Recently, around 4 million U.S. workers have quit their jobs every month. These record numbers have led economists to label this unprecedented time “the Great Resignation,” as workers quit double the amount they did every month a decade ago. In December alone, about 3% of the labor force left. So employers are turning inward, asking their leadership teams the same question: “How can we retain our employees?”
Holiday bonuses are no longer enough to counteract toxic work environments. High salaries no longer make up for inflexible hours or sick leave policies as employees’ families need them at home for unexpected illness or quarantine. And loyalty itself isn’t a good enough reason to stay with an organization as it may have been for past generations — the average American will hold 12 jobs in their lifetime and switch jobs four times in their first post-college decade.
Employers are thinking far outside the traditional incentive box to ensure they aren’t spending the next year hiring. They are intent on making their companies the ones to work for in a sea of options. Here are some of the methods employers are using to keep their workforces engaged, happy and employed at their organizations.
No meeting Wednesdays
A 2019 survey from Workfront found that U.S. workers say they spend only 40% of their workday on their primary tasks, due to emails and wasteful meetings that dampen productivity. What if you had time during the work day to actually get your work done?
Jennifer Dennard, the co-founder and COO of workplace collaboration software company Range, surveyed her employees about workplace benefits they were jealous of at other companies, with the goal of trying to accommodate as many as she could at Range. One of Range’s offerings based on that data is No Meeting Wednesdays, in which employees are actually able to make progress on their current projects without interruption.
In addition, the whole company shuts down at least once per month, not including the major holidays, for mandatory time off. “We found it can really be important to just close versus giving more paid time off because it really encourages people to actually tune out and disconnect,” Dennard told The Org.
As companies reconsider flexible work schedules, closing — actually formally pausing work operations — can help everyone understand there is no underlying pressure to catch up on your off days, clean out your email inbox or complete any other work-related tasks.
Periods aren’t just annoying; they are painful for 84.1% of people who have them. For 43.1% of people who have periods, every single period is painful, according to one study. Research shows that at least 1 in 4 people who menstruate have to turn to medicine or take time off work, school, or social activities during their menstrual cycles. That means, at any given time, you or someone you work with might be struggling to work or to focus completely due to pain.
Kristel De Groot, the co-founder of plant-based superfood company Your Super, wasn’t okay with that. One way she’s honoring her employees — and hoping they stick around — is through “moon days.” This means her female-identifying employees can take one day per month off without using personal or sick time for their periods. Employees taking advantage of this day might work from home, not work at all or opt out of meetings.
“To me, it’s not being sick. It’s being a woman and we go through different phases —there are weeks we are super creative. There are weeks where we need to slow down a bit…it’s a balance,” she says. Her Moon Days initiative is also meant to open dialogue in the workplace about women’s health. “I feel like it’s a really healthy thing instead of it being a secret to hide from everyone else.”
Workplace burnout can have severe physical and mental consequences, including stress, fatigue, insomnia, sadess, substance abuse, high blood pressure and an increase in vulnerability to other diseases. Companies are realizing the role they play in this, and the responsibility to keep both their employees and their workplace culture as healthy as possible to prevent this. The pandemic brought almost immediate attention to American’s spiking mental health problems, with 40% of adults reporting mental health or substance in June 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
Range’s Dennard uses her company’s own software to “mood map” the status of each team member, helping her calibrate the mindset and progress for each ongoing project. Employees check in daily with an emoji indicating mood, and answer a few survey questions, eliminating the need for her to ask how things are going with every employee every day. She says constant check-ins really negate the benefits of remote work, and this solves that problem.
“Micromanaging is likely to burn your employees out and make people want to leave for somewhere that is more thoughtful and experienced at remote work…managers do still need information though, so if you can establish a good asynchronous way for the team to check in, that’s really effective because it’s light weight for them to share what they are up to and how they’re feeling,” she said. One employee who has a young baby indicates days when they are struggling with a snoozing emoji. Range uses another emoji for employees to indicate that they are all good, and Dennard can feel confident that the team is making progress. Mood mapping helps managers monitor progress over time as well.
Normalizing and encouraging the use of therapy benefits
Therapy is just another meeting on a company-wide calendar for Dennard, as she openly models taking advantage of mental health benefits for her employees. Companies encouraging, explaining and allowing time for therapy is one of the ways some are combatting the mental health crisis and retaining employees. But Dennard said company have to “ensure people understand how to use it,” as navigating insurance can be daunting to some. “It’s often hidden in the fine print,” she said.
Aside from traditional therapy, she and other employers are offering subscriptions to mental health apps, such as Ginger, which Range offers to employees so they have on-demand mental health support at any time. She suggests employers survey their teams to see what apps would be most helpful to them.
A decade ago we wished for double the salary. Since 2020, we’ve wished for double the flexibility at work instead. Companies such as Range are rethinking the 9-to-5, Monday-through-Friday work week, to attract and retain talent in the new age of work. The concept is simple. Instead of scattering meetings throughout the day, preventing employees from having predictable windows for child care, exercise or cooking a healthy meal, they have meeting windows and asynchronous work windows.
For example, maybe a team decides they will only have meetings or phone calls from 10-12:00 PM. That means that employees now know they can have the flexibility in the afternoons that comes with the best of remote work schedules. “We try to create permission for personal tasks and people use their calendar to communicate that,” Dennard said. This strategy is one of many feeding into more balanced, less burnt out employees.
Fertility treatment coverage
If you have eight women of reproductive age in your company, statistically, at least one of them will have infertility issues. In spite of these statistics, few major insurance carriers cover fertility treatments, such as in vitro fertilization, and state laws vary widely as to how much of the nearly $25,000 cost they will cover for IVF, including medications. So naturally, high quality fertility treatment coverage as part of a benefits package is attractive to many employees of child-bearing age.
Aside from covering costs, creating an environment that is accepting of the challenging ups and downs, physically and logistically, of the fertility treatment journey can help too.
Companies that want to attract and retain their employees are just one question away from figuring out what would really matter to their team — ask your workers what they want. What managers might see as attractive and enticing might not be what employees are actually hoping for. Whether it’s more money, better benefits, a more flexible schedule or a positive work environment, they will let you know.