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Returns to the Office Raise Mental Health Challenges – The New York Times

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It’s exceptionally difficult to get someone to crack a smile, let alone laugh, in a corporate event hosted on Zoom, but the comedian Dani Klein Modisett finds ways. One game she likes to play during her laughter workshops involves asking participants to each name five items in a category — for example, things in their refrigerator — as fast as they can, after which everyone else chants: “Those are five things!” Eventually people loosen up. They start giggling. (Maybe you had to be there.)
But in recent months she has noticed attendees logging in to the sessions more tense than ever. Some arrive looking for levity, but also processing tragedy.
“I’m glad I showed up,” one participant said. “But my brother-in-law just died.”
People are going into performance reviews, brainstorming sessions and the office with all kinds of grief, swinging between the banal and the crushing. Small problems feel large. Large problems feel colossal. And with mental health care hard to obtain and afford, workers are trying to fill the gaps.
“There’s this sense of ‘I don’t know how much longer I can keep doing this,’” said Ms. Klein Modisett, whose organization, Laughter on Call, has run over 350 events since its founding three years ago. “We want to hold out the possibility we can laugh, but it’s all becoming too much.”
Even the most scripted Hollywood event went sideways, its typical polish replaced with raw emotion: a slap from one of the film industry’s biggest stars.
“We’re all feeling our way around being together when we don’t know what each other’s state of well-being is,” said Chantalle Couba, 46, a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant in North Carolina. “You go to a three-day off-site — or to the Oscars — and you find out people are different. People are threadbare. They’re very anxious.”
For the past two years, people have struggled to do their work — whether in hospitals or restaurants, in shops or schools — while knotted up with the fear and uncertainty of the Covid-19 crisis.
For the subset of Americans who had the luxury of working from home, their professional lives mirrored their personal ones: upended. They answered emails from their couches, spoke to teammates on Zoom and refashioned daily schedules to accommodate this new remote-work era.
Now, some have gotten the message that their employers are trying to restore an old status quo. Dozens of companies are calling workers back to the office: Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, Chevron, The Washington Post. And some worry that their teams aren’t prepared for the emotional transition awaiting a work force already on edge.
“Gone are the days of put your head down,” said Desiree Coleman-Fry, a diversity, equity and inclusion executive.
In a McKinsey study of more than 2,900 people last year, one-third of those who had just returned to the office said going back had negatively affected their mental health. The will-they-won’t-they saga of office reopenings hasn’t helped, making it tough to prepare for a new routine.
For some workers, there’s the difficulty of giving up habits they formed at home; for others, there’s the prospect of facing slights, insensitive comments and cliques. And many, knowing that they’ve changed in the last two years, don’t feel ready to get reacquainted with their teams.
“So much of our humanity has been exposed,” Ms. Klein Modisett said. “There’s kind of no turning back. We can’t put the genie back in the bottle.”
But the workaday duties drag on, sometimes in jarring contrast to the magnitude of world events. For Kelly McComas, 25, a designer in Brooklyn, the dissonance between following crises in the news and fulfilling her professional obligations is clearest at the start of her meetings. On a recent video call with a team in Poland, she said, the opening moments of the conversation made clear that nobody knew how to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“We kick off a meeting and ask how everything’s going, and they’re like, ‘Well, there’s a war,’” Ms. McComas recalled. “And we’re like, ‘Yeah, there’s a war.’ And then we go into the design meeting.”
Supervisors are finding that they are called on to help people navigate personal challenges, whether or not they have the training to do so. Kim Theobald, head of human resources at RCM&D, an insurance brokerage, started facilitating a weekly call for managers, giving them space to raise questions about how to support workers.
“I’ve had a lot more employees reach out to me due to their anxiety, often saying they can’t pinpoint the reason for it,” Ms. Theobald said. “I’ve had phone calls from managers saying, ‘This is what I did, and I hope I handled it correctly.’”
Some companies are trying to directly address mental health challenges that their staff may be facing. Arrivia, a travel business, said use of its “employee assistance” program, which provides no-cost therapy, had increased tenfold since the start of the pandemic. The company has also surveyed workers about their needs around returning to the office and has written up a plan that puts a priority on flexibility, allowing many people to work from home if they prefer.
Real, a mental health app that offers programming on topics including relationships and body positivity, plans to pilot a four-day workweek, running next week through June, to give employees more time to rest and focus on their families. The idea came from Real’s founder, Ariela Safira, who recognized after the December holidays that she was experiencing a sense of numbness fueled by overwork.
Like Ms. Safira, many mental health professionals are finding this moment just as hard as the clients they serve do. April Koh, founder of Spring Health, a mental health start-up that offers employees access to therapy and other services, recently realized she hadn’t fully dealt with her own pain after being targeted with a racial slur on a street in New York. When her team planned a healing circle to discuss anti-Asian violence, which has increased during the pandemic, Ms. Koh surprised herself as she wrestled publicly with questions about her personal history.
“I hadn’t expected to be so emotional,” she said. “There is kind of a shared mentality, to an extent, among Asian Americans about keeping our head down and staying invisible. It was powerful for me to be so vulnerable.”
She worries that many businesses, which had never before made an effort to address their staff’s mental health, still aren’t being proactive in helping people take care of themselves, especially with insurance plans often offering paltry mental health coverage. The average wait to see a provider was more than 20 days nationally even before the pandemic.
“Some companies take the posture where they say: ‘We’re resilient. We’re all about business. That’s what we’re going to focus on,’” Ms. Koh said. “That’s just not the way to solve problems.”
Apps and even paid time off can do only so much. For many, the angst runs deep, exacerbated by the emotional gap between their work responsibilities and the realities of 2022. Business leaders may talk often about authenticity, yet many of their employees are unsure how to present themselves to colleagues when they’re struggling.
“It feels crazy to be expected to keep your cool and go on with your life,” Ms. McComas said. “I don’t know if I can bring my full self to work anymore because it feels so disingenuous with what’s happening outside work.”
And the vocabulary of the workplace is expanding, as managers try to find the language needed to check in on employees. They’re learning to ask about challenges that go beyond deadlines and deals, conversations that don’t always feel natural in a sterile office environment.
Jennifer Strauel, head of human resources at Arrivia, has heard from employees who experienced sickness, relationship breakdowns and the loss of loved ones.
“We’re getting comfortable using words about feelings instead of just concrete business topics,” Ms. Strauel said.
Audio produced by Adrienne Hurst.
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Russell Wilson quarterback coach Jake Heaps joins Broncos QB in Denver

PARKER, Colo. – On Thursday morning, Jake Heaps spent four hours on the radio airwaves in Seattle, wrapping up his final day as the co-host of a mid-day sports show.
Less than 24 hours later, he found himself walking between fields among roughly 500 campers at Colorado’s Chaparral High School, in the market he’ll be building the next phase of his career and life in.   
Heaps hopped on a plane to get to the greater Denver area for the first of what will be many Russell Wilson Passing Academy camps, having worked with Wilson, the Broncos’ new star quarterback, for the past five years.
Heaps, a Washington native who played quarterback for BYU, Kansas and Miami (Fla.) in college and who spent parts of three offseasons on NFL rosters, will continue to be involved in Wilson’s Passing Academy but also will serve as Wilson’s full-time, private quarterback coach.
“We’ve been doing stuff in the offseason and all that, but with him moving to Denver – for me, my home base was Seattle, so everything was just kind of worked out and it was nice and in sync. But I think to do what we want to accomplish and for Russell, what he wants to accomplish in his career over the next 10 years here in Denver, there’s a lot of things we wanted to do not only for him and his career but for the Denver community from a training aspect and all that,” Heaps told USA TODAY Sports on Friday. “It’s a big change for me personally, but I’m excited to jump two feet in and to work with him super closely and do whatever I can to be at his best.
“That’s what it’s really about.”
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Heaps and Wilson first crossed paths when Heaps spent an offseason on the Seahawks roster and then part of the 2016 campaign on the franchise’s practice squad.
“I was on and off the roster for two years and we really just connected through the work,” Heaps said. “He saw how hard I worked. I tried to beat him to the facility every day and we grew a bond through that. I got a random phone call from (Wilson) asking to fly out and come train him at UCLA and said sure. We’ve been together ever since. It’s been really cool to have that friendship and to have that trust that he has in me and have honest conversations and to evaluate his game and do whatever I can to help him be better. Whether that’s making things that he’s struggled with better or just maintaining what he’s doing.
“He’s one of the best in the world, so it’s not like you’re wholesale trying to change everything every year, it’s just trying to make him 1% better every year and find ways where he can be better and stay sharp and be on top of things.”  
Wilson, of course, is learning a new offense in Denver under first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett, who has made it clear that the playbook building has been a collaborative effort between the offensive staff and the quarterback.
The system, though, is at least somewhat familiar to Wilson because he played for offensive coordinator Shane Waldron last fall in Seattle after Waldron coached the previous four years with the Los Angeles Rams under head coach Sean McVay. Hackett, meanwhile, spent the past three years with another member of that McVay and Kyle Shanahan coaching tree in Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur.  
“There’s a lot of mental aspects of what you’ve got to work on and make sure (Wilson’s) sharp on the new plays and new aspects of the playbook, testing him and quizzing him and all those things,” Heaps said. … “There’s familiarity there, but it’s been really cool to watch everybody work together to mesh this thing and make everyone comfortable from the coaching staff to Russell to the guys on the team. It’s been really awesome and, honestly, I’m blown away from where they are at this point in the offseason with the install and where everybody’s at.”
Before the offseason program began, Wilson hosted the Broncos’ wide receivers plus center Lloyd Cushenberry at his home in Southern California to get several days’ worth of work in and build chemistry. The quarterback said recently they’ll be reconvening again next month before Denver’s training camp begins July 27.
“We’ll let guys get away. We’ve been going for 2.5 months now, it feels like, so we’ll let the guys get away, spend family time, do whatever they need to do, travel, whatever it is,” Wilson said. “The last couple weeks we’ll really spend some time before we come back. We’ll spend some quality time down in Southern California.”
Wilson, like a few other top-tier quarterbacks, has built an operation around himself that is designed to help him excel despite all the time spent away from the facility. One week, between a Thursday OTA practice and a Tuesday practice, Wilson and his wife Ciara traveled to the Monaco Grand Prix and back. On another off weekend, he flew to Dartmouth College, the alma mater of his late father and several other family members, to give a commencement address. A couple weeks before that, he was at a Seattle Children’s Hospital event on an off-day. 
Joked teammate Melvin Gordon: “When you’re making $30-some million a year, you can private jet around wherever you want. He’s all about football, though, man. He’s locked in. There’s no other way to put it.”  
Wilson, for his part, described the importance of the people around him. 
“Having an amazing team, my performance team comes with me everywhere I go. My assistant helps with everything,” he said last week. “Everybody’s super organized so there’s never wasted space, and I think that’s the key thing. There’s never wasted space.”
Heaps is a full-time member of that team now. He’ll be in California for the offseason training sessions and then back in Denver to help Wilson get ready for the regular season. Simultaneously, he’ll be part of the group that works to build out the RWPA camps, develop more high-end quarterback training opportunities here and continue to broaden the way Wilson’s presence is felt in Denver.
“He wants to be great. He already is great, but what he wants to accomplish over the second half of his career, he wants it to be special and I think he has the ability to do that in Denver,” Heaps said. “This organization has been fantastic from Day One with him and the guys have been fantastic. Obviously, this is the honeymoon phase and everything is great, everything’s special, but I truly believe that they’ve got what it takes to really make some noise and accomplish the goals that they all have.”

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Sis Wins Gold Medal With USA Volleyball at Pan American Cup – GoCreighton.com

Volleyball 6/12/2022 11:55:00 PM by Rob Anderson
Volleyball 6/12/2022 11:55:00 PM by Rob Anderson
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Sexual, Physical Abuse Allegations Hit Ex-USA Volleyball Coach – The College Post


The former head coach of the University of South Alabama (USA) women’s volleyball team has been hit with sexual harassment allegations and other serious charges. 
Another victim has accused Alexis Meeks-Rydell of physical and psychological abuse, bringing the total number of accusers to nine.
In the new complaint, former USA student-athlete Cassadi Colbert alleged that Meeks-Rydell convened “breakfast clubs” where players would be instructed “to run and do other physical drills” early in the morning until they vomited or passed out from exhaustion. 
According to court documents, the practice caused Colbert extreme stress, anxiety, and distress. Colbert said Meeks-Rydell also behaved inappropriately, engaging in unwanted physical touching, such as forced hugging and pinching students’ buttocks.
The Plaintiffs claim that USA Athletic Director Joel Erdmann and former volleyball assistants Rob Chilcoat and Patricia Gandalfo were aware of the situation but did not intervene. The university declined to comment on the addition of Colbert’s lawsuit.
Rachael DeMarcus and Alexis Silver are former athletes who filed a similar lawsuit last August against Meeks-Rydell. It was later amended to include six other USA alumni. 
The initial complaint said the ex-head coach allegedly enforced “a climate of fear and intimidation” among the team. She would overtrain her players and force them to play or practice through injuries. 
“Plaintiffs’ athletic and academic aspirations were negatively, severely and irreparably impacted, damaged and ruined by the misconduct,” according to the complaint.
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