Hello, and welcome to another edition of the CxO newsletter.
The return to offices has, in many ways, been more complicated than I had anticipated—or at least, more complicated than I had anticipated when our tenure as telecommuters was meant to last just two weeks. But two weeks turned into two months, two months into a year, and when Labor Day 2021—the unofficial return to work for companies across the country, including Forbes—came and went, corporate America reached the point of no return. It has never been more challenging to convince employees that the childcare challenges, office politics and work-life interference associated with exchanging couches for cubicles is worth their while. And now, soaring gas prices only stand to complicate matters.
If you've filled your tank in recent weeks, chances are you've experienced sticker shock. The average price of gas in the U.S. hit a record $4.33 last month, up from just $2.87 one year ago, according to AAA, due in part to Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine, as well as other factors such as America's rocky relations with Saudi Arabia. In response to this pain at the pump, my colleague Emmy Lucas reports that some employers are creating new perks to help their employees get where they need to go.
These perks, she says, run the gamut: Lyft and Uber have temporarily added fuel surcharges to fares, while DoorDash has launched a rewards program through which its drivers can earn 10% cash back every time they fuel up on the company debit card. And some employers, like Salt Lake City healthcare company Home Clinix, are offering incentives including gift cards for commuting to work.
"It doesn't have to be anything grand or elaborate," Danny Holmgren, cofounder of Home Clinix, tells Lucas. "Take a step back and recognize this is impacting your employees' quality of life right now."
As the Great Resignation rages on, it pays to pay attention to workers' wants and needs. Even if, like most employers, you aren't revising your salary budget in response to inflation, there are still plenty of steps you can take to retain (and maybe even attract) top talent. From piloting innovative time-off programs to investing more in bigger and better benefits, Jena McGregor, senior editor of careers, shares how companies are getting creative.
Speaking of time off, I'm going to be putting up my out-of-office message next week. If like me you have to actively remind your team to take days off, I suggest you consider doing the same. After all, what better way to encourage employees to take a break than to practice what you preach?
Thank you for reading, and feel free to share your ideas with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. After a break on April 12, I'll see you right back here on April 19.
Family Matters: The House January 6 Select Committee is expected to call upon Ginni Thomas—the right-wing activist who, notably, is married to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas—to testify after it was revealed that she promoted efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. The question, of course, is whether her actions pose a conflict of interest for her husband, and its answer could have implications for corporate America. "The specific relevance of the controversy to corporate governance is the extent to which, if at all, the conduct and relationships of a director's family members (e.g., a spouse) are 'fair game' for the board conflicts of interest and ethics review processes," writes Michael Peregrine, a senior contributor to Forbes, in his latest piece. Boards are increasingly recognizing the potential for directors' family members to create ethical challenges for companies. It's a difficult call, Peregrine acknowledges, but probably worth the push. Here's why.
Cyber Warfare: Since the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the White House has warned businesses to be wary of Russian cyberattacks carried out as retaliation for economic sanctions, with President Joe Biden calling such actions "part of Russia's playbook" just a couple of weeks ago. On Wednesday, Google's Threat Analysis Group revealed in a blog post that a group of Russian hackers has attempted phishing attacks on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, as well as several Eastern European nations. Called Coldriver, the group has also tried to infiltrate numerous, unnamed, non-governmental organizations in the U.S. In case you missed it, check out this piece from Forbes senior contributor Edward Segal, who outlines the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency's recommended steps for safeguarding digital assets.
(Mostly) Equal Pay For Equal Work: Mississippi may soon relinquish its title as the only state in the nation not to have an equal pay or non-discrimination employment law. After years of efforts to pass a pay equality measure, the state legislature on Wednesday voted to pass a bill that would require employers to offer equal pay for equal work. But as Forbes' Jena McGregor reports, it's not necessarily cause for celebration. Known as the Mississippi Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, the bill contains provisions that advocates fear may actually harm equality—including one that lists candidates' continuous employment, negotiation attempts and salary history as factors employers can use to justify paying women less. And as McGregor notes, it also runs counter to labor laws in other locales. New York City's pay transparency law, for example, will make it illegal for employers to exclude pay ranges from job advertisements and promotion opportunities when it goes into effect next month. Read on for more about the legislation.
By The Numbers
The percentage of Americans who have confidence in the leadership of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to Pew Research Center data published last week. Just 48% say the same about U.S. President Joe Biden. In her latest piece, senior contributor Erica Ariel Fox explores Zelensky's leadership evolution, and the lessons we can all take away.
Igor Bukhman, the billionaire cofounder of the gaming giant Playrix, has thousands of employees divided between Russia and Ukraine. The war sparked an internal battle at his company and now Bukhman finds himself in the middle.