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About six weeks into the pandemic, Ryan Wuerch realized his employees were working harder and longer than they had before, leading to fatigue and irritability. "The lines all got blurred, and the computer was always on," he said. "There was never a moment where people felt like they had their break."
Wuerch is CEO of the Austin-based startup Dosh, which offers cashback on purchases and employs around 80 people. When COVID-19 forced the company out of its Bee Cave office, it also upended certain in-office benefits, such as daily lunch service. To compensate for this shift, and acknowledge the extra work employees were putting in, he and his executive team came up with new benefits.
Wuerch announced the first Dosh Day—a surprise, company-wide Friday off—during a weekly Thursday staff meeting. For the next three days, there would be no work-related Slack messages, emails, Zoom meetings or texts. "When I announced this the very first time, the chat blew up," he said.
The company has since announced other Dosh Days and made other pandemic adaptations, which have paid off. Productivity has increased 23% over the course of the pandemic, and Wuerch sees the impact of such benefits among potential hires.
Dosh is hardly an outlier. A recent Care.com survey of 500 human resource leaders found that 98% of employers planned to expand benefits—the most frequently cited were health and dental insurance, retirement plans, health and fitness discounts, mental health support and child care subsidies—as a result of the pandemic. Local companies are coming up with creative solutions to address employee burnout and, in turn, improve retention, productivity and morale.
Ryan Wuerch, CEO of the Austin-based startup Dosh, delivers a company award to an employee during the pandemic. (Dosh)
A sea change
Last month, Austin-based fast-food chain P. Terry's announced that it had raised the minimum wage for full-time employees to $15 an hour, in addition to other benefits, such as a Christmas bonus, interest-free loans and birthday cakes.
Such substantive benefits are increasingly common across industries, going from "nice-to-have" perks to essential offerings, Care.com Senior Vice President of Sales Matthew O'Connor told Austonia. "We are seeing this becoming the new normal," he said.
Nearly two-thirds of respondents in the Care.com survey reported pandemic-related attrition, with 95% saying child or senior care concerns were a factor. The costs of hiring, decreased productivity and increased absenteeism caused by pandemic fatigue and burnout are rising for companies—and may outweigh the costs of improved benefits. "When people can be present at work and bring their best selves to work, everyone wins," O'Connor said.
Dr. Serena Messina, a licensed psychologist who practices in Austin, has seen increased demand for therapy among millennial clients over the course of the pandemic, many of whom cite workplace burnout as a concern. For people in their mid- to late-20s, she says it is developmentally appropriate to ask such questions as, 'Am I in the right job?' and 'What am I doing with my life?'
But the pandemic and its related stressors have exacerbated this experience for many of Messina's clients, including those who are older. "The pandemic is like a layer of depression on all of us," she said, adding that one of the symptoms of clinical depression is lack of hope for the future. "We are all, a little bit, experiencing that."
Messina cautions that this is a privileged problem; people who have lost jobs as a result of the pandemic don't have the luxury of worrying about whether they are fulfilled by their work. But she also said that burnout is a type of suffering and should be acknowledged as such. Therapy is a helpful intervention; she often helps clients develop skills such self-compassion and mindfulness to help them deal with the uncertainty of the pandemic and other life events.
Kristin Neff, an associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, pioneer in the field of self-compassion research and author of the forthcoming book "Fierce Self-Compassion," said many people experiencing burnout benefit from practicing self-compassion—basically, treating oneself as one would a friend in distress, with warmth and support.
The pandemic has triggered interest in this field of research. "In general, it's been good for Amazon and it's been good for the self-compassion business," Neff said. "I've been really busy."
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A week after Texas added two congressional seats and California lost one, state officials reported a population decline in 2020 for the first time in the Golden State's history.
California fell by over 182,000 people from January 2020 to January 2021, dropping almost 0.5% to cap out at around 39.5 million people. It is still the nation's most populous state.
For over thirty years, California has seen more people leave than move in from other states, state officials said, with 6.1 million people moving out and 4.9 million coming in last year. Immigration and births kept California growing, but the state saw a shrink in international migration in 2020 due to COVID and the White House's hold on visas.
Of the steady flow of ex-Californians moving to other states, more are moving to Texas than any other state. Many are relocating to Austin, which has been labeled a "little California" by billionaire resident Elon Musk and continues to grow astronomically.
Meanwhile, California cities including Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose and San Francisco saw a population decline.
With immigration and state migration on the decline, the Golden State was also hit with a spike in deaths- 51,000 people died from COVID in 2020, and all but seven of the state's counties saw death rates higher than the three-year average.
Still, the California Department of Finance said a "slightly positive annual growth" can be expected next year as the state recovers from COVID deaths and political repercussions.
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- 1 1/2 oz of hibiscus-infused Tito's Handmade Vodka
- 2 oz sparkling water
- 1 oz fresh lime juice
- 3/4 oz simple syrup
- 1 tsp allspice dram
The sun is out, and thousands of Austin FC fans will be as well as Austin FC goes to Kansas to play Sporting Kansas City at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday.
There's plenty of pub partners to choose from, but here's a few watch parties to help you get in on the action.
Los Verdes watch party at Hopsquad Brewing, 2307 Kramer Lane
Fun fact: @LosVerdesATX brings sleeping bags and they basically live in the grain room between games. They'll emerge from time to time for a cup of coffee and to see if the #verde keeper kit has been released. pic.twitter.com/6HKUEHUFWY— Hopsquad Brewing Co. (@HopsquadBrewing) May 3, 2021
Ol' faithful: Hopsquad Brewing is hosting its weekly watch party, complete with beer, food trucks and the possible release of a new michelada, in partnership with Austin FC fan club Los Verdes. Admission is free, but make sure to bring a lawn chair so you can watch from the brand-new LED screen.
Austin Anthem North at 601 Whitestone Blvd, Cedar Park
Live up North? Looking for a place to catch the match? Join Us this Sunday.— Austin Anthem (@AustinAnthem) May 7, 2021
⚽ #AustinFC 🆚 #SportingKC
🗓 Sun, 5/9. 6:30pm
🍺 $1 off pints with @AustinFC gear and #verde Beer
🌮 Van's Damn Tasty Tacos & Ronburguesas $6 Fried Tots pic.twitter.com/zHRp4H2MIQ
Austin Anthem's 1,000+ audience at watch parties have been legendary, but they're splitting the group into two this week. The North Watch party will be located at Whitestone Brewery, with $1 off discounts if you bring Austin Anthem's signature beer or wear Verde. Tater tots and tacos will be on the menu. RSVP here.
Austin Anthem East at Haymaker, 2301 Manor Road
This week’s beer-storming also brings #LosZanates back to where much of the #AustinFC supporter movement was formed: @HaymakerAustin.— Austin Anthem (@AustinAnthem) May 4, 2021
⚽ #AustinFC 🆚 #SportingKC
🗓 Sun, 5/9. 6:30pm
🐻 2310 Manor Rd
The #Verde watch parties for all of #Austin. Join us!https://t.co/EdiBruetIG pic.twitter.com/7NYsEFLxCf
Austin Anthem is returning to its roots at Haymaker Austin, where much of the group originated. Beer, sandwiches and more will be on the menu for all of East Austin. RSVP here.
Head to a bar near you
If none of these watch parties are quite the right fit for you, 31 bars will be streaming the match in the Austin metro as part of the Austin FC Pub Club.
- Austin Eastciders- Barton Springs, 1530 Barton Springs Rd.
- Austin Eastciders- Collaboratory 979 Springdale Rd. Suite 130
- B.D. Riley's Mueller, 1905 Aldrich St. Unit 130
- The Bon Aire, 9070 Research Blvd
- Bouldin Acres, 2027 S Lamar Blvd
- Casa Chapala, 9041 Research Blvd Suite 100
- The Cavalier, 2400 Webberville Rd Unit A
- Cover 2,13701 N Highway 183
- Cover 3 Anderson Lane, 2700 W Anderson Ln Unit 202
- Happy Chicks, 214 E 6th St.
- Haymaker, 2310 Manor Rd.
- High Five- Anderson Ln, 2700 W Anderson Ln Unit 101
- Local Post Pub, 7113 Burnet Rd
- Pelons, 802 Red River St
- Play on 6th, 620 W 6th St
- Pluckers, various locations
- Revelry On The Boulevard, 6215 N Lamar Blvd
- Revelry- East 6th, 1410 E 6th St
- Rusty Cannon Pub, 730 W Stassney Ln Unit 120
- San Jac Saloon, 300 E 6th Street
- Shiner's Saloon, 422 Congress Ave Unit D
- Shooters Billiards 620, 11416 N FM 620
- Taco Flats, mulitple locations
- Twin Peaks, 701 E Stassney Ln
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