Millions of Americans are quitting their jobs and rethinking what they want when it comes to work and work-life balance. Companies are responding, meeting their employees' needs in areas like remote work, flexible hours, four-day workweeks, compensation and more. This story is part of a series looking at the "Great Reshuffle" and the shift in workplace culture taking place right now.
Can something as simple as an extra paid day off or a workday without meetings really help employee well-being?
For tech giant LinkedIn, the answer is a resounding yes.
As the Covid-19 pandemic took its toll on workers around the nation, employers scrambled to respond. LinkedIn decided to tackle the burnout, anxiety and exhaustion many of its employees were facing by instituting a new initiative called LiftUp.
It's a resource hub and a series of fun events, but most notably it also gives the gift of time in the form of global well-being days off and meeting-free days.
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There was also a company-wide shutdown for a week in April 2021 and a year-end "Silver Linings Show" featuring employees' positive moments in 2020, hosted by comedian Trevor Noah. Other events included a music festival and day filled with random acts of kindness.
"The surprises and delights were really meant to simply put the spark back in everyone, lift our heads up higher, and create some fun along the way," Nina McQueen, LinkedIn's vice president of benefits and employee experience at LinkedIn, said in the company's 2022 Global Talent Trends report.
While LiftUp started in response to the crisis, it has now become part of LinkedIn's DNA.
"[Employees] need support, they need to know the organization values them," said Jennifer Shappley, LinkedIn's global head of talent acquisition.
"What people need right now is some help balancing," she explained. "LiftUp is an example of how we are helping people with that."
Two years into the pandemic, workers are still struggling. Fully 54% feel mentally exhausted and drained after every workday and 44% have trouble staying focused at on the job, a survey by HR tech company Workhuman found. The poll, conducted by Workhuman IQ, polled 2,268 full-time workers in the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Ireland from Nov. 12 to 14.
Nawal Fakhoury, director of employee experience at LinkedIn, called the LiftUp initiative a gift.
"I was one of those employees who never ever took a break or time off until I was absolutely at the point of needing it," she said. "The surprise days off — I didn't realize how much I needed them."
Organizational psychologist Melissa Doman agrees that a company-wide day off is beneficial for workers. They can focus on other things without guilt since no one else is working either, she said.
"Work is important — l love my work, I work a lot — but work is not all of life," said Doman, author of "Yes, You Can Talk About Mental Health at Work…Here's Why (And How To Do It Really Well)."
"You have to give people the space of the human experience outside of work," she added. "In the corporate world of work, the world is not going to burn if you shut down for eight hours.
"People need to stop treating it like it will."
To be sure, LinkedIn's effort is one of many approaches to dealing with employee burnout. Others have turned to perks like flexible schedules or a four-day workweek. It's all part of a shift in workplace culture that has employers focused on employee well-being.
"It is so overdue, but I'm so happy that the pandemic has forced people to realize that feeling valued and having your well-being valued doesn't always have to come with a dollar sign," Doman said.
In fact, what job-seekers want most is work-life balance, LinkedIn's report found, with 63% calling it a top priority when picking a new job. In comparison, 60% cited compensation and benefits.
The company believes its culture is resonating with job-seekers and employees alike.
"Over the last three quarters, we have hired more people than we have hired ever in our history," Shappley said.
For Fakhoury, the experience with LiftUp has raised her level of awareness on the well-being of her direct reports. It's also impacted the way she approaches her own work life.
"It was this persistent reminder to be taking care of ourselves," she said. "It rewired me."
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Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.