YOUR REGION: United States

Tag: Employee Wellbeing

Equity and benefits for all

Since the onset of the pandemic, the landscape of working life for office employees has undergone a transformation. Many have embraced a newfound flexibility, empowered to carry out their tasks remotely and tailor their schedules to accommodate personal obligations. This shift has brought about various advantages.

However, as 75% of the UK workforce operates beyond the confines of traditional office spaces, it raises the question of whether the other segment of the workforce has been neglected in endeavours to enhance the employee journey. Recent research reveals that a significant 67% of businesses recognize the criticality of flexibility in their quest to secure the most coveted skills in the job market.

Moreover, a substantial 65% acknowledge the necessity of engaging in the “flexibility game” to attract suitable talents. Nonetheless, for individuals engaged in non-office-oriented roles, duplicating these adjustments may not always be feasible. Factors like the requirement to be physically present during designated hours can hinder the same degree of flexibility enjoyed by their office counterparts.

The dynamics of flexibility are more intricate in non-office settings. Industries such as manufacturing and retail face distinct challenges, as implementing the same flexible arrangements that office employees enjoy could necessitate hiring additional personnel to bridge potential gaps that flexible hours might create, thus preventing operational downtime or decreased productivity.

In essence, granting non-office workers an equivalent level of flexibility could entail unanticipated indirect expenses or the need for supplementary resources, a financial burden that many businesses might find challenging to absorb—especially given the prevailing economic conditions. Consequently, businesses unable to offer such flexibility must explore alternative strategies to retain their workforce.

Industries marked by shift-based roles still have a responsibility to provide a positive employee experience. To address the flexibility gap, businesses with non-office staff need to broaden their scope and seek other avenues to demonstrate appreciation.

For example, providing opportunities for career advancement not only aids in staff retention but also underscores the value the company places on its employees as long-term assets. Establishing apprenticeships or training programs that facilitate employee growth within the organization can also significantly enhance the employee experience.

According to insights gathered during research for Reed’s annual Salary Guides, individuals in sectors like manufacturing and hospitality demonstrate less inclination towards flexible work arrangements as a preferred benefit, instead favouring performance bonuses. Similarly, those in hospitality and retail exhibit a greater interest in workplace discounts compared to their peers in different sectors.

Occupations involving manual labour tend to carry a higher risk of musculoskeletal issues and workplace injuries. Conversely, office-centric roles tend to report stress as the primary health concern among employees. In this context, while flexible work arrangements might assist office workers in managing stress and achieving a work-life balance, offering private insurance or healthcare provisions could prove more advantageous for those engaged in manual labour-intensive roles.

In summary, businesses catering to non-office employees would do well to engage in open communication with their workforce to discern the factors that contribute to a sense of value and contentment at work. Individuals in non-office roles generally acknowledge the inherent limitations on flexibility dictated by the nature of their work, particularly in terms of location and hours.

Thus, a more effective approach lies in providing pertinent alternative benefits, which serve as the cornerstone for enhancing the overall employee experience.

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Senior managers top the poll for working the longest unpaid hours

The average UK worker carries out over 139 hours – the equivalent of 18 days of unpaid overtime a year and half of UK employees regularly working extra, unpaid hours according to a new survey.

The research from HR software provider, Ciphr, reveals millions of employees are regularly shortening their lunch breaks and finishing late to keep ahead of their workload.

The survey polled 1,000 UK workers to discover how much unpaid overtime employees worked on average. It revealed, more employees work unpaid hours than employees who receive overtime pay (49% compared to 23%). Among those who worked unpaid overtime, the average time clocked up each week is just over three hours (184 minutes). Over a five-day work week, that’s around 37 minutes extra per shift. One in nine (11%) of those surveyed are posting five additional, unpaid hours a week.

Employees most likely to work the longest extra hours unpaid are senior managers (averaging 4.1 hours a week) followed by 25-34-year-olds (3.5 hours), remote workers (3.5 hours), and those working in legal services and education (4.1 hours and 3.9 hours).

While many employees expect a degree of unpaid work, few are aware of how those extra minutes (over and above contracted hours) can add up.  Shortening or skipping lunch appears to be the most common way employees overwork. In the week of the survey, 36% of respondents took a full lunch break every day – while 23% failed to have a full lunch break at all.

If this pattern of overworking, through breaks and after hours, is left unchecked long term, it could impact employees’ mental well-being, further leading to resentment, especially if the unpaid overtime is due to big workloads, understaffing, or unrealistic targets.

Claire Williams, chief people officer at Ciphr, says: “If an individual thinks they are doing too many unpaid hours, then it’s vital that they address this with their employer as soon as possible. Doing a bit of extra work occasionally is one thing – and it is relatively common practice to work additional hours, at times, to fulfil your role – but feeling like you ‘have’ to do that extra work regularly because it is being expected of you is quite another. The reality is that there are upsides, as well as obvious downsides, to people working extra hours. It doesn’t always need to be perceived as a negative and it can – and should – generate goodwill and flexibility from employers in return.“

Ciphr has created an unpaid overtime hours calculator that employees can use to estimate how many extra hours they are potentially working for free a year

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EAPs play vital role beyond mental health counselling

Towergate Health & Protection has unveiled findings from one of its prominent employee assistance program (EAP) providers, highlighting a growing need for comprehensive information and guidance beyond just mental health counselling to bolster overall employee wellness. This shift underscores the importance of employers ensuring that their workforce gains access to advice and information spanning areas like legal matters, divorce, childcare, housing, neighbourly conflicts, and wills.

Over the past year, requests for guidance from employees through the EAP surged by 25%. Among these requests, the foremost reason for EAP engagement was for counsel on employment-related matters, constituting 27%. This encompassed inquiries concerning employment rights, compensation disputes, human resources concerns, sources of workplace stress, and employment law matters. The subsequent prominent demand for advice was regarding divorce and separation, constituting 22% of the advisory calls. Other queries encompassed seeking assistance on childcare, housing, and legal actions.

David Williams, Towergate Health & Wellbeing’s Head of Group Risk, remarked, “While many employers may traditionally associate EAPs with providing therapy for mental health challenges such as melancholy and anxiety, counselling represents just a facet of the assistance an EAP can extend. The requirement for counsel and insights in diverse spheres is expanding, notably in realms like divorce, separation, and housing.”

Towergate Health & Protection is firmly committed to ensuring that employers are well informed about the full spectrum of support offered by EAPs and that this is effectively conveyed to employees.

While employees and their employers may be cognizant of the therapeutic services afforded by EAPs, the breadth of support available as part of this benefit may not be entirely clear. The array of subjects on which employees can solicit guidance via an EAP includes consumer disputes, landlord-tenant issues, wills and estate matters, automotive concerns, immigration, elder care, personal injury, and more. This support encompasses advice and insights from trained legal professionals who can also facilitate connections between employees and solicitors or relevant specialists.

By providing access to such comprehensive assistance, employers can empower employees to address challenges both in their professional and personal lives. Additionally, providers are progressively integrating EAPs into broader well-being applications, enhancing employee accessibility.

David Williams emphasized, “When companies uphold the well-being of their workforce across all dimensions—mental, physical, social, and financial—they cultivate a content, healthier, and more engaged workforce that feels esteemed. Relieving employees of burdens through the specialized support accessible via an EAP is an effective means to achieve this.”

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New recommendations aim to combat discrimination

The Singaporean government has officially accepted the final recommendations put forth by the Tripartite Committee on Workplace Fairness (TCWF), aiming to enhance workplace fairness and protect employees from discrimination. The TCWF initially published 20 recommendations in an interim report in February 2023.

In collaboration with tripartite partners, including The Ministry of Manpower (MOM), the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), and the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), the government is committed to implementing these recommendations starting in 2024.

The legislative framework, once enacted, will comprehensively cover all stages of employment, encompassing in-, post-, and pre-employment periods, with a special focus on addressing discrimination complaints that predominantly arise during the pre-employment phase, according to MOM.

The legislation aims to safeguard workers and jobseekers against unfair and discriminatory practices based on specific protected characteristics, namely nationality, age, sex, marital status, pregnancy status, caregiving responsibilities, race, language, religion, disability, and mental health conditions. However, it will not include provisions for sexual orientation, gender identity, and criminal history.

To refine the legislation further, the TCWF proposed two additional recommendations. Firstly, they suggested the importance of a clear definition for ‘discrimination’ to facilitate employers and employees in understanding the law’s coverage. In response, the committee recommended defining ‘discrimination’ as ‘making an adverse employment decision because of any protected characteristic’.

Secondly, the TCWF advised that the legislation should solely encompass direct acts of discrimination, as including indirect discrimination would impose extensive legal obligations on employers. Indirect discrimination refers to seemingly neutral company practices that unintentionally put individuals with specific protected characteristics at a disadvantage. The committee proposed that such cases be handled through the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices, allowing employers and employees to find reasonable resolutions for disputes.

Additionally, the TCWF recommended the issuance of a Tripartite Advisory focusing on providing reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities. The committee believed that mandating such accommodations through legislation might lead to a more litigious workplace environment. Instead, they suggested that the Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices (TAFEP) should intervene to achieve better outcomes for employees with disabilities and employers.

The government is mindful of keeping the legislation’s scope restricted for the time being, with the proposed characteristics covering 95% of all discrimination complaints received by MOM and TAFEP, offering protection to 75% of all workers in Singapore.

In tandem with the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices (TGFEP), the legislation aims to provide comprehensive protection against all forms of discrimination. To allow smaller companies sufficient time to adapt to the changes and bolster their human resource capabilities, they will be exempted from the legislation for the first five years.

Minister of Manpower, Tan See Leng, emphasized that the Workplace Fairness Legislation (WFL) intends to prohibit common forms of discrimination experienced in Singapore, including age, sex, family status, race, nationality, and mental health. The approach seeks to provide redress to victims of discrimination while promoting workplace harmony and preserving relationships.

The TCWF believes that these recommendations will foster a positive workplace culture in Singapore, avoiding an overly litigious atmosphere. Nonetheless, the committee highlighted that the legislation alone cannot eradicate workplace discrimination, stressing the importance of education to challenge stereotypes and sustain fair employment practices.

The Singaporean government is committed to collaborating closely with its tripartite partners to implement these recommendations in 2024, fostering a fair and inclusive work environment for all.

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Dubai-based start-up offers tailored well-being solutions for MENA companies & employees

Lifemost, a Dubai-based platform specializing in corporate wellness programs, has successfully secured USD 650,000 in a pre-seed funding round, which was co-led by MENA-focused angel investors. The funds raised will be allocated to further enhance product development, intensify marketing efforts, and explore new partnership opportunities within the MENA market.

Lifemost’s B2B platform offers companies the means to provide their employees with easy access to a wide array of physical and mental health activities, all available through a single mobile app. The platform encompasses four distinct product categories, catering to different company requirements. These offerings include access to a network of studios for various activities and training, corporate events and team-building sessions, educational lectures and workshops on mindfulness and stress management, as well as a range of online courses and live fitness sessions featuring over 350 pre-recorded classes. The platform is customizable, allowing businesses to tailor the content to meet their specific objectives. Employees can effortlessly book services and classes using the Lifemost membership app, while companies have specialized access to manage their employees’ corporate wellness programs.

Dennis Yudchitz, the CEO and founder of Lifemost, emphasizes the significance of corporate well-being activities for companies in terms of recruitment, sustainability, and employee motivation. By tailoring the platform’s content to suit each company’s unique needs, Lifemost aims to provide employees with diverse wellness options, while offering top management and HR professionals an all-in-one wellness solution with continuous analytics on engagement rates.

Initially conceived with the vision of fostering a healthier and more productive lifestyle among employees, Lifemost now boasts an extensive portfolio of 1,000+ activities spread across Dubai and Abu Dhabi. These activities are accessible through over 120 locations, with plans to expand to 300 locations by the year’s end.

Recent data highlights that 83% of employees consider their well-being to be as crucial as their salary, yet 36% of employees do not feel that their employers prioritize their well-being. This underscores the need for novel solutions in recruitment and work performance, particularly for high-level employees and specialists.

Research on corporate well-being market trends reveals that companies implementing wellness programs enjoy several benefits, including an average of 28% less absenteeism, 30% lower healthcare costs, and a 15% increase in productivity. The global well-being industry is experiencing significant growth, with consumers worldwide increasingly investing in wellness, driving the market size to surpass $4.4 trillion, and annual growth rates ranging from 5 to 10 per cent. Notably, the Middle East’s wellness industry is witnessing stable growth and is estimated to be valued at over $108 billion. In the UAE, the online health and fitness market is projected to contribute $36.5 million by 2025. Additionally, the global wellness industry is forecast to reach almost $7 trillion by 2025.

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Survey highlights the importance of inclusive language in neurodiverse workforces

A new survey reveals 75% of respondents disliked the term ‘disabled people’, instead noting a preference for ‘person-first’ language, such as ‘people living with a disability’ or ‘people with a disability.’

87% of respondents with dyslexia oppose the term ‘dyslexics’, in comparison to 71% of respondents preferring to be referred to as ‘people with dyslexia’. Additionally, respondents indicated a preference for ‘dyspraxia’ over ‘developmental coordination disorder’ (DCD), with 92% voting in favour of ‘dyspraxia.’

Exceptional Individuals, the UK’s first employment agency for the neurodiverse community, conducted ‘The Exceptional Individuals Language Consultation Report’ to highlight the need for inclusive language when referring to neurodiverse individuals within the workplace.

Respondents with ADHD, dyspraxia and dyslexia favoured ‘person-first’ language by 88.9%, 65.5% and 71% respectively. The term ‘neurodivergence’ (40%) was preferred over ‘condition’ (34%), ‘difference’ (20%), or ‘disorder’ (6%). ‘Disorder’ saw the lowest number of votes, with one person noting that they “very much dislike the words ‘disorder’ and ‘ condition’”, and another stating “I use ADHD because people understand what that is. However, I really hate the word disorder.”

A recent study reported that 65% of neurodivergent employees fear discrimination from management within the workplace, whilst 55% fear discrimination from colleagues. 40% of respondents also claimed there are not enough knowledgeable staff to help. In addition, the report revealed all neurodivergent employees reported low levels of well-being – highlighting the importance of ensuring that all members of staff use inclusive language.

Matt Boyd, Founder of Exceptional Individuals, said: “The meaning of a word can evolve over time. Some good words turn bad. Some bad words turn good. So it’s important that we stay vigilant of what is and isn’t considered acceptable language within our communities. But change doesn’t happen overnight. Our findings make clear that there is no specific, ‘correct’, language we should all be using, but rather that we need to respect individual preferences to be truly inclusive.”

Fintan O’Toole, HR expert and Owner of The HR Dept said: “Employers need to embrace the different skills and competencies that they have in their workforce and to explore individual development plans for all staff regardless of their apparent abilities. What may at the outset present itself as an obstacle may well be a strength that can be built on for both the employer and the employee. All staff should be made to feel welcome in the workplace.”

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Employee awarded $7M in damages for termination

In a recent California case, an employee who claimed to have been terminated with malice was granted $7,068,717 in damages by the jury. The damages awarded included $6 million in punitive damages, $368,717 in economic damages, and $700,000 in non-economic damages.

The plaintiff had worked for Alki David Productions, Inc. (ADP), an entertainment and media company specializing in hologram technology, from 2013 to 2017. In 2017, he was assigned to work at a property on Hollywood Boulevard, which ADP was converting into a theater using hologram equipment.

During the project, four inspectors from the Los Angeles City visited the site and identified municipal code deficiencies, leading to a refusal to approve the work. The Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety issued a correction notice indicating violations of the municipal code provisions.

The plaintiff expressed his concerns to ADP’s senior vice president of operations about potential hazards related to the installation of equipment, such as plumbing and electrical issues, ceiling and floor integrity, and the risk of equipment falling on theater attendees. He also contacted a fire inspector to report his concerns, though initially, he was hesitant due to fear of backlash.

ADP’s principal and owner arrived at the theater and became angry upon learning that work was halted due to safety concerns. The plaintiff insisted on the unsafe nature of the work, which resulted in the principal firing him.

The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against ADP and its principal under California’s Labor Code, claiming retaliation for refusing to participate in unlawful activities. The jury found ADP liable for violating relevant sections of the Labor Code and for whistleblower retaliation. They believed ADP fired the plaintiff with malice, oppression, or fraud. The defendants appealed the decision.

The California Court of Appeal for the Second District, in the case of Zirpel v. Alki David Productions, Inc., upheld the trial court’s judgment in favor of the plaintiff.

The appellate court agreed that there were violations of section 1102.5(c) of the Labor Code, which prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who refuse to engage in unlawful activities. The plaintiff’s continued work at the theater would have violated statutes, rules, or regulations, as indicated by the municipal code violations mentioned in the correction notice.

The court also found a violation of section 1102.5(c) of the Labor Code, which prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who disclose information reasonably believed to be a violation of the law. The plaintiff had reasonable grounds to believe that he was reporting unsafe working conditions and municipal code violations to both ADP and the city inspectors.

Furthermore, the court identified a violation of section 232.5(c) of the Labor Code, which prohibits employers from terminating employees who disclose information about the employer’s working conditions. The plaintiff’s disclosure of unsafe working conditions was a significant factor in his termination, as evidenced by his repeated attempts to inform the principal.

Finally, the appellate court deemed the punitive damages awarded as appropriate, as there was substantial evidence to support ADP and its principal’s reprehensible conduct and the principal’s intentional actions.

In conclusion, the plaintiff’s allegations were upheld by the California Court of Appeal, confirming the validity of the damages awarded by the jury in the case against Alki David Productions, Inc.

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Boosting productivity and employee wellbeing

“The implementation of a nine-day fortnight work model has proven to be a game-changer in terms of flexibility,” according to Kath Nell, chief people officer and HR leader at Crowe Australasia. The firm’s decision to fully adopt this flexible work arrangement for all employees has yielded remarkable results, fostering increased engagement levels among team members and enhancing overall well-being.

Nell expresses her lack of surprise at the popularity of the model, describing it as an attractive and compelling offer for the workforce. Moreover, clients of Crowe, the audit arm and subsidiary of Findex, have also endorsed the new compressed working week (CWW) after witnessing the benefits it offers to auditors. They are now eager to learn more about the logistics and its potential implementation in their businesses.

The nine-day fortnight involves employees working 100% of their contracted time at full productivity but compressed into slightly longer days, totaling just over nine working days instead of the usual ten. The initiative stemmed from an employee survey that revealed 85% of Findex’s workforce, which comprises over 3000 employees, expressed interest in this new work model.

The idea was initially put forward by a couple of motivated executives looking to maintain flexible work arrangements post-pandemic and differentiate Findex in the competitive market, especially when acquiring audit talent was challenging due to travel restrictions.

Following a successful trial period with 340 employees, conducted during the firm’s busiest time of year to thoroughly test its feasibility, the new model was fully implemented across the organization. Skepticism from some quarters about how it could work and what clients might think was quickly dispelled as clients reported a seamless transition with no compromise in service.

From an HR perspective, the transition has been smooth, largely due to strong leadership driving the change and a highly consultative process. Encouraged by the pilot’s success, the program is now being expanded for a trial in Findex’s wealth division.

One of the most gratifying outcomes of the new model was the feedback from a senior partner who reported a positive transformation in her personal life. Having an extra day every fortnight to focus on other aspects outside work had improved her relationship with family and reignited her passion for her job, creating a more engaged and invigorated approach to work.

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Unprepared first-time managers cause stress and discontent

According to a report by Oji Life Lab, a leadership learning solutions company, approximately 40% of U.S. workers experience stress and anxiety related to their first-time managers’ apparent lack of preparedness for leadership roles. The consequences of this situation are evident, with 36% of workers admitting to feeling unmotivated at work, and 21% having trouble sleeping at night. Alarmingly, over a third of the employees expressed a desire to leave their current company altogether.

The main cause of concern among the workers was the lack of leadership skills and training exhibited by their new managers. Key areas where the first-time managers were rated poorly included conflict resolution, handling difficult situations, providing constructive feedback, running productive meetings, and making effective decisions. Oji Life Lab’s co-founder and CEO, Matt Kursh, likened the promotion of individuals to managerial roles without adequate training to asking a surgeon or pilot to learn on the job, emphasizing the need for proper preparation.

A survey involving more than 2,000 U.S. adults revealed that experienced managers received significantly higher ratings for skills such as conflict resolution, running productive meetings, and decision-making. In contrast, employees working under new managers reported a decline in confidence, both in themselves and in the company. The negative impact extended beyond the workplace, affecting their personal lives and relationships as well.

The dissatisfaction with first-time managers was particularly pronounced among workers over the age of 55. A majority of older workers perceived their new managers as weak in areas like conflict resolution and decision-making. Among women, regardless of age, first-time managers had a greater negative impact, with nearly half reporting feelings of stress or anxiety while working with them. Consequently, women were more inclined to consider leaving their companies compared to their male counterparts.

To address this issue, the report emphasized the importance of trainee-centric instruction in effective new manager training. The focus should be on essential leadership habits and their practical application rather than organizational policies or new ideas. Conflict resolution and effective decision-making were highlighted as critical areas that demand attention.

Coaching emerged as a popular method for training workers for management roles, especially for new front-line managers who lack prior experience in leading a team. However, despite the clear demand for managerial training, many workers, particularly in certain industries like retail, face a lack of access to such learning opportunities, hindering their chances of career advancement.

In conclusion, the survey conducted by Oji Life Lab underscores the pressing need for improved training and support for first-time managers in the United States. Addressing the skill gaps in conflict resolution, decision-making, and effective communication will not only alleviate workplace stress and anxiety but also enhance overall productivity and employee retention.

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Sick days dropped by 22%

A study published in BMC Public Health reveals that employee training programs focusing on addressing common mental health concerns in the workplace can significantly reduce stigmatic beliefs and absenteeism. The research conducted at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in the United Kingdom found that this type of program led to a remarkable 22% decrease in recorded sick days among the staff.

The beauty of this program lies in its broad applicability, as it isn’t tailored to a specific workforce but rather addresses general mental health problems. Researchers believe that this approach can be adopted across various organizations and industries worldwide. Nicola Gray, the lead researcher from Swansea University’s School of Psychology, highlighted the importance of early intervention in mental health issues, which are often hidden and worsen over time. The training program, known as “Prevail,” equips individuals with evidence-based psychological techniques to manage and treat common conditions while simultaneously reducing the stigma associated with mental health problems.

The study also shed light on the challenges faced by managers in addressing employees’ mental health needs, especially with the rise of burnout and stress in recent years. By incorporating mental health sensitivity training, leaders can better identify struggling employees and collaborate on finding solutions.

The research targeted several prevalent conditions, including depression, anxiety, and distress caused by various life events such as bereavement, divorce, debt, housing problems, and friendship issues.

In the study, DVLA staff and managers were divided into two groups: one underwent the training sessions, while the other did not. The group that participated in the Prevail program learned valuable psychological techniques, coping mechanisms, and basic mental health literacy to handle common conditions. As a result, this group experienced fewer sick days and reduced mental health stigma. Conversely, the group that did not receive training showed an increase in sick days.

The Prevail program’s unique approach is to equip all employees with the necessary tools to support themselves and their colleagues, friends, or family, rather than merely identifying those who may need help.

Helen Davies, the Head of HR at DVLA, expressed satisfaction with the development and investment in the Prevail program. Many employees reported that Prevail helped them overcome mental health difficulties and enabled them to assist others by sharing the techniques they learned.

The study’s findings reinforce the growing importance of mental health training and benefits, particularly among younger workers. A survey of recent college graduates revealed that nearly all of them believed employers should offer mental and emotional health benefits, with more than a third prioritizing companies that do so during their job search. As mental health awareness continues to rise, initiatives like the Prevail program are likely to gain even more prominence in the years to come.

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