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Dec 9, 2022
This article is part of a series called The Most Interesting HR Stories of the Week.

Musk reportedly installing bedrooms in Twitter HQ

Controversial Twitter owner, Elon Musk, has reportedly converted office space into bedrooms, to enable staff to work even longer hours. The Express reports that employees have reported finding meeting rooms being turned into bedrooms. In one photograph shared with Forbes magazine, a newly furnished room appears to show an unmade mattress on what appears to be a queen-sized bed, with a wooden bedside table, two office armchairs and bright orange carpeting. The employee who spoke to Forbes said: “It’s not a good look, It’s yet another unspoken sign of disrespect. There is no discussion. Just like, beds showed up.” When he bought the social media company only a few months ago, Musk said that he needed more ‘hardcore’ workers, and claimed staff would need to be “working long hours at high intensity.” The San Francisco department of building inspection is now reported to be investigating these claims.

Apple’s anti-union tactics branded ‘psychological warfare’

US labor board prosecutors have ruled that tech giant, Apple, violated federal law by interrogating and coercing employees in Atlanta, during attempts by staff to form a union. By holding mandatory anti-union meetings with staff, the board determined that ‘management made coercive statements’ – something which The Communications Workers of America (which petitioned for a union election) called “an example of psychological warfare.” In a statement the Communication Workers of America said: “Holding an illegal forced captive audience meeting is not only union-busting, but an example of psychological warfare. We commend the NLRB for recognizing captive audience meetings for exactly what they are: a direct violation of labor rights.” Workers at dozens of Apple’s roughly 270 US stores are now openly discussing unionization, it has been reported. While the NLRB has previously held that companies can require employees to attend anti-union meetings, the agency’s current general counsel – Jennifer Abruzzo – is reported by Yahoo! Finance to regard captive audience gatherings as inherently coercive and illegal.

Exxon shares the love – with pay rises to staff as well as execs

Record profits at American oil giant, ExxonMobil, means the top brass will see their annual salaries go up by 10%, with its salary committee approving an increase in the annual salary of CEO, Darren Woods, from $1.70 million this year to US$1.88 million. The company also raised the salaries of its senior vice presidents, all effective January 1, 2023. But, in a rare moment of solidarity for ordinary workers, it was also announced that rank and file employees would also receive an average inflation-busting pay rise of 9%, with those who get promoted getting an additional 5%. This rise compares to the current US consumer price index of 7.7%. Profits at ExxonMobil have swelled mainly due to the rise in the price of oil, as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war. But the rise given to US employees has been criticized for being far greater than the 2.5% rise being to UK workers. It has also been pointed out that base salaries represent less than 10% of executives’ total pay, with stock awards and bonuses making up a bigger share of what Exxon’s board members make every year.

Job market still buoyant, but layoffs point to tough times ahead…

Despite a recent run of big layoff announcements, new data shows the US economy added 263,000 jobs in November, meaning the unemployment rate actually held steady at 3.7%. Labor Department figures for November also showed that wages are also continuing to rise – by 5.1%, up from 4.9% in the previous month. However, on a more gloomy note, 76,835 job cuts were cut during November according to data from Challenger, Gray and Christmas. This is a 127% jump compared to the previous month, and a 417% jump compared to the same time last year. It also found that so far this year, companies have announced plans to cut a total of 320,173 jobs. This is a 6% increase on last year. Tech companies alone have announced more than 60,000 job cuts this year, with indications that there will be more to come. “Workers are also facing unprecedented job uncertainty and a rising cost of living,” said John Morgan, president at LLH — formerly Lee Hecht Harrison — a talent mobility company, in New York.

…while US University teaches MBA students how to sack staff

According to The Times newspaper, students at the University of California Berkeley’s Haas School are reportedly being taught how to ‘sack’ staff. The course – which, to be more accurate, is entitled ‘Difficult Conversations: Conflict Lab’ – reportedly includes role-playing exercises, where students practice conflict by playing both sides. In one exercise, students specifically go through the exercise of laying off a colleague. According to Yahoo! Finance, instructors, Francesca LeBaron and Breona Jenkins developed the course because they noticed “most conflict avoidance in the workplace was not being done effectively.” After the exercises, MBA students discuss each participants’ responses, to properly dissect the conflict session. Apparently, the course is already over-subscribed.

Consulting firms dominate best workplace for parents list

Great Place to Work has released its ‘Best Workplaces for Parents 2022’ ranking, and dominating the top ten are consulting firms. Half of the top ten are consulting organisations. Leading the way is second-place Slalom Consulting, followed by sixth placed, Deloitte, eight-placed PricewaterhouseCoppers, ninth-placed Accenture and 10th placed Bain & Company. The list is compiled according to analysis of confidential survey responses from more than 568,000 US employees and compares the experiences of parents and non-parents within their organizations as well as the benefits and support programs provided by their employers. Great Place to Work also considered each organization’s paid parental leave and adoption benefits, its approach to flexible working schedules and its childcare and dependent healthcare benefits. “As employees juggled work, eldercare and parenting demands, these [listened] companies listened to the needs of working parents and developed innovative ways to support them,” said Michael C. Bush, CEO of Great Place to Work.

Up to half of US employees now work remotely

New data reveals the extent to which shifts in ‘where’ people work have solidified. Figures published this week by WFH Research – a project from Stanford University, University of Chicago and ITAM in Mexico – reveal that 40-50% of US employees worked from home at least five days a week. This is up from 17% before the pandemic. The study also found that those workers who engage with fewer people correlate with higher levels of remote work. “Earlier this year, there was a movement by some employers to phase out work-at-home options,” says Franklin Shines, founder of Analytics AIML and author of Let In But Left Out: Leadership, Faith & Knowledge in the Age of AI, Coronavirus and Fake News. He added: “The pushback from employees was felt immediately, which forced employers to pause and rethink their approach.” WFH Research also found that for those with a college degree, full-time working at home is now stabilising at around 40% of workers.

US Bishops back ‘paid abortion leave’ bill

Catholic bishops have said they support the Pregnancy Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) – which aims to “eliminate discrimination and promote women’s health and economic security by ensuring reasonable workplace accommodations for workers whose ability to perform the functions of a job are limited by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.” The bill would require employers with 15 or more employees to make “reasonable accommodations to the known limitations” related to “pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions” — unless the employer can demonstrate that it would impose an undue hardship. In a statement the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) said: “We specifically endorsed the version of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act reported out of the Senate HELP Committee.” Other groups claim the bill could be used to force employers to pay for abortion-related expenses. The US Senate is currently considering a bipartisan bill that promises protections for pregnant employees. The bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives in May.

This article is part of a series called The Most Interesting HR Stories of the Week.
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