Most Americans Face Hostile Work Environments, According to Survey

According to a new survey, most Americans face a hostile work environment.

Photo: Shutterstock

A recently released survey from the RAND Corporation, Harvard Medical School, and UCLA revealed some pretty disturbing findings about the current American workplace: many employees are under constant stress, workplaces are often hazardous, and social environments are frequently hostile, especially for women.

The survey was given to about 3,000 workers, and while not all of the information gleaned was negative, much of it does give reason for pause:

  • More than one in four American workers say they have too little time to complete their work. This complaint was most frequent among white-collar workers.
  • More than half do some sort of work outside of their workplace, impacting their ability to spend quality time with their friends and family.
  • More than half of those surveyed reported that they are exposed to unpleasant and even hazardous working conditions, including hostility and threats.
  • About 62 percent of American workers reported their work tasks are typically monotonous and unenjoyable.
  • Only 38 percent reported opportunities to advance within their employment.

It’s not all bad news, though. The survey revealed some positive traits of the modern workplace, too:

  • Four out of five Americans said their jobs met at least one definition of “meaningful” most of the time.
  • Eight out of ten American workers said their job is steady and predictable.
  • The majority of those surveyed said they saw “solving unforeseen problems” and “applying [their] own ideas” as important parts of their work.
  • Many reported a certain degree of autonomy and confidence about their skillset.
  • More than half of the surveyed workers (58 percent) said their boss is supportive, and 56 percent said they have good friends at work.

“There’s a message for employers here,” said the study lead author, Nicole Maestas. “Working conditions really do matter.”

This was the first survey of its kind, focusing on American workers ages 25-71. The RAND Corporation and its partners intend to collect data again next year to compare American and European working conditions.

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Airbnb Offers Free Housing to Harvey Victims

The Airbnb logo.

Image credit: tanuha2001 / Shutterstock

Airbnb has just extended its efforts to help those displaced by Tropical Storm Harvey. 

The company’s disaster relief program offers free room-and-board to anyone who has evacuated and/or lost their homes this week, and will continue to do so until September 25. The program was originally set up to help those affected when the hurricane made landfall, scheduled to end September 1. However, heavy rains have caused intense, unexpected flooding that has displaced upwards of 30,000 Houston residents, so Airbnb has extended the program to keep people safe and dry.

“We encourage hosts in safe, inland areas to aid in this effort by listing their available rooms or homes on the platform to help the growing number of evacuees,” Kellie Bentz, Airbnb’s head of global disaster response and relief, said in a statement.

Those who offer their homes will not be charged the usual three percent listing fee, but they will still be backed by Airbnb’s host guarantee, which covers any potential property damage. There are currently 340 listings for Harvey evacuees.

Federal officials predict more than 450,000 people will need some type of assistance due to the storm, so this program is a godsend to Texans who may have lost everything (or may not see their homes for many months). Airbnb has expanded the program to reach all of Houston, and is even spreading out as far as Austin and Dallas. Now that rain and flooding is affecting Louisiana, it won’t be surprising if Airbnb extends the program to them as well.

Airbnb’s disaster relief program began in 2012 after Superstorm Sandy hit the northeast United States. Airbnb emails hosts in safe areas that are close to disaster zones, asking them to add their homes to the program. Airbnb is currently offering disaster relief to those affected by the floods in Mumbai, India as well as Tropical Storm Harvey.

New Ways to Show Employees Some Love

Check out these three new ways that employers are showing their appreciation.

There are many ways to show employees you appreciate them. Photo via Pixabay

Whether it’s providing employees with a stake in the company, creating an intranet system of recognition, or rearranging a profit-sharing plan so that it takes into account age (and thereby rewards employees who have been with the company longer), the business world continues to create new ways to show its appreciation for hardworking individuals.

Gardner Denver

In May of this year, Gardner Denver, an industrial company based out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, made a bold move toward showing appreciation for its employees…to the tune of $100 million in stock.

“It makes our companies stronger and more effective,” explained Pete Stavros, the KKR executive who represents KKR’s investment in Gardner and is also chairman of the Gardner board. He added that this sort of incentive helps motivate employees and encourage engagement.

More than 6,000 Gardner employees will be receiving stock as part of Gardner’s recent IPO. The shares will be worth up to 40% of their annual salaries.

“We have big aspirations for Gardner Denver,” said Stavros. “We hope a significant portion of the [employees] will see what we see—that there’s a lot of room to run.”

Jostle and Bonusly

This month Jostle and Bonusly teamed up to offer their employees a new sort of benefit: an easier way to receive recognition from their coworkers. The new intranet is set up to encourage employee engagement via a point system. When employees leave notes about the good things they’ve seen or experienced each other doing, the person on the receiving end gets points that can be redeemed for small rewards.

Called the People Engagement platform, this intranet has already had a positive effect n the various companies like Bonusly and Jostle who use it.

“What we have created is a framework for post hoc recognition,” explains Raphael Crawford-Marks, co-founder and CEO of Bonusly. “People want to be able to give praise and recognition in the workforce, but they often don’t have a venue to do it. That is what we provide.”

Cross-Tested Plans

For small professional firms looking to reward long-time employees, a cross-tested plan allows managers to divide workers into groups when it comes to determining contributions to their retirement plans. That means older employees can get bonus contributions as an extra thank you for all their years of service. Small physicians’ offices, law firms, and engineering companies often take advantage of this setup.

“This [program] takes age into account, enabling the contributions allocated to older employees to be larger than those made to younger employees” because older employees have a shorter time to go until retirement, says Rob Massa, Director of Retirement at Ascende Wealth Advisors in Houston, Texas. This year, the maximum that can be contributed is $54,000.

A cross-tested plan can help with employee retention—not to mention giving a big thank you to the dedicated workers who have helped build a company over the years.

All three of these options are great ways to show employees that their work is valued—and that it will be rewarded, both in the long term and the short term.

KKR Appoints Joe Bae and Scott Nuttall as Co-Presidents and Co-Chief Operating Officers

Two businessmen shaking hands.

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Multinational private equity company KKR has announced a new line of leadership. As of July 17, 2017, Joe Bae and Scott Nuttall will oversee KKR’s day-to-day operations as co-presidents and co-chief operating officers.

Unusual? Yes. Unheard of? No.

Other companies have appointed co-presidents before. Take Santander Bank, for example. This past June, Santander appointed Robert Rubino and Michael Clearly as co-presidents of the bank.

And even more recently, on July 24, 2017, Sony named Jason Clodfelter and Chris Parnell as co-presidents of Sony Pictures Television Studios.

But what’s particularly unique about KKR is the fact that the firm also has co-CEOS: cousins Henry Kravis and George Roberts. Kravis and Roberts co-founded KKR in 1976 alongside their former colleague Jerome Kohlberg, Jr.

According to The New York Times, the appointment of Joe Bae and Scott Nuttall as co-presidents and co-chief operating officers is “the biggest shakeup in the 41-year-old firm’s history since KKR’s other co-founder, Jerome Kohlberg, Jr, left it in 1987.”

But in all honesty, the announcement couldn’t have come at a better time. Kravis and Roberts, both 73, have already passed retirement age. This new level of leadership will act as a line of succession for whenever Kravis and Roberts decide to step down.

“Having joined the firm together over 20 years ago, Joe and Scott have a strong foundation of trust, professional respect, and personal friendship that is critical for success,” Kravis and Roberts said in a joint statement. “They think and act globally, they embody KKR’s core values, and they are two of our most accomplished business leaders, with proven track records of managing large teams, building new businesses, and driving value for our fund investors and our public unit holders.”

Together, Bae and Nuttall will oversee more than $90 billion in KKR assets. It’s a huge responsibility to take on, but one that both men are prepared for.

Ford Puts New CEO in the Driver’s Seat

Ford's logo.

Image credit: rvlsoft / Shutterstock

On Monday, Ford replaced its current chief executive, Mark Fields, with Jim Hackett, who had been responsible for the Ford subsidiary that works on autonomous vehicles. During Fields’ three-year stint as CEO, Ford has seen losses in both sales and profits. Although the U.S. automotive industry as a whole has been soft, Ford’s sales are down 25% this year, and first quarter profits fell by 30%, which is a far greater decline than its competitors.

Ford’s board was critical of Fields’ failure to keep pace with companies like Tesla, General Motors, and Google in the development of self-driving cars. Ford has not only fallen behind these companies in this area, but it has also failed to deliver profitable sales of their existing models despite the fact that, at the recent annual meeting, Fields said that Ford was capable of staying competitive in the current automotive market while also “keeping one foot in the future.” Ford promised to have a fully autonomous car on the road by 2021. But the Board felt that was not soon enough to beat the competitors who are already testing such vehicles.

Other issues have dogged Fields during his time at Ford. Ford has had a number of safety recalls that have raised concerns about its ability to insure quality. Fields was also involved in a failed plan to build an assembly plant for small cars in Mexico. And as recently as last week, Fields cut 1,400 jobs in an effort to improve the bottom line. But the stock price continued to decline.

The appointment of Hackett to the top job is a signal that the Board sees self-driving cars as the wave of the future and will be putting more pressure on the new CEO to successfully and more quickly develop a self-driving automobile that can compete in the marketplace.

Airlines Making Billions From Baggage Fees

A huge pile of cash.

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Airlines are making a killing from fees. Last year, U.S. based airlines brought in a total of $4.2 billion from baggage fees alone, according to figures released by the Department of Transportation. That’s a 10% increase from 2015.

Yet according to airline executives, profits aren’t as high as they were in the past, even with lower fuel costs. Airlines reported $13.6 billion in profits total, down 45% from 2015, citing higher labor costs as the reason for the lower figures. Lower passenger fares also attributed to the lower revenue, as ticket sales fell one percent to $124.2 billion.

These lower profits are the main justification for extra fees, not just for luggage but legroom, seat selections, and early boarding to name a few. Airline executives claim these fees allow passengers to choose the kinds of service they want, even though few flyers are fans.

This news comes right as executives from America’s major airlines testified before Congress about their customer service protocols. While this was prompted by last month’s United Airlines debacle, many took the opportunity to vocalize their disdain for airline fees.

William McGee, a former airline executive now representing the Consumers Union, argues that the fees are disingenuous and unfair to passengers.

“We’ve heard a lot about pricing today, about fares being lower than they were 25 years ago,” McGee testified. “The fact is that obscures fees we didn’t used to pay. Every day there are higher and higher fees. Passengers are getting gouged.”

Massachusetts Rep. Michael Capuano agrees that customers are negatively affected by these business practices.

“I go in the computer to try to figure out which flight I want to take. Some charge fees for baggage. Some charge fees for oxygen. Who knows? You can’t get comparable prices,” Capuano said.

As expected, executives from United and American disagreed, saying the baggage fees help keep other costs, such a ticket prices, low.

ESPN Facing Major Layoffs

A photo of an ESPN microphone.

Photo credit: Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock

ESPN is the latest organization to be hit by the digital craze. The sports network is laying off 100 employees this week (mostly on-air talent) hitting every facet of the organization as ESPN is moving toward a mostly digitized medium.

Sources say the decision comes after an increasing amount of costs and decreasing number of cable subscribers have cut into its bottom line. For a network that has spent billions of dollars in deals with major sports teams and events, layoffs are no surprise to anyone. So who is getting hit? Well, some big names at the network.

Yesterday, Deadspin posted a number of tweets from ESPN anchors, writers, and reporters who were given the bad news, some of who worked at the network for decades.

NFL Reporter Ed Werder was one of the first to go.

“After 17 years reporting on #NFL, I’ve been informed that I’m being laid off by ESPN effective immediately. I have no plans to retire,” he tweeted.

“SportsCenter” Anchor Jay Crawford, Big Ten Reporter Brian Bennett, and MLB Writer Jayson Stark are some of the other talent who are now gone. College Basketball reporter C.L. Brown found out about his firing while on vacation.

ESPN President John Skipper noted how difficult this decision was, thanking the former employees for their “great work” and “many contributions,” yet made it clear that the layoffs had to be done.

“Dynamic change demands an increased focus on versatility and value,” Skipper stated, “and as a result, we have been engaged in the challenging process of determining the talent–anchors, analysts, reporters, writers, and those who handle play-by-play–necessary to meet those demands.”

Many of the people laid off were at the end of their contracts and unwilling to take a massive pay cut. The rest of which were bought out of their contracts.

Meet the Unicorn Frappuccino That Everyone is Raving About

A photo of a pink and blue "Unicorn Frappuccino" from Starbucks.

Photo credit: Brian Chow at Flickr Creative Commons.

Starbucks’ new multi-colored drink is a dream come true for sugar enthusiasts and frozen drink lovers, offering an array of colors and flavors with every sip and giving drinkers one sweet-filled experience.

“Like its mythical namesake, the Unicorn Frappuccino blended crème comes with a bit of magic, starting as a purple beverage with swirls of blue and a first taste that is sweet and fruity,” a spokesperson for Starbucks said in a statement. “But give it a stir and its color changes to pink, and the flavor evolves to tangy and tart. The more swirl, the more the beverage’s color and flavors transform.”

This limited edition drink is only being offered from April 19 through April 23, and it’s caffeine free, so coffee lovers won’t be offended by this sugar-filled creation. The Unicorn Frap consists of the crème Frappuccino mixed with mango syrup and dusted with a pink powder and sour blue drizzle. Then it’s topped with vanilla whipped cream and sweet pink and sour blue powder, making it paradise in a cup for all sweets lovers.

Starbucks says its inspiration for the drink came from the Internet, as social media is blowing up with pictures and recipes of Unicorn-themed foods and beverages. Not one to shy away from a trend, Starbucks decided to play along and offer loyal customers something fun and festive before people moved on to something else. Case in point: last year’s Pokemon Go Frappuccino.

Naturally, people have been going crazy and posting their excitement on Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram. It’s safe to say that social media will be bombarded with photos of the drink this coming week, as the frap is expected to sell out.

It should also be noted–although I’m sure it’s no surprise–that the Unicorn Frappuccino is not friendly to those watching their diet. A tall Frap with whole milk comes in at 280 calories, with 11 grams of fat and 39 grams of sugar.

Virgin America is No More

A photo of a Virgin America airplane in flight.

Photo credit: Chris Parypa Photography / Shutterstock

Sad news for fans of Virgin America: the airline is all but finished after its recent merger with Alaska Airlines.

Last year Alaska Airlines purchased Virgin America for $2.6 billion, leaving many to wonder what would become of the two different airlines, as Virgin was popular for being flashy, fun, and more young-adult centric. Alaska plans on retiring the Virgin name and logo some time in 2019.

“While the Virgin America name is beloved to many, we concluded that to be successful on the West Coast we had to do so under one name—for consistency and efficiency, and to allow us to continue to deliver low fares,” said Sangita Woerner, Alaska Airlines’ vice president of marketing.

Frequent Virgin flyers can take solace in one thing: Alaska Airlines will be keeping the “flair” that Virgin offered, such as mood lighting, music, and free WIFI and entertainment.

One person who isn’t happy about Virgin’s departure is Virgin America founder Richard Branson.

“With a lot of things in life, there is a point where we have to let go and appreciate the fact that we had this ride at all,” Branson said in a blog post. “Many tears are shed today, this time over Alaska Airlines’ decision to buy and now retire Virgin America. It has a very different business model and sadly, it could not find a way to maintain its own brand and that of Virgin America.”

Starting next year, Virgin’s frequent flyer program will disappear, but members will not lose their status. Current frequent flyers have the option of converting their miles to Alaska’s at a rate of 1 to 1.3 miles, or they can wait it out and have their miles traded evenly when the program dissolves.

The merger between the two airlines created the fifth-largest airline in the United States, boasting 1,200 daily flights and close to 300 planes. Alaska Airlines plans on expanding their market to 21 new cities over the next year.

Using Export Complexity to Explain Income Inequality

An image of a cargo ship, a port, and some air planes.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Researchers from MIT have developed a new method for predicting the economic success of countries around the world: the complexity of that country’s export economy. For the last decade or so, Professor César Hidalgo and his colleagues have been doing research and writing papers to back up this idea. They argue that “not just [the] diversity but the expertise and technological infrastructure required to produce [exports] is a better predictor of future economic growth than factors economists have historically focused on, such as capital and education.”

And what’s more, the most recent research shows that this complexity can also say a lot about income equality in those countries as well. Basically, countries with greater export complexity have lower income inequality because there are more workers in more industries that are generating exports and, subsequently, income. Looking at data collected between 1963 and 2008, researchers found that “countries whose economic complexity increased, such as South Korea, saw reductions in income inequality, while countries whose economic complexity decreased, such as Norway, saw income inequality increase.”

This research comes at a time of renewed interest, both politically and scientifically, in the issue of income inequality in many parts of the world. There are a number of factors that can be used to determine the current or future success of an economy, but not all of those factors are equally important. Relying solely on GDP, which is often the case, is much less useful than combining it with export complexity, education, and population. However, relying just on export complexity seems to work almost as well as using all of the aforementioned methods.

This development could be extremely useful to both governments and businesses in the future, as they seek to do right by their citizens and employees, respectively. Essentially, finding a new niche isn’t just good for a company, but it can help the country as well.

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