September 12, 2014

How to help a co-worker who is burning out

One day at work, one of my co-workers put her face into her hands and screamed. It was bizarre. All of us just watched, not really sure how to react. After a few minutes went by, the screaming got louder.

She was having a HUGE meltdown and it felt like acknowledging it might make it worse. I know that burnout happens. But watching it happen feels awful. For weeks, this co-worker, a single mother, had complained to me about having too much on her plate. When I arrived at the office, she was there. When I left, she was there.

Burn out has ended more than a few careers. But is it possible to help prevent a co-worker or even a boss from burning out?  In most companies, hard work is rewarded with more work. Should anyone step in when they see someone who can't seem to strike a work life balance? 

CareerCast.com says "We usually reach the point of being burned up when we try and tough out unpleasant work-related situations without an effective strategy. We ignore the signs of unhappiness, make excuses for the miserable way we feel on the job, justify staying on the job with any number of reasons, and gradually fall into a downward spiral where our motivation to change the situation is gone and, running on fumes becomes running on empty."

While it may be hard to recognize in ourselves, burn out could be easier to recognize in our co-workers. So, if we see some like my co-worker on the verge of a meltdown, what should be do about it?

CareerCast.com offers these suggestions:

 

  • 1. Urge your co-worker to seek help from a trained mental health professional who treats work-related problems.

 

  • 2. Step in with a gentle suggestion before the problem becomes so severe your co-worker loses his or her job or burns bridges.

 

  • 3. Urge your co-worker to consult a career counselor to find out if he or she has other career and work interests at a new and possibly different type of job, profession or career.

 

  • 4. Let your co-worker know that just because he or she is burned out on a current job or in a current role, doesn't mean it will necessarily be the same on a new job or new position. Circumstances change and, with it, a different job could lead to increased energy and a more positive frame of mind.

 

After my co-worker's complete crash, she was encouraged by her boss to take a long weekend. When she came back to work, she was offered a  less stressful, lower paying position at the same company. I encouraged her to take it, although it meant she has to live more frugally. 

A year later she seems much more in control of her work life balance and happier at work. 

Lot of us see co-workers every day who can't or don't make time for a personal life. Sometimes it is by choice. Sometimes he or she feels the company expects a 24/7 commitment.

Have your ever witnessed a co-worker burning out? Do you feel a responsibility to say or do so something? 

 

September 08, 2014

Would a pay raise improve your work life balance?

 

                                   Pay raise

 

 

What would you do with a raise?

Would you make changes that would make your home and work life easier? Would you buy a more reliable car to drive to work?  Or how about hiring someone to care for your elderly parent while you're not home?

My son gets minimum wage as a bus boy at a local pizza restaurant. He works like a dog for each cent he brings home. Still, he doesn't think a small increase would make a big difference for the dishwasher who works a second job to support his family. I disagree and have told him that every penny counts when you are living paycheck to paycheck.

Across the country, fast food workers have been rallying for higher wages, trying to get food businesses to pay at least $15 an hour. Now that's a significant increase from the $7.93 a cook at a Miami fast food joint says he makes. The cook says that extra $7 an hour would  allow him to pay rent and have enough left to buy an ample supply of food for his family.

White collar workers are struggling, too. In some workplaces, staffers haven't seen a pay jump in at least five years -- even if they are busting their butts.

The good news is U.S. employers are planning to give pay raises averaging 3 percent  in 2015, on par with the 2.9 percent average raise in 2014 and 2013, according to a survey of nearly 1,100 U.S. companies by compensation consultant Towers Watson.

A small raise is better than no raise, right? But what if you feel like you're working harder than your colleagues?

Who gets a raise and why can create major contention. Employees believe that employers are falling short in how pay decisions are made, and that there is much need for improvement,'' says  Towers Watson managing director Laury Sejen. Only half believe they are paid fairly. Their big gripe is that employers are not differentiating pay for top performers as much as they have been in recent years.

The median annual salary among the nation's 106.6 million workers is now about $40,560, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"Base pay is the No. 1 reason why employees join a company or choose to leave,'' Sejen told USA Today.  "So there's value in companies making the effort to improve base pay."

Would a pay raise make a difference in your work life balance? How significant a raise would you need to see a real different in your lifestyle?

September 05, 2014

Work Life Balance Joan Rivers' Way

                                                 Joan

 

Life was not always easy for Joan Rivers, but in her struggle to balance her life as a comedian with her role as a mother and wife, she had one thing going for her. Joan liked to laugh.

It was humor that took her through the toughest times in her life.

Humor. 

Joan made jokes about issues that others considered taboo: Her husband's suicide. Her plastic surgery. Her weight. Her so-called lack of sex appeal. Her husband's one leg. 

For Joan,  it was work that fulfilled her, the pursuit of laughter. Joan never relaxed, always looking for the next and better punchline, according to her obituary. It was a trait that kept Joan in the limelight --  even at age 81.  

During a brief time in the 1980s, Joan's career seemed in shambles.  She even became estranged from her daughter. Struggling with grief, Joan made jokes: "Think positive. Make a list. One, I don't life in Bosnia. Two, I never dated O.J."

In the end, it wasn't just Joan's ability to laugh at herself that I found admirable. It was the close relationship she eventually formed with her daughter, the way she eased Melissa into show business and the way she was proud for the world to see her as a mother and career woman. 

When your morning routine goes awry, your client gives you grief or you have an argument with your spouse, kid or boss, think about Joan. Would she melt down, or laugh it off? Would she say it is just too hard to overcome the setbacks that life throws your way? Or, would she turn up the raunchy humor and pursue on?

The New York Times says, that around Joan's 80th birthday when an interviewer asked her whether she planned to retire, there was no laughter in her voice as she replied, "And do what?"

Clearly, it wasn't fame and fortune that Joan was after. She drew fulfillment from an audience that enveloped her in laughter.

R.I.P. Joan and may we all incorporate the lessons you taught us into our work life balancing acts. If we follow your lead, we will know what fulfills us in life, use laughter to release stress, and never give up when the going gets tough.

 

September 03, 2014

Who to go to for advice

A few nights a week, my husband and I walk around the neighborhood for exercise and talk about our days. We often discuss work related problems that come up in a typical day. While neither of us asks for advice, it's natural to give it.  Often, we view the same scenario differently and give suggestions the other person never considered. 

Knowing how I interact with my husband, I often have felt that my boss' spouse had more influence on my future at a company than any other high level manager.  A new survey proves me right.  Most CEOs admit they consider their spouses the person they turn to first for advice on tough business decisions, more than senior members of their staff. 

According to a survey from the staffing firm Adecco, 37 percent of CEOs and business owners say the opinion of their spouse is what matters most to them. This is followed by their head of business development department (16 percent) and operations department (13 percent).  

“A spouse can be someone to discuss ideas or decisions off of without judgment or agenda. If you’re in a partnership with someone, you hold their thoughts and opinions very highly,” Joyce Russell, president of Adecco Staffing in the US told Business News Daily. 

For most of us, seeking advice is tricky -- particularly from a significant other. While I appreciate the business advice my husband gives me, at times, resisting it has created marital tension. Sometimes, when I just want to vent, he chimes in with a solution that I don't want to hear. 

My friend Jill, who owns her own business, says it has taken her a long time to ask for her husband's advice without feeling guilty if she doesn't take it or getting upset by his more practical appraoch to problem solving. She's convinced listening to her inner gut or her female mentor, rather than her spouse, has led to better business decisions.

Have you ever taken — or totally resisted — business advice from your spouse/significant other? Do you feel like your spouse knows you best and guides you well or doesn't asking for advice open the door to resentment or problems down the road?

 

August 29, 2014

Will you unplug on Labor Day?

Any big plans for the long weekend? Do your big plans include unplugging from your electronic devices?

Be honest. I bet your weekend plans don't include going device free.  I just read a Facebook entry from a friend who says she is going device free for the Labor Day weekend. She bid us all farewell until Tuesday. Good for her, right?

Of course, the rest of us can't bring ourselves to do it. We want to spend quality time just chilling out...but our mobile devices are sooo alluring.  As the Wall Street Journal points out:  everyone has a different pain threshold for disconnecting.

In a recent survey by CivicScience, 70% of U.S. respondents said they unplug from their gadgets once or week or less. Some 43% said they don’t unplug from personal electronics at all. That's a lot of people to say they never unplug.

A new AAA survey shows 34.7 million Americans — the most since Labor Day 2008 — plan to travel 50 miles or more from home. Sounds like a lot of you are planning for a fun weekend.

Think about it. If you can escape your electronic gadget, maybe you can bid summer farewell without thinking about work or staying up late surfing the web. Give it try. Maybe all of us can return to work Tuesday feeling refreshed.

Happy Labor Day!

 

 

 

August 27, 2014

Work Life Balance When Your Child Leaves For College

I just have experienced work life balance in a whole new way. I took my daughter to college hundreds of miles away from home.

The reality of this life event is something for which a parent never can fully prepare. It is bittersweet realization: I have one less child to cook for, one less lunch to pack for school and one less schedule of activities to coordinate.

As I kissed my daughter goodbye, I reminisced about the night I got stuck working really late at the office and cried because my babysitter had put her to bed before I had returned home. I felt guilty and crushed that I had missed an entire day of my infant’s young life. If only I knew then that work life balance was less about one day and more about the next 18 years.

The truth is I enjoy the chaos that has ruled my life as I have juggled writing deadlines with chauffeuring her to soccer practice, sleepovers and movies with friends. It was through that chaos that I built a bond with her that will only strengthen as it evolves.

Now, I face a new reality: My daughter becoming independent doesn’t just mean that I suddenly have more free time. It means that my entire home life has shifted in ways I had not anticipated. Walking past her quiet bedroom, the change is a tough adjustment. But watching her explore her passions in life is going to be exciting.

With two children still at home, I am savoring the daily chores that I used to consider annoyances. I am packing lunches with a new appreciation and giving homework help with more enthusiasm. Suddenly, I see a future where my balancing act gets easier and my mom duties less needed. I’m not sure I will ever be prepared for that life transition. For now, I’m trying my best to shake off the feeling that my chest is a bit heavier and my house a bit emptier. 

 

August 19, 2014

Working parents biggest fears

I shouldn't say I'm shocked but I am. How is it that in 2014, at a time when most mothers and fathers work, we still fear that we will be fired when our family needs interfere with work demands?

It's interesting that men almost fear bringing up child care issues with their boss more than women do. A dad I know once told me I was lucky that I had a flexible work arrangement and said his boss would get angry if he asked for one. I urged him to ask but I don't think he ever did. 

A new Bright Horizons Modern Family Index survey of 1,000 working moms and dads with at least one child under 18 still in the home shows:

  • working parents fear family responsibilities could get them fired
  • fathers are just as stressed and insecure about work and family conflicts as mothers
  • 39 percent of parents fear being denied a raise because of family responsibilities
  • 37 percent of parents fear they will never get promoted while 26 percent worry about a demotion because of family responsibilities
  • 22 percent worry that family commitments will cost them key projects at work
  • 19 percent believe they won’t be invited to important meetings because of family obligations
  • Working parents are nervous to bring up key family-related issues with their employers

That's a lot of fear, isn't it? We all know that business is about making profit or showing performance but workers are the ones who make that happen. When we have to choose between leaving a sick kid home alone or going to work, that's a tough choice we shouldn't have to make.

Here's something all employers should note: . Those working parents who do feel supported by their employer report strong loyalty.

David Liss, CEO of Bright Horizons Family Solutions, said it well:  "it is clear that working parents throughout the U.S. are still struggling to manage all of their responsibilities, and many still feel that they cannot be honest with their supervisors about needing to be available and active in their family lives."

As a working parent, showing vulnerability to the wrong boss can be career suicide. And so, out of fear, we lie. In the survey working parents -- moms and dads --  admitted to lying or bending the truth to their boss about family responsibilities that get in the way of work. Some revealed they have faked sick to meet family obligations. Others said they lied about missing a work event because of a family commitment or the reason why they didn't respond to emails.

Again, all very pathetic but shockingly understandable.

Over my years as a working parent, I found a supportive boss makes all the difference in being a successful working parent and achieviing work life balance. If I hadn't had a supportive boss when my kids were really little, I couldn't have kept my job. The survey shows 41 percent of working parents agree with me.

Have you ever been fearful that family needs will get you fired? Do you think fathers get less of a break at work and have more reason to be fearful than mothers?

August 18, 2014

Back to School: A teacher's work life balance

As we struggle with work life balance and adjusting to new school routines, we think teachers have it easier than we do because they already are at school - and/or have school hours -  and can be involved in their kid's education.

 

 

Not so, says Kerri Medina, a former teacher turned college adviser who reached out to me. Below is her perspective as the new school year kicks in. I think you will find it insightful:

 

Kerri2 (1)

 I worked for the Miami-Dade County Public School System for 11 years and have a son who is 15 years old and starting his 10th grade year. In all of my time working for the school system, I was rarely able to attend his school events, shows, be a room parent, be active in the PTA, volunteer for school events, or anything else school-related because I worked the same hours the events were taking place.

I wasn't able to even do something as simple as dropping children off the first day of school, which for most parents is an exciting time with their children. Unfortunately, educators are unable to share in this experience. For me this was especially painful his first day of kindergarten. I always thought it sad and ironic that those involved in education in many cases can't be as active as they might like in their own child's school.

This past year I left the school system and became an independent college adviser at International College Counselors. This last year, for the first time, I was able to drop my son off the first day (and any day I needed, or wanted to), attend my son's school performances (he's a musician at New World School of Arts), go on any field trip I wanted to, serve on the board of the PTSA, and really feel like an involved parent at my son's school.

I am thrilled to still remain in education, but now have a better work/life balance through my company's flexibility. I noticed the same scenario of other parents who were involved in education, that although they were making a huge impact on other students' lives, they oftentimes couldn't be involved in their own child's school.  

For most part with my son, I still take a minimalist approach. I do what I need to do to make sure he’s on track. I have never rushed a project to school for the child who forgot it,because I couldn’t do it before. Now, I'm still letting my son take the lead when comes to school work.  

As a working, single mother, I am constantly balancing work and life in many ways. But now, as the new school year arrives, I can approach it differently and strike a better balance. 

 

August 14, 2014

Do you have hurrying sickness? How to slow things down

Slow-down-and-enjoy-the-moment

 

 

For the last week I have been touring colleges with my son who is entering his senior year. We have been on the go in big cities and it's been a challenge to find time to return calls or check email. At night, instead of logging on, I fall into bed exhausted. I know I should be completely focused on him. It's one of the few times when I will have an opportunity to spend one on one time with him for this long.

But there's a part of me that's wracked with anxiety about the emails that need to be returned and calls that need to be made. Yesterday, I hurried through lunch with him to check my email before we rushed to our next campus visit. I actually told him to hurry up and eat lunch faster. Now, I feel guilty about it. What will I remember a few weeks from now - the emails I returned or the amazing conversation I would have had over a more leisurely meal?

In her book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, Arianna Huffington notes: "mastering the art of slowing down doesn’t happen quickly. Learning the wisdom of slowing down, of truly living, is itself a journey. But it is also a prescription for better health.”

I admit I have hurrying sickness. Do you have it too? How many times a day do you find yourself thinking "hurry up" or saying it aloud to your kid or spouse? 

In her book, Arianna writes: “In the summer of 2013, a blog post on The Huffington Post became an unexpected overnight sensation, with more than 7 million page views and nearly 1.2 million Facebook likes. It was entitled “The Day I Stopped Saying ‘Hurry Up,’ ” and was written by Rachel Macy Stafford, a special education teacher and mother of a six-year-old girl. Rachel’s life, as she writes, was “controlled by electronic notifications, ringtones, and jam-packed agendas.” But one day she painfully realized the impact she was having on her daughter—“a laid-back, carefree, stop-and-smell-the-roses type of child”: “I was a bully who pushed and pressured and hurried a small child who simply wanted to enjoy life.

It is painful to discover I have the hurrying sickness. I actually felt guilty about leisurely eating lunch when I thought I could squeeze in a few minutes of clearing email.

But what I have overlooked when I am rushing from one task to the next are the rewards of slowing down. Leisurely eating helps you to feel full. Leisurely walking helps you to de-stress.  Leisurely listening allows you to pick up on what your child or spouse might not actually be verbalizing

I have been warned that the art of slowing down doesn't happen quickly.  It's a journey. And, for me, it's one well worth trying to embark on, particularly when I think about the message I'm sending to my kids. 

As Arianna notes: "While hurry sickness isn't inherited, it’s clear that we’re doing a pretty good job of passing our self-destructive relationship with time on to our children.”

With this realization, I am taking the first step on my journey to slowing down my  rush through life. I am going to ask my son his thoughts on our college visits and I am going to listen patiently to his response - regardless of how many emails pile up.  If we try, we can all see the path to an improved quality of life. All we have to do is take it.

August 07, 2014

The business of work life balance

In my 12 years of writing about work life balance, I have watched it become a giant industry, and I would venture to say it is only going to get bigger. All of us are struggling to create boundaries with technology making that an increasing challenge.

I thought it was time to highlight the industry's evolution. Where do you think the industry is headed?

BY CINDY KRISCHER GOODMAN
BALANCEGAL@GMAIL.COM
At Perry Elllis corporate offices, a group of employees are gathered in the company conference room, stretching into various poses and and taking deep breaths. At the front of the room, a yoga teacher from Green Monkey gives instruction. In the increasing struggle for zen, yoga businesses like Green Monkey have discovered opportunity: a demand for restoring balance to stressed out workers.

The work/life balance industry now encompasses venders and consultants who make money selling services to employers increasingly concerned with wellness, engagement, morale and productivity. Workplace wellness alone has become a nearly $2 billion industry, projected to hit $2.9 billion by by 2016, according to a study by consultants IBIS World.

Newer to the scene are service providers who appeal to individuals — working mothers and fathers or stressed-out leaders — looking to take tasks off their plate, bring order to their lives or create easier ways to work remotely. The category includes personal shoppers and trainers, virtual assistants, meditation leaders, elder care consultants and life coaches.

What has changed most in the evolution of the industry is widespread acknowledgment that work/life balance is not a problem just for women or a concern that is going to be solved — but rather an ongoing challenge. “The recognition has made work/life balance the subject du jour,” says Jim Bird, founder of WorkLifeBalance.com. “It’s something people look at when considering a job or deciding whether to take a promotion and it’s probably the No. 1 reason people quit their jobs.”

Fueling the focus on work/life issues is research. Quantifying stress, distraction, perks, engagement and productivity has become a business in itself, with academics and consulting firms spitting out surveys on the factors behind dissatisfaction and turnover.

Inevitably the research points out one crucial finding: Employees are struggling more than ever before with the demands on their time. Though many companies remain reluctant to hire large numbers of new employees and beef up salaries, almost all large employers now survey employees on job satisfaction and work/life balance. Using results, the company typically goes on to provide some benefit to alleviate work/life friction and improve productivity.

“From an employer perspective, it’s no longer just about helping employees,” explains Rose Stanley, a work/life practice leader at WorkatWork, a nonprofit HR association for organizations focused on strategies to attract and retain a productive workforce. “It’s about tying it back into business strategy.”

Case in point: An estimated one million workers miss work each day because of stress, costing companies an estimated $602 per employee per year, according to HeathAdvocate.com.

Providers such as Bright Horizons Family Solutions are catering to employer demand. Twenty-eight years ago, when Bright Horizons CEO Dave Lissy approached a Fortune 500 company to offer on-site childcare to employees, the HR director’s first reaction was to ask why, he says. Today, “why “ is obvious and that same employer company now uses Bright Horizons Family Solutions also to provide employees with back-up elder care, elder care case management, sick-child care and other work life benefits such as college or educational advising.

“The core issue of child care remains a challenge for companies and their workers,” Lissy says. “What has changed is an acknowledgment of other key life-stage issues that cause the same friction. Companies now show more of an appetite to address those multiple issues.”

Bright Horizons, now a public company based in Watertown, Mass., has close to 1,000 corporate clients; in 2013, it grossed $1.2 billion in revenue. Lissy predicts even more growth. “Time is on our side. Those organizations who don't offer help with work/life concerns will be behind in a world where human capital is the competitive advantage.”

Emerging from the recession, employers are hiring vendors to structure flexibility programs as a tool for innovation rather than just as a benefit. They are tapping stress-reduction experts as a way to increase productivity.

Atlanta-based WorkLifeBalance.com is an 8-year-old company that sells training programs on time management, stress management and work/life balance, both online and on site. CEO Jim Bird said his company has seen an increasing interest from employers, not only of white-collar but also of blue-collar workers, who want to re-engage employees by helping them help themselves. “They are doing it for bottom line reasons,” he says.

Service providers who sell directly to individuals are finding success with a variety of approaches. In South Florida, for instance, Green Monkey has built its meditation/yoga business on the motto “Live in Balance,” targeting stress out workers of all ages and both genders. In six years, it has grown from one studio to three. It also has attracted more than 20 corporate clients with its on-site yoga programs.

Elizabeth King has found a niche in work/life conferences targeted at businesswomen. A licensed psychotherapist, King was running International Holistic Center in Fort Lauderdale when she noticed an increase in women suffering from adrenal fatigue. “They were stressed out and overwhelmed.”

Her answer: Suits, Stilettos and Lipstick, an annual conference in Fort Lauderdale addressing such concerns as making time for romance, health and spirituality. The event draws about 500 women. Her third conference, slated for Sept. 12, will focus on coping skills. “I want to help women build their careers without sacrificing their health and identities,” she says.

Of course, as the industry booms, new “consultants” are following the money. Some, such as life coaches and meditation instructors, may not have training or certification.

“Don’t fall prey to people who are not trained professionals,” King warns. “Work/life balance is a growing business, but if people are selective and ask the questions, only those vendors with experience and credentials will survive.”