What Is an Intrapreneur and Why Does Everyone Want to Hire Them Right Now?

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disabled entrepreneur

Sure, there’s plenty of talk nowadays about entrepreneurs and freelancers—people who work for themselves, set their own days, and run their own businesses. But there’s another crew in town that’s becoming increasingly popular: intrapreneurs.

If you’re not familiar with this term, you’re not alone.

The first time I heard it was from William Arruda, a global personal branding expert whose clients include many Fortune 100 companies and the author of Career Distinction: Stand Out By Building Your Brand. In it, he describes an intrapreneur as “a person who demonstrates an entrepreneurial spirit within an organization.”

This concept shows just how much the employee-employer relationship has evolved. And when you think about it, it makes a lot of sense in today’s working world. Employees are demanding more freedom and autonomy in order to grow. And employers are understanding the need to create a strong company culture that retains top talent and fosters innovation.

The result? Companies are eager to welcome and embrace people who are creative, proactive, and flexible—in other words, intrapreneurs. I’ll explain what it means to be one and the benefits they bring to employers—and how you can be an intrapreneur, too.

What Is an Intrapreneur?

In many ways, an intrapreneur could be considered an in-house entrepreneur. If we go back to Arruda’s definition, this group of people is classified as having an “entrepreneurial spirit.”

So, what does that mean, exactly?

Well, entrepreneurs are driven by the desire to create new services or products. In doing so, they develop original ideas, think beyond what’s already been done, and are always looking to provide valuable solutions to common problems. They’re personally invested in achieving a successful outcome.

The same thing can be said about intrapreneurs. They’re creative freethinkers who are passionate about sharing new ways to get things done. The difference is, they operate within a company rather than solo. While no one’s job title is likely to be “intrapreneur,” you can adopt the mindset in pretty much any role.

What Are the Characteristics of an Intrapreneur?

You can instantly spot an intrapreneur within a company because they treat their job as if it were their own business. Also, an intrapreneur’s ingenuity makes them a star employee—they’re always coming up with resourceful ways to approach challenging situations.

Here are some more characteristics that make them truly special.

They’re Authentic

An intrapreneur’s greatest trait is being consistently humble and sincere—whether it’s in an email, meeting, or passing conversation. This makes them experts at establishing trust and highly respected and liked throughout a company.

They’re Savvy Collaborators

Ever known someone who can pick up the phone to ask for a favor or information and get an immediate response? Well, that’s a classic intrapreneur move. As masters of building relationships, they never run out of people to contact who are willing to help—because they’d do the same in return.

They’re Highly Confident

It takes a certain level of confidence to express creative ideas and proactively start a project. Intrapreneurs are risk-takers, so they trust their actions and aren’t afraid to try something different or learn from trial and error.

They’re Uber Resilient

Whether it’s about finding an answer to an ongoing problem or hammering out the details of a new plan, an intrapreneur won’t give up. An intrapreneur is not easily deterred and hasn’t met a challenge they’re not willing to tackle head-on.

They Have Strong Personal Brands

Intrapreneurs are highly aware of how they communicate their unique strengths and work hard to maintain a positive external reputation in order to promote their expertise and services. Because their professional image is important to them, they also have just as strong of a presence online as they do in person.

Why Are Intrapreneurs So Valuable to a Company?

You may think, “Hmmm… Wouldn’t these kinds of people be perceived as a threat to a company’s success? And wouldn’t they just take off the second something better came along?”

But it’s actually to a company’s advantage to have employees who take ownership of their work. Employees who feel like their talent and contributions matter (for real) will work smarter, feel more satisfied, and bring forth their best ideas—which will ultimately become the company’s ideas and products.

Some may fear that allowing employees to be too innovative will lead to folks using what they do at work to benefit their own side hustle. However, even if that’s the case, there’s nothing wrong with it, as long as there’s no conflict of interest (for example, working on outside projects during work hours or working on something that’s a direct competitor to the company).

Why Should You Be an Intrapreneur, and How Can You Be One at Any Company?

So as you’re thinking of ways to grow your career, consider how the mindset of an intrapreneur is also an asset to your own brand and success. Sure, your ideas are going toward a company’s vision, but you know where else they’re going? Into your resume and LinkedIn profile—your own portfolio!

Every successful initiative you’re a part of gives you concrete examples of scenarios when you took action and delivered results. This increases your potential to make more money and access more growth opportunities down the road (for example, a promotion, a new role you get to define, or a completely new start somewhere else). Plus, being an intrapreneur allows you to pursue a passion project with the added benefit of having a company’s resources and budget—as opposed to having to start from scratch and launch it all on your own.

As an intrapreneur, your experience is tied to in-demand skills that are transferable anywhere you go, instead of a specific job title.

Continue on to The Muse to read the complete article.

I run a talent agency for models and actors with disabilities and visible differences. We’ve cast for Disney and Gucci — our clients’ success is the best part of my job.

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Zebedee Management Director Laura Johnson (left) and model Sarah D.

By , Insider

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with talent agent Laura Johnson. It has been edited for length and clarity.

The idea for a specialist talent agency came to me and my then-friend, now-sister-in-law Zoe while we were walking on the beach one afternoon in Eastern England.

It was 2017 and I was on maternity leave from my job as a social worker. During our walk, the conversation turned to the performing-arts classes Zoe led for children with disabilities.

While the children were talented and many were passionate about pursuing modeling and acting, there was sadly a lack of inclusion among traditional fashion brands, advertising, and media for those with a disability or visible difference of any sort. Not only did this lack of representation seem unfair, it also wasn’t exactly business-savvy considering people who live with disabilities are the largest minority group in the world.

The more we discussed it, the more we began to ask ourselves, “If no one out there is representing people with disabilities and differences, why don’t we?” Between my social-work background and Zoe’s work as a model and drama teacher, we had experience working with underrepresented groups.

Despite the fact that neither of us had ever worked at a talent agency before, we decided to join forces and launch Zebedee Management representing disabled and visibly different models, actors, and influencers who up until then had been virtually excluded.

We began by inviting Zoe’s students to apply and reached out to various disability groups seeking talent from within their community.

Talent was never going to be our challenge — getting clients to sign our talent was the biggest obstacle. We decided instead of waiting for jobs to come in casting people with disabilities or visible differences, we would simply pitch our talent for traditional commercial jobs.

In the beginning. it wasn’t easy. Many casting agents simply paid us lip service with no intention of actually booking our talent, but we continued trying.

Then a month after launching, we locked in two major bookings. One was for a print ad for Disney with child model Grace Wharton, and the other was for the Teatum Jones runway show during London Fashion Week with model Vicki Balch, who lost her leg in the Alton Towers accident.

Every time we get a call or receive a note from one of our models sharing their positive experiences with us, it just reinforces our mission.

One of our models named Louisa sent us a note saying: “I was always scared of what society would think of a young person in a wheelchair and I was afraid that people would judge, but then I found Zebedee, who wanted me for my disability rather than looking at my disability as a bad thing. They wanted me to spread awareness and make disability beautiful and change society’s thoughts and how they see disability.”

Another of our model’s named Roisin said: “I honestly feel so grateful to be part of something so special. The opportunities that Zebedee has given me are amazing. If me two years ago spoke to me now, she would be astonished and so proud, and that is because of the Zebedee community. Sometimes I feel like pinching myself because I feel so lucky. Also, I am amazed that I am part of the change I want to see.”

Click here to read the full article on Insider

Thinking About Freelancing?

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man in wheelchair with woman sitting next to him looking at laptop

Have you thought about freelancing, or already started to build your freelance skills and business network? Here’s some food for thought on aspects of freelancing to consider.

Freelancing, defined

freelancer, or freelance worker, is self-employed, sells their work or services by the hour, day or project, and may work for more than one employer at a time, or different employers sequentially, for short terms.

Why freelance?

Freelancing appeals to some people as a means to use their unique set of talents fully, in ways they can’t seem to do in a standard job. Some like the independence of setting their own schedule, taking time off when needed, and working extra hours when they have the time. Others like the opportunity to earn a higher hourly rate of pay than they could as an employee. Some people get into freelancing after a layoff, quitting — or being fired from a job. They may want a break from the obligations of regular employment, have a hard time finding a job, or just need an immediate income source.

How freelancers find jobs

It’s common to build a freelance career over time, establishing relationships with clients and developing a network of business contacts that can provide leads for projects and freelance jobs. Reputation is key, as word of mouth referrals are like gold for freelance work. Freelance work may be posted on major job websites as well as on niche freelance work sites for writers, designers, developers and coders, photographers, marketers and more. Social media may be especially helpful for digital media freelancers, and for outreach to develop contacts and establish links to your portfolio.

The product

As a freelancer, you will benefit from having an articulate, clearly-defined brand that communicates who you are and what you offer an employer. It’s important to know:

  • What is your unique skill set?
  • Are there passions that freelancing will allow you to express, explore, and expand?
  • What are the work environments you understand, in which you thrive and to which you are able to make an immediate contribution?
  • How will you keep up in your field to continue to offer in-demand skills?

Most freelancers have a targeted skill set they’re marketing, so maintaining and refreshing that skill set needs to be part of the plan. Look for ways to keep your skills sharp such as sources for free or low-cost classes and software instruction or consider a skill training swap with someone who knows something you’d like to learn. Community college classes and certifications may be good options. Teaching your skills is another way to keep them sharp and build your reputation as an expert in the field.

Your product may best be communicated through a portfolio of your work — considered essential for most freelancers, so keep a record of your projects, publications, a client list, successes and accomplishments to include.

Costs for freelancers

Freelancers need to be aware of the costs of providing health insurance, retirement, and other benefits for themselves. For some, this may be the deciding factor in whether they can afford to freelance. Freelancers also forego unemployment insurance, so during gaps in employment, you are on your own. You may want to establish a reliable fallback income stream, such as a job you can easily pick up when needed.

Freelancers may also need to pay for their own equipment, tools and other gear. But unless items are essential for a particular project, you may build up your tool kit over time. 

Keeping a balance

Emotional support is a factor that some freelancers neglect to consider until its absence is felt. Many employees who work in teams and have longevity in a job develop close relationships with coworkers. This may not be part of a freelancer lifestyle, so you may want to take an honest look at how your social needs will be met by other means. Options could include joining freelancer networking groups, scheduling regular meetings with friends or establishing yourself as a regular at a gym, favorite coffee shop or volunteer gig.

Employers may have unrealistic expectations of freelance workers and impose workloads and deadlines that leave little time or energy for a life outside of just keeping up. In cases like these, freelancers may need to assert their conditions to make the work sustainable.

Source: CareerOneStop

Discussing Your Strengths in a Job Interview

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interviewees on Zoom call discussing their resumes

When you’re interviewing for a job, there’s a strong chance that a recruiter or potential boss will ask what you believe are your strengths. This is an easy question to answer. Interviewers will certainly want to know that your perceived strengths line up with the position you’re seeking, but they are also interested in whether you’re self-aware and confident. With a little practice, you can answer that question without appearing either arrogant or overly humble. Here’s how.

Show Your Strengths: STAR Method in Action

Talking about your strengths is an opportunity to show why you’d be a great fit for the job and how your skills align with the company or team. The key is to think about what strengths you have that match one or more of the aspects of the job description. A strength can be either a technical skill or a soft skill, such as teamwork or communication.

Once you’ve decided which of your strengths you want to feature, it’s time to identify real life examples where you’ve demonstrated that strength. The best way to approach behavioral questions is to use the STAR method. This helps you break down a scenario and explain how you successfully navigated it.

Situation: Offer some background on the task or challenge that you’ll be addressing.

Task: Define what your role and responsibilities were for the particular situation.

Action: Explain what steps you took or ideas you offered to help solve the problem or tackle that challenge.

Result: Share how the situation was resolved, highlighting how your actions helped reach that conclusion.

Here’s an example:

If you interview for a position that requires you to lead or even be part of a team, you might choose to say one of your strengths is leadership.

Situation: I volunteer as a gardener at a local park and enjoy working with new volunteers.

Task: The park identified a need to educate new volunteers about native plants.

Action: I organized a training session to teach my team members about native plants.

Result: The new volunteers found it so useful that the training is now part of the new volunteer onboarding process.

In this scenario, an interviewer might recognize your ability to take initiative to address needs and lead a new volunteer training. While this answer may seem simple, it demonstrates your strength in both initiative and leadership, which are valuable traits to all employers.

If you find it is hard to identify your strengths, consider your ability to:

  • Collaborate
  • Solve problems
  • Take direction and focus on tasks
  • Use technology
  • Lead or mentor

Rehearsing your answers can also help you feel prepared when heading into your next interview. Common interview questions to consider include:

  • “Why do you want this job?”
  • “Tell me about a time when you had to learn something quickly but knew nothing about it before.”
  • “Tell me about a time you made a mistake.”
  • “Tell me about a goal you set and how you achieved it.”
  • “What is one of your weaknesses?”

Reflect on your skills and accomplishments. Think about why they qualify you to succeed in the job you’re applying for. Think about the strengths of your professional role models and whether you have some of those same qualities. Consider a time when a teammate shared something they admired about you. Or think back to any times you received recognition for your work and what skills allowed you to shine.

Source: Ticket to Work

Degree Designed a Deodorant for People With Upper-Limb Disabilities and Visual Impairment

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The Degree Inclusive antiperspirant was made with accessibility in mind — and with the input of those who've been hoping for more personal-care products just like it.

, Allure

Living without disabilities, for many, means taking certain seemingly simple tasks for granted. When’s the last time you put on your antiperspirant and actually thought for a moment how challenging that action — something you do each and every day without obstacle — might be for someone else? So perhaps it’s because so many of us without disabilities haven’t considered the needs of those who have them that it took so long for a mainstream drugstore brand to finally design something long overdue: a deodorant made to be accessible for those with a visual impairment and upper-limb disabilities.

Unilever has partnered with a team of design experts, occupational therapists, engineers, consultants, and people living with disabilities to create Degree Inclusive. Unlike conventional deodorants — which often involve twisting a cap, turning a stick, or pushing down on a spray nozzle — this new personal-care innovation is built with features that make it much easier for those with upper-limb disabilities and visual impairment to use.

That means a hooked design for one-handed usage, magnetic closures for taking the cap off and on more easily for those with limited grip or vision impairment, enhanced grip placement for easier application for those with limited grip or no arms, a larger roll-on applicator to reach more surface area per swipe, and a Braille label including instructions.

For author, journalist, and disability rights activist Keah Brown, who has limited use of one of her hands and was involved in the Degree Inclusive project, this is a more-than-welcome step in the right direction — especially since Degree made an effort to be as inclusive in the process as they are in the result.

“I’m really excited that Degree took the time to let us be a part of it,” Brown tells Allure. “My hope is that other personal-care brands will jump on board because it’s truly an untapped market. That, and we deserve the ability to feel comfortable and prosper with our personal care as well.”

As for the experience using the product itself, “the biggest difference for me is that I’m able to comfortably hold the deodorant and apply it evenly instead of having to do multiple swipes to get everything,” Brown says. “With this new deodorant, I can get it all in one go, which I love.”

That’s exactly what Esi Eggleston Bracey, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Beauty & Personal Care at Unilever North America, is hoping to hear from those who try Degree Inclusive, and it’s what drives the company to make this project become a reality. “Unilever will not settle until we ensure all of our products are accessible to anyone who wants to use them,” she tells Allure. “When it comes to deodorant, we saw that across the beauty and personal care industry, there is currently no deodorant designed specifically for people with upper body disabilities or visual impairment to use.”

Bracey tells Allure that Unilever is currently completing a beta program for Degree Inclusive to engage and get input from people with disabilities — a process that has already taken over a year so far. “We’ve invited 200 people with disabilities in the U.S. to trial the prototype design and give their feedback on its concept, product features, and messaging, to help improve the design for future commercial launch.”

Click here to read the full article on Allure.

People with disabilities still face barriers finding work during the pandemic—here’s how companies can help

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Photo of an asian woman in a dress and a cane. People with disabilities still face barriers finding work during the pandemic—here’s how companies can help

By Morgan Smith, Make It

For nearly 20 months, debates about the future of work have dominated meetings and Twitter feeds as the coronavirus pandemic upended every aspect of our jobs from commutes to office dress codes. These conversations continue to influence companies’ return-to-office plans and their remote work policies. But despite the pandemic taking a disproportionate toll on their job prospects and well-being, people with disabilities continue to be left out of many of these critical conversations.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is more than double that of those without: 9% compared to 4.4% as of September. People with disabilities are also far less likely to be employed than workers with no disabilities. There are several factors driving this disparity, including discriminatory hiring practices and fewer people with disabilities completing bachelor’s degrees.

The pandemic has only exacerbated this gap. Before the pandemic, workers with disabilities were more likely than those without disabilities to work from home, a new report from Rutgers University found. But because people with disabilities are more likely to hold blue-collar and service jobs, they have had far fewer options for remote or flexible work arrangements during the Covid-19 crisis, the report notes.

As employers announce plans to bring people back to offices and experiment with hybrid work schedules in the coming months, workers with disabilities and disability advocates are urging companies to rethink the structure of their organizations to better accommodate people with disabilities. “Folks with disabilities have been asking for flexible and remote work options for decades and have been consistently denied,” Maria Town, the president and CEO of The American Association of People with Disabilities, tells CNBC Make It. “Now we know these jobs can be done remotely — and people don’t want to see these options go away the moment we decide the pandemic is over.”

The pandemic created new challenges for workers who were already struggling
People with disabilities already experienced “significant” barriers while navigating the pre-pandemic job market — the pandemic has both amplified existing barriers and removed certain hurdles, Town points out. Job applications and interviews are increasingly online, but Town observes that many people with disabilities don’t have access to the assistive technology they need to navigate online job boards. “The expectation is that you will find and apply for jobs online, and for many people with disabilities, that’s not possible,” she says. “But they can’t approach a community center or store in person and ask if they’re hiring anymore, because it’s riskier during the pandemic.” Some people with disabilities are more likely to get infected or have severe illness from coronavirus, according to the CDC.

The ongoing pandemic has also heightened the isolation people with disabilities faced prior to the pandemic. A recent study published by the Disability and Health Journal shows that people with disabilities experience loneliness and social isolation at much higher rates than those without disabilities. “With social distancing and the rise in new variants, it’s even harder to find out about job opportunities and connect with others,” Town says.

People with disabilities have also struggled to get certain accommodations approved for their work throughout the pandemic. Town notes, for example, that some immunocompromised teachers have been asked to be in the classroom or host in-person office hours despite their concerns of falling severely ill from the virus. People infected with long Covid may also qualify as disabled, but struggle to get the accommodations and benefits that come with a more well-known condition.

Click here to read the full article on Make It.

First of its kind –The ZIPPIE Sphynx is a truly transportable tilt wheelchair specially designed for families on the move

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man pushing happy daughter in ZIPPEE wheelchair

Sunrise Medical is excited to expand the ZIPPIE pediatric mobility line with the new ZIPPIE® Sphynx™. For busy families that are always on the go, this compact, transportable wheelchair has static tilt and recline to accommodate various client needs.

The Sphynx’s patent-pending one-step fold is easy and intuitive, quickly transforming into an ultra-compact package that will fit within a compact car’s trunk. Weighing only 28 lbs., the Sphynx can be easily lifted for the ultimate portability.

With available tilt angles of 10⁰, 20⁰, or 30⁰, clinicians can select a seat position to accommodate weight shift as needed to support optimal posture. The Sphynx back support can be quickly adjusted from 85⁰ to 100⁰ recline to assist with feeding, digestion, respiratory function, and visual orientation. To support a broad range of users from pediatric clients to young adults with diverse mobility needs, numerous adaptable seating and positioning options are available, including JAY® and WHITMYER® options.

“At ZIPPIE, we wanted to design an adaptive stroller that could support active families when they want to get out and explore without compromising seating and positioning,” says Kelsey DiGiacomo, Pediatric Product Manager at Sunrise Medical. “The Sphynx is easy to transport for children who need postural support.”

For more information, please visit: www.sunrisemedical.com.

ZIPPEE wheelchair imageAbout Sunrise Medical: Committed to improving people’s lives, Sunrise Medical is a world leader in the innovation, manufacture and distribution of advanced assistive mobility devices and solutions. Distributed in more than 130 countries under its own 17 proprietary brands, the key products include manual and power wheelchairs, e-mobility products, motorized scooters, seating & positioning systems and daily living aids. Operating in 18 countries, Sunrise Medical group is headquartered in Malsch, Germany and employs over 2,200 associates worldwide.

For additional information, please contact David Algood; David.Algood@sunmed.com.

Creating Career Pathways through Inclusive Apprenticeship

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Man in wheelchair on computer doing Apprenticeship

Companies are searching for candidates to fill positions in growing industries, including clean energy, healthcare, information technology, cybersecurity and finance. Yet, more than half of human resource professionals believe the pool of qualified candidates that can fill these jobs is shrinking, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Apprenticeship programs can aid employers in tackling this challenge.

Traditionally, apprenticeship programs have focused on training job seekers to enter skilled trades in occupations such as manufacturing and construction. However, new approaches to apprenticeships are taking shape to meet employers’ talent needs in a wider range of industries; these programs help diversify the workforce and enable job seekers with disabilities to gain credentials and skills to succeed in high-growth, high-demand industries.

An inclusive apprenticeship program is an employer-driven program that can help provide access to lifelong career pathways for job seekers from diverse backgrounds, including those with disabilities. Training and instruction focus on helping apprentices master skills needed to succeed in a specific occupation. These programs offer opportunities for job seekers with disabilities from diverse backgrounds to sharpen their skill sets and pursue career paths through work-based learning that is accessible to everyone.

The Partnership on Inclusive Apprenticeship is an initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy. We collaborate with employers and the organizations that connect employers with apprentices–known as industry intermediaries–to expand the number of inclusive apprenticeship programs in the U.S. Job seekers with disabilities can benefit from joining a program that is fully committed to diversity and inclusion. For instance, people with disabilities who enroll in inclusive apprenticeship programs can:

  • Attain accessible on-the-job training and work in an accessible environment
  • Earn money through wages or stipends while training to be an apprentice
  • Gain skills and credentials (e.g., certifications, certificates, etc.) that can facilitate a pathway to in-demand jobs
  • Work directly with employers and mentors–those who understand the importance of inclusion and accessibility–to receive on-the-job experience

If you are interested in learning more about inclusive apprenticeship programs and enrolling in a program, these resources can help you on your career journey:

Visit Apprenticeship.gov

Lululemon pledges $75 million to wellbeing programs

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Lululemon Athletica inc. has committed $75 million to supporting physical, mental, and social wellbeing programs by 2025

By Anne Stych, Biz Journals

Lululemon Athletica inc. has committed $75 million to supporting physical, mental, and social wellbeing programs by 2025, starting with a $5 million investment in three nonprofits, and through the launch of a Centre for Social Impact.

Lululemon said that through the Centre, it will invest in removing barriers through philanthropy, research, and advocacy, amplifying its existing social impact programs, with a goal to positively impact more than 10 million people.

The three organizations that will receive initial grants are:

  • The Girls Opportunity Alliance, a program of the Obama Foundation that empowers adolescent girls around the world through education.
  • The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the United States’ largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. Lululemon will help lead the establishment of a 9-8-8 crisis number for mental health and suicide prevention services.
  • The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people.

“At Lululemon, we believe everyone has the right to be well and we know the path to wellbeing is possible when tools, support, and resources are accessible to all,” said Esther Speck, Lululemon vice president of global sustainability and social impact.

Lululemon said that since 2016, its Here to Be program has supported more than 750 non-profit organizations with grants amounting to $25 million, and that its Peace on Purpose program has provided thousands of UN workers with mindfulness and self-care tools for their physical and mental health since the collaboration’s launch in 2019.

Click here to read the full article on Biz Journals.

It’s a New Era for Mental Health at Work

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illustration to describe mental health. A person in a suit with water color design covering their face

By Kelly Greenwood and Julia Anas, Harvard Business Review

When we published our research on workplace mental health in October 2019, we never could have predicted how much our lives would soon be upended by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Then the murders of George Floyd and other Black Americans by the police; the rise in violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs); wildfires; political unrest; and other major stressors unfolded in quick succession, compounding the damage to our collective mental health.

One silver lining amid all the disruption and trauma is the normalization of mental health challenges at work. In 2019, employers were just starting to grasp the prevalence of these challenges, the need to address stigma, and the emerging link to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). In 2020, mental health support went from a nice-to-have to a true business imperative. Fast forward to 2021, and the stakes have been raised even higher thanks to a greater awareness of the workplace factors that can contribute to poor mental health, as well as heightened urgency around its intersections with DEI.

Although employers have responded with initiatives like mental health days or weeks, four-day workweeks, and enhanced counseling benefits or apps, they’re not enough. Employees need and expect sustainable and mentally healthy workplaces, which requires taking on the real work of culture change. It’s not enough to simply offer the latest apps or employ euphemisms like “well-being” or “mental fitness.” Employers must connect what they say to what they actually do.

Mind Share Partners’ 2021 Mental Health at Work Report in partnership with Qualtrics and ServiceNow offers a rare comparison of the state of mental health, stigma, and work culture in U.S. workplaces before and during the pandemic. This follow-up study to our 2019 Mental Health at Work Report uses the same metrics and includes additional questions and segmentations on the effects of the pandemic, racial trauma, and the return to office; it also fleshes out our less comprehensive study from April 2020. As in 2019, we collected responses from 1,500 U.S. adults in full-time jobs, with statistically significant representation across racial and ethnic backgrounds, gender identities, membership in the LGBTQ+ community, generational divides, primary caregiver statuses, levels of seniority, and other factors. Here’s a summary of what we learned and our recommendations for what employers need to do to support their employees’ mental health.

The Employee Mental Health Experience

When we examined the data on how employees experience mental health challenges, we found that prevalence increased from 2019 to 2021 and that younger and historically underrepresented workers still struggle the most.

Increased attrition. More employees are leaving their jobs for mental health reasons, including those caused by workplace factors like overwhelming and unsustainable work. While the 2019 rates of attrition were already surprisingly high, they’ve gone up even more since then. Sixty-eight percent of Millennials (50% in 2019) and 81% of Gen Zers (75% in 2019) have left roles for mental health reasons, both voluntarily and involuntarily, compared with 50% of respondents overall (34% in 2019). Ninety-one percent of respondents believed that a company’s culture should support mental health, up from 86% in 2019.High prevalence. Mental health challenges are now the norm among employees across all organizational levels. Seventy-six percent of respondents reported at least one symptom of a mental health condition in the past year, up from 59% in 2019. While that’s not surprising due to the many macro stressors, it supports the notion that mental health challenges affect nearly all of us on a regular basis.
Our 2019 study showed the same prevalence of mental health symptoms across all levels of seniority, debunking the myth that successful leaders are immune. Perhaps as a result of having to lead through this unprecedented era, our 2021 study showed that C-level and executive respondents were now actually more likely than others to report at least one mental health symptom. Let’s finally put the stigma to rest and admit that mental health challenges affect us all.

Widespread disclosure. More employees are talking about mental health at work than in 2019. Nearly two-thirds of respondents talked about their mental health to someone at work in the past year. This is an important step in the right direction, especially in terms of reducing stigma, which affects willingness to seek treatment. That said, only 49% of respondents described their experience of talking about mental health at work as positive or reported that they received a positive or supportive response, which is comparable to 2019 rates.DEI implications. Demographics continue to play a strong role in workplace mental health, with younger workers and historically underrepresented groups still struggling the most. Millennials and Gen Zers, as well as LGBTQ+, Black, and Latinx respondents were all significantly more likely to experience mental health symptoms. Like Millennials and Gen Zers, caregiver respondents and members of historically underrepresented groups — including LGBTQ+, Black, and Latinx respondents — all were more likely to leave roles for their mental health and to believe that a company’s culture should support mental health. In fact, 54% of all respondents said that mental health is a DEI issue, an increase from 41% in 2019.

The Company’s Role in Employee Mental Health

Employees don’t experience mental health challenges in isolation. Employers play a role, too — both good and bad.

Certain workplace factors negatively affected mental health. The way we’re working isn’t sustainable, and it’s hurting our mental health. Until recently, the conversation has primarily centered on preexisting mental health conditions and the related stigma. Increasingly, the focus is on work’s effect on everyone’s mental health.

An overwhelming 84% of respondents reported at least one workplace factor that negatively impacted their mental health. Younger workers and members of underrepresented groups were affected even more severely. When looking across all respondents, the most common factor was emotionally draining (e.g., stressful, overwhelming, boring, or monotonous) work, which also worsened since the pandemic. This was closely followed by work-life balance.

The other workplace factors that most notably worsened since the pandemic were poor communication practices and a low sense of connection to or support from one’s colleagues or manager, perhaps unsurprising in a predominantly remote workforce. The workaholism that characterizes much of U.S. culture has only been exacerbated by the challenges of the pandemic, leading to increased employee burnout.

Companies increased investment in employee mental health — sort of. Companies are finally investing more in mental health support out of necessity, but they still haven’t achieved true culture change. Our respondents noted that the availability of many resources provided by employers grew since the pandemic, including extra paid time off, company-wide mental health days, and mental health training.

In addition, employees used accommodations to a much greater extent — especially those that provided day-to-day support. These included extended or more frequent breaks from work and time during the workday for therapy appointments. Utilization rates for other accommodations included time off and leaves of absence, which saw no growth from 2019. This highlights a contrast in what employees used versus what employers provided, which were often more temporary, Band-Aid solutions. In fact, the “resource” most desired by respondents (31%) was a more open culture around mental health.

Companies took steps toward culture change. While there is still a great deal to be done, some companies have made progress on the culture front, likely fueled by the pandemic. Fifty-four percent of respondents believed that mental health was prioritized at their company compared to other priorities, up from 41% in 2019. In addition, 47% of respondents believed that their company leaders were advocates for mental health at work (compared to 37% in 2019), and 47% believed that their manager was equipped to support them if they had a mental health condition or symptom (compared to 39% in 2019). These are both potentially results of increased training and discussion.

However, the added awareness surprisingly didn’t translate across all dimensions. There was a 5% decline in respondents who felt comfortable supporting a coworker with their mental health and a comparable percentage in who knew the proper procedure to get support for mental health at work.

Employers benefit from supporting mental health at work. Employers that have supported their employees with the pandemic, racial injustices, return-to-office planning, and/or mental health overall have better mental health and engagement outcomes. For example, workers who felt supported with their mental health overall were 26% less likely to report at least one symptom of a mental health condition in the past year. Respondents who felt supported by their employer also tended to be less likely to experience mental health symptoms, less likely to underperform and miss work, and more likely to feel comfortable talking about their mental health at work. In addition, they had higher job satisfaction and intentions to stay at their company. Lastly, they had more positive views of their company and its leaders, including trusting their company and being proud to work there. This reinforces the tie between workplace culture and its ability to support mental health at work when done intentionally.

What Employers Need to Provide

Employers must move from seeing mental health as an individual challenge to a collective priority. Given all the workplace factors at play, companies can no longer compartmentalize mental health as an individual’s responsibility to address alone through self-care, mental health days, or employee benefits. Here’s what they need to provide to make real progress.

Culture change. Culture change requires both a top-down and bottom-up approach to succeed. Workplace mental health is no different — our recommendations from 2019 still hold. Mind Share Partners’ Ecosystem of a Mentally Healthy Workplace Framework illustrates that everyone has a role to play, starting with leaders and managers.

Leaders must treat mental health as an organizational priority with accountability mechanisms such as regular pulse surveys and clear ownership. It should not just be relegated to HR. Leaders should serve as allies by sharing their own personal experiences to foster an environment of transparency and openness. Due to fear and shame, even companies with the best mental health benefits won’t see an uptick in usage unless a stigma-free culture exists.

Organizations have to train leaders, managers, and all employees on how to navigate mental health at work, have difficult conversations, and create supportive workplaces. Managers are often the first line in noticing changes and supporting their direct reports. Building an environment of psychological safety is key. Mental health policies, practices, culturally competent benefits, and other resources must be put in place and (over)communicated.

Investing in DEI to support employee mental health and address its intersectionality is also crucial. Black and AAPI employees have been hit especially hard by the trauma of systemic racism and violence. Workers who are caregivers — often mothers — have faced school closures and the associated burnout. Our study found that allowing employees to discuss challenging social and political topics at work is also part of a mentally healthy culture. At the grassroots level, employees should be empowered to form mental health employee resource groups (ERGs) and other affinity groups, become mental health champions, and start peer listening initiatives.

Click here to read the full article on the Harvard Business Review.

Senate will grill tech execs after report that Instagram can harm teens’ mental health

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Senate will grill tech execs after report that Instagram can harm teens’ mental health

By Lauren Feiner, CNBC

A Senate panel plans to bring tech executives back to Capitol Hill following a revealing report from The Wall Street Journal about the impact of Facebook’s Instagram platform on teens’ mental health.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., ranking member of the Senate Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection, announced the hearing in an interview on CNBC’s “Closing Bell.” Blackburn said the hearing would take place in a couple weeks and would include representatives from Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, Snap and Google-owned YouTube.

A spokesperson for Blackburn said a hearing date and the specific attendees from the companies have not yet been confirmed.

The Journal’s report, which the outlet said was based on internal documents from Facebook, revealed that the company had been aware of significant negative impacts of its photo-sharing Instagram app on teenage girls. At a March hearing, CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified in response to a question about children and mental health, that research he’s seen shows that “using social apps to connect with other people can have positive mental-health benefits.”

While the research cited in the Journal’s report did not show entirely negative effects, it seemed to cut against Facebook’s narrative about mental health. That angered several lawmakers across parties and chambers of Congress, some of whom called for Facebook to abandon plans to create a child-focused Instagram product.

“What we know is a lot of this anecdotal information that we had from parents, teachers, pediatricians about the harms of social media to children, that Facebook was aware of this,” Blackburn said. “They chose not to make this public.”

Blackburn said her staff met Friday with a whistleblower who has worked for Facebook, and who had access to documents on which the Journal reported.

Although both the House and the Senate have hauled tech CEOs to Congress several times over the past couple years, Blackburn said she expects this hearing to stand out because of its bipartisan nature. She said she is working with the subcommittee’s chair, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., on the effort and the two will look at rules around how social media is able to market to children, as well as statutes meant to protect them online, like the Children’s Online Privacy Protection (COPPA) Rule.

Representatives for Blumenthal did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“We are determined to do something in a bipartisan way that is going to protect our children in the virtual space, that will allow them to be able to use the internet, do Zoom school if they need to, do research, but to be protected and to have their privacy protected when they are online,” Blackburn said.

Click here to read the full article on CNBC.

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Upcoming Events

  1. From Day One
    January 18, 2022
  2. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  3. From Day One
    February 9, 2022
  4. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  5. From Day One
    February 22, 2022