.

It’s important to foster a culture where employees don’t feel the need to be so reactive. Reactivity can be bad for anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions, all of which can affect mental wellbeing in the workplace.

Be flexible

Working from home and flexible working are two of the biggest trends to come out of the pandemic. 

Yet many businesses are now demanding employees come back, claiming it makes them more collaborative. Without any basis to that other than managers’ preferences.

76% of American homemakers would return to work if they could work from home, and 74% would if a job had flexible hours. 

97% of homemakers are women, all of whom have skills, knowledge, and backgrounds that your competitors are missing out on. And which could help to differentiate your business both when hiring and creating products.

So, which is more important? Someone sitting in a chair right next to you, or innovating to stand out from your competition?

Trust your employees

It’s actually a little baffling how few businesses trust their employees. Even in local government.

A UK cabinet officer recently left notes saying, “Sorry you were out when I visited. I look forward to seeing you in the office very soon,” on the desks of employees who weren’t in the office.

Obviously, some more old-fashioned managers and businesses dislike employees working from home. 

But to say that it makes people less productive and that they can’t be trusted feels more like forcing beliefs on them when the studies say otherwise.

Employees are more productive when working from home, and if you can’t trust them…well, that’s a very different issue, isn’t it?

Remember that everyone is different

Just because one solution worked for someone with autism, that doesn’t mean it’ll work for another autistic person. The same goes for employees with anxiety, migraines, or any other health condition that can impact their work.

Everyone’s health conditions are different.

Take fibromyalgia, which I have—there are over 200 symptoms. Not everyone experiences the same ones, or feels them to the same severity. That means the solutions that work for me probably won’t work for someone else.

So, instead of telling employees what you’re going to do to “help” them, ask them what they need. It’ll show them that you really are prioritizing mental wellbeing in the workplace, not just treating the conversation with them—and their role in the business—as a box-ticking exercise.

Cultivate a diverse workforce

Diverse workforces are happier and more productive. They’re also better at problem solving and making bigger strides towards environmental goals.

So, having a diverse workforce can go a long way towards supporting mental wellbeing in the workplace. Employees will feel more able to find colleagues they’re comfortable talking to, even if they don’t see those people on a daily basis. 

If you have ERGs within your business, they may find colleagues in there that they can talk to as well. 

The more diverse your workforce is, the more likely it will be for people to have someone who understands them and can help and support them in whatever way they need.

Train new habits

Old habits only change when it’s explained to people how and why they’re bad, then they’re presented with a solution or new way of thinking. This mindset shift still takes time to happen, though.

Consider those who still prefer employees to be in the office over working remotely—most will only change that opinion when they see that it doesn’t impact employees’ ability to perform in their roles outside of a pandemic.

However, not everyone will be open to changing their way of thinking. While mindsets can change, the more fixed someone’s mindset is, the harder it will be for them to even consider an alternative view.

Cultural change can only happen if employees are encouraged to have a growth mindset and be curious. It also helps when mistakes are treated as a learning experience, not something that could get them reprimanded.

The more rigid the workplace culture is, the harder it will be to drive any sort of change. This closed-mindedness can have a serious negative impact on mental wellbeing in the workplace.

Conclusion 

You don’t have to make gigantic changes to support mental wellbeing in the workplace. Sometimes it’s as simple as being flexible.

Of course, some of these changes do take longer, like encouraging new habits and getting rid of toxic mentalities. But given the benefits to employees in the short- and long-term, isn’t it worth it?

If you want to show your team members that mental wellbeing in the workplace is a priority for you, take a look at Workrowd. Our all-in-one culture and engagement platform helps you manage initiatives like ERGs and wellness programs, while providing employees opportunities to build real connections. Plus, you’ll get real-time analytics to easily track how your efforts are impacting mental wellbeing in the workplace. Drop us a note at hello@workrowd.com to learn more.

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Employee resource group examples & when to form them

We spend most of our waking lives with our colleagues. In many cases, much more time than we spend with our loved ones. Support from colleagues can therefore be essential to employee happiness, satisfaction, and retention. Community is key, which is why these employee resource group examples are so effective.

Employee resource groups (ERGs) have been around since the 1960s. Today, more than 90% of Fortune 500 companies offer them. I find it hard to believe they’d be so popular in such large companies if they didn’t help employees and businesses achieve their goals.

In this post, we’re going to explore the most common employee resource group examples you’ll see in businesses. We’ll also explain why they’re important for your diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.

But first, let’s look at what an ERG is, and what its role in a business is:

What is an employee resource group (ERG)?

ERGs are employee-led groups, where employees who have something in common come together. This could be a shared value, passion, background, or culture. 

Employee resource group examples may include communities for women, people of color, differently-abled employees, parents, or veterans.

ERGs help to foster a diverse and inclusive working environment. Outcomes include supporting employees in their internal and external goals, helping them to network with potential mentors, and giving them an opportunity to socialize with colleagues.

As ERGs are employee-led, they’re often created informally. Over time, the business may offer them budget towards things like activities. Typically, the employee leaders of the ERG will manage these funds.

It’s worth businesses encouraging ERGs because they can help to drive inclusion goals. How better to show you support belonging than encouraging employees to network with those who have similar experiences to them? That’s why it’s so important to have a range of ERGs for team members to join.

That being said, it isn’t the job of ERGs to drive diversity, equity, and inclusion objectives. They can be part of the strategy, but it’s up to business leaders to create and follow your DEI policy. 

Leaders set examples from the top down. If managers aren’t practicing what they preach, employees are less likely to care about your DEI efforts.

What are the benefits of ERGs for businesses?

The ERGs within a business can reflect the company’s values a lot more than a cookie cutter DEI statement

While it isn’t an ERG’s job to drive any DEI policy, they can set an example. They can help you identify where to focus your DEI efforts, and which areas are in need of improvement.

ERGs are great for celebrating your employees and underrepresented groups within your workforce. They can encourage other people from these groups to join because they know that they’ll have friends and allies within your business.

Allies can also use their existing privilege for good, both inside and outside of the workplace.

What are the benefits of ERGs for employees?

ERGs help employees connect with colleagues who share something in common with them. They provide a sense of community, which can help people find their purpose and confidence in the workplace.

The fact that they’re set up informally, or often have an informal atmosphere to them, can be refreshing. This is particularly true in businesses that are larger, more formal, or may be perceived as old-fashioned.

The most common ERGs

Companies often establish their ERGs in a predictable order. Most will start with a women’s group, to support and encourage women in the workplace. 

Next is likely to be a group for Black employees or people of color. Organizations may create an LGTBQ+ group around the same time.

The employee resource group examples after this point tend to vary based on the company’s demographics. Groups may include:

  • AAPI
  • Latinx
  • Indigenous
  • Veterans/military
  • Parents/caregivers
  • Mental health
  • Dis/differently abled
  • Faith-based (often interfaith)
  • Age-based (e.g. young professionals, seasoned professionals, intergenerational)
  • Region/location-based groups

As you can see, there are a wide range of employee resource group examples organizations can create to drive belonging.

Over time, some of these groups may break away to form smaller groups or related groups, depending on what their goals are.

Because ERGs are employee-run, and can require minimal business involvement at least at first, there’s no limit to how many ERGs a business can have. The more you have, the more it can reflect and support the diversity of your workforce. 

It may even attract more diverse employees if they see how diverse your workforce is already. 

After all, candidates are more likely to be attracted to roles in a business that demonstrates and encourages diversity, and where they can see people like them working already. They’ll feel confident the organization will welcome and support them, whether that’s as a cleaner or a manager.

Conclusion 

While it isn’t the job of an ERG to build any sort of diversity policy, they can reflect your policy. A solid diversity policy will attract a more diverse workforce, and therefore encourage a wider variety of ERGs. 

Colleagues will find it easier to connect with and support each other. You may find that you attract more diverse candidates when they find out about your DEI efforts, too. 

Extra points if it’s your employees talking about how great your DEI efforts are. This will feel more genuine than if it’s coming from a faceless company.

Networking with colleagues who have things in common with us can make us feel more connected to our jobs, and therefore happier in our role. It can be a place to find guidance and make new friends. There really isn’t a downside to setting up and supporting ERGs, regardless of your business type or size.

If any of these employee resource group examples sound like a good fit for your business, we’d love to help you get started or grow your program. Workrowd offers an array of ERG support options including the Global ERG Network, a vetted consultant network, and of course, our software platform.

Our suite of tools makes it easy to launch, manage, and measure ERGs with templates and guides to support group leaders, user-friendly features to build transparency and connection, and automated data tracking and analytics. Drop by our site or ping us at hello@workrowd.com to learn how we can partner to drive real belonging at your organization.

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7 ways to support mental health for employees

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, but implementing strategies to support mental health for employees is important all year-round. It’s how you create happy, engaged employees who want to work for you. Which is a rare thing in any industry.

Knowing where to start when considering mental health for employees isn’t always easy, though. So here’s a simple list of 7 ways you can support mental health for employees this month, and every month.

Offer mental health first aid

Traditional first aid workers are trained to treat cuts and bruises. They may also be able to hand out mild painkillers. Sort of like a school nurse.

But what if someone’s having a panic attack? Who’s trained to help then?

Mental health first aiders know how to help people with various mental health conditions. 

They’re increasingly common in the workplace as businesses become aware of how important it is to look after mental health for employees as much as physical health.

Wellness days

Wellness days are for employees to use whenever they need a break. 

No questions, no lectures. Just a day off because they feel they need it. 

Maybe they’re feeling depressed and can’t face their colleagues, or they’ve got to go to a dentist appointment. 

It doesn’t matter what they use it for, what matters is that they have the option. Plus, they’re encouraged to use these days. 

Wellness days aren’t there as a cute benefit to lure candidates in. Even managers should use them whenever they need them.

Crucially, nobody ever asks employees why they need them. 

I particularly like when companies allow employees to use these days for dentist, doctor, or hospital appointments. Days off should be used for enjoyment and supporting mental health for employees, not sitting in a waiting room. It’s frustrating to have to use days off, or feel obligated to make up any time back, for trying to look after your own health.

Listen 

Call me a nag if you like. Call me repetitive. But I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: most people are terrible listeners. 

The last thing someone needs when they’re having a bad day for whatever reason is to talk to someone who can’t listen. 

Whether an employee’s problem is work-related or not, if they come to you and feel the need to talk about something, it’s your job to stop and listen to what they have to say. 

If they’re not seeking solutions, don’t offer them. 

Sometimes just talking about something instead of bottling it up is all we need. 

Alternatively, if an employee does want a solution…

See what accommodations you can make

Sometimes, for an employee’s mental health to improve, all it takes is flexible working.  That may mean working from home if they find the office environment too noisy or stressful, or it may mean allowing them to work different hours so that they can work around other commitments and/or on a schedule that works for them.

Other accommodations you could consider involve improving the ergonomics of someone’s desk setup (to reduce eye strain, and therefore headaches, which will lower their stress levels and frustration at their job), or finding them a new location in the office.

Talk openly

Employees follow the example of the leaders around them. So, if you’re closed off about your own mental health, chances are that employees will feel uncomfortable discussing their own, too.

If you talk about mental health struggles you’ve had in the past, it humanizes you and means employees are less likely to see you and other leaders as gods sitting atop Mount Olympus, impossible for mere mortals to ever fully understand.

If your employees see you like that, you have big problems. Not only were the Greek Gods pretty nuts, but they also weren’t that nice, either.

You want employees to see you as accessible and approachable. Talking openly about your life, and the events of your past, can really help with this. 

You don’t need to go into uncomfortable detail, but sharing that you’ve experienced depression and taken a wellness day for this reason shows them that you really do understand, and it really is okay to take a wellness day to support your mental health.

Go for a walking meeting

Walking meetings have serious benefits for our health. As well as being great exercise, they can make us more creative and therefore better at solving problems.

According to Harvard Business Review, employees who take part in walking meetings are 5.25% more creative in their roles and 8.5% more engaged. 

That may not sound like a lot, but when you consider how many employees are leaving their jobs right now, that small percentage can really make a difference.

Have quiet time

Meetings can be incredibly draining whether they’re in-person or online. 

One way to avoid meeting burnout is to set aside a morning, afternoon, or even a whole day, that’s meeting-free. No exceptions.

That includes minimal (or no) Slack or Teams notifications, too. These can still be draining to mental health for employees, particularly if they’re programmed to be reactive and reply right away, or are required to be signed in all the time.

Scheduling quiet time will allow employees to get into a state of flow and really focus on the parts of their role that they enjoy. 

Too often, people request a ‘quick chat’ for something that could’ve been an email. That ‘quick chat’ eats into employees’ energy and productivity.

It’s important to keep quiet time sacred. You shouldn’t change it to different days each week to accommodate meetings. You should change meetings to accommodate this time. 

Quiet time is great for employees with conditions like anxiety, depression, autism, and ADHD. Many people with those conditions find meetings extra draining. Giving them scheduled meeting-free time gives them something to look forward to and/or prepare for, so they know what to focus on during those hours.

Conclusion

Regardless of your business size, there are simple steps you can take to show employees that you really do take their mental health seriously.

You don’t have to make big changes to make a difference. Sometimes smaller steps are all that’s needed.

What really matters is that managers and leaders set an example, prioritizing their own health and being honest about their experiences. 

The more leaders who set this example, the more it will foster a culture of openness within the business. Over time, this will lead to improved mental health for employees, and higher engagement, productivity, and more.

If you’re looking for new ways to support mental health for employees, building real community between colleagues can help. Workrowd makes it easy for your team members to connect, including through activities like mental health employee resource groups, to further support their wellness. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you support mental health for employees, send a note to hello@workrowd.com.

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Quick tips for supporting a burned out employee

Emerging from the pandemic and adjusting to new ways of living has made many of us reevaluate our lives. In some situations, it may have also caused people to spend more time working and less time relaxing, since working from home can make it hard to switch off. As you can imagine, this is a quick way to wind up with a burned out employee on your team.

Work isn’t the only cause of burnout, of course, but it is one of the main causes. So, in this post, I want to share with you some advice on how to support a burned out employee.

But first, let’s look at what the signs of burnout are…

The signs of burnout

If one of your previously top-performing employees is acting differently lately, and you’re concerned they might be burnt out (or at risk of burning out), here’s what to look for:

  • Feeling exhausted
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Brain fog
  • Disinterest in things that they previously found interesting
  • Grumpiness/irritability
  • Self-doubt
  • Detachment
  • Procrastination 
  • Cynicism
  • Social withdrawal
  • Physical health problems (joint pain, getting sick more often, etc.)

This isn’t an exhaustive list. And it’s important to remember that burnout looks different for everyone. 

But if someone has been doing too much and racing toward the finish line, or they have personal problems that are draining, they could well be burnt out already.

When someone is burning out, or burnt out, one wrong turn could be all it takes to push them over the edge and mean they can’t get back up.

So, if you think there’s a burned out employee on your team—or you know there is—here’s what to do:

Listen

I know I say this in a lot of my posts, but it’s because most people aren’t very good at listening. And most of the people who are terrible listeners don’t realize how bad they are at it.

Thing is, we’re not taught how to listen. Nobody actively tells us when we’re growing up that to listen, we need to stop talking and consider not just what someone says, but how they say it.

It’s also worth remembering that listening isn’t about finding solutions. It’s usually more about giving someone an outlet for how they feel than trying to solve anything. After all, you can’t fix burnout. The only way is through.

Make accommodations

If you have a burned out employee, consider how you can make their life easier.

Can you split a big project up so they’re not the only person dealing with it? How about allowing them to work remotely a few days per week (if they don’t already)? Can you reduce the number of meetings they have to attend?

For some people, having too many things to do can make them feel worse. For others, it’s being around people too much. Even video calls can be challenging sometimes.

So, be willing to make accommodations. Burnout isn’t permanent, but it will last a lot longer if an employee feels like their employer isn’t supporting them. That’s because they’ll be spending most of their time somewhere that doesn’t understand or empathize with what they’re experiencing.

Be sure to ask them what they need, but keep in mind that they may not know. 

Get them to do some research on things that might help, and also do some research yourself so that you can suggest accommodations that may help.

Unless, of course, you want to lose the burned out employee who’s already struggling, or add to their stress levels so that their burnout lasts longer. I’m going to assume you don’t want to be that kind of employer.

Encourage breaks

Not using your vacation days isn’t a badge of honor. It’s a one-way ticket to burnout city.

Work work work work work isn’t a healthy way to live. And the longer someone works 24/7, the closer they’ll get to crashing into a wall.

If you’re working all the time, you have no time to spend with your loved ones, cook a healthy meal, go for a walk, or even just chill in front of the TV. Those things, while small, are important to maintaining our physical and mental health.

That’s why it’s important to encourage employees to take regular breaks throughout the day. This could come in the form of getting up out of their chair to get a hot drink or make a healthy lunch. Or even just go for a quick walk to stretch their legs. 

We all know how unhealthy sitting at a desk all day can be for our minds and bodies, but how many of us actively work to change that, not just through routine workouts, but from regularly getting up out of our chairs?

Don’t draw attention to their situation

What a burned out employee is experiencing isn’t your story to share. They may not even know that they’re burnt out. 

Or they may not feel comfortable talking about it, especially not to their employer. 

I certainly wasn’t ready to talk about my burnout until I came out on the other side of it. And to be honest, I’m still not comfortable talking about it to some people. But I think it’s important to share my story because it shows people that there is a way out. It just takes time. 

Regardless of whether a burned out employee is ready to talk to you about what they’re experiencing, don’t draw attention to it. Either take them aside and ask them how they’re doing, or suggest accommodations you could make to ease their stress levels, such as working from home.

Conclusion

The more you can show your employees that you really do support their physical and mental health, the faster their recovery will be and the happier they’ll feel in their role.

Knowing they have a supportive employer in their corner is great, but support from colleagues can also go a long way towards helping a burned out employee. If you want to build thriving employee communities that encourage team members to bring their whole selves to work, check out Workrowd.

Bonding with peers around shared identities and interests can make the difference between prolonged burnout and a quick recovery. Send a note to hello@workrowd.com to learn more.

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10+ signs of a toxic work environment

A toxic workplace is a recipe for disaster. In addition to making less money because unhappy employees are unproductive employees, it also costs more money to run because of the high churn rate created by a toxic culture. Do you know how to recognize the signs of a toxic work environment?

Some areas, like sales and customer service, will always have a higher churn rate than other areas of your business. 

And some generations don’t stay in the same position for as long as others. 

But it’s your job to create a culture that people want to be a part of. 

Not just because of the perks—which are turning into red flags for many people, for reasons we’ll look into—but because they believe in the business and its mission. 

And you pay people what they’re worth.

In this post, we’re going to explore some key signs of a toxic work environment–some subtle, some more obvious.

Too many perks

“Our employees are happy here. We have a pool table, free fruit, nap pods…”

Stop right there.

If you have any of those things, be very careful. 

Because so-called “perks” are increasingly becoming signs that you’d rather focus on things that encourage employees to stay in the office for longer, rather than paying them what they’re worth—and respecting the fact they have a life outside of work. 

Let’s not forget that embracing and enjoying a life outside of work is good for mental and physical health. Which also helps their working life.

You may think you’re making their lives easier by providing all these amenities. But are you really just asking them to stay in the office for longer? To work more hours?

Pay people what they’re worth instead of worrying about how many shiny objects you have in the office.

If you don’t, there are plenty of recruiters out there who’ll snap up your best employees. And it will be hard to convince new ones to join when they see all the signs of a toxic work environment during their interview.

Bad pay

The market rate for many industries is higher than it used to be right now because some industries are so hot. 

Keep an eye on these trends, because if you advertise a role that pays considerably less than your competition, you’re not going to attract the types of employees that you want. 

Employees are happier when employers pay them what they’re worth and appreciate them. It’s as simple as that.

Lack of diversity

Diverse workplaces are happier and more profitable. Saying that you’re worried a particular individual from an underrepresented community won’t fit in is just an excuse. Of course they won’t fit in—their lived experience is vastly different from everyone else’s!

It’s time to snap your business out of its groupthink before it does any further damage.

Diversity is where the real innovation comes from. That’s how you’ll grow your business faster—and stand out more from your competitors.

Discrimination 

If there are rumors of discrimination within the workplace, listen and investigate

There’s no smoke without fire, as they say. 

If you don’t investigate it, it says to employees—and outsiders, if employees talk about what’s happened—that you don’t care how your employees are treated. 

It also implies that everyone can get away with putting themselves first and not thinking before they speak. It’s a culture like this that leads to a lack of respect between colleagues and discriminatory behavior. Lack of respect is one of the most serious signs of a toxic work environment.

Microaggressions 

Microaggressions may be small, but they can have big consequences

Always listen when someone reports microaggressions.

It can also help to train managers in what these look like so that they can spot the signs. 

Micromanagement 

Micromanagement is never okay. It’s anxiety-inducing for the employee on the receiving end of it, and it’s just a bad management style. 

If a manager feels the need to do this, either they need more management training, or the employee isn’t doing the job they were hired to do. Either way, you have a problem, and it may be one of the signs of a toxic work environment.

Dictation over discussions

No business should be a dictatorship. Organizations should value everyone’s opinions, regardless of how long they’ve been there or what their role is. 

Embracing as many opinions as possible is what will lead to the best problem solving.

Employees don’t last long

A high churn rate is one of the most glaring signs of a toxic work environment, especially if this happens among higher-paid staff. 

Those who are paid more know what they’re worth. They won’t stick around if they’re unhappy because they know they won’t have to wait long to find something else.

Nobody wants to do exit interviews 

Not every business does exit interviews, but if you do, and nobody ever turns up (or fills in the survey), it could be a sign they don’t feel their opinion is worth sharing. 

Some people don’t do them because they’re worried about burning bridges. This is still one of the signs of a toxic work environment because employees shouldn’t be concerned their employer will hold negative opinions they express against them. 

Regardless of what their feedback is, the organization should appreciate it and take it into consideration. It shouldn’t affect any references the company or their colleagues may give them.

Employees barely leave their desks

Employees should have regular screen breaks to give their eyes a rest and move their legs about. This helps to protect their eyesight and prevent muscle loss.

If organizations penalize employees for leaving their desks, this encourages unhealthy habits that can have long-term physical and mental health consequences.

Eating at their desk can also mean they have too much work and don’t have the time to take a break to eat their food and fully enjoy what they have for lunch. This can lead to employees eating more and gaining weight because the distraction of work means they’re less conscious of how much they’re eating.

Employees work unreasonable hours

Unless someone is scheduled for shift work, or works in certain industries, most employees shouldn’t have to work unreasonable or unsociable hours. They deserve time with their family, just like they deserve the money they’re paid for work. 

If employees do work longer hours to, say, finish a big project, make sure this is acknowledged and appreciated, and they’re compensated accordingly. 

Ignoring when someone has gone above and beyond is likely to mean they don’t stick around long enough to help with the next big project.

Conclusion 

No one wants to work somewhere toxic. And I’m going to assume you don’t want to be in charge of a toxic workplace, either. 

If you spot any of these signs of a toxic work environment, it’s important to address them as quickly as possible. The sooner you do, the less likely they are to become a bigger problem.

Addressing these signs quickly also sends a clear message to everyone in your company that you support your employees and won’t tolerate any kind of toxic behavior.

If you’re concerned about toxicity in your workplace, consider checking out a platform like Workrowd. With tools to ensure every employee can find community and voice their opinions, you’re more likely to catch any signs of a toxic work environment early. If you’d like to learn more, email us at hello@workrowd.com and we’ll be happy to set up some time to chat.

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Bias series wrap-up: Strategies to counter bias at work

We’re wrapping up our series on bias at work, after covering gender biasracial biasdisability biasheterosexual bias, age bias, and trans bias. We hope you’ve found it informative. Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Wanting to support employees from underrepresented communities and avoid implicit bias in the workplace is one thing. Knowing how to do it – and putting that knowledge into practice – is something else entirely.

It can be easy to feel bogged down and like you have too much to do. 

But if you were a member of an underrepresented group (or a different underrepresented group), imagine how you’d feel working somewhere that didn’t notice you experience the world differently. 

It’d make you feel even more excluded than you already did. 

You wouldn’t feel supported, meaning you’d be less productive in your role. It could impact your mental health, and you may decide to go work somewhere else instead.

So, with that in mind, here are some simple (often common sense!) ways that your business can take steps to counter bias at work, and show you really do support employees.

Listen 

Listening is one of those skills that everyone thinks they have, but that most people are actually pretty terrible at. 

If you interrupt people, you’re not listening. If you try to project your point of view on to someone, or tell them they’re wrong, you’re not listening. You’re trying to control the conversation.

Listening is about shutting up and paying attention to what the other person(s) has to say. 

You may not like what they’re saying. 

It may make you uncomfortable or even a little anxious. 

But it’s only through listening and challenging our own opinions and beliefs that we grow as people and business owners.

Even if we disagree with what we’re hearing.

So, the next time an employee from an underrepresented community comes to you with feedback, a query, or a complaint, listen. Then consider how you can take action against bias at work.

Change your hiring practices

The typical hiring process we’re all used to of submitting a resume, doing an interview or two, then getting a job offer (or not), is outdated and inaccessible. It also leads to biases against many underrepresented communities.

From blind resume screening to group activities that allow you to observe someone’s skills rather than asking them to describe their abilities, there’s more than one way to hire a new employee.

Have a reporting system

There has to be a way for employees to report any issues that they experience. This especially applies to instances of bias at work.

Ideally, you should give employees the option to report anonymously. Not everyone will want their name attached to an issue for fear of retaliation. That doesn’t mean the issue should go unreported, though. Journalists never give up their sources for a reason.

Believe your employees

It’s not unheard of for an employee to draw attention to issues of bias at work and get ignored. 

Or worse, the person who raised the issue gets punished instead of the person causing the issue.

Don’t be that business. Be the business that supports and believes your employees, punishing the person who committed the offense, not the whistleblower.

Send sensible surveys

Too many times, I’ve seen businesses ask employees to provide feedback on their jobs and employers via questionnaire…

…then require the employee to submit that questionnaire to their manager, who’ll forward it to HR.

If an employee is having issues with their manager, they’re not going to raise it somewhere their manager can see. And that manager may well delete what the employee has said about them, then go on to make their life even more difficult.

A simple solution to this is to get employees to send their responses directly to HR.

Or make sure that HR is accessible enough for employees to feel like they can talk to someone if/when they have a problem with bias at work.

Be flexible

What works for one employee may not work for another. 

Some differently abled employees won’t be able to use the stairs, for example. 

Other employees may need a more supportive chair or a filter on their monitor. There are plenty of minor changes you can implement to support employees in the workplace.

Offering employees the option to work from home is another example. It opens up your talent pool, encourages homemakers back into the workplace (many of whom would consider a return to work if they could work from home, instead of needing to be in an office), and it can save you money on office overheads. 

Many businesses still assume they can’t trust employees to work from home. But if you feel you can’t trust your employees when they work from home, well, you have bigger problems…

Put policies in place

There are many areas where businesses don’t have to have policies in place, but where doing so can protect both the organization and its employees. 

Policies on issues like menopause and transgender rights aren’t required, but they mean that when an employee goes through menopause, they know what to expect from you. They mean that when a trans person considers applying for a role at your company, they can clearly see you’re going to support them – and what sort of support they will receive. 

The clearer and more accessible you make these policies, the more supported employees will feel.

Build a diverse culture

The more diverse your culture is, the more welcoming it will be to everyone. When a Black woman walks into a room full of white men, it immediately makes her the odd one out. When a wheelchair user is asked to meet his colleagues on the third floor of an office without access to an elevator, it makes him feel excluded.

The more diverse your company’s culture is, the more mindful everyone will be of these types of issues and the impact it can have on someone’s mental and physical health.

Diverse company cultures are also more productive, make more money, and they’re doing more about climate change.

So, tell me, what’s the downside to a diverse company culture?

Conclusion

Countering bias at work really boils down to two things: building a diverse culture and listening to every employee. 

Because you never know which employee will have an idea that could completely alter your business’s trajectory for the better. 

They may have the perfect way to solve a problem you’ve been stuck on for months. Because they aren’t a part of the “in” crowd though, they’ve never been given the chance to share their thoughts. 

Sometimes all it takes is a new perspective to remind you of what you could achieve.

Building a truly inclusive company culture is key to helping your team members counter bias at work. Creating opportunities for your people to get to know each other beyond the surface level will not only help them overcome their own biases, but will also ensure they feel comfortable calling out issues when they see them. If you want to drive real belonging at your organization, check out Workrowd’s platform, or send us a note at hello@workrowd.com to learn more.

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Countering transgender discrimination in the workplace

Welcome back to our series on systemic bias in the workplace. Over the course of several weeks, we’re spotlighting various categories of bias, including gender biasracial bias, disability bias, heterosexual bias, age bias, and now trans bias and transgender discrimination in the workplace. Our aim is to add to the ongoing conversation and help everyone build more inclusive environments. We hope you find it informative. Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

60% of transgender people have experienced some form of discrimination in the workplace. 38% have experienced it from colleagues, 25% from management, and 29% during job interviews.

Which really makes it unsurprising that 53% have felt the need to hide their trans status from colleagues.

But why, in 2022, is this still happening? And what can businesses do to prevent transphobia and transgender discrimination in the workplace?

The ugly stats

The unemployment rate for transgender adults is twice that of cisgender adults.

Even if they are in employment, cisgender adults make 32% more per year, regardless of whether a trans person has similar—or higher—education levels.

Not only do trans people earn less, but two-thirds of them remain in the closet at work. 

Sadly, they feel like employers support them less than their cisgender colleagues in the workplace. Given the stats we’ve already looked at, is that really surprising?

Overcoming transgender discrimination in the workplace to include more trans people could create a $12 billion boost to annual consumer spending. 

It would help businesses to really understand their market, and give them more diverse opinions to solve their customers’ problems. Which may also give them a competitive advantage.

Let’s not forget that diverse companies are significantly more profitable!

A long way to go

Even though the UK’s Equality Act (2010) should protect LBGT people from workplace discrimination, a 2018 report found that 43% of businesses were unsure if they’d hire a trans person, and almost a third said they’d be “less likely” to hire a trans person.

The retail sector had the highest number of businesses unlikely to hire a trans person, at 47%. IT was close behind with 45%. 

Construction and engineering were the most agreeable to the idea, but even then, 25% of businesses reported they’d be unlikely to hire a trans person.

That’s still a large percentage of the industry that’s closed off to the idea of hiring someone because of their gender. These businesses are just perpetuating transgender discrimination in the workplace.

The trouble with ‘culture fit’

Unsurprisingly, only 3% of businesses have an equal opportunities policy that welcomes transgender people to apply for roles. Which could be off-putting for potential candidates because they’ll have no idea whether their colleagues will welcome and support them if they join.

Only 8% of that small group of businesses that have a trans hiring policy believe trans people deserve the same rights to a job as everyone else. 

This stat seems odd to me, but it came from the same survey as the industry stats. It seems to suggest that even the businesses with a trans hiring policy in place may only have it as a form of lip service. I really hope that’s me being cynical, but then, it gets worse.

Only 4% believe they have a diverse enough workplace culture where trans people can “fit in.”

If you hire someone purely based on cultural fit, you end up with a culture of zombies. Everyone thinks, looks, and acts the same way. Innovation becomes harder and groupthink becomes more common.

Hiring someone based on cultural fit alone isn’t an option anymore. 

You want someone who’s different because they’re the very skills, opinions, and attitudes that your business lacks. If you embrace them, they’ll be the ones who help you to outperform your competitors.

There really isn’t a downside to avoiding employing the same person over and over again.

What can employers do?

Leaders within a business need to set an example. If they’re active supporters of the trans community, and they hire trans employees, the rest of the company will follow. And if someone doesn’t support these decisions, they don’t belong in the new environment.

Creating a diverse workforce requires a mindset shift from those at the very top of the business. That mindset will trickle down over time.

If leaders don’t set an example, employees will believe they can get away with discriminatory attitudes, policies, and hiring processes because they either don’t know that they’re doing it, or they’re still full of prejudices and don’t see a reason to change. 

Many people don’t have the right language to talk about transgender experiences, or they worry about offending someone. Meaning that transgender experiences get ignored or erased.

The transgender community has a lot more visibility now than it did a few years ago, but onscreen representation takes time to trickle down into everyday society.

Education, support, and community are important here. Documentaries like Disclosure explore how trans people have been depicted in film over the years and how that’s impacted American culture. It shows that we’ve come a long way, but there’s still a long way to go.

There are also plenty of online resources that can help employers to educate themselves on how to best support trans employees.

When it comes to the hiring process, a blind process only goes so far. It won’t change the prejudice that can come from an in-person interview. 

And the prejudice is big—44% of trans people feel an employer has turned them down for a job because they were trans. Clearly, transgender discrimination in the workplace is still a very real and pressing problem.

Conclusion 

One thing I noticed when doing my research for this blog post is that all of the stats are high. Higher than they are for any other underrepresented group. And the odds are really stacked against trans people in ways we need to talk about more.

20% have been, or are currently, homeless. Trans people are also four times as likely to live in poverty. Businesses can play a role in changing these stats. Your business can play a role in changing these stats.

The trans community is heavily discriminated against. The workplace is just one of the places where they have to deal with transphobia just to pay the bills.

Employers have an obligation to set an example to their employees who may be responsible for transgender discrimination in the workplace. They also have a responsibility to educate themselves.

They can then use that education to start meaningful conversations within the business to develop more inclusive policies, and help to create a more supportive workforce for trans employees.

If you’re looking to break down biases and drive real belonging at your organization, Workrowd can help. Check out our suite of tools for ensuring that every team member can get fully immersed in your company culture from day one, alongside real-time analytics. Drop us a line at hello@workrowd.com to learn more.

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Countering age bias & ageism in the workplace

Welcome back to our series on systemic bias in the workplace. Over the course of several weeks, we’re spotlighting various categories of bias, including gender biasracial bias, disability bias, heterosexual bias, and now age bias and ageism in the workplace. Our aim is to add to the ongoing conversation and help everyone build more inclusive environments. We hope you find it informative. Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Society is full of contradictions. It values both the wisdom that comes with age and the looks that come with youth. (And probably the cheaper pay, too.) 

Which is how businesses end up writing job descriptions that require three years of experience for an entry-level position.

There comes a point where that wisdom is no longer valued, though. 

The National Bureau of Economic Research found in 2020 that someone 40 or older was half as likely to get a job offer as someone younger if an employer knows their age.

In the UK, 50-year-old job seekers are up to three times less likely to be chosen for interviews than younger job seekers with less experience.

Age discrimination laws in the US protect anyone 40 or older. But only 9% of Americans know this, even though 49% are aware that age discrimination laws exist.

So, let’s dive into what these laws cover, the responsibility businesses have to protect and celebrate their more seasoned employees, and what the consequences of ageism in the workplace are.

What does ageism in the workplace look like?

A study in 2020 done by SeniorLiving found that 41% of workers reported they were passed up for raises or promotions because of their age. And 45% felt they were passed up for other opportunities.

27% had been on the receiving end of unwanted jokes, and 27% had also experienced harassment or bullying.

This means a significant portion of people over 40 have experienced some sort of negative reaction to the natural (and uncontrollable) process of aging.

Some people also believe age discrimination is going to increase because the number of older Americans is going up, too. 

The US risks missing out on almost $4 trillion of economic contributions provided by older Americans because of age discrimination.

Companies often want to hire younger workers with the goal of training them up and promoting them within the company. But most people don’t stick around long enough for this to really matter. 

The overall average length of time someone stays in a role is 4.1 years. For employees aged 55 to 64, that number is 10.1 years. Employees aged 25-34 stay just 2.8 years.

All this raises the question: what do companies really want from an employee? Do they want youthfulness or experience? Are they looking for someone to stick around long-term?

And if they know someone isn’t going to stick around for a decade or more, why does age really matter?

What are the laws?

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects people over 40 from ageism in the workplace. Some states also have laws that protect employees under 40.

According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:

“The law prohibits discrimination in any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.”

It’s not illegal to favor an older employee over a younger one. However, it can still be age discrimination if both people involved are over 40.

The law also states:

“Harassment can include, for example, offensive or derogatory remarks about a person’s age. Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that aren’t very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).

“The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.”

Ageism in the hiring process

Both of my parents found themselves unemployed on the other side of 50 through no fault of their own. 

And, when my partner and I suggested they get part-time jobs to stave off boredom and keep money coming in, they both had the same response: “I’m too old. Nobody will hire me.”

It gets worse, though.

Not only did they think nobody would hire them, but they also believed that age discrimination laws wouldn’t protect them.

And I totally get their point. Because how do you prove that someone didn’t hire you for a role because of your age? It’s really hard to do. 

Which means businesses can get away with ageism in the workplace, as well as the contradiction of requiring experience for an entry-level role that probably doesn’t even pay what someone with that level of experience is worth.

Studies show that when the hiring process is age-blind, older people are just as likely—sometimes even more likely—to get invited to interview.

But, of course, to interview someone, we have to see/meet them. Meaning that ageism is still likely to kick in at this point.

Even when someone older had superior qualifications and experience, they were 46% less likely to be offered a job.

What, exactly, does society have against people over a certain age?

What can we do about ageism?

The real problem is identifying ageism. Because nobody really talks about it.

Many people assume that, as a society, we’re not ageist. But just look at the stats. Look at how people treat female celebrities as they age, compared to their male counterparts. We view male actors as silver foxes, getting more attractive with age. Female actors find their work drying up because there aren’t as many roles for women over 40.

There’s no denying that ageism exists throughout the western world. 

Society places value on both youth and experience, traits that can’t coexist in one person. 

Yet many businesses still strive to find that magical candidate, even though, if you spoke to any hiring manager, I’d guarantee they’d tell you they got wiser with age. Who doesn’t?

So, if we all know we get wiser with age, why do we hold age against other people? Age is a privilege that not everyone gets to experience, and we should value and honor that.

If you’re looking to counter ageism in the workplace and drive real inclusion, it’s crucial that employees have a chance to connect with each other as whole people. A platform like Workrowd can help, ensuring that employees participate in groups and events together. If this sounds like a fit for your workplace, send us a note to hello@workrowd.com to learn more.