Apple Was Facing Intense Pushback From Employees. Its Response Is an Example for Every Business

On February 8, Bloomberg shared some long-awaited news about Apple: retail employees are getting a boost in benefits, effective April 4. Specifically, the article noted, store workers will get double the paid sick days, more annual PTO, and paid parental leave.

Before you think I’m advocating that small businesses copy a tech monolith, however, I should note: Apple is merely an example of the direction in which we should be going.

Undoubtedly, the move is influenced by the impact of The Great Resignation — and perhaps a touch of employee dissatisfaction over CEO Tim Cook’s handling of remote/flexible work during the summer of 2021.

Many high-profile businesses have made efforts to retain their best and brightest, but to this point, they have had a disproportionate response in the “frontline” retail sector — or no response at all. In fact, several months ago, I wrote about the lopsided efforts of Nike to address mental health strain in the wake of the pandemic. In-office staff got a break; retail workers were left out.

Contrarily, Apple’s recent move underscores the importance of protecting not just your strategists, marketers, and HQ teams, but those who are on the ground selling your product.

The biggest coup: Part-time workers will get as many as six paid vacation days and paid parental leave. That’s practically unheard of — historically, part-time workers haven’t received much in the way of benefits at all.

And yet, as we’ve painfully learned in our new pandemic normal, the frontline workers — many of them part-time — are the ones who do the selling, which feeds the bottom line, which enables growth, which affords the high salaries enjoyed in HQ corner offices.

My point is not that yet another company is rolling out yet another stratagem to fight The Great Resignation. We’re flooded with those efforts. My point is that Apple is finally giving part-time workers their due — and setting an example for other companies to follow.

Equally is important is this otherwise small detail in the new benefits package: Sick days can be used for mental health leave and taking family members to the doctor. This should be amplified as much as possible; it’s an overdue acknowledgement of the outsized impact of mental health issues in the modern world and the critical importance of family and community care.

Want to follow suit? You don’t have to double sick time out of the gates. At the very least, a change in language will start the ball rolling toward improved wellness. Be transparent about how this can be used: Sick days aren’t just for physical illness, but for managing mental health. Encourage your people to use this time for wellness in all regards. And, slowly, introduce new wellness benefits as you’re able — in-office or on-call counselors, support groups, and yes, more leave.

These changes are not the Herculean effort they now seem. Start small and work toward more — but do it now.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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