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The best companies of the future will be anti-racist and anti-burnout

While DEI and well-being are separate issues, here’s why they must be solved together at work.
The best companies of the future will be anti-racist and anti-burnout
Photo by Susan Wilkinson / Unsplash

Sustain issue #53 (Get Sustain in your inbox next Thursday)

In the last few years, two new workplace areas have catapulted to the top: DEI and well-being. In the aftermath of the George Floyd killing companies vowed to improve their DEI. And as we’ve all collectively become not ok, the importance of employee well-being has risen to critical levels of importance.

While DEI initiatives and well-being are unique issues, they are inextricably linked. In fact, I’d argue that you can't have one without the other. If employee well-being lags then you can’t truly succeed in DEI and vice versa. They have to be solved together.

It’s also fascinating that some of their background and paths to solve mirror one another.

A rise in importance

Collectively companies have come to realize the importance of both DEI and well-being. There’s been a lot of attention and program funding paid to it.

On the DEI front, companies brought in many speakers, held training, and Juneteenth was given as a holiday for many in the US.

In well-being, we’ve seen similar tactics: speakers, training, rest and recharge holidays bestowed upon us, and stipends to help support employee well-being.

These are generally good things. But they are simply a band-aid on these complex issues, nothing more. None of these tactics should be treated as step one – or worse, treated as the solution.

Why? Because they don’t solve the problem. They are merely a shiny object to avert our attention from the real problem.

Solving from the root

Ibram X. Kendi explains why it’s important to be more than just not racist. The real goal is to become anti-racist where you are actively taking steps to end racism. It’s more than acknowledgment, it’s action.

Well-being is the same. Out of recruiting and retention necessity, every company now talks about the perks they offer and how the well-being of employees is now paramount. But giving a day off for Juneteenth or one to recharge is just acknowledging the problem. It’s doing nothing to solve it. They are simply shiny objects to avert our attention. What we need are companies that create cultures that are both anti-racist and anti-burnout.

So where does the solution start at work? First, the CEO and senior leadership must be willing to change. Without that, there’s little hope. However, if there’s a willing group at the top, then it starts with listening to employees to understand where the pain points are, creating action plans to solve both issues, and creating a culture where there’s psychological safety to be anti-racist and anti-burnout.

While they carry different weight, a microaggression against a colleague or a manager assigning a surprise assignment to their employee over the weekend is bad for the company, bad for the employee, and perpetuates a culture of racism and/or burnout.

The companies that succeed in the future will intentionally design a culture that’s anti-racist and anti-burnout. You can mark my words on that.


Ready to downsize your relationship with work and quit burnout?

Hi, I'm Grant Gurewitz. I'm on a mission to eliminate burnout at work. I've been in tech for 10 years (ex-Zillow, current: Qualtrics) who suffered deep burnout and came back from it even though I never found a playbook for doing so. So, I'm writing it myself.

✉️ Want my top tips? I share my full step-by-step playbook in How I Quit Burnout, my premium newsletter. Get the next one delivered straight to your inbox >

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