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13 posts from August 2010

August 31, 2010

Take back your leisure time

Okay, so you only have 24 hours in a day. One-third of them are for sleep. One-third for your paying gig. That leaves one-third for ?????

Guess how most people spend that other third? They are watching television or using the Internet (Shocker?). Okay, some people do housework and exercise,  8 percent spend time with family, 6 percent read, and less than 1 percent do non-profit work, according to Men's Health Magazine

"If the folks who sue their free time for TV and Twitter are happy with their waist size, back account, sex life, family life and life in general, I say , go for it, watch your TV, says Robert Pagliarini, a financial and time-efficiency columnist for CBS Moneywatch.com and author of The Other 8 Hours. "But how many are that happy?"

He  has a point. We are wasting our free time and claiming we feel overloaded! We could be using that time to lose weight, learn a language, maybe even bond with our kid. It might be time to examine where your leisure time is going.

Let's say you want to write a book. Maybe you would write a page a day instead of sitting in front of the tube. Pagliarini says he has interviewed a lot of people who changed a sliver of their day and the payoffs have been huge.

Think about it, how could you repurpose your leisure time to closer to your goals?

August 30, 2010

Getting paid for off-the-clock work

Big victory for Disney employees on Friday.

About 69 employees  will get almost half a million in back pay, the Orlando Sentinel reports. An investigation by the Department of Labor revealed that inventory control clerks in the food and beverage department were not paid for work activities that occurred before and after their shifts. They also worked through meal times and from home without compensation.

This is a hot,hot, hot area of labor law today.

In Disney's case, it did have rules regarding off-clock work but managers were not adhering to them, the Department of Labor discovered. "It is not enough to have policies. Management must also ensure that all supervisors are implementing them," said Nancy Leppink of the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division.

This area of law is sure to get more attention with people working through lunch hour, and taking work calls on the cell phones at home or in their cars. The law says time worked over 40 hours per week by certain non-exempt employees is considered overtime. This strong message to Disney could be just the ammunition employees need to reclaim some work life balance.

Have you ever felt like you are putting in hours that you should be paid for but aren't?



August 27, 2010

Is this a good time to go back to school?

American's these days are working god-awful hours. But still, many of us have a desire to learn skills we feel we need. I'd love to take a class on web design. I'd love to learn Spanish. With the school year kicking in, is there something you want or feel you need to learn? Do you think you can balance work and school? Is now the right time for you to get an advanced degree or learn new skills?

I think the recession has taught us that any advantage in the marketplace is worth pursuing.

An article today in The Glass Hammer caught my eye. It mentions that anyone who lacks skills they need should get them now, particularly if you are unemployed with time on your hands.“Everyone who wants to excel in business needs to understand finance and accounting,” says Dr. Linda D. Henman, President of the Henman Performance Group says in the article. “If you’ve studied HR but don’t seem to be getting anywhere, now would be a good time to pick up those classes. If you’re a finance professional, advanced training and a masters can only help.”

Experts feel the cost most often would pay off. “Especially during uncertain economic times, investing in an advanced professional degree program, such as an MBA, is the one positive move you can make to take control of your future,” says Beth Walker, Associate Dean for the MBA programme at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. “Though the economic downturn makes the decision to return to school seem more difficult, earning an MBA right now will provide a launching pad for new career opportunities when the economy rebounds

There's also the networking opportunity. You tend to meet other people when you take a class. The Glass Hammer points out: "A good school can offer you a door to an international network of business colleagues – an bonus that could be worth more to you than the letters after your name, if you want the opportunity to work abroad or in a globally influential role."

Adult in school While it may seem crazy to put additional pressure on your plate by going to school, ask yourself what you will gain. If it is to learn new ways of thinking or skills to be more valuable in the job market, have a rough idea what you want to do after graduating.

"Lifelong learning is the secret to success in any chosen career," says Blythe McGarvie, CEO of consultancy firm LIF Group, and an MBA from Kellogg.

What do you think is the best reason to go back to school? Would you be willing to make it a priority?

August 26, 2010

PTA dad becomes mayor

Mike ryan
Last Father's Day, I interviewed Mike Ryan, a dad with a lot on his plate. At the time, he was balancing his busy schedule as a father of two, trial lawyer at Krupnick Campbell  and president of the PTA at Sawgrass Elementary. Ryan had some pretty great things to say to me, suggesting that families and employers both benefit when men participate in schools.

I liked what Ryan stood for and how he's evolved.

Being PTA dad led Ryan into politics on a bigger scale. Through his PTA post, he worked with a state senator to improve school zone signage. He rallied hundreds of families to help keep full- time School Resource Officers in City of Sunrise elementary schools. Ryan now is finishing his second term as PTA President for Sawgrass Elementary and is starting his second term as Chair of the City of Sunrise Education Advisory Board.

On Tuesday, Ryan, a political rookie, was elected mayor of Sunrise, Florida, beating out a longtime politician fo r the job.

  • When I interviewed Ryan in June 2009, we talked about work/life balance.  Ryan told me technology makes it all possible. He uses his BlackBerry to zip an e-mail to a parent from his law office or respond to a client from his kid's school. When he took the PTA post, he had asked his law partners to take him off the lucrative pharmaceutical and product liability lawsuits that had him jetting across the country. They did. Ryan now travels only within Florida, representing homeowners who allege defective Chinese drywall is destroying their homes.
  • Did I mention Ryan also is a coach for his kids' sports teams? I am going to wonder out loud how Ryan will balance it all. Will it be easier for him because he's a man? How would a law firm respond if a female partner, mother of two, PTA mom had just won an election that inevitably would result in time away from work?

    I'm thrilled that Ryan's PTA experience took him into politics, where surely he'll have the interests of our kids at heart. I'll celebrate his victory, but there's a part of me that can't help wondering whether the balancing act still favors men.

    August 25, 2010

    Tips to restore work life balance with a tidy home

      A busy Miami mom of three, Gisela Lowenstein knows that most of us hate cleaning. We don't want to spend a lot of time doing it and aren't that good at it. But a clean house really gives you a sense of balance. Gisela created a user-friendly DVD series (in both English and Spanish) that teaches users the basics on cleaning and organization. It's called The Glow System. The program uses a color-coded system, videos and flashcards. Because I admire entrepreneurs, I invited Gisela to write a guest blog to tell her story and share some tips with us time-pressed moms.

    Gisela_blue Gisela

    If there's one thing we all know, it's that women are survivors by nature. I've survived moving from Argentina to the United States and the cultural and social changes that came along with it. I've survived the challenges of raising three kids. I've even survived breast cancer. But that doesn't mean I don't need to ask for help sometimes. One area that I really feel women constantly need help in is managing and organizing their homes. Let's face it - when our homes are messy, our lives feel even more scattered. Having a clean and organized home acts as the foundation for a stress-free life.

    After moving to Miami with my husband and three kids, I needed a little assistance to get things organized. I noticed a gap in the marketplace for well-trained professionals or even effective instructional programs to maintain a clean and tidy home.My next challenge was – how do I get kids to actually enjoy participating in daily cleaning chores? Well, you’d be surprised how much they are willing to learn something when it is played as a DVD on a television screen. A new favorite game in our house is trying to find new tips for the series.

    While people may not always realize it, there is definitely an emotional response to a clean and organized home; it provides a sense of calm in a world of chaos.

    Here are a few tips from The Glow System (Home Cleaning Edition):


    • Always open the door or window of the room you plan to clean – fresh air circulation is beneficial for you and the process
    • Making your own cleaning solutions from household items can be a more cost-effective and organic method – all-purpose cleaners can be made from vinegar and water or baking soda and water
    • Using a cleaning caddy will help diminish the constant and back and forth between jobs
    • A paintbrush is a very effective cleaning tool – it can be used to clean tight crevasses in bookshelves, artwork, and for dusting large frames, etc.
    • Make sure to have a micro fiber towel – it prevents damaging sensitive surfaces. MICROFIBER REMOVES DUST WITHOUT USING CLEANING PRODUCTS)

    For those of you who feel too busy to clean, Gisela recommends breaking chores down into simple sequences and setting up reminders for daily maintenance.



    August 24, 2010

    Choosing kids activities that fit in with your work life balance

    Confession: A few months ago, I sat on the bleachers at my son's basketball playoffs, secretly pleased when his teammate missed the shot and put an end to the team's season -- at last. After months of running from field to court for my children's various activities, I longed for a break in the rat race. I'm pretty sure other working parents in the bleachers were feeling the same way.

    With the start of school, kids want to sign up for extracurricular activities. Then, it is up to us parents to get them where they need to go. Sometimes, we drive ourselves over the edge trying to make our work schedules mesh with their activities.

     Here are a few tips you can use when juggling your work schedule with your children's activities:

    * Gage your flexibility at work. Your employer may be willing to make an arrangement with you, even if it's temporary, to allow you to get your kids to practices if you come in earlier. This usually involves a conversation in advance.

    * Consider proximity. The more activities kids can do at school, the easier it is on working parents. Get a schedule of team try-ours from your child's school. Some day-care centers have started to offer dance or martial arts classes during the day.

     Let your child choose. Children inevitably are more successful when they choose the activity rather than a parent.  "If it's something they really want to do, they are more likely to figure out on their own how to get where they need to be," says Mandee Heller Adler, a Hollywood college admissions consultant.

     Find a carpool. This is when networking with other parents pays off. When asked, most working parents are thrilled to split driving duties.

    * Do the activity with your child. Attorney Valerie Greenberg enrolled in martial arts classes with her two kids. She found it the best way to combine exercise for her with activity for them.

    * Look into online activities. Your child might want to take cooking lessons by watching online videos at home.

    * Enlist multiple children in the same activity. This may seem like a no-brainer but it may require some compromise.

    * Ask about flexibility. If you plan to sign up for gymnastics or dance classes for your child, find out whether they have make-up opportunities for those times when your work schedules prohibits you from getting your child to their activity.

    * Lose the guilt. "Parents don't have to be at every practice or show," says parenting expert Laura Gauld of greatparenting101.com. Sometimes, stepping back has its advantages, she says. "Someone else steps up and can turn out to be a good mentor for your child."

    *Know the expectations. While elite youth sports teams are popular, they require travel and mandatory practices. It's best to check into requirements before signing up for a major commitment.

    Wishing all parents a great 2010-2011 school year!







    August 23, 2010

    Teen drivers ease parents work life balance

    Today I drove my daughter to her first day of high school. As I pulled out of the parking lot, I saw rows of kids pulling in to park their cars. What a big difference from middle school!

    It made me think of how much easier it must be on working parents once your child drives. I'm sure that having a teen driver comes with its own set of worries. But for those parents who commute to work or have rigid work schedules, it must be a big plus to turn over the responsibility of getting your child where they need to be -- on time. I'm just a few years away from that bittersweet milestone.

    Knowing change lies ahead, I savored this morning's routine, driving each of my kids to school on their first day. If you are one of the working parents whose child drove to school today for the first time, what was it like for you? Has your work life balance become easier or does giving them freedom through car ownership make your life more stressful?

    August 17, 2010

    A big win for pregnant women

    I often wonder how women do certain physically demanding  jobs when they are pregnant.

    I also wonder, if Pregnant-mom-01 the job really is dangerous, whose responsibility is it to protect the unborn child? Should a boss sit by and let an expecting mother cause harm to her unborn baby?

    I wouldn't want my boss to decide I couldn't do my job. That's my decision. Now there's more ammunition in my corner.

    Watch out employers, a new court ruling, in favor of employees, says an involuntary transfer of a pregnant employee to a less demanding job, (even without a reduction in pay or benefits), may raise claims of pregnancy and disability discrimination.

    The case involved a welder who became pregnant shortly after she started her job. After she told her foreman about her pregnancy, he expressed concern about the job demands and exposure to chemicals and told her to see her physician to determine what she could and could not do. Her physician recommended a respirator but issued a return to work certificate with no restrictions on her ability to weld.

    Still, she was involuntarily transferred to the tool room, which she found to be just as physically demanding and hot. The employee sued - and won!

    The Court stated that in many ways the tool room could be seen as a demotion because it did not require any specific training or skill, was less challenging, and the employee considered it more boring. The tool room job also involved a change to the night shift, which adversely affected the employee’s ability to raise her daughter as a single mother.

    What's the message this sends? Employer lawyer Philip Phillips of Foley & Lardner  says its a reminder that, even if intentions are good, employers must be thorough and objective when deciding whether pregnancy will affect an employee's ability to do the job.

    What do you think of the court ruling? Will employers think twice about transferring a pregnant worker to another position? Should they if they believe letting the woman do her job could hurt the baby?

    August 15, 2010

    Take back your lunch hour

    Desk lunch
    On Friday, I had lunch with two friends, former co-workers, I hadn't seen in a while. It was so enjoyable that I wondered why I don't do it more often. Then, I remembered why. It's hard to give up a block of work time mid-day.

    At some workplaces, having a lunch at your desk is the norm. Everyone does it. At a recent workshop, I met the executive director of Junior Achievement in Miami. She mentioned that her organization had built a nice lunchroom only to find most workers eat at their desks. She was bemoaning the loss of camaraderie, suggesting that the lunchroom is where workers get to know each other in a more relaxed setting and spark the informal relationships needed for teamwork.

    Most of us are overwhelmed with our workloads. In the interest of work life balance, we want to get our work done and eat through lunch in order to leave at a decent hour. There's also the money issue. Years ago, all the staffers in my office used to go out to lunch together. We would share story ideas. Today, workers are brown bagging it to save money. According to Adweek, as much as 57 percent of Generation X regularly brown bags it to cut out a meal expense.

    Lunch is going the way of breakfast,"  David Dinges, a behavioral scientist at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School told ABC News. "It's become part of the rat race."

    We all know that when you work continuously, you get more fatigued and less productive as the day wears on. The quality of your work also suffers.

    This summer, Tony Schwartz of The Energy Project, started a nationwide movement called Take Back Your Lunch Hour. It launched after Schwartz conducted a poll on the Huffington Post about the way Americans are working. Some 60 per cent reported taking twenty minutes or less each day for lunch. Almost 20 per cent took less than 10 minutes. One quarter never leave their desks at all.

    Schwartz has invited workers the world over to reclaim that elusive mid-day break every Wednesday at noon this summer. With one more official week of summer in my town, I'm going to head out to lunch this Wednesday. What about you? Will you take back your lunch hour? 

    August 10, 2010

    JetBlue flight attendant is the new workplace hero

    Flight attendant (photo credit: Facebook/Splash News)

    The Internet is abuzz today with the story of Steven Slater, a JetBlueflight attendant who was fed up with his job.

    For the most part, he is considered a hero, the guy who did what many of us worker-bees want to do but stifle ourselves from doing -- quitting on the spot with a grandiose gesture. My Facebook friends had posted the storylast night and the swift reaction surprised me somewhat. From the moment the news broke, the public was cheering this guy on.

    To me, it shows there's lots of discontent in the workplace.

    The full story is that Slater, a flight attendant, apparently totally lost control following an argument with a passenger.

    Slater was working on a flight from Pittsburgh that had landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, when he was hit on the head by a bag a passenger was pulling out early from an overhead compartment.

    According to the New York Daily News, words were exchanged and Slater's reaction was to blow his top. He spewed profanity at stunned passengers, grabbed a beer and activated the plane's emergency slide, then bolted off the plane. Another flight attendant said Slater's actions are something others only fantasize about but are too chicken to carry out.

    Slater was reportedly smiling when police led him away in handcuffs and when he was later charged with reckless endangerment and criminal mischief.

    To me, it sounds like Salter broke some safety rules and really could serve some jail time. I have a feeling though, he'd say it was worth it. He made a stand. I all of us can relate to exactly where Slater was coming from. 

    A radio talk show I listened to this morning was flooded with phone calls from people who complained about their workplaces and applauded the fed-up flight attendant for his dramatic exit. I suspect the recession has caused a lot of ill feelings to simmer beneath the surface.

    So what do you think about Slater's behavior? Do you always have to handle your exit like a professional? Or are there times -- maybe in a lousy workplace environment - where a dramatic exit is okay?