Featured in today's briefing:
- How employers can think more strategically about caregiver support.
- A proposed ban on non-compete clauses.
- Making templates for your workday.
The Macro Context
- A recession is “pretty likely,” former New York Federal Reserve president William Dudley recently told Bloomberg, adding: “But what’s different this time I think is that if we have a recession, it’s going to be a Fed-induced recession and the Fed can end the recession by subsequently easing monetary policy.”
- Amid ongoing layoffs and recession concerns, the number of job openings held at 10.5 million in November, the same as the month prior.
- People voluntarily quitting their jobs climbed slightly from 2.6% of US workers in October to 2.7% in November, according to new Bureau of Labor Statistics data released this week.
Focus on What Workplaces Are Getting Wrong About Caregiver Support
Researchers estimate that nearly three-quarters of employees have some form of caregiving responsibility, but many of them fly under the radar at the workplace—a phenomenon Julia Cohen Sebastien, CEO and co-founder of the employer-based caregiver-support platform Grayce, has described as “quiet caregiving.”
“Most people are dealing with something outside of work with caring for loved ones, but most people are stressed out about it and most people don't talk about it,” Sebastien says.
But when workplaces help bring those obligations out into the open, she explains, they can begin to more effectively answer some key questions about their caregiver employees: “How do they recruit and retain the best talent, given everything that's happening in the market? How do they support people in being able to show up at work? How do they better support diversity, equity, and inclusion in terms of thinking about who their caregivers are?”
We spoke recently with Sebastien about how employers can address quiet caregiving. Here are excerpts, lightly edited for space and clarity:
Charter columnist S. Mitra Kalita wrote recently: “If everybody is now a caregiver, how can employers help, well, everybody?” How would you answer that?
I think there's value in going a little deeper. And sometimes you see this with employee resource groups (ERGs), for example. You see some companies that had parent ERGs that now have become caregiver ERGs. But I would recommend you actually give people the space to self-identify into smaller subgroups. Some of it just comes down to mapping, what is that landscape of what people are dealing with and what are the different types of care? There's care for elders. Care for adults, which is more parallel to care for elders. And then there's care for children. And are you planning for care, or are you actively in some sort of care stage, or are you in more of a crisis through bereavement stage?
One of the biases that employers have that's consistently getting in their way is assuming that caregiving means early childcare, young children. Literally yesterday I was talking to a consultant who said they had a very large company that thought they needed on-site childcare. But it was really about understanding, ‘Actually, that's not really the core of what your population needs based on what your population's demographics are. There's more of an elder-care need in that particular population.’
And then you think about, well, what's the income of that population? What are the problems that we're solving for? So it's not just what types of care, who are the care recipients, and what stages of care. It’s also, does that population need help with knowledge, time, money, or emotional stress? Usually people need help with some combination of those. The most consistent is emotional stress. No matter how much money you make, this is still a complicated topic for people. Then depending on your workforce, it's giving people time back versus giving people money back. Most employers will think it's all about young kids and they'll think it's all about money, and that's not the answer for every population.
How would you advise organizations to balance that deeper view with supporting as wide a swath of employees as possible?
The question is, what is the result that you want? What's the business problem you're trying to solve? That might be how you keep people at work, or giving people more knowledge and support, giving them more time back. But also, what's the emotional state that you want to invoke in the employee? How do I show people that in their hardest moments in their life, we’re there for them? An employee may not really remember whether they got one week off or whether they were given an extra 2% match in their 401k, but if they literally were in a job where their mother almost died, their spouse was going through intensive chemo, or their child was struggling with enormous issues in getting the right treatment for neurodiversity, they’ll remember who was the employer and who was the manager that helped to make it possible to manage that.
And did you manage to lead people to solutions? It's not just about ‘Here's 70 bucks for you to pay for care’ or ‘Here's a week for you to go figure out how to take care of your mom’ because, okay, so you have that week and say you have that $70—what do you do with it? And how do you know how to cut right through the noise?
Don't just think that because you throw some money or some time at people, just because you give them a stipend for backup care or just because you add some amount of leave, that you solve their problem. You'll never be able to solve the cost of care. That's far beyond what an employer can do. And you're simply not going to be able to offer all the time that people may need. But think about what role you can have in supporting employees.
What can workplaces do to help employees be more forthcoming about identifying as caregivers?
I think the issue is about solving the problem for people rather than forcing people to use nomenclature. And so the big thing is getting people to just talk more about how this is fundamental to humanity. We all take care of someone, whether you're a spouse, a sibling, a parent, a child, a friend—you may have no next of kin, but maybe it's the person you see every day. And so why do we need to try to tell everyone that they're a caregiver, rather than just normalizing and getting people to talk about those normal things? When it comes to organizations, that really starts from the top. How do leaders model that by talking about their own care responsibilities and just acting like that's normal?
What Else You Need to Know
The Federal Trade Commission is moving to ban the use of noncompete agreements in employee contracts. The agency cited the undue strain such agreements put on workers who are trying to change jobs and on companies that are looking for talent.
- According to the FTC, banning noncompete agreements could lead to a $300 billion dollar increase in wages per year.
- Noncompete agreements can make the hiring process more costly for employers since they have to spend time figuring out who they can and can't hire, Evan Starr, an economist at the University of Maryland, told The New York Times.
Pay transparency is now law in California and Washington. The two states joined New York City and Colorado at the start of the year, as new laws requiring salary ranges in job postings took effect.
- Adherence to New York City’s law, which took effect in the fall of 2022, has been mixed, with some organizations posting absurdly large ranges.
- See Charter’s pay-transparency playbook for resources on creating a compensation philosophy for your organization and preparing for the conversations that can come with it.
Congress enacts new laws to support pregnant and breastfeeding employees. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which bans pregnancy discrimination, requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees and applicants, and the PUMP Act, which expands protections enabling workers to nurse or pump at work, were both included in the omnibus spending bill passed at the end of the year.
- The PUMP Act closes a loophole in previous breastfeeding protections that excluded salaried and other non-exempt workers.
- Workplaces can further support these workers by proactively communicating what they’re entitled to, rather than waiting for them to ask. “A lot of folks are aware of the legal requirements, but they feel like they’re sticking their necks out to even ask for what they’re legally entitled to.” Jessica Lee, a senior staff attorney at the University of California’s Center for WorkLife Law, said in a Charter interview last year.
The average raise percentage hit a 25-year high last year. Workers who stayed with their employer saw 5.5% annual growth in compensation last year.
- Those who switched jobs last year saw an even bigger annual wage increase of 8.1%.
- Rapid wage growth was still outpaced by inflation, effectively amounting to a pay cut for workers even as their nominal pay increased—though job growth, wage growth, and inflation have all slowed in recent months.
- Employers are grappling with pressures to give raises in line with the rising cost of living, while also trimming budgets amid the economic downturn.
While news about tech layoffs dominated the headlines in 2022, some workers appear to be bouncing back quickly. Some 79% of laid-off tech employees found a new job within three months of looking, according to a recent survey by ZipRecruiter, and roughly 40% found a new job within one month.
- On the flip side, more companies say they are seeing a decrease in productivity as high rates of turnover force them to spend more time and money hiring and training new employees.
Return to workplace speed round:
- A growing number of companies , including Paycom Software and Vanguard Group, are ramping up their in-office requirements or increasing enforcement. It’s another wave of employers to tamp down on remote working, even as hybrid work is clearly here to stay.
- Salesforce plans to let go of some of its office space as it prepares to lay off 10% of its workforce.
- A new analysis by public-policy organization Economic Innovation Group projects that the shift to remote work will drive down housing prices in the long run, as workers move to areas where houses are easier and cheaper to build.
- In an attempt to revive Washington DC's downtown area, mayor Muriel Bowser has called on the federal government to bring its workers back to the office most days or allow that space to be used by other entities who are “willing to revitalize it.”
Here are some of the best tips and insights from the past week for managing yourself and your team:
- Make an “anti-resolution.” Rather than adding something to your plate, start the year off by committing to let go of something that would otherwise cause ongoing stress.
- Compete with your past self. It’s possible to change your mindset by acting the way you’d like to feel. If you’re stuck or unmotivated in your role, give yourself a jolt by pretending you’re brand new at the job and trying to outperform the person who did it before you.
- Make templates for your workday. Automate some of your scheduling burden by creating calendar templates in different time-block arrangements for things like meetings, admin, and focused work, and then choose the template that best fits your to-do list for the day.
- Ask colleagues what would make their role more meaningful. Soliciting that input serves as a safeguard against quiet quitting by helping workers build a greater sense of agency, empowering them to identify and act on necessary changes if they start to feel disengaged.
Shopify goes cold turkey on meetings. CEO Tobi Lutke recently sent an all-company memo canceling all meetings besides 1:1s effective starting January 5, with a two-week “cooling-off” window before any can be added back in.
- Coincidentally, two weeks would mean the window is scheduled to end on January 19—the day that research suggests is most common for abandoning New Year’s resolutions.
ChatGPT finds a formidable foe. GPTZero, a new app created by a Princeton computer-science student, can analyze a piece of writing to determine if it was written by a human or artificial intelligence.
- In another, more meta example of humans taking down technology, traffic to the app’s website was so high that it crashed shortly after it launched.
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.