Featured in today's briefing:

  • What makes employee recognition effective.
  • Working from vacation.
  • The latest on intern pay.

The Virus

The latest virus forecast: The US has had an 8% decrease from two weeks earlier, with about 118,000 new Covid cases on Friday.

The business impact: US employment is back to pre-pandemic levels, having fully recovered the 22 million jobs lost during the worst of the crisis. At the same time, there are still 623,000 fewer people in the workforce—keeping the pressure up on employers to find workers to fill their open roles. Job turnover remains high, with some 4.2 million Americans having quit their jobs in June.

Focus on Getting Employee Recognition Right

A growing number of workers describe themselves as actively disengaged in their jobs. Quit rates are staying high. The case for active employee-recognition programs—a proven driver of both engagement and retention—is clear.

But most workplaces do little to take advantage of the tool at their disposal, according to a new report from Gallup and people-management software company Workhuman. Some 81% of leaders surveyed said employee recognition isn’t a company priority, and roughly two-thirds said they have no budget dedicated to it. Just 23% of employees strongly agreed that they were satisfied with the amount of recognition they receive.

Structured programs such as financial performance incentives are more likely to drive satisfaction and belonging, according to the research. But less formal initiatives also carry more weight than leaders often realize. Research shows that there’s a direct correlation between managers’ expressions of gratitude and employees’ performance—and that managers tend to overestimate how clearly they’re communicating that gratitude.

What does it mean to appreciate someone for a job well done in a way that feels authentic, meaningful, and motivating? We asked three experts to share their best practices. Here’s what they had to say:

The answer likely looks different for each employee, notes Chris Schembra, founder of the relationship-building firm 7:47 Club: “We always say, ‘not all gratitude given is gratitude heard,’” he says. “When thinking about how to show gratitude in the workplace, step into the shoes of the other person to understand how they’d like to be recognized. Is it through public words of recognition? Is it through a gift? Is it through time off?”

“Recognition should be framed in terms that motivate the employee,” agrees Dr. Ken Matos, director of people science at Culture Amp, who recommends asking employees directly about what those terms are. “The same action can be recognized for its positive impact on other people or how impressive it is in comparison to others’ accomplishments. The first frame appeals to relationship-centered employees, and the latter will be appreciated by an achievement-oriented employee.” Here’s more of Matos’ advice on best practices, in his own words:

  • Move quickly. “As with most feedback, recognition should be timely and specific: it will feel more authentic, show that you are actively paying attention and truly understand the employee’s contribution. Delayed recognition is still better than none so don’t fail to provide recognition if you are not able to do so immediately.”
  • Share widely. “One other area that is less straightforward is public or private recognition: some employees love public praise while others dread it. In general, I’d suggest erring on the side of public recognition unless the employee specifically requests otherwise. Recognition is about more than making employees feel good and encouraging commitment to the company. Public recognition also serves to signal to coworkers and leaders that an employee is talented and should be considered a valuable team member.”
  • Tie it to employees’ trajectories. “It’s much easier to convince a performance calibration committee that a regularly praised employee deserves a promotion than one whose name they are hearing for the first time. Similarly, recognition can help employees establish a reputation for competence that can help them be more influential, especially if the praise is visible to other departments in the organization.”

Motivation researcher Ayelet Fishbach, professor of marketing and behavioral science at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and author of Get It Done, stresses the importance of matching the reward to the action being recognized. “If you wish to reward financial performance (eg, the employee brought in a lot of business), give them a bonus,” she explains. “If you want to recognize their leadership, give them social reward or recognition by the people they lead.”

What Else You Need to Know

A sea change is brewing for intern pay. Prestigious but notoriously underpaid public-sector internships are becoming slightly more lucrative: The White House will begin compensating its interns for the first time later this year, and Congressional interns are set to get a raise through the forthcoming budget authorization.

  • Last year, while the average hourly intern wage in the US was $20.76, around 40% of internships were unpaid, most commonly in public and nonprofit organizations. With inflation still high, more students are now questioning whether they can afford to take internships at all.
  • Intern pay has a trickle-up effect when it comes to building diverse organizations. White students are overrepresented in paid internships, while students of color, women, and first-generation college students are all underrepresented, a disparity that can carry through to recruiting as organizations source entry-level hires from internship programs.
  • Some research also suggests that unpaid internships negatively affect the career experiences of young workers when they enter the full-time workforce, correlating with longer job searches and lower satisfaction in their first roles.
  • Paid apprenticeships, in which high-school students split their time between traditional school and training for skilled roles, are making a comeback, as a growing number of companies are using them as a solution to the talent shortage.

The unplugged vacation is a thing of the past. The ability to work from anywhere has exacerbated the perceived need to be online even while off the clock. Nearly half of employees work at least an hour a day while on vacation, and roughly a quarter work at least three hours per day, according to a recent Qualtrics report.

  • Some 31% also said their employers expected them to answer calls or texts while out of office, and 27% reported that they were expected to reply to emails.
  • Employees are taking even less time off now than they were pre-pandemic—and that the rising popularity of unlimited PTO policies has failed to move the needle.
  • Encouraging a culture of unplugging starts with having the templates and systems in place to make it as frictionless as possible. One suggestion from time-management coach Elizabeth Grace Saunders is to have employees structure their work into three buckets: things they’ll do before signing off, things that should pause, and things to transfer to colleagues in their absence.

Results of Britain’s four-day workweek experiment are beginning to roll in. Some 3,300 workers in the UK—the world’s largest four-day week trial to date—are now about a third of the way through a six-month pilot, working 80% of their usual hours without cuts to their pay or expected productivity.

  • Initial reports are promising, with employees pointing to improvements to their mental and physical health and lower rates of burnout, though some also described a chaotic transition as organizations learned to adjust to the compressed weeks.
  • A recent Gartner survey identified a shortened workweek as one of the most powerful recruiting tools at a company’s disposal, but just 6% of organizations surveyed said they planned to implement it.
  • Still, with 93% of workers saying they want flexibility around how they work, a growing number of companies are making room for other forms of non-traditional schedules. How the Future Works, the book by the cofounders of Slack’s Future Forum, offers best practices for how to keep things running smoothly without the guardrails of nine to five, including posting meeting recordings online for asynchronous viewing and establishing “core collaboration” windows during the day where everyone is expected to be reachable.

Corporate diversity efforts are leaving frontline workers behind. Compared to salaried corporate employees, hourly frontline employees are 20% less likely to say that companies’ diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts make a difference, according to a recent McKinsey report.

  • The report also found that most frontline workers—especially workers of color, who are overrepresented in frontline jobs—struggle to see a path forward in their careers. Three-quarters say they want a promotion, but less than a quarter actually receive one.
  • Some 95 million people in the US hold hourly and salaried frontline roles, with an average  income of $33,000.
  • A sweeping new study examining millions of Facebook friendships found that inter-class friendships, even more than job availability, were the strongest predictor of a pathway out of poverty.

Return to workplace speed round:

  • Since Spotify implemented its hybrid “Work From Anywhere” policy in early 2021, the company has seen turnover fall 15%. Leaders attribute this reduction in attrition rate to its flexible approach, which allows employees to decide how frequently they come to the office.
  • With employees returning to the office and fewer Covid restrictions in place, Uber bookings hit an all-time high , surging 33% during the spring and early summer compared to a year earlier.
  • Demand for office work-wear essentials like dresses and sport coats has surged, now surpassing pre-pandemic levels. But with rising inflation, costs have also increased, with apparel prices jumping 5.2% between June 2021 and June 2022.
  • Leases in Manhattan’s Midtown more than tripled in July from a year earlier, with companies reinvesting in office space.
  • Coffee shop sales have plateaued short of pre-pandemic levels with fewer workers stopping in during their morning commute.

Here are some of the best tips and insights from the past week for managing yourself and your team:

  • To make work fun, stop playing games. It may seem counter-intuitive, but the key to making workplaces fun isn’t ping-pong and foosball tables. Researchers have found that “deep fun”—which includes brainstorming sessions, roundtable discussions, and other activities that push employees to tackle challenging problems—is more effective than “shallow fun” in increasing perceptions of fun among employees.
  • Nudge employees to stay offline while OOO. It can be difficult to stay unplugged during PTO, but it’s essential to successfully resting and recharging. Managers, encourage direct reports to stay offline by reminding them to disconnect if you see them active online.
  • Embrace paradoxes with “both/and thinking.” Workplace tensions like the ongoing return-to-office debate are often framed as “either/or” issues. Instead, use “both/and thinking” to find more innovative solutions to thorny problems, such as crafting a hybrid policy that combines the autonomy of remote work with the collaborative opportunities of an office.
  • Invest in offboarding as much as onboarding. Boomerangs, employees who return to companies they previously worked at, are becoming increasingly common. To ensure that your workplace doesn’t lose potential boomerangs, make sure the offboarding process encourages staying in touch.


Welcome to the summer of fancy work shorts. Searches for formal shorts, a middle ground between pandemic-era sweats and the business-casual skirts of yore, are up 49% from last year.

The first bump has surpassed the handshake as a workplace greeting. Just a quarter of survey respondents still shake hands, compared to 61% pre-pandemic, with nearly 30% bumping fists or using another gesture, according to the latest data from WFH Research.

  • Purely verbal greetings are more popular than either option, with 45% saying they no longer use touch at all while saying hello (versus 21% pre-pandemic).

Bosses are cracking down on corporate swag. As companies tighten their belts amid economic uncertainty, extras like branded coffee mugs are on the chopping block.

  • “Sometimes we get to where we need swag detox,” Rick Smith, CEO of Taser manufacturer Axon Enterprises, told The Wall Street Journal. “Not every event needs a t-shirt.”

The handbook for this new era of business doesn’t exist. We’re all drafting our own as we go along—and now we’d like to start doing so together. You can sign up here to receive this briefing by email.