In a society that rewards 70+ hour work-weeks and “sleeping when you’re dead,” Nike is making headlines by closing their corporate offices for an entire week. In an effort to emphasize mental health awareness, the team at Nike is showing us that in order to “Just Do It,” sometimes we need a pause.
Nike’s intentional closing-week comes following the company’s May announcement of the flexible work schedule for certain locations, offering employees a three-two work schedule, allowing the option to work remotely for two days of the week. The planned week off was first announced on LinkedIn — Matt Marrazzo, Senior Manager of Global Marketing Science at Nike, posted that the intention behind the break stemmed from the last year or so, acknowledging that “taking time for rest and recovery is key to performing well and staying sane.”
This year especially has emphasized the need for mental health care and checking in, both in and out of the office. Back in 2012, America’s swimming hero, Michael Phelps, revealed that he experienced depression and contemplated suicide following the 2012 Olympics. Earlier this year, Sports Illustrated told us the struggle of four of our baseball players, including Tampa Bay Ray pitcher, Ryan Sherriff. In the article, Sherriff shared how he knew when it was time to leave. “No emotions. No adrenaline. Nothing. We’re winning — 2-0. Seventh Inning … What am I doing here if I don’t feel a damn thing?’” The article revealed that shortly after Sherriff walked away, Angels pitcher Ty Buttrey, 28, retired from baseball; days later, Diamondbacks pitcher Chris Devenski, 30, left baseball for personal reasons. Additionally, several players have taken time away in the last 2 years especially to handle issues related to depression, racial injustice, and the burdens and pressure the job can bring.
The awareness continued this year through our powerful female athletes, receiving both backlash and support for putting themselves first. Naomi Osaka made the decision to drop out of the U.S. French Open, stating the effect press conferences had taken on her mental health. Osaka was fined $15,000 and was threatened with suspension for refusal to appear at a tournament press conference. She later shared, “I communicated I wanted to skip press conferences … to exercise self-care and preservation of my mental health. … I stand by that. Athletes are humans.” Further, Simone Biles made waves in July when USA Gymnastics announced on Twitter that Biles had withdrawn from the final individual-all around competition at the Tokyo Olympics. In a vulnerable interview with Sporting News, Biles reminds us that “[athletes] are human too and [they] have emotions and feelings and things [they’re] working through behind the scenes.”
While athletes world-wide are voicing their struggles with mental health, the issue continues in employees working both from home and back in the office. According to a report published by the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) surveying adults across the U.S. in June 2020, 31% of responding participants reported symptoms of depression or anxiety, 13% reported a start or increase in substance abuse, 26% reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, and 11% reported having serious thoughts of suicide in the past month. (Statistics) Factors contributing to the statistics include feelings of stress, burnout, financial concerns, and isolation and loneliness, among others.
While the voice for mental health awareness and support is getting louder, one thing is clear — brands and companies alike are listening. Publicly backing both athletes and employees, Nike is following the likes of other companies taking action to protect mental health, including Bumble’s company-wide week-long vacation, and LinkedIn’s paid-vacation to allow employees to recharge.
Marrazzo reminds us that the employees’ week off is not just a break, but rather, “an acknowledgment that we can prioritize mental health and still get work done.”
Well done, Nike — for telling us when to Just Do It, and for allowing us the space to know when not to.
Associated Press, Naomi Osaka Fined at French Open, Threatened With Disqualification for Avoiding Media, Sports Illustrated, May 30, 2021. https://www.si.com/tennis/2021/05/30/naomi-osaka-fined-french-open-skip-press-conference
The Athletic Staff, Michael Phelps on Simone Biles, mental health: ‘It’s OK to not be OK’, The Athletic, July 28, 2021. https://theathletic.com/news/michael-phelps-on-simone-biles-mental-health-its-ok-to-not-be-ok/nVaL238ANGo7
Brito, Christopher, Naomi Osaka opens up about mental health, urges “measures to protect athletes, especially the fragile ones,” CBS, July 8, 2021. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/naomi-osaka-mental-health-ok-not-ok/
Camenker, Jacob, Simone Biles opens up about mental health: ‘We’re not just athletes or entertainment. We’re human too,’ Sporting News, August 4, 2021. https://www.sportingnews.com/us/athletics/news/simone-biles-mental-health-athletes/2wda61k16m84zzjgam0iz7ye
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USA Gymnastics Twitter. https://twitter.com/USAGym/status/1420266286441922562?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1420266286441922562%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es1_c10&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fpublish.twitter.com%2F%3Fquery%3Dhttps3A2F2Ftwitter.com2FUSAGym2Fstatus2F1420266286441922562widget%3DTweet
Vasel, Kathryn, To prevent burnout, LinkedIn is giving its entire company the week off, CNN Business, April 5, 2021. https://www.cnn.com/2021/04/02/success/linkedin-paid-week-off/index.html
Verducci, Tom, Baseball’s Mental Health Reckoning, Sports Illustrated, April 20, 2021. https://www.si.com/mlb/2021/04/20/mlb-mental-health-reckoning-daily-cover
Wade, Reggie, Nike eyes phased return to office with ‘flexible model,’ targets Sept. for HQ workers, Yahoo, May 13, 2021. https://finance.yahoo.com/news/nike-plans-to-begin-its-return-to-the-office-with-flexible-model-150514311.html
Ziady, Hannah, Nike backs Naomi Osaka after she withdraws from French Open, CNN Business, June 3, 2021. https://www.cnn.com/2021/06/01/business/naomi-osaka-nike-sponsors/index.html