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Nike and Bumble give office staff a week off for mental health break

In June, Whitney Wolfe Herd, the founder of the dating app Bumble, gave her 700 employees an extra week of paid leave to give her “burnt-out” staff time to destress and switch off. Now Nike is following her lead in the US by giving its head office employees a week off to “destress” and recover from the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The world’s largest supplier of athletic shoes and apparel said workers at its headquarters in Oregon would be “powering down” until Friday 3 September, with senior leaders encouraging staff to ignore all work responsibilities in order to aid their mental health.

“Take the time to unwind, destress and spend time with your loved ones. Do not work,” the Nike senior manager of global marketing science, Matt Marrazzo, said in an open message to staff posted on LinkedIn.

“In a year (or two) unlike any other, taking time for rest and recovery is key to performing well and staying sane,” Marazzo continued. He acknowledged that “this past year has been rough,” adding that staff should recognise that “we’re all human” and living through a traumatic event.

Marrazzo said the perks and support for staff at Nike were “good business but it’s also the right thing to do.” “It’s not just a ‘week off’ for the team… it’s an acknowledgement that we can prioritise mental health and still get work done,” he added.

It puts Nike among a growing number of businesses offering extra time off, or making concessions around working responsibilities, to combat the burnout caused by home working and constant video calls that have blurred the line between personal and professional lives for so many employees.

In March, shortly before Bumble announced its own mental health break initiative two months ago, global investment bank Citigroup banned work video calls on Fridays to help employees break free from the “relentlessness of the pandemic workday.” The bank also designated 28 May as a company-wide holiday, which it called ‘Citi reset day’ and encouraged staff to book more time off.

Meanwhile, workers in other industries have complained about working long hours and the effect this has had on their well-being. Earlier this year, a group of younger bankers at Goldman Sachs warned they would be forced to quit unless conditions improved. They said they were working an average of 95 hours a week and slept five hours a night.

A spokeswoman for the investment bank said at the time, “A year into COVID, people are understandably quite stretched, and that’s why we are listening to their concerns and taking multiple steps to address them.”

Roughly one in three workers back in the workplace said the recent return-to-office shift negatively impacted their mental health, according to a McKinsey survey of 1,602 employed people conducted in June. Meanwhile, another one in three workers said going back to an office had a positive impact on their mental health, with the primary benefit being they feel more engaged upon their return. This proves that every worker has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in varied different ways.

Researchers have also cautioned that returning to a physical workplace can increase burnout, which can show up in three main ways: exhaustion (a depletion of mental or physical resources), cynical detachment (a depletion of social connectedness) and a reduced sense of efficacy (a depletion of value for yourself).

Additional time off, flexible work schedules and hybrid work arrangements are three ways employers can help their staff feel more supported in their return-to-office transition. Bumble and Nike are leading the way. Who’s next?

Nike is launching a kids sneaker subscription

It’s almost the end of the summer, and for most parents, it means back-to-school shopping for their kids. Just in time, Nike announced that it’s launching a kids sneaker subscription called the Nike Adventure Club, aka “a parent’s best friend” as it is described on the brand’s website. Nike’s first footwear subscription service will let kids select Nike and Converse shoes as their feet constantly grow. Although it is presenting this concept as a favour to busy parents, it’s clear that the company merely discovered another great way of making big money in a less than ethical way.

The club’s pricing begins at $20 per month, so that kids can get new shoes every 90 days. For $30 per month, kids get six pairs per year, and for $50 per month, kids will get new shoes every month. For children, even six pairs of shoes a year seems excessive. According to the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (yes, that is a thing), children over the age of three usually only grow one-half a foot size every 4 to 6 months. This means that, technically, older kids need two pairs a year. Of course, parents should be allowed to buy their kids new shoes from time to time, but is it really necessary to get them involved in our consumerist society from the age of two? 

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With the emergence of social media, especially Instagram, our posing skills evolved, and our wardrobes filled up some more. Why? Because we all feel like we need to have a strong ‘insta game’ and show everyone online that we have a great fashion sense. Not only did we see the rise of fashion influencers, but we also witnessed the rise of fashion kid influencers. Don’t get me wrong, I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t admit that I sometimes scroll through 8-year-old Coco’s Instagram page, because she does have great style. But let’s just stop our Instagram craze and think for a minute. Isn’t Instagram an unhealthy platform for kids to be looking at? And is it really okay for big fashion brands like Nike to harvest new ‘sneaker heads’ before they can even decide if they actually want to become one?

When it comes to children, our society always taught us to be more careful and to spare them from what we as adults are mature enough to handle—understandably. Apparently, that doesn’t apply to Nike and its aim to start building loyal customers as young as aged two, and neither does it apply to other brands. When I typed ‘kid influencers’ on Google, the first link that came up was titled “12 Kid Influencers That Can Help You Target the Younger Generation”, giving brands advice on how to engage with parents and kids at the same time, and how to create content for two different target audiences.

Advertising to kids is an increasingly regulated practice in the U.S. and Europe and, yet, according to a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers, the under 13 digital media market is showing a 25 percent year-on-year growth rate. On Nike’s website, Dominique Shortell, director of product experience and retention for Nike Adventure Club says, “We’re always trying to answer, ‘What do kids want?’”. Until now, children between two and ten probably never felt the need to receive new pairs of shoes every 90 days, but that could soon change. Nike went as far as thinking of a way to entice kids by creating a printed box that shows up with their name on it and an adventure guide that comes with each delivery.

Having said that, things aren’t always black and white. Nike Adventure Club offers one more service, one that could reduce the waste impact this invitation to consumerism will have, at least one tiny bit. Members of the club will be able to send back one pair of old shoes every time they receive a new one. The returned trainers will either be donated or recycled. We can try to look on the bright side and hope for the best for the future generation.