Featured in today's briefing:

  • Why your next meeting should be outside.
  • What happens when a remote-work policy is revoked.
  • Using company-wide debates to settle contentious issues.

AI and Work Radar

  • A recent paper in the journal Computers in Human Behavior Reports argues that using AI interviewers in the hiring process has the potential to attract more women to male-dominated fields. In a small study, the paper’s authors found that when female candidates anticipated encountering discrimination, they were more likely to prefer an AI interviewer to a human one as a way of reducing bias. (This mirrors recent Pew Research Center findings that people believe AI could help reduce bias in hiring.)
  • Of the more than 80,000 US workers who were laid off last month, some 3,900—all in the tech industry—lost their jobs due to AI, according to a new report from recruiting firm Challenger, Gray, and Christmas.
  • Some marketing and social-media content writers have also found themselves being replaced by generative AI tools, by either their employers or their clients. ​​“In every previous automation threat, the automation was about automating the hard, dirty, repetitive jobs,” Wharton associate professor Ethan Mollick told the Washington Post. “This time, the automation threat is aimed squarely at the highest-earning, most creative jobs that… require the most educational background.”
  • The Directors Guild of America announced that it reached a bargaining agreement with Hollywood studios that, among other things, “confirm[s] that AI is not a person and that generative AI cannot replace the duties performed by members.”
  • About half of McKinsey employees are using generative AI at work, with the consulting firm’s permission. McKinsey’s guidelines and principles about use of AI includes not putting confidential information into tools such as ChatGPT.
  • Influential venture capitalist Marc Andreessen released a manifesto titled “Why AI Will Save the World.” Among other things, Andreessen asserted that “technology doesn’t destroy jobs and never will.” (Short-term job losses—at the very least—and financial pain are widely expected for some workers as AI is rolled out.)

Focus on Benefits from Adding Outdoors Time to the Workweek

Spending time outside has well-documented benefits. One 2019 study found that regular time spent outdoors had a significant positive effect on life satisfaction and self-reported health status. Other  research has demonstrated cognitive benefits such as improved memory, attention, and impulse control. But it seems spending time connecting with nature might also help teams perform better as a group.

“Interactions with nature, whether sustained or fleeting, can increase orientation toward others, social cohesion, and prosocial behavior, effects that are in part driven by nature’s awe-inspiring or beautiful qualities,” write Sean Goldy and Paul Piff of the University of California Irvine, co-authors of a 2019 paper on the social effects of spending time outside (In 2021, Piff became an L.L.Bean research partner and has received funding for future research). Their research affirms the work of other social psychologists, who have found that exposure to the outdoors increases people’s propensity for cooperation and socially responsible behavior.

While more companies are designing their offices to include extensive plant installations and outdoor terraces, L.L. Bean encourages staff to forge connections in nature. To understand how other organizations can do the same , we spoke with Sarah Cox, L.L. Bean’s chief human resources officer. Here are takeaways from our conversation:

Connect outdoor experiences back to company culture and values.

Cox’s team recently met at the company’s headquarters for a team-wide offsite. Though the impetus for the in-person time was to set goals and make plans for the new fiscal year, they spent part of their time together at the company’s outdoor discovery school, where employees had the chance to participate in kayaking, paddling, fly-fishing, and archery.

While poorly executed "forced fun" at work can feel awkward and burdensome, tying activities back to your organization's purpose—as with the work itself—can increase employee buy-in.

Most companies probably won't have as clear-cut a connection L.L. Bean's, but they can nevertheless find ways to make outdoor experiences feel intentional and meaningful. Moving the workplace experience to a new setting could be framed as a manifestation of an organizational value of trying new things, for example. A hike led by more junior employees could be positioned as a way to encourage upward learning.

Bring the outdoors into onboarding to jumpstart employee connections.

Onboarding is a time “for people who are newer to an organization to develop that imprint of the culture and connect in a relational way,” Cox notes. At L.L. Bean, the outdoor experiences often included in the onboarding process—such as a hike or kayaking at the outdoor discovery school—serve as a “deep immersion” in the company’s outdoors-oriented culture, she explains. Even for companies without an outdoors-oriented culture, research shows that these kinds of collective outdoors experiences can supercharge social connection and cooperation, preparing new employees to begin their tenures ready to collaborate and engage with their teams.

Look for opportunity in everyday moments as well as special occasions.

Throughout the year, L.L. Bean employees have opportunities to engage with nature in less intensive ways, by taking wellness and fitness classes on the grounds of the headquarters or by walking the public trails that criss-cross the campus. The company also supports time outdoors outside of work through benefits such as paid outdoor experience days and outdoor discovery courses, guided outdoors activities at one of L.L.Bean’s outdoor discovery centers.

Cox notes that investments in nature-oriented programs have paid dividends in employee attraction and retention. Outdoor experiences can make traveling to the office feel less like a burden and more like an event to look forward to. Moving a meeting from the conference room to a setting with more sun, sky, and greenery, for example, can be a low-effort way to enhance employee well-being.

What Else You Need to Know

The current state of the office return is….contentious. At the insurance company Farmers, where new CEO Raul Vargas recently ended his predecessor’s permanent remote-work policy, employees are up in arms.

  • Many were hired remotely or moved to new locations as a result of the policy Farmers’ internal social channels have been flooded with angry messages, including some by employees threatening to quit or discussing unionization.
  • Other employers are similarly doubling down on their return-to-office efforts: Chipotle recently told corporate employees that it was upping the number of in-office days from three to four, while Meta last week said that workers assigned to one of the company’s offices would need to work in person three days a week starting this fall and Google this week urged approved remote workers to consider switching to a hybrid schedule.
  • Amazon employees this week recently held a walkout over the company’s return-to-office requirements, as well as layoffs and environmental concerns.
  • Other employers are taking more of a carrot approach to bringing workers back. Salesforce, for example, is making a $10 charitable donation for each employee who comes to the office during a designated two-week window.

Virginia is eliminating degree requirements for most state jobs. Governor Glenn Youngkin announced that 90% of jobs will be affected by the change effective July 1, putting Virginia in the company of seven other US states.

  • After Maryland became the first to drop the requirement for a significant number of public roles last year, Utah, Colorado, Alaska, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey followed suit.
  • Harvard Business School management professor Joseph Fuller told Fortune in a recent interview that AI adoption is accelerating the move away from degree-based hiring and toward a skills-based approach: “Do I think white collar work will inevitably require a college degree? Absolutely not,” he said. “It will require certain types of technical or hard skills not necessarily indicated by college.”

The number of unincorporated self-employed workers has dropped to pre-pandemic levels. While self-employment skyrocketed during the height of the Covid pandemic, it has since declined sharply.

  • Some 8.73 million American workers are now self-employed without owning their own company, down from a peak of 9.51 million in August 2021 .
  • While some formerly self-employed workers took a job with an employer, much of the drop is attributed to individuals successfully forming businesses and employing themselves.

Poor work-life balance is top of mind for workers who want to quit their jobs. Over 40% of professionals are actively thinking about quitting their jobs, according to a recent FlexJobs survey, and 29% of respondents cited work-life balance as a factor in their desire to leave, making it the most commonly cited reason.

  • Two-fifths of professionals surveyed by consulting firm Robert Half say they’re more burned out now than a year ago. The same number of workers expressed discomfort with talking about burnout with their boss.
  • People leaders seem unaware of the high burnout levels in their organizations. Just 6% of HR leaders cited a risk of employee burnout as a concern, yet some 72% of workers reported that their team has been burned out in the last 12 months, according to a report from Lee Hecht Harrison that surveyed workers and leaders in five countries.
  • A third of workers in a new Conference Board survey reported that their mental health has declined in the past six months. When asked what programs or resources would help their mental health, the top responses were guilt-free, “no work” days off (55%), a flexible or hybrid work schedule (52%), work from home or work from anywhere programs (48%), and better training for managers on promoting healthy work-life balance (47%).

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

  • Hash out contentious issues in a company-wide debate, inviting employees to weigh in and share individual perspectives. Consulting firm Deloitte recently held a debate on the return to the office, incorporating synchronous and asynchronous discussions in a variety of formats, like focus groups, town halls, and unmoderated chat rooms.
  • Make coworking sessions a part of mentorship. Deepen mentoring relationships and promote organic conversation by coordinating time for mentors and mentees to work together at the office. The time together allows mentees to ask questions in real time and mentors to check in with mentees as they work.
  • To stay relevant in AI-driven workplaces, deepen your problem formulation skills. Problem formulation is the ability to define, understand, and break down a problem to be solved in order to guide AI—or a human team—through the problem-solving process. It incorporates four skills: problem diagnosis, or defining the core problem; problem decomposition, or breaking the problem down into smaller pieces; problem reframing, or gaining multiple perspectives on the issue; and problem constraint design, or defining the boundaries of a problem and potential solutions.
  • Create a team-wide learning philosophy. Help your team align on values and responsibilities related to learning and development by writing a learning philosophy that codifies team culture around learning, including the support available to every employee and why it matters to your organization.


Working… out. Some 42% of employees say they exercise on days when they work from home, compared to 31% who carve out time on days when they go into an office, according to the latest data from WFH Research.

  • “Concerns about ‘shirking from home’ are reasonable,” the researchers write, “but the reality is there is also ‘shirking from work,’ as our results show”—for example, employees are slightly more likely to play computer or phone games while working in person versus remotely.

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.