Throw me a lifeline: Employers are expanding mental health benefits

Given the challenges this year has posed so far, it’s little wonder that many of us are struggling with our mental health.
But talking about it at work can be challenging.
Unfortunately, there’s still a stigma attached to mental health issues and some experts recommend limiting what you say to your boss and colleagues to prevent hurting your career.
But there are some employers that are proactively looking for ways to help employees cope.
IT solutions company Electric started giving the first Friday of every month off as a mental health and wellness day. Shutting down the entire company helps ensure that no one feels like they are missing anything and they won’t be overwhelmed with piled up work when they return.
Other companies are providing online therapy sessions and meditation apps, and enhancing their current mental health offerings to help workers navigate these challenging times.

The pink slips are becoming permanent
First the good news: The US has regained more than half the jobs lost during the pandemic.
Now, the bad news: The recovery is stalling and millions of jobs are gone for good.
The number of unemployed people who permanently lost their jobs increased to a seven-year high of 3.8 million last month, reports CNN Business’ Matt Egan.
Here’s what happened: At the beginning of the pandemic, many companies furloughed or laid off workers with the hopes it would be temporary. But as the pandemic drags on and businesses continue to struggle, the job losses are becoming permanent.
Now we’re seeing big-name companies, like Disney and Raytheon Technologies, laying off thousands of workers.

California takes matters into its own hands…
There’s been a lot of talk from companies about increasing diversity on their boards.
But California isn’t waiting around.
It’s now requiring public companies headquartered in the Golden State to diversify their boards racially, ethnically and in terms of sexual and gender identity starting next year, reports CNN Business’ Jeanne Sahadi.
The new law means companies must have at least one board member from an underrepresented community by the end of 2021 and at least two or three — depending on the board’s size — by the end of 2022.
Given that 19% of all directors at the top 200 companies of the S&P 500 were minorities last year, we have a long way to go.
Now the big question is: Will other states follow California’s lead?

Lessons from the work-from-home front
For many of us, working from home full-time has been a new experience. And we can learn from workers who’ve been doing it for a while.
I spoke with Christal Bemont, the CEO of Talend, for a story this week and since she’s been working remotely for more than 20 years, I thought I’d ask her about what she’s learned:
Step away from the computer by scheduling standing meetings as a “walk and talk.” This ensures that you will have regular breaks to get up and walk around which helps, and also encourages your colleagues to do the same. It’s also really important to schedule intentional thinking time for yourself.
Sounding the alarm
Let this stat sink in for a moment: One in four women report that they are considering downshifting their career or stepping out of the workforce entirely because of the pandemic, according to an annual report from McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.Org.
Not only does this threaten to undo the gains women have made in the workplace, it could result in an estimated $180 billion annual potential earnings loss, one expert told me.
In fact, CNN Business’ Anneken Tappe reports that more than 600,000 women dropped out of the US labor force last month, compared with 78,000 men.

Coffee break
If you are looking to spice up your next video meeting, why not head to New York City’s Times Square…or the moon?
My colleague Rachel Metz reports that a growing number of companies and schools are turning to Gather, which offers ready-made spaces for people to meet virtually. Users can move their avatar around the space using their keyboard.
To help make the experience mimic real life, users can only see or hear another participant if they move their avatar closer to the other avatars.