Star American gymnast Simone Biles has hit the headlines this week after she decided to pull out of the Tokyo Olympics’ women’s gymnastics team final due to mental health concerns.
This came after she performed a routine on the vault, for which she received her lowest ever Olympic score: 13.766.
Following her exit, she told reporters: “After the performance I did, I just didn’t want to go on.
“I have to focus on my mental health. I just think mental health is more prevalent in sports right now.
“I didn’t want to go out and do something stupid and get hurt. I feel like a lot of athletes speaking up has really helped.
“It’s so big, it’s the Olympic Games. At the end of the day we don’t want to be carried out of there on a stretcher.”
Her decision has received a mixed reaction on social media and in the press.
While Biles herself thanked her supporters for all their love on Twitter, many, particularly right-wing commentators, have criticized her move.
For instance, Piers Morgan, former editor of the UK’s Daily Mirror and ex-co-anchor of Good Morning Britain, tweeted:
However, a new study by US outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas has found that Biles’ difficult decision to prioritize her mental health and the needs of her team is indicative of broader trends in the US labor market.
The outplacement firm surveyed 172 HR and business leaders across the US during July and found that 68% were concerned about an exodus of talent, and 59% noted that the reason for the upcoming so-called ‘Great Resignation’ was to do with worker burnout.
Linked to this, 75% of companies cited that employees wanted more flexibility at work; importantly, this was not just in terms of where they work, but also when.
Challenger, Grey & Christmas senior vice-president Andrew Challenger commented: “For many Americans, after nearly 18 months of lockdowns and precautions, doing their work every day is like trying to light a used match.
“Add to that, mounting pressure to work in-person, any child care or health care issues, and now rising COVID cases nationwide, it’s no wonder workers increasingly are leaving jobs.
“Simone Biles is like so many American workers: dedicated, talented, and instrumental team members making the difficult decision to do what they think is best in the face of unprecedented pressures.”
To try and retain workers, the survey found that 63% were offering new incentives with 15% saying they were offering these to their entire workforce.
The main incentives they are offering are around flexible working with the aim of tackling burnout – with 65% of those surveyed offering flexible hours, 62% offering remote working options and 53% providing hybrid working arrangements – and others were offering higher pay and cash bonuses to support those leaving because of low pay.
“Many workers have used the pandemic to reprioritize what is most important in their lives, and reassess what they want to do in their careers. Money is just a piece of that,” added Challenger.
“Workers also want to be able to walk their dogs during the day and know they have opportunities for advancement.”