This article is an on-site version of our Working It newsletter. Sign up here to get the newsletter sent straight to your inbox every Wednesday
It’s astonishing that despite the gains that women have made in the workplace in recent years, many of us still feel guilty about taking time off for maternity leave — and may even feel some stigma about it. On the Working It podcast this week I talk to Janine Chamberlin, UK country manager at LinkedIn, who is about to have her second child and take a year’s leave.
Janine has publicly wondered why women’s own anxieties are still so prevalent. As she writes in an insightful blog that builds on the topics we talk about: “The more we share our experiences of maternity leave and pregnancy in the workplace like this, the more we will chip away at any remaining sense of stigma — and maybe then , we’ll live in a working world where expecting parents can finally say goodbye to the guilt entirely.”
Janine has ideas for how managers can make it easier for women to come back to work — and develop their careers — after having children. These include being transparent about job progression and promotion opportunities. There are genuine reasons to fear the rise of proximity bias in a post-pandemic workplace, and if care isn’t taken, women who work mainly at home might lose out to those in the office.
Sarah O’Connor, an FT columnist who writes frequently about employment, also joins me to discuss the importance of better paternity leave as a proven way to help equality at work.
Next week, we are talking about how to manage a millennial workforce — what are the unique qualities and challenges of this large cohort? With the hosts of the My Millennial Career podcast, Emily Bowen and Shelley Johnson, and my FT colleague Taylor Nicole Rogers. (Isabel Berwick)
What’s the best thing you’ve seen a manager do to support parents or caregivers at work? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Top stories from the world of work:
The high-stakes business of managing brand ‘Me’: As loyalty to employers has loosened, self-branding has become more important. So-called “me-preneurs”, people who commoditize their personal lives, are on the rise. But the practice is not without its risks.
Offices from the past help us imagine the workspaces of the future: As employers and designers sort out what post-pandemic offices should look like, it’s worth taking a look at how office spaces have evolved over the decades.
Older workers wanted for flexible and desirable jobs: Employers are grappling with a labor shortage partly caused by an exodus of older people from the workforce. Now, growing numbers of companies are confronting ageism in hiring and working to make jobs more appealing to older workers.
London’s top law firms lure staff to offices with yoga and . . . beehives? City of London law firms are moving offices at an unprecedented rate, both to reduce floorspace in the shift towards hybrid work but also to accommodate slick facilities in hopes of attracting lawyers amid an increasingly competitive recruitment market.
The injustice of being the ‘office wife’: In every new book The Rise of Corporate FeminismAllison Elias offers a riveting account of the fight for workplace equality from the 1960s through the 90s — and how secretaries got left behind.
How AI is combating employee burnout
Despite rising rates of burnout and anxiety and depression, the majority of workers do not feel employers do enough to prevent and alleviate such conditions. It can be a struggle to get help even when mental health services are offered as employee benefits, says Grace Chang, co-founder and CEO of Kintsugi, an AI-powered mental health tool.
Kintsugi last year raised $20mn Series A funding for the development of its AI tech that can detect depression and anxiety using short audio clips of someone’s speech. Kintsugi is already helping clinicians conduct mental health screenings.
The company is launching a three-month pilot scheme with one of the US’s largest health insurance companies. Some 20,000 employees will be granted free access to Kintsugi’s app that allows users to leave voice notes — an “audio journal” of their feelings.
Grace says the app can accurately detect depression and anxiety almost 80 percent of the time, which is significantly more accurate than human physicians, who only identify 47 percent of cases of depression, and even then only record it in their notes 33 percent of the time. When the app identifies a potential case of depression or anxiety, it offers employees help to get treatment.
Employee engagement platform WinningTemp is also developing AI that assists in detecting burnout. While traditional employee engagement surveys send the same set of questions to each person, WinningTemp uses AI to determine which questions to ask users based on whether they respond positively or negatively to the initial parts of the survey.
Questions are designed to identify how employees feel about factors like job satisfaction and autonomy. Negative responses correlate to the likelihood of burnout. The platform presents anonymised survey data to managers, who record how they address negative responses — the AI learns which approaches are most effective over time based on whether future survey responses improve. The algorithm also looks for patterns to determine whether an employee was simply having a bad day or suffering from something chronic.
Navina is another AI-powered start-up working to combat burnout in the healthcare sector. Research shows that one cause of physician burnout is spending too much time in front of computers instead of treating patients. Navina’s AI acts as a physician’s assistant by automatically parsing through patient history and medical records and synthesizing relevant information. This allows the doctor to focus on the face-to-face encounter with the patient. “It’s a bit paradoxical,” says Dr. Yair Lewis, senior vice-president of medicine at Navina. “We’re bringing in AI in order to bring back humanity.”
Beyond doctor-patient interactions, AI’s ability to automate the more mundane aspects of work has huge implications not just for output and productivity, but for allowing us to focus on the parts of our jobs that make us happy. “Not having to waste mental energy, freeing up that cognitive load, I see that as a huge part of burnout reduction,” says Yair.
Grace Chang at Kintsugi stresses the importance of using these tools transparently by giving people the opportunity to opt in or out. Koko, a mental health company, recently drew ethical criticism for including GPT-3 in a new product feature. The founder clarified later that users opted in — but the backlash shows the importance of transparent and ethical deployment of AI tools. “The future of AI is co-operative,” says Grace. (Sophia Smith)
In response to last week’s Working It newsletter about the campaign for better salary transparency in the UK, Amelia (not her real name) wrote in to argue the case against knowing coworkers’ salaries:
Salaries should not be published, even as a range. It creates an unfriendly environment and makes people bitter towards each other. It certainly made me bitter as an underpaid graduate, and then I felt it towards me when I was a senior manager.
I joined a business as a senior manager recently. In a meeting, we were discussing the difficulty of implementing a strategy, and a junior employee stated that I should ‘just do it — as the money [I am paid] says you can’. I thought this was a very rude comment but let it be. After hearing two similar comments, I knew something wasn’t right. I later found out an Excel sheet was published and everyone knew everyone’s salary.
This just made people bitter — not only towards me, but each other too. People started stepping away from work, and regularly making comments like “I don’t get paid enough to do that, that’s above my pay grade.” It was a horrible experience.
Salary is confidential in my opinion. Your salary is a reflection of the skill you have honed over the years in negotiating. It’s not luck, it’s trying and failing to see what works. It’s about knowing your value and sticking to it. That will push you to get higher paid jobs and stop you from blaming anyone.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
Long Story Short — The biggest stories and best reads in one smart email. Sign up here
Disrupted Times — Documenting the changes in business and the economy between Covid and conflict. Sign up here