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Workplace trends

The latest productivity hack? Working slower

Data shows that the drive to take on as much as possible does not necessarily lead to high achievement, but rather, often results in administrative overload. In fact, most business professionals spend as much as two work days a week on emails and meetings alone, per a Microsoft report, leaving little time and energy to do their actual jobs. And with employee burnout on the rise, a new work trend has emerged: ‘slow productivity.’ Coined by Georgetown Professor Cal Newport, the concept suggests that we can accomplish far more by slowing down, saying no to extra work requests, and prioritizing fewer tasks. The approach emphasizes the need to take control of our work days – it’s not about working less, it’s about honing in on high-priority tasks to ensure their successful and timely completion.

Singapore employees can legally ask for more flexibility

Singapore just introduced new legislation that enables workers to request more flexible work – from four-day workweeks to remote work options to flexible hours – and requires their employers to respond within two months. Although employers retain the right to reject such requests, their decisions must be backed up by business grounds like productivity considerations or cost. Lawmakers say these new guidelines cater to Singapore’s changing population, with its aging workforce requiring more flexible work arrangements and the younger generation just entering the workforce demanding more flexibility. In fact, 73% of Singaporean university students prefer remote work according to global talent research company, Universum. While businesses that don’t adhere to these new guidelines won’t yet be penalized, most are expected to comply in order to attract top talent.

The AI corner

AI may speed up hiring, but at what cost?

As the race for top talent continues to heat up, employers are increasingly turning to AI to expedite the hiring process. In fact, 81% of companies plan to invest in AI-driven solutions to enhance their recruiting processes, according to LinkedIn’s 2024 Future of Recruiting report. Examples of AI-enabled tools include Jobvite and Modern Hire which assess and score a candidate’s gestures and word choices in recorded interviews, and software tools like Predictive Index and Harver which enable interactive job scenario simulations, candidate scoring, and more. The problem with these accelerated processes? Potential for bias. Critics argue that these tools may perpetuate unconscious biases, as they are often programmed with incomplete or biased data sets, leading to selection patterns based on factors like language and demographics.

No one is safe from AI voice cloning

AI voice cloning technology is posing an increasingly serious threat, and it’s not just celebrities who are at risk. A bizarre recent incident saw a high school athletic director use an AI voice clone to impersonate the school’s principal, leading the public to believe he made racist and antisemitic comments. The incident demonstrated just how easy AI voice cloning is to use and abuse. With only three seconds of one’s voice needed to duplicate it, deep fake revenge slander could happen in any workplace. Concerns are growing, leading the Federal Communications Commission to make the use of AI voices in robocalls illegal and US lawmakers to file new bills such as the No Fakes Act and the No AI Fraud Act that seek to prevent companies from using an individual’s face, voice, or name without their permission.

Supporting your employees’ mental health

It’s officially mental health awareness month, so let’s talk about what you can do to support your team members’ well-being.

With depression alone resulting in 200 million lost workdays annually, per the CDC, and mental health emerging as a top concern among workers, according to a recent SHRM survey, employee well-being has become a priority for many organizations. Companies are increasingly offering benefits like unlimited vacation days, mental health days, paid volunteer time, company-wide days off, and office fitness and meditation spaces.

Some are even exploring healthcare benefits like AI-powered wellness chatbots and psychedelic therapy coverage to address mental health concerns. In fact, 15% of US businesses reported offering AI-powered chatbots that can hold therapist-like conversations or make diagnoses, per a recent study by professional services company WTW, and nearly a fifth of American employers claimed to have invested in psychedelic-assisted therapy solutions, according to benefits consulting firm NFP.

And with roughly 60% of surveyed millennials in the U.S. saying they would take a 20% pay cut for a better work-life balance, per Ford’s 2024 trends survey, it’s clear that actively supporting employee well-being has become crucial, not only for productivity and engagement but also for retention.

So, while as a manager, you likely don’t control the mental health offerings at your organization, here are some ways you can demonstrate your commitment to your employees’ well-being:

Promote available benefits

It’s important to recognize the difference between offering mental health benefits and actually encouraging their use. When you lead a team, you set the tone for what kinds of behaviors are accepted, so actively communicate your support for taking advantage of the mental health resources available at your organization. Even if the benefits are limited, you can still promote the use of vacation days, encourage your employees to unplug at a reasonable hour and take breaks when needed, and emphasize that you support them using sick days for their mental health as well.

Try to be flexible

While you don’t set your company’s policies surrounding work flexibility, you can still be an understanding leader. Remember that everyone has their own personal challenges they are navigating outside of work, so it’s important to make space for your team members to come to you when they are having a hard time and to respond with empathy and understanding. For example, if your company requires in-office attendance and your team member is anxious about balancing parental responsibilities like picking their child up from school, perhaps you can be flexible about their expected arrival and departure times. As much as possible, make it clear that you recognize their emotional needs and will do your best to be accommodating and supportive.

Be a present leader

Be intentional about asking your employees how they are doing and look out for any changes in behavior that may need to be addressed. In a recent Qualtrics and SAP study, nearly 40% of global employees reported that no one at their company had asked them if they were doing okay, and those respondents were 38% more likely than others to say that their mental health had declined since the start of the pandemic. So, remember to check in on your team members, and feel free to schedule one-on-one syncs here and there that are not about status updates or project feedback, but rather just time to see what they need to feel more supported. Offering even 15 minutes a week of dedicated time to your employees can really make a difference.

Ask for honest feedback

Remember that people often manage their mental health in different ways, so try to ask your employees what is helpful from you, as their manager, when it comes to navigating their well-being. Additionally, whether you send out quarterly surveys or simply let your employees know that they should feel comfortable coming to you with ideas, encourage your team members to share ideas about how you can improve mental health support across your team. By giving them a voice and helping them feel part of the well-being efforts within your team, you ensure greater buy-in and increase the likelihood of them actually participating.

Encourage cross-team support
In team meetings, encourage your employees to be there for one another. Ask people to share work challenges they may be facing, and loop in the rest of the team to help problem-solve. When you build the sense that everyone is in this together, you reduce the pressure on each individual and make the team feel more collaborative.

And on a similar note, do your best to schedule a recurring team lunch or coffee to give everyone the chance to spend some stress-free time together and develop more connected, supportive team dynamics.

Offer familial support

Over 60% of employees suffer from stress related to juggling work and familial commitments, according to studies from Benenden Health, so be the kind of leader that demonstrates real support and understanding. Whether that means encouraging your team members to plan time off with their loved ones or organizing a team event to which family members are also invited, do your best to try and alleviate some of that balancing stress for your employees.

Celebrate meaningful milestones

Recognize your employees’ goals and accomplishments pertaining to their well-being. For example, if your employee effectively prepares their teammates before an upcoming vacation and then manages to fully disconnect from work while they’re away, acknowledge that behavior in a positive way! Additionally, make sure to honor your team members’ personal achievements and milestones outside of work, like running a marathon, having a baby, moving to a new home, and more, to show that you really care. Set the standard that prioritizing one’s well-being is not only accepted but actually celebrated on your team.

Water cooler chatter

The Biden administration is planning to ease restrictions and reclassify marijuana. While it wouldn’t legalize marijuana outright, the policy would move marijuana from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule III drug, allowing it to be lawfully prescribed as medication. If passed, this would mark the biggest change in marijuana legislation since the drug was outlawed.

“It is significant for these federal agencies, and the DEA and FDA in particular, to acknowledge publicly for the first time what many patients and advocates have known for decades: that cannabis is a safe and effective therapeutic agent for tens of millions of Americans."
Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws

Veterinarians are more likely to die by suicide than the general population. Some 82% of veterinarians report experiencing burnout at work, according to Merck’s 2024 Animal Health study, and 61% reported high levels of exhaustion. Experts point to long hours, exposure to death and suffering, and a shortage of professionals for the high rates of depression.

“[Veterinarians] are not necessarily the best at taking care of themselves.”
Lisa Stewart-Brown, Manager for Mental Health and Well-Being at Banfield Pet Hospital

Question of the week

Last week’s answer: 39%

This week’s question: What percentage of organizations use email as their primary broadcast channel?

Just for laughs

Replacing workers with AI without knowing what they're doing
Arielle is a writer and storyteller currently serving as a content marketing manager at monday.com. When she’s not busy writing, you can find her walking outside for hours on end or planning her next travel adventure.

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