Three-quarters of employees say work stress is causing weight gain. Headspace CEO blames ‘political discourse’

As a summer intern at the Toronto Star, my coverage of the G7 Summit in 1988 was eye-opening. Attendees jockeyed for position to see Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, protesters were kept at bay by barriers, and Italian prime ministers changed so frequently that souvenir makers left a blank space for Ciriaco De Mita’s name (he lasted 15 months, outliving his two predecessors). The focus back then was on trade, debt, monetary policies, and urgent environmental issues.

This week’s G7 Summit in Italy, hosted by Prime Minister Georgia Meloni, reflects a different time. Meloni’s party has fascist roots, and attendees seem far less excited about the politicians struggling to maintain their positions. Europe started the week with news that pro-Palestine protesters vandalized 20 Barclays banks in the U.K., and there is a growing presence of far-right politicians in the European Parliament.

Meanwhile, U.S. CEOs are grappling with their own issues. The economy shows resilience as the Federal Reserve holds rates steady, but many people are discontented. Although employers are hiring, employees are often disengaged at work. Supervisors, too, are experiencing burnout, according to a new Gallup survey. During Fortune’s CEO Initiative, former Medtronic CEO Bill George discussed boosting employee engagement. Headspace CEO Russell Glass mentioned that their annual workplace mental health report found that about 75% of employees felt work negatively affected their mental health and led to weight gain. Glass attributes much of this to political discourse and a challenging work environment.

Alphonso David, CEO of the Global Black Economic Forum, highlighted that Black leaders are facing an existential crisis, with their communities’ basic civil rights under threat. Despite an appeals court ruling the Fearless Fund’s grants for Black women entrepreneurs were discriminatory, David stressed that the pressures of regressive policies make it difficult for Black leaders to focus on business growth and culture.

As the U.S. approaches the Juneteenth holiday, which commemorates the emancipation of enslaved people, George insists on adhering to core values despite opposition. He emphasizes the importance of leaders clearly communicating their standpoints.

Generation Z, known for its action-oriented mindset, shows a strong inclination toward entrepreneurship. Jobber’s Blue-Collar Report revealed that nearly two-thirds of surveyed individuals aged 18 to 20 aspire to start their own business, with 11% already having done so. This entrepreneurial spirit bodes well for the economy, especially in skilled trades. However, the trades face a labor shortage as the workforce ages and fewer young people enter these fields. Home maintenance demands are rising, reflected in the aging infrastructure, and there’s an anticipated need for 73,500 electricians annually until 2032.

The labor gap presents a significant opportunity for ambitious youths. Gen Z's growing interest in vocational training and their focus on debt-free career starts to highlight this. While vocational school enrollment is rising, more efforts are needed to meet demand.

Stigma and misconceptions still deter young people from pursuing trades. Many believe traditional degrees are the only path to success, and there’s a lack of awareness about the lucrative potential in trades. Despite this, data show that businesses in services like tree care, lawn care, and plumbing can generate substantial income, with many achieving seven-figure revenues.

Chase Gallagher exemplifies the potential within the trades. Starting his lawn care business at 13, he developed it into a multi-million dollar venture. Publicizing stories like his can help shift perceptions.

To boost trade careers, we must promote their entrepreneurial and financial benefits while supporting vocational training initiatives. Encouraging diverse career choices and backing businesses that offer apprenticeships are crucial. Recognizing and valuing tradespeople's contributions can drive more young people to take up these essential roles, addressing labor shortages and benefiting the economy.  

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