« November 2009 | Main | January 2010 »

11 posts from December 2009

December 28, 2009

Women's movement gets an incomplete

Once in a while, something you read reflects everything you believe.  Ellen Goodman, syndicated Washington Post Writers Group Columnist, was poignant in describing our country's struggle with work life balance in her farewell column on Sunday.  

Ellen goodman Four decades after Goodman was sent out to cover a brand new phenomenon called the women's movement, she sums up the distance women have traveled with this description: Advance and backlash, forward march and stall-out. Goodman says she never expected that more than two-thirds of mothers would be in the work force before we had enough child care or sick pay.

She writes: "As a young mother and reporter, it did not occur to me that my daughter would face the same conflicts of work and family. Or. on the other hand, that my son-in-law would fully share those conflicts."

Here's the paragraph of her column I found especially insightful: "My generation _ WOMEN _  though the movement would advance on two legs With one, we'd kick down the doors closed to us. With the other, we'd walk through, changing society for men and women. It turned out that it was easier to kick down the doors than to change society. It was easier to fit into traditional male life patterns to the change those patterns. We've had more luck winning the equal right to 70-hour weeks than we've had selling the equal value of care-giving. We have yet to solve the problem raised at the outset: who will take care of the family?

How true is this observation: "So many think their problems -- especially balancing work and family -- are private dilemmas to be solved on their own rather than as, well, a movement."

Goodman says if the women's movement were a course, she'd give it an incomplete. I agree with her. So where do we go from here? As we head into the next decade of the century, I want to believe that the struggle for balance will become easier for young mothers. I wonder if we will be able to advance it as the cause of many.

Do you see the struggle for work life balance as an individual dilemma or do you see it as something that women  _ and men _ should fight for as part of a movement?

December 23, 2009

Big Fat Lessons of 2009

Did you manage to find work/life balance in 2009? If not, did you at least learn some lessons about work and life that you would care to share?

Gina Gina Rudan of GenuineInsights.com became an entrepreneur this year and learned 10 Big Fat Lessons. She was kind enough to share them:

Lesson 1. Fear always seems bigger than it really is. Next time you experience a feeling of fear visualize a tiny drop of water and realize this is the actual size of your fear. It's minute and will dissolve in seconds when you add a dash of hope.

Lesson 2. When your work is your play and your play is your work then and only then does life really begin for you. As adults we forget that at the end of the day it's about how much fun you had and about purposeful, vigorous play.

Lesson 3. Creativity is the new Black. Begin to unleash your creativity and be prepared for success to result.

Lesson 4. Don't chase the dollar. Starting a business during a recession was not an easy undertaking and when I decided to just view my first year in business as a year of exploration, creativity and play, the money followed rather than me following the money. Huge lesson.

Lesson 5. Relationships are more important today than anything else in your life. This year I focused on my relationships daily and the outcome was I was able to rekindle a few old relationships while growing my tribe. Be mindful to care for your tribe, grow its membership and realize the sustainability of these relationships must be a priority.

Lesson 6. Mastery of anything takes time, turtle steps in fact. I did a great deal of writing this year and realized with daily practice it became easier, richer, less painful, and more fruitful.

Lesson 7. Passion is infectious. This year I had the great honor of meeting several amazing people from all over the world-writers, inventors, musicians, business leaders and celebrity entrepreneurs. What they all had in common was passion. There is something to learn about passion and sharing it with others-it's contagious.

Lesson 8. This year I received hundreds of compliments and emails about "my energy" and have come to realize energy lives inside of each of us like electricity and it just takes putting in a bulb for each of us to be luminous.

Lesson 9. As a storyteller who loves the art of the narrative, this year I told more stories than I have ever told and with each story I learned of another person's story. Our stories are our currency. The more stories you share, the more wisdom you acquire as a result.

Lesson 10. The most valuable lesson I learned this year is that genius lives at the point of intersection between your heart and mind, that sweet spot where your hard assets (strengths, skills, expertise, and body of work) and your soft assets (values, creative abilities, and passions) meet. Once you've identified your particular hard and soft asset ingredients and add a dash of self awareness, these sides of yourself begin to mesh and then the mastery of your genius can truly happen.

Thanks Gina for sharing lessons we all can learn from!

December 22, 2009

Holiday Tipping Tips

This is such a tricky time of year. I never know how much to tip certain people in my life and I spend way to much time trying to figure it out. In these tight economic times, are expectations any different?

Sheila Lirio Marcelo, Founder of www.Care.com passed along these guidelines that I though were useful enough to share:

Tips for Child Care Providers:

• Nannies and Au Pairs: If you have a full-time nanny, offer them a tip or a "Christmas bonus" that reflects 10-15 percent of one week's pay.

• Regular babysitters: If you have a regular, go-to sitter who takes care of your children regularly, thank her (or him!) with a tip or a gift ranging from one or two night's pay—whatever equals about a week's worth of service.

• Coaches, tutors, and instructors: I always like to have Adam involved in thanking his teachers with a small gift or a thank-you card and a gift certificate.

• Pet sitters: If you have someone regularly take care of your animals while you're at work or traveling, say thank you with a week's pay. And if your dog is like Blake and Sydney and requires regular visits to a groomer, don't forget them, either!

• Home-care attendants and caregivers: I suggest a thank-you of one week's pay, but give two weeks for extra special care or long-term service.

Other People You Should Tip:

• School bus drivers: I find they're often overlooked. A small thank you (a $10 gift certificate and a card signed by your children) is a nice "something extra" in December.

• Service industries: Think of the people that make your home life a little easier—your mail and newspaper delivery people and garbage collectors While you don't have to necessarily tip them a week's wage or the price of a recycling pickup, I always try to help them feel special around the holidays. A nice card with a $10 gift certificate for coffee or a plate of fresh cookies goes far when it's cold outside!

• Maintenance people: If you've hired a regular landscaper or have a building manager that regularly does work around the property, shovels walkways, and plows driveways, let them know they're appreciated. It doesn't have to be much—just slip 10-15% extra in their December bill as a thank you.

• Housekeepers: If you have a regular housekeeper or house cleaner, tell them thank you by giving them an extra week's pay during the holiday season. But if you only hire one for occasional tidying up, it's okay to just wish them a verbal "Happy Holidays!"

• Baristas/clerks: Some of us have those regular spots that we visit daily for our morning coffee or bagel. If you're used to seeing the same person and they give you great service, say thanks! Buy them a cup and give them a card. They'll be surprised, and pleased, by your consideration.

Marcelo adds that just like mom always said, "It's the thought that counts." Don't feel like you have to get caught up in what you give or how much it cost. The point is to show gratitude for the people who matter to you and your family.

December 17, 2009

Shaking off the emotional toll of the recession

    Last night on the CBS4 news they showed a long line of people in Little Havana waiting to get a food basket from a community service organization. Although the needy people had received vouchers and were told there would be enough for all, they camped out because they didn't want to take a chance.

   Seeing those kind of things, and hearing about unemployment makes me feel fortunate for any income I have coming in. People out there are in bad shape, not just financially but emotionally. A NYT/CBS news poll of unemployed adults found the recession caused fundamental changes in the way people live and feel about themselves.

 Dennis Jacobe, chief economist of polling firm Gallup, said "people do not feel safe."

More than half of the nation's unemployed workers have borrowed money from friends or relatives since losing their jobs. Almost half have suffered from depression or anxiety. About 4 in 10 parents have noticed behavior changes in their kids. Almost half said they are having more arguments with family and friends and 55 percent report more insomnia. More than half feel ashamed or embarrassed about their unemployment. 

Even more, the unemployed workers don't see things getting better in the job market. Only 39 percent expect improvement, 36 expect it will stay the same and 22 percent say it will get worse.

It can be challenging to shake off the emotional toll of the recession. My advice: Start a list of steps you can take to make your life better. All that needs to be on the list are baby steps, small things you can do to move in the right direction. For example, pick up a brochure from a vocation school, ask 10 friends if they know any job openings, research breathing exercises to do before going to bed to help get a better night sleep, apologize or show kindness to whomever you may have argued with in the last month.

  If you are lucky enough to have a job, think of one thing you can do to make someone's life better and it will improve your outlook. Is there an introduction you can make? If you own a business, is there a small piece of it you could outsource to help someone earn a buck? Maybe we can all shake off the emotional toll of the recession, especially since fewer of us can afford antidepressants.   

December 16, 2009

Watch what you do at work

A word of caution to employees: Watch what you do in the workplace?

Fidelity Investments fired four workers for after they were discovered playing in a paid fantasy football league at work.  The company cited its anti-gambling policy as cause for the dismissals.  Evidence was found not in work emails, but in two instant messages sent during work hours.  Last year, Challenger Gray estimated that employers lost $615 million per week in lost productivity due to fantasy football, despite gains in workplace morale and camaraderie.

Participating in social media and shopping from your office computer is risky, too. Some companies have policies that ban workers from going on Facebook during the workday. Right now, when jobs are scarce, it seems pretty short-sighted to risk your job over something like Fantasy Football or Facebook.

Then there's the issue of moonlighting or as it's now called daylighting.

I tackled the topic of moonlighting in my Miami Herald column today. Here's the piece:

Moonlighting Roberto Cosentino considers holding one job as risky as security anymore,'' he says. In these tough economic times with rising unemployment and shrinking pay and work hours, holding multiple jobs increasingly is an option for those who can get the work.

Moonlighting has been around as long as lunch buckets. But now people are daylighting, too: squeezing in any opportunity to make additional income. Many manage it while the office is quiet or during breaks. Others are picking up side gigs anywhere they can get them.

A few weeks ago, I met Robert, another local cash-strapped worker who didn't want his last name published. He works a full-time job as a social worker, but his salary was cut earlier this year. He figured he would make some extra bucks by starting an eBay business, buying clearance items from local stores and selling them for a mark-up.

A single dad, Robert told me he checks eBay activity from his smartphone during his lunch hour and mails items out on Saturdays. He's been particularly busy during the holidays.

Still, he doesn't want his boss to know about his sideline. ``He cut my hours, so he must figure that I need to make up the difference, but I don't want to make an issue out of it.''


According to a January survey conducted by The Daily Beast, 23 percent of those polled have more than one paying job. Some said their second job was a hobby that had morphed into a money-making operation. Others, like Robert, experienced pay cuts, wage freezes or reduced hours and need the extra income to sustain a basic standard of living.

People working multiple jobs come from just about every demographic group -- across age, race, gender and marital status lines -- from the very young to the highly educated, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. More men moonlight, though the number of women doing so has risen dramatically over the last decade.

The trend poses a dilemma for workers and employers alike. If an employee is moonlighting, should he or she tell the boss? Should an employer have a say in what an employee does during his off hours?

``There's a weird dichotomy that goes on,'' says Randall Hansen, founder of QuintCareers.com, a career development website. ``Even in the worst of times, employers still expect loyalty, even when they are not loyal to their employees.''

Hansen says more employers expect 24/7 availability from workers.

He tells workers that if there is any hint of a company policy that addresses moonlighting, talk it over with your boss. ``You don't want to risk losing your primary job.''

Of course, for employees, being upfront can erase the stress and unease of moonlighting covertly.

Stephanie Hanna works 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. as an office assistant at Right Management in Florida. After hours, she designs, sews and embroiders personalized baby clothes at home.

Hanna says she made her employer well aware of her outside business, Brag About Baby, from the time she took the job. ``They are very supportive,'' she says.

Some of her co-workers and managers have bought baby clothing from her, increasing her dedication to her day job. ``I owe it to my bosses. They are nice enough to support me.''


In some cases, employers' concerns with moonlighting are justified.

If employees are hustling to take care of multiple jobs, sometimes things slip. Fatigue, transportation glitches and lack of sleep can become issues and affect work quality, says John Robinson, an employment attorney with Fowler White Boggs of Tampa. Legally, employers can prohibit or severely limit moonlighting.

Robinson suggests employers take a proactive approach, even if they decide to allow it: ``Tell employees that moonlighting isn't the problem -- lying about it is. Let the workforce know that you understand their dilemma in a bad economy and emphasize that you expect employees to be at work and on time. The bottom line is that you do not want moonlighting to affect your operation,'' he says.

One employer, Peggy Nordeen, CEO of Starmark International, has mixed feelings about allowing her workers to hold multiple jobs.

``We like 100 percent effort from our folks,'' she says. However at this time, she says employers may need to be flexible. ''I do think there should be a great deal of consideration that these are hard times for families.''

December 11, 2009

10 low cost, low effort ways to fit exercise into your work life balance

My biggest excuse for not exercising is time. Some days, I tell myself I'm too busy to exercise -- the old work life balance excuse.  Muscle Milk Light trainer Jennifer Cohen, author of No Gym Required, says there are ways to fit fitness into your life without it being a big deal. So I asked her to share them with you and me, especially during the holidays when our calorie intake is bound to be higher.


Here are Jennifer's low-cost ideas to integrate fitness in your every day life:

  • Jump rope. Doing it for 15 minutes burns about 170 calories. To get the most out of jumping rope try alternating the tempo, jumping on one foot, or skipping while jumping rope, and/or adding in multiple spins of the rope between jumps.
  • Head to the park: Just being there (with your cell phone turned off) is refreshing. Tons of things you can do in the park from push-ups, planks, jogging, and chin-ups on the monkey bars. Swings can give you a fun core workout if you focus on propelling yourself using your center of mass. My personal favorite is doing steps or explosive jumps using park benches. A few minutes of these high steps and you'll definitely feel your legs burn! Plus you  burn an extra 130 calories for every 10 minutes!
  • Exercise at work. Try walking to someone's desk instead of calling and avoiding the elevator.Stairs can burn between 150-250 calories for every 15 minutes
  • Exercise on the go. At the airport, walk around instead of resting while waiting for a flight. Walking lunges, squats, push-ups against the wall or a chair are all great exercises. A good 10 minute stretch may only burn 30-50 calories but it will make you feel refreshed as well as keep you limber and less prone to cramping from extended periods of inactivity.
  • Exercise in line. On line in a grocery or retail store, stand on one leg then change legs. It really works your core. Standing on your  tip-toes is a great workout for your calves. Do that for 5 minutes and burn another 30 calories: Use the carry basket instead of the push cart. That way you are toning  arms, using your core, and getting a little workout.
  • Use TV time.  Doing crunches during the commercials will burn about 5-8 calories per minute. Do incline push ups off your coffee table and double that calorie burn.
  • Don't skip meals. Eating regularly is very important. Best thing to do is alternate days on watching your food. So, if you're really busy and can't eat well one day, make sure you make up for it by eating well the next day. Research has shown this is just as effective as dieting every day!
  • Do a little exercise every day: Do something! Whether it is taking a 15 minute walk or doing 15 minutes of exercise at home, 10 - 15 minutes is better than nothing. Try the classics such as push-ups, sit-ups, squats, lunges, planks, and leg raises. The great part of these is that you can do them anywhere and that they're really effective. 
  • Consider Interval training. Interval training is key for the busy person. Use burst training and alternate between high impact and low impact to get much more out of a short time. Hitting 80-85% of maximum heart rate on and off can turn a 15 minute workout into the equivalent of 1 hour of working out.
  •  Drink smart: Staying hydrated is really key to get health. Helps you're body flush toxins and is a great opportunity to reward the body. Try to avoid too much pop, coffee, or anything artificially sweetened. Water is the best but tea is also great.
Do you think you can squeeze some exercise into your day? I'm going to try it today.

December 09, 2009

Taking a side job...good or bad?

In this economy many workers are disgruntled. In some cases, they are doing the same job for less pay. I recently was on assignment with a photographer who took a wicked pay cut. He's desperately looking for another source of income. In other cases employees hours have been cut back to part time and they need to make up the salary difference. Does that make it okay to moonlight?

Lawyers suggest employers let their workers know that you expect them to disclose and clear any potential moonlighting issues before undertaking such jobs. If you disclose it to the boss, does that make it okay?

Just yesterday, The Miami Herald reported that the Miami-Dade Mayor had allowing his chief of staff Denis Morales to moonlight as a police trainer in Panama while on paid leave.  Is it just a sign of the times? Or is Morales really doing something wrong?

Would you consider it wrong to use your vacation time this month and pick up a retail job during your time off? And there's the group of people who start their own businesses on the side, using up their spare energy and coming to work exhausted. It may be good for the employee but you can bet the employer suffers. Is that okay?

Michelle Goodman has raised the topic on her blog the Anti 9-to-5 Guide: Should you tell your boss you are moonlighting? Her conclusion: It depends.

Let me hear from you. When is it okay to moonlight?

December 08, 2009

Could you give up your home Internet service?

Would it just throw your work life balance completely out of whack if you gave up your home Internet service?

Well, people are doing it. WLRN, Miami's public radio station, reports that The Broward County Library System finds people are waiting in line, sometimes for a few hours, to use its computers with Internet access to check email or surf the Web. The demand has become so high that the Library System has installed more computers and created a designated floor that it calls the Cybrary. Certainly, in this age of frugality, disconnecting your home phone and/or eliminating the high-speed Internet service adds up to sizable savings to the monthly budget.

But I don't think the savings for me would be worth the stress on my family. When I first started at The Miami Herald, laptops were scarce. I would bring a floppy disk back and forth between the home and office to work on longer articles. That allowed me to leave the office and get home to my kids but if I was on deadline, I had to stay and sometimes miss putting my kids to bed. Having a laptop with Internet access and email capability from home affected my quality of life in a good way. It brought better balance. Now, my kids use the Internet from home computers almost daily for homework or research projects. I'd much rather give up something other than home Internet service to pare back monthly expenses.

I'm not alone. A recent survey of by Harris Interactive of 2,119 adults found access to the Internet ranked highest among the discretionary spending items they could not live without.

Still, if I didn't have kids and lived close to the libary, maybe it would be a cost effective move for me. Meanwhile, I think it's great that the libraries are responding to the increased demand. Smartphones may be another way to go. I'm not sure of the price comparison, and of course a phone screen is much smaller than a computer screen, but it could make it easier to give up home Internet service.

If you have given up home Internet service, is it working out for you? If you haven't, is it something you would consider?

December 07, 2009

Men have more leisure time than women.

Women take on a lot. And then, we complain loudly about our struggle with work life balance. Men here in the United States may struggle too, but the facts are they have more leisure time each day.

Bill Radke tackled the subject of leisure in today's NPR Marketplace globalist quiz this morning with the help of quiz master Stephan Richter. Click here for the link.

Here are some interesting nuggets from the quiz:

* Men in the United State 38 minutes leisure time than women.

* Over the course of a year, American men have 13,870 more minutes of leisure than women or about 10 extra days of time off.

* Italian men have more leisure time than American men -- about double.

* Italian men have 80 minutes more leisure time each day than Italian women.

These numbers are no big surprise to me, an American woman who spent last night scrambling to pack lunch boxes while her husband watched football. 

Do these facts surprise you? Would you have guessed that men have more leisure time than women?


December 03, 2009

How to use a holiday party to get ahead

   Holiday party
 I'm pretty tired of hearing about all the things I shouldn't do at a holiday office party such as drink and make a fool of myself. But my friend, Colin D'Arcy of ImageMentor.com, has some great suggestions for things I should do. He says a holiday office party can present an opportunity to build your career and get ahead. Some people even use holiday parties for serious strategic networking.


  If you decide to use the party as a career builder, here are some of Colin's suggestions:

§   Meet people from other departments or functions Start to build bridges across those “silos” that naturally develop at work.

§   Get to know your boss better.  Spend time chatting about topics that might not normally come up during daily activities.

§   Make contact with top executives who are usually inaccessible.  High-level managers are often uncomfortable at employee parties because they don’t know what to say, so try to put them at ease.  Be prepared with a question to ask or topic to discuss.

§   Learn more about the business.  Talk with people outside your everyday circle and ask questions to better understand their work.

§   Present ideas and proposals.  Take the opportunity to offer suggestions to the people who could approve or implement them.

§   Build better relationships with colleagues.  Learn more about them as people, not just coworkers.  Friendly feelings can help to defuse future disagreements.

Will you use the office holiday party to build your career? Or are you just too tired of schmoozing and prefer to use the party to enjoy time with colleagues?