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Money Woes, Sneaker Repairs and Taking Breaks: What We’re Reading This Week

April 12, 2024
A look at some news of note for safety professionals.

On Monday, I was one of the lucky people who was in the path of totality and had clear skies. Witnessing a total solar eclipse was more awe-inspiring than I imagined.

Some people said they got emotional seeing this phenomenon, in part because it reminded them of how vast and mysterious our universe is. For me, it was a reminder that I need to stop and spend more time out in nature and less time worrying about mundane things like laundry and my unending to-do list.

I hope you all saw images that made you stop, stare and appreciate your surroundings. Here is a photo gallery from my local news outlet, Cleveland.com.

Until next time, stay safe and be well!

A Look at the Economy, Away from the Forecasts and Headlines

Lately, it feels like we’re receiving some conflicting information about the economy. We’re hearing from the Federal Reserve that the economy is strong, but we’re also hearing from friends and family about making cutbacks in their day-to-day life.

It can be difficult to reconcile the facts and figures at the macro level with own our personal experiences. That’s part of the reason why I so appreciated this story that lies somewhere in the middle.

Rachel Wolfe describes what operators at 211 emergency helplines are hearing. For those unfamiliar, 211 is a hotline where specialists connect individuals in need to a wide range of free community resources, such as caregiving assistance; access to food, clothing, diapers and other basic household items; access to mental health care and counseling; and resources for finding and maintaining housing and utility service.

These operators often identify problems well before they’re news headlines. They raised alarm bells about the baby formula shortage and knew families were defaulting on their subprime mortgages before the housing market crash. Now, workers are hearing from more people living closer to poverty than the federal poverty line might suggest.

“The share of households below the census-designated federal poverty line has barely budged since 2010,” Wolfe writes. “Meanwhile, poverty researchers say a large and fast-growing group of people are earning too much to qualify for social services and not enough to afford the basics where they live.”

To be clear, these are employed people who are struggling to make ends meet. We often write about financial well-being programs and financial health. At first blush, it’s easy to dismiss worker’s personal finances as a non-work issue. But let’s consider this: Employees who are struggling to pay their bills and concerned about ensuring their family’s basic needs are met aren’t checking that problem at the proverbial door when they walk into work. They might be distracted. They might be incentivized to worker longer hours or cut corners if there are financial benefits to doing so. And, in the process, those workers are putting themselves—and their co-workers—at greater risk.

We know people are struggling, even if we don’t know the details. For example, we know that only 44% of Americans say they can afford to pay a $1,000 emergency expense from their savings, according to Bankrate’s survey of more than 1,000 respondents conducted in December 2023, a number that has remained consistent the past few years. So many people are on the edge of financial ruin, whether it be a car repair, medical bill, credit card debt or their pet’s veterinary care.

I highly recommend you read Wolfe’s story that blends the data with stories about real people who are struggling. Maybe something will inspire you to do something differently at the workplace, or at least help you be more empathetic with your stressed and distracted workers.

Sneakers Aren't a Sustainable Buisness, but One Shoemaker Wants to Change That

Let me just start by saying: I love shoes, and I love my local shoe cobbler. It is not unusual for me to bring four pairs every year or so that need some sort of repair. It’s an investment to repair and buy the polishes and cleaners to keep my shoes looking good, but it’s cheaper than buying new. Also, do you know how difficult it is to find the perfect pair of nude pumps. Those things are like unicorns!

I’ve always felt bad about recycling my sneakers, but I hadn’t been able to repair them. Until now. That’s because the eco-friendly sneaker brand Veja is again disrupting the market in a big, exciting way.

I know some environmentalists who love Veja for their different business model, such as working directly with farmers and paying them handsomely to follow more sustainable practices. The company wanted to do more to lessen the environmental impact.

Veja co-founder Sébastian Kopp realized that many people were getting rid of sneakers unnecessarily.

So, the company opened a pilot repair shop in 2020. Veja worked its networkers to find cobblers who knew how to repair sneakers. They were asked to train other cobblers, because sneaker repair requires a different skillset and machinery than leather. Then, Veja invited customers to bring in their worn sneakers—from any brand—for repair.

“The shoes had a lot more life in them,” Kopp told Fast Company. “But most people don’t have access to a cobbler trained at repairing sneakers. And the most sustainable thing you can do is wear the sneakers you already own.”

Veja recently opened its fourth sneaker repair shop in Brooklyn, its first in the United States.

Read more about Veja’s approach to footwear and sustainability here.

Taking Breaks is Good for Your Productivity (and Mental Health)

We all know what it’s like to have back-to-back meetings, multiple deadlines and fires that repeatedly need to be put out. During those busy times, it can be easy to think that the best way out is through, so we roll up our proverbial sleeves, make another pot of coffee and keep going.

That’s exactly when you must take small breaks.

“Taking regular breaks is an essential part of managing our energy to maintain sufficient capacity — not only to be productive, but also to prevent burnout, as well as be able to maintain healthy self-regulation of our emotions and behaviors so we can have positive interactions with others,” writes executive coach Rebecca Zucker in Harvard Business Review. “When we are fully depleted (or close to being depleted), we are more likely to be reactive, brusque, or irritable and take our frustrations out on others, which is not only unpleasant for those involved but can be counterproductive. Breaks are also particularly important when doing creative work.”

It's not easy to schedule time for yourself, but it is essential for maintaining your productivity, not to mention your physical and mental well-being.

Read more about why our body needs small breaks and eight easy ways to incorporate them into your daily routine here.

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