Smart companies pay attention to anti-work forums

Reddit is known as the front page of the internet, although it isn’t exactly a resource that comes to mind for entrepreneurs. But businesses could benefit from taking a page from a number of subreddits whose popularity exploded during the pandemic.

Employees flocked to the Antiwork subreddit, and more recently to the WorkReform subreddit, in the last year as the Great Resignation swept the country. The posts discuss blatant violations of workers’ rights and examples of employees standing up to their employers, with some even sharing screenshots of the exchanges they had with bad bosses right before resigning. Other posts focus on union-breaking efforts by large corporations.

But it seems that there is another segment of users who also follow these posts: managers and people in leadership positions. A self-proclaimed senior manager posted last November that the subreddit has changed their business for the better. The senior manager shares that the company’s revenues have skyrocketed during the pandemic and that the business owner wanted to reward the team. After following the Antiwork subreddit, the senior manager drafted a proposal that suggested a permanent 10 percent pay increase, more paid time off and optional work days for management. The proposal was eventually accepted, the anonymous poster said. The user did not respond to Inc.’s request. to comment.

Other companies take note.

Rochester, New York-based staffing and recruiting firm Career Start started tracking the Antiwork subreddit last November. Its chief marketing and strategy officer, Ian Young, warned company founder and CEO Lindsay McCutchen about the ferment in the base on the Antiwork subreddit, and they’ve been following the forum ever since. They use the forum to better understand why people are leaving their jobs in such a large number – why is the big layoff so great? After analyzing the Antiwork and WorkReform subreddits, McCutchen saw room for improvement at her own company.

One of the first changes to be made? The company hired a personal chef at headquarters, who cooks breakfast, lunch, and snacks every day for those on site — and Career Start foots the bill. “We know that people have busy lives and busy schedules and they may not want to pack their food every day or worry about what to eat,” McCutchen says. “Well, they don’t have to worry about that.”

In addition to adding a personal chef, the company is also revamping its review process — instead of holding a quarterly review, McCutchen says the company may be holding reviews annually. The company is focused on asking for feedback from the bottom up, rather than just top-down, McCutchen said. “There is a mechanism known as 360 Degree Reviews, where instead of managers giving feedback to their direct supervisors, employees provide feedback to their direct supervisors, to their supervisors and later to their colleagues,” she adds. . “We think this is an attractive model and are investigating whether we can migrate to it.”

The company doesn’t stop there. It now wants to shake up its pipeline for future benefits. Career Start, for example, is investigating how to increase living allowances. While the company doesn’t have an exact percentage yet, it’s between seven and eleven percent. The company also plans to expand its training and education opportunities for its in-house talent.

After making some of these changes, McCutchen says she’s already seen retention rates improve. Their year-over-year churn was less than 15 percent, while the industry standard, according to Young, hovers between 35 and 45 percent. The company has about 60 full-time in-house employees, but they have more than 6,500 W-2 employees throughout New York.

It all comes down to listening to the employee’s voice, they say.

“We have two giant forums that actively take care of that,” says Young. “It costs nothing to listen, all you have to do is show up. You don’t have to post – you just have to listen to what people are saying and respond kindly.”

And people are speaking. The Antiwork subreddit, which has more than 1.8 million members, grew more than 279 percent in subscribers between 2020 and 2021, making it one of the most popular Reddit communities last year, according to a Reddit spokesperson.

But r/Antiwork isn’t without controversy: The subreddit was shut down for a few days earlier this year after one of the moderators participated in an interview with Fox News that quickly went south. The shutdown led to the creation of the WorkReform subreddit, which now has more than 500,000 members. Moderators for the Antiwork forum declined to comment, while moderators for the WorkReform forum did not respond to Inc.’s requests. to comment.

So why did these forums become so popular last year, especially when the Antiwork subreddit was created about eight years ago?

Peter Bamberger, a professor at Tel Aviv University who focuses on careers, organizational behavior and human resources, believes the difficult conditions workers faced during the pandemic explain some of its popularity.

“A lot of people were left out of the shift in the changing nature of work,” he says. “For them, the job didn’t change. It became riskier with no more reward than before.”

The Reddit forums also helped foster a sense of community for frontline and remote workers alike. Bamberger adds that the high levels of isolation and sense of loneliness during the pandemic made the job even more difficult. Research backs up that claim: A study authored by Hakan Ozcelik, of California State University, Sacramento, and Sigal Barsade, of the University of Pennsylvania, suggests that loneliness in the workplace negatively affects job performance.

The popularity of these forums also coincides with a voice of workers’ solidarity that’s been around for decades, even if it’s currently diminished: unions. Many Americans believe that unions have a positive impact on the United States and that declining union membership is negative for the country, according to a September survey from the Pew Research Center.

“Unions have always been built around a sense of professional communities, so anything that enhances the sense of community reinforces the sense of union,” explains Bamberger. That could be as simple as voicing and getting support from others, something commonly seen on these two subreddits. Recent organizational efforts at Starbucks and Amazon suggest unions may have even more to say.

Many employers are now wondering what’s next for the Great Resignation, a phenomenon that’s showing no signs of slowing down yet.

While it’s unclear whether these subreddits can bring about long-term change, they continue to increase the pressure to improve workers’ lives. Outlets like these offer employers the answer to what a healthy culture looks like, according to Christine J. Spadafor, a strategic leadership teacher at both Dartmouth’s Tuck business school and Harvard’s schools of business, medicine and public health.

She explains that working in a hostile work environment is no longer okay — not that it ever was, although many have tolerated toxic behavior in the past. She also believes that the Great Resignation may be able to rethink how the country’s views work compared to the rest of the world.

“We in America very much have the ethos that we live to work, but I think the Great Resignation movement has more of a work to live mentality,” Spadafor says. “And that, I think, is changing the complexion of work.”

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