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13 posts from July 2012

July 31, 2012

Watching the Olympics at Work?

Like most of you, I forgot how exciting it is to watch the Olympics. I can barely break myself away from finding out whether Michael Phelps will win another medal -- all it takes is a quick peek at volleyball or gymnastics and I'm hooked right in.

Most of us have access to a phone or computer that allows us to check in on all things Olympics -- all day long. But should our employers encourage it? Is it a fire-able offense? 

Labor lawyer Mark Neuberger of Foley & Lardner in Miami says many employers recognize that employees may lose time and work while the Olympics are going on. In Florida, an employer could fire you for watching the Olympics at work if the company forbids it. But Mark warns against "coming down hard" on these sort of activities. He says it typically has an adverse repercussion in morale and connection for employees to their workplaces.

Instead, he says, most employers are better served to recognize the excitement around the Olympics and try to use it as a morale booster. One company I know has brought crowds to the lunchroom by enticing employees to place at noon on Olympic winners and losers.  

Former professional tennis player and author Steve Siebold of Boynton Beach told the Sun-Sentinel he is a big believer in letting employees watch the Olympics at work.  The author of 177 Mental Toughness Secrets of The World Class, says the Olympics are good for employees' work ethic.

Siebold says here are some lessons workers can learn from the athletic competition:

  • Olympic athletes embrace conflict for growth. When most people run into an obstacle, they seek escape. Olympic athletes have a plan to push forward when this happens and learn all they can from the challenges they face. They know facing adversity is part of being successful.
  • Olympic athletes are learning machines. They spend hours practicing, studying their competitors, watching videos of their performances and session after session with their coaches and mentors.
  • Olympians are coachable. Most people will only accept the amount of coaching their egos will allow. Champions like Olympic athletes are well known for being the most open to world-class coaching.
  • Olympians compartmentalize their emotions. They have the ability to put aside anything else going on at that very moment, and focus only on the task in front of them.
  • Olympians think big. Ask most people what they’re thinking at any given time, and you might be surprised to learn how many think about just getting by. That’s called selling yourself short. Olympians are fearless and focused on manifesting their ultimate dream of bringing home the gold.

I could see posting up signs around the office with some of the above ideas and suggesting your staff embrace these qualities and considers themselves champions, too. I'm pretty sure most employers hate the idea of encouraging distraction. But there's a good argument to be made for making the workplace fun. 

What are your thoughts on allowing staffers to watch the Olympics at work -- good idea or completely insane?

 

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The author of 177 Mental Toughness Secrets of The World Class, says the Olympics are good for employees' work ethic.

Siebold says here are some lessons workers can learn from the athletic competition, which holds opening ceremonies on Friday:

  • Olympic athletes embrace conflict for growth. When most people run into an obstacle, they seek escape. Olympic athletes have a plan to push forward when this happens and learn all they can from the challenges they face. They know facing adversity is part of being successful.
  • Olympic athletes are learning machines. They spend hours practicing, studying their competitors, watching videos of their performances and session after session with their coaches and mentors.
  • Olympians are coachable. Most people will only accept the amount of coaching their egos will allow. Champions like Olympic athletes are well known for being the most open to world-class coaching.
  • Olympians compartmentalize their emotions. They have the ability to put aside anything else going on at that very moment, and focus only on the task in front of them.
  • Olympians think big. Ask most people what they’re thinking at any given time, and you might be surprised to learn how many think about just getting by. That’s called selling yourself short. Olympians are fearless and focused on manifesting their ultimate dream of bringing home the gold.

 

July 29, 2012

When the boss says, "I will not take a vacation!"

Last week, I was at a gathering of businesswomen when one female executive spoke about an incident at work that she found to be horrifying.

Here's what happened:

On a group conference call with about a dozen people a top boss mentioned that he just returned from a vacation. He mentioned that he had traveled abroad and truly disconnected from work. Upon his return, he said, his inbox was flooded with email. He was now faced thousands of emails with hundreds of matters to deal with, including this particular conference call.

"I will never take a vacation again," he announced to his staff with anger in his voice.

"What kind of message does that send?" this woman asked the rest of us. She feels this highly placed boss should spoken about the importance of renewal and urged others to take time off to regroup. I have to agree with her. Even more, I think he should have blocked off time either the night before or the morning he returns just to deal with email.

It could be that this manager is a bad boss -- maybe he encourages his staff to copy him on everything. I read a BusinessWeek article that offers this advice to a boss going on vacation: "Have a preemptive pep talk with a stand-in to lay out what you'd like accomplished in your absence. Be sure to express confidence in his or her judgment and competence. But be clear, even if you transmit it casually, that you're leaving the operation in steady hands, not relinquishing your authority." (Basically, prepare you team well so that matters get handled without an email pile-up)

What are you thoughts? Does staff react to how the boss handles vacation? Do you think anyone would refrain from taking a vacation because of what this one manager said on the call?

 

July 25, 2012

Why Gen Y Doesn't Understand Face Time

When I talked with Amanda DelPrete a few days ago, I had an "aha moment." I finally understood the viewpoint of Gen Y and how crazy it seems to them that managers want young workers to put in face time. Amanda explained to me that in college, she could watch lectures from her dorm room via the Internet. She could turn in assignments via email. She could communicate with just about anyone, anywhere from her college library or the nearby Starbucks.

She came into the workplace with the notion she could do her job anytime, anywhere as long as she could connect to the Internet. So, when a 40-something boss insists she come to the office every day, even when she could work from home and be more creative, Amanda wonders "what's with the insistence on face time?"

That's a question young workers are asking every day in workplaces of all sizes, in all industries and in all cities. At the same time, their bosses don't understand why these young workers don't see the incredible value of bouncing an idea off co-workers, chatting up a boss in the hallway or eating in the employee lunchroom.

Today, I explored the topic of face time in my Miami Herald column. What's your take on the face off over face time? Are bosses going too far in insisting that their staff be in the office all the time? Are young workers overdoing it by feeling entitled to work remotely?

 

The Miami Herald

Working at home vs. the office: The face time faceoff

By Cindy Krischer Goodman
balancegal@gmail.com

   Erik Bortzfield is a 23-year-old software marketing manager who believes that workers should be able to work remotely.
  Erik Bortzfield is a 23-year-old software marketing manager who believes that workers should be able to work remotely.
It’s a blue sky day in South Florida and Erik Bortzfield, a software marketing manager, would love to be ocean side on a beach chair connected to the Internet via laptop and aircard. A year out of college, Bortzfield, 23, has discovered the rules of the workplace typically don’t allow remote working, but he is convinced his generation will make it happen.

“When people my age start to own and manage companies, I think you’ll start to see a noticeable change,” he says.

The desire to work wherever, whenever has heated once again during the summer months as younger workers want to kick back a bit but find their boomer bosses clinging to an old-fashioned obsession with face time.

It’s not that Bortzfield and his young counterparts across the country don’t see value in coming to the office some of the time. But because they are networked, they believe reporting to an office from 9 to 5 every day in order to call and send emails to people in other places makes absolutely no sense. Many are asking: “Why are bosses insisting on face time?” — and planning for the day when they will make the office rules.

Millennials will be change makers, says Dan Schawbel, managing partner of Millennial Branding. By 2025, Generation Y will make up roughly 75 percent of the world’s workforce, a Business and Professional Women’s Foundation study shows. With such a large presence, expect them to put pressure on companies to shift how people work, Schawbel says: “Gen Y wants to rip apart work styles and create new relationships with the office that are more flexible.”

Amanda DelPrete, a 24-year-old PR account executive, says her generation wants to use the technology advantage. In college, she and her friends took one or more courses online or sat in their dorms watching the live stream. “It was not mandatory for us to be physically in class,” she says. “Now, we come into the workplace and there’s an insistence on face time and we don’t get it. We’re more creative in our own space than in an office with no windows.”

Leadership consultant Jane Goldner says “overwork” also has fueled this generational conflict. When workers are expected to finish a project from home at midnight, they wonder why they aren’t permitted to complete other assignments from home during daylight hours. But older managers still put a high value on being seen in the office. They not only expect face time, they reward those who hang out in the office.

Goldner says boomer bosses trying to lead this new chaotic environment and still keep a handle on things will need to find a middle ground acceptable to all. Rather than just insist on face time, they will need to explain why it is important. “Without it, you might not be building the alliances you need to get ahead.” Even more, she adds: “When you work virtually, you don’t development face-to-face interpersonal skills. That’s a huge skill set missing in the workplace.”

Lizanne Thomas, partner in charge of Jones Day’s Atlanta office, says she’s made a specific effort this summer to work with law school interns and young associates on communication skills honed from personal interaction with partners. “I don’t want them to hide behind email or the written word. I want them to interact with me.”

Thomas said she has made a clear case for face time and doesn’t want lawyers to habitually work from home. “Work product is enriched by collaboration. You have to noodle it and discuss it face to face.” While the firm does offer flexibility for certain circumstances, Thomas says, “I would not expect the lawyer who wants to advance successfully to routinely choose to work from home or the local Starbucks.”

Richard Fleites, an information technology professional, believes the generational conflict over face time remains a trust issue. There remains a belief that if you’re not in the office, you’re napping or downing martinis during business hours, he says. His department at a healthcare organization has just revised its flexibility policy — allowing remote working one day a week rather than three. “It was disappointing because I think they got scared that employees were going to slack off. But at least I still have that one day and that’s a big perk.”

Sorraya M. Solages, a 34-year-old attorney with Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith in Fort Lauderdale, says some new to the legal profession believe the insistence on face time is all about older lawyers who don’t want to give younger lawyers a break. She’s discovered getting the flexibility is possible — but it has to be earned. She’s worked from libraries, hotel rooms, court rooms rather than return to her office. But she’s proved her value. “You’re not going to start day one and work from home one morning a week. If you become trusted, you get more flexibility.”

By understanding Gen Y-ers’ need for workplace flexibility, companies are better able to recruit and grow young talent for the future, workplace experts say. Adam Shapiro, a Miami attorney, says he’s much happier as a lawyer at United Auto Insurance Company where he can work from the courthouse or home at times rather than at a big law firm where the emphasis on face time at the office during and after hours was much greater.

Meanwhile, Bortzfield, the software marketing manager, looks forward to the day when he’s the boss: “If it’s the nicest day of all time, I’m going to say, ‘Everyone work from home or wherever today. Let me know if you need anything.’”

 


 

 

July 24, 2012

Summer time challenges facing divorced parents

A  friend of mine called me all worked up. She wants to take a summer vacation with her kids. But the week that she can take off work is the same week her ex-husband wanted to take vacation with the kids. She  explained to me that summer can be the most challenging time of year for divorced parents. She and her ex-husband must negotiate her children's summer activities, their vacation schedules, their camp schedules, who will pay for camp and whether there's child care coverage for the full summer. 

"It can be expensive and it can get ugly" she told me.  

Roberta Stanley, a partner who practices family law at Brinkley Morgan, says she's been called in when all kinds of summer challenges arise for divorced parents. Some of the typical issues that arise are whether parents can take kids out of the country on vacation, who will pay for summer camp, and what age is appropriate to make a child get a summer job. Stanley points out that an arrangement negotiated as part of a divorce settlement when a child is 5 may need revision when a child turns 15.

For her part, Stanley says she tries to get as specific as possible when she writes up an agreement between divorced parents concerning summer,kids and work schedules. "If you're specific and there's a dispute, you don’t have to pay lawyer again because everyone knows how it works, she said.  "Specifics breed flexibility and cooperation. A parent realizes that if I don’t cooperate when you need a deviation, you won’t cooperate when I need one."

Divorce attorney Barry Finkel says work schedules almost always play a big factor in summer challenges for divorced parents. For example, one parent may want to take an extended vacation; the other may have a job that affords little time off. "If one parent wants to take the child on a trip, try to work out the schedule well enough in advance to schedules can be juggled or changes can be made," he says.

Vicki Larson recently wrote an interesting piece titled: "Is Divorce Easier If You Don't Have Kids?" Her conclusion -- sometimes, but not always. I wonder what my friend battling over summer issues with her ex would think about that conclusion?

Yes, even without kids, divorce can present challenges at work. A recent article in the Sun Sentinel focused on how the stress of a divorce can potentially hurt someone's career. "Those going through divorce may find their employer subpoenaed for information, their business in jeopardy or their chance for a promotion disappearing," the article noted.

On the flip side, Elinor Robin, a family mediator in Boca Raton, told the Sentinel that people often do better in their careers after divorce. "In the long run, divorce may ultimately prove to be a career booster. ... When the focus is off the marriage, the focus can be on the career," she said.

My conclusion: divorce sounds stressful. It appears pretty obvious that summer, kids, work schedules and ex-spouses can be a lot to juggle. Yet, it seems to me it's well worth the effort to make the balancing act as pain free as possible. 

 

July 20, 2012

How to do the work life balance equation

When I had just met my husband and I went to his apartment for the first time, I was impressed to walk in and find him ironing work shirts. That went on for several years. Today, he pays someone to press his shirts because with three kids and long work hours, it's worth the cost to have the two hours of ironing time each week to spend with his family.

We all have tasks that save us money, but cost us time. Weighing one against the other is critical for optimal work life balance.

I just read a piece by Katy McLaughlin in the WSJ.com/Juggle that asks, "What is the price of a home-cooked meal?"

She writes about how she likes to cook and considers it a gift to her family. But she came to realize that some nights, her dedication to home cooking was actually more of a burden. While she was cooking away, her husband was dealing with sibling rivalry and cranky kids.

After her husband forced the issue, she agreed let him handle dinner once a week -- even if he decides to order in. She says she accepted that the harmony of sitting on the living room floor playing with the kids has a value too.

My friend, Maria Bailey, is a big advocate of applying the work life equation to her every day life. She advocates spending money whenver, whereever possible to hire help to free up time.

So many working moms say they can’t afford household help, Bailey told Working Mother. She realized she spent four hours each weekend cleaning. “At my hourly work rate, it was costing me almost double what I’d pay a housekeeper each month,” she says. “If that help frees me up to gain kid time or do something else important, I can justify it.”

So, take stock. What are you doing yourself that could be outsourced to gain you time with your family or doing something you truly enjoy? Is it preparing your taxes, cooking dinner EVERY night, doing laundry, washing the dog?

My husband did the work life equation to decide whether to oursource cleaning the pool. He decided to continue doing himself because it takes only a small amount of time compared to what he would spend on having a professional do it. And, it's a project he likes to have our sons help him with each week.

Doing the time/money equation doesn't always result in outsourcing, but it's worth doing the math to figure out.

  Mominkitchen
.

 

July 19, 2012

How body language can improve your work life balance

After talking to body language expert Sharon Sayler, I realized how much our posture, our chin position, our eye contact, can make a huge difference in whether we're spending our time effectively.

Let's say you're networking. If the person you're talking to has his or her feet pointed to the door, it's likely they want to make an exit. That's a cue for you to move on.

Let's say you're want to negotiate to leave the office a little early to see your kid's championship soccer game. Don't go in with your eyes and chin shifted downward. That's going to make you look weak and timid. Go in from a position of strength, chin parallel to the floor, eyes looking at the mid-forehead, and you're much more likely to get your request.

This week I tackled the topic of body language in the workplace in my Miami Herald column. I also found some great advice in a piece titled: The 10 common body language traps for women in the workplace.

Are you a believer? Do you think body language can help or hurt you in business?

The Miami Herald

Messages you send through body language can affect your career

By Cindy Krischer Goodman
balancegal@gmail.com

   Sharon Sayler, an executive coach and expert on body language,  illustrates a variety of positions showing do's and don't's of body language in the workplace. This one, with the head tilted up, can say you are "snooty, arrogant." It's better to look straight forward with your chin parallel to the ground when you talk to someone, even if you have to step back to adjust for the height difference.
(proper position of chin is parallel to floor,not tilted upward)
Sitting around the table for the first time with a new client, Jane Snell found herself getting more and more frustrated. Although she owns her Coconut Creek construction company, JS-1 Construction, the half-dozen men seated around the table were addressing their questions and comments to her male assistant. It wasn’t until days later that she discovered where she had gone wrong: her smile.

“The way I was grinning said administrative assistant, not owner,” Snell says.

Our posture, our facial expressions, even the placement of our legs can speak volumes about what we’re conveying in the workplace. We can put in hours networking or working late and then blow our image as confident experts by sending a different message with something as simple as a smile.

Sharon Sayler, body language expert and owner of Competitive Edge Communications, has been educating women and men about the hidden non-verbal statements in business that can ruin a deal, diminish credibility, even create doubt about capability. In workplaces with increasing diversity, age differences and cultural peculiarities, what you’re saying with your eyes, feet and hands could be as game-changing as what comes out of your mouth.

“There are a lot of nuances to what’s being sent unintentionally,” Sayler says. “We need to understand messages we’re sending and be strategic. When you’re not getting the response you want, you need to think about why.”

For example, women are too quick to smile, she says. “Executives rarely smile, so if a male executive sees you smiling like a joker, he will think you must be the assistant.” Instead, she advises being strategic. “When someone introduces himself and says his name, that’s when you smile and say, ‘Happy to meet you.’ ”

click here to read more....

 


 

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/07/17/v-print/2899882/worklife-balancing-act-messages.html#storylink=cpy

 

July 17, 2012

Marissa Mayer, Yahoo's pregnant new CEO, has me worried

Marissa

I’m sure you have heard the news that Yahoo has just named 37-year-old Marissa Mayer as their new CEO.  Not only is she now one of the most powerful women in the technology industry, the former Google executive is also six months pregnant with her first child. Mayer will be charged with leading the struggling publicly traded Internet giant that has had recent series of CEO disasters.

My reaction: concern. I'd like it to be: Yay for women! But it's not.

I can't stand that all eyes will be on Mayer, making judgments and predictions. I want her to succeed. But,I don't want her to stand for every women in the workplace. We've seen that women, even if they are mothers, have proved capable leaders. I don't think we should look to this woman as THE example of the successful or unsuccessful juggle between work and family and I'm concerned that is going to happen.

It appears Mayer represents a major first, the only CEO of a publicly traded Fortune 500 technology company that has been pregnant. As techcrunch.com points out: "Female CEOs at public tech companies are incredibly rare, but for them to be 30-something is even rarer. So from the start Mayer was standout, but it’s hard to think of a time when a CEO of a major listed tech company has gone on maternity leave. It could certainly be a trailblazing turn."

Trailblazing is good. But there will be a lot of pressure on Mayer to return from maternity leave quickly and seamlessly and that's what has me concerned. She will be criticized regardless of whether she powers through maternity leave or takes a decent amount of time off with her newborn.

Huffington Post columnist Lisa Belkin called Mayer: The most powerful pregnant woman in America. Belkin noted that Mayer's first comment on the subject was that she will take only a few weeks of maternity leave when her son arrives in October and she'll probably work through those from home. Belkin says she likely will not power through quite as single-mindedly on her maternity leave as she thinks she will.

As CEO, Mayer has some advantages in her balancing act. She will be able to hire help at home -- lots of it if she needs it. She will be able to work from home at times if she needs to do that. Certainly, she will have the support system in place to make a quick adjustment to motherhood. She will have a lot going for her.

I want Mayer to succeed in her new role because I think Yahoo could benefit from having a women at the top when many of their users are female. I want her to succeed because she is savvy and innovative and authoritative. I don't want her decisions to be second guessed because market analysts accuse her of being sleep deprived or torn in her priorities. I want her to be one of many new mom leaders who succeed as a Fortune 500 CEO, not just the first and certainly not the last.

 

July 16, 2012

Our obsession with girl power

I'm not saying this is a bad thing, but lately I've noticed that we're a nation obsessed with girl power. We have women's initiatives at corporations, women business owners organizations, women networking events and women's conferences. These programs are amazingly well attended.

What is it that women get exclusively from each other that makes girl power so in vogue?

On Friday, I found the answer when I got another first hand glimpse of the intoxicating power women have to motivate each other. I attended a conference called Suits, Stilettos and Lipstick: The Balancing Act. Dr. Elizabeth King, founder of the International Holistic Center, organized the daylong Dr_Elizabeth_Kingprogram that brought women together at the Ritz Carlton Fort Lauderdale to learn more about everything from finances to relationships to social media to law.

King, lover of red lipstick, launched the conference with a simple slogan that summed up the encouragement women are so desperately seeking: Women," she said, forget about your stresses, your worries, be confident: "Put on your lipstick attitude." From that minute on, women attendees were primed and ready to devote their entire day to picking up any thread of wisdom they could garner from the variety of speakers that followed.

I've decided businesswomen are so caught up in the juggle that they need to be pumped up and there are some amazing professional motivators swooping in to do the job.  At this event, Kandee G wowed Kandee_Gthe crowd with her hard luck story of being a broke divorced mother of a infant. She then declared a decade later she now travels on private jets, owns horses and has two homes and is in demand as a motivational speaker and consultant. Kandee threw out motivational statements such as "Feed yourself images of what you want to create in your life and focus on it" and "It is not knowledge that is power, it is the use of knowledge."  Oh, let's not forget this one that met with applause: "Guilt is a useless emotion." The crowd of women ate it up. Women just can't get enough of hearing that what we feel while balancing jobs, kids, husbands, hobbies and friends is normal.

Next came my favorite panel because it combined our new obsession with girl power and our new fixation on social media. Four women who carved a niche in social media marketing discussed how to balance our personal lives and our social media lives. This is a huge area where women are struggling and newly anointed experts are swooping in to help. Tips for the audience: "You don't have to be online 24/7 if you're not adding value or have something meaningful to share," said Chispa Marketing founder Lourdes Balepogi (Luly B) "Find strategies that work for you because there is no right or wrong way to do social media." And, from Social Entrepreneur Brenda Leguisamo : "Social media is 80  percent giving and 20 percent asking."   

I love the way vendors have discovered women a target market. Met Life worked its subtle but realistic pitch into the day by telling women how much at risk they are of shortfall in their retirement and how likely they are to end up managing their finances on their own. If we're turning to girl power for motivation, we really need to be listening to reality about the need to get control over our financial future.

Julia_YarboughJulia Yarbough, broadcast journalist and author of Highway To A Husband ended the event by encouraging women to step outside their comfort zones. "Create your own change, someone is not going to hand it to you," she said. "It doesn't have to be all or nothing. It can be little steps." Yarbough says work life balance happens when you are authentic. "That's been true for me," she told her audience. "When you're authentic, doing things you truly believe in, opportunity appear and things fall more into balance."

This is what women want to hear. This is why women are going to conferences, joining women's organizations and networking with each other. We see business opportunity but more important, we want confirmation that what we feel about our daily juggle and drive to succeed is normal. 

If this event, and the engagement of the audience, is any indication, I think our obsession with girl power is just beginning to pick up steam. I think this tweet from @JuliaYarbough sums it up: @WIHC1 thank you to all the amazing women sharing insight for life, work, health & balance- incredible conference! Honored-#holisticwomen

 

July 12, 2012

Savannah Guthrie's performance review: why she deserves a break

Savannah

How would you feel if your first performance review in your new job was printed on the front page of a newspaper or blasted across the Internet? Whether the review was good or bad, it would be pretty gut-wrenching to have the results made public before you even had a chance to gain confidence in the job.

So I have to wonder what would it be like to be Savannah Guthrie, who officially replaced Ann Curry as Matt Lauer's co-host on The Today Show. Less than a week into the job, the headline of USA Today read: Ratings: 'GMA' trounces 'Today' with Savannah Guthrie. ABC's rival Good Morning America has beaten The Today Show in each of the three days since Guthrie officially replaced Ann Curry as Matt Lauer's co-host.

Plenty of us have stepped into positions in the workplace where the odds were stacked against us. In Guthrie's case, viewers may tune out because they're ticked off at the way the Ann Curry exit went down. Guthrie seems to be handling this public scrutiny with class. She even admitted to being nervous her first today in the co-anchor seat.

Executive producer Jim Bell vowed NBC will be patient: "We couldn't be happier with the new Today anchor team, and the fresh new feel of the show," he said in a statement. "It's impossible to draw conclusions after a few days of unofficial ratings.  We just made a big change that we didn't take lightly, and we are in this for the long-run."

Reading this article, I thought of my first performance review. Six weeks into my first job, my editor suggested I leave journalism. Fortunately, I believed in myself regardless of what he had to say. From what I've seen, performance reviews are almost always painful experiences for those giving and receiving them. In Guthrie's case, millions of viewers are giving the peformance review.   

In business, most of us look for lucky breaks, do our best, and stay confident in our abilities. We want more than three days to prove ourselves on the job. We want more than three months to prove ourselves on the job. I plan to tune in and give Guthrie a chance.

Have you ever been the person to step into a new job at an awkward time? Have you ever been judged in a job without really being given a chance? How did you handle it?

July 11, 2012

Smartphone addiction and summer travel

Every summer, my family vacation is a negotiation when it comes to wireless gadgets. It starts before we even leave the house. Will my husband bring his work laptop? Will I? Should the kids bring their cell phones? I'd like to ban all electronics but I usually get vetoed.

When I think about it, it's not the gadgets we're arguing over, it's what we do with the gadgets that creates the problem. They pull us into a virtual world that takes away from connecting with the people around us.

Of course, my husband argues that he needs to check in with work. Many people feel that way. Checking in now and then is one thing. Smartphone addiction is another. From the palm of our hand we can connect with our offices, and some people just can't disconnect. It really stinks if you're the person traveling with the smartphone addict. 

Leslie Perlow, a Harvard Business School professor and author of Sleeping With Your Smartphone  thinks people can beat smartphone addiction and take real vacations if they work in teams. Important things come up and someone needs to handle them, she says. "But there's no reason you have to be on all the time." If you work as a team and have the conversation where everyone gets the same benefit ( a stress free vacation or one night a week off),there are lots of ways to cover for each other, she says. "It's about being proactive."

Today, in my Miami Herald column I wrote about the effect of smart phone addiction on spouses, partners, friends and travel companions. If you've can relate, let me hear from you. How do you handle it being around a smartphone addict?

The Miami Herald

Smartphone addiction can put damper on vacations, relationships

By Cindy Krischer Goodman
balancegal@gmail.com

Tim Lee / MCT
   
On vacation, Annabel Fernandez watched incredulously as her husband splashed in the pool of a beachfront resort with their twin daughters. Between the giggling and water play, she saw him glancing at his iPhone on the pool’s ledge. The night before, she had caught him checking email on his smartphone under the table at dinner.

“I started realizing it was an addiction,” she said. “I felt like we were losing him to a screen.”

As the number of smartphone users rises, so does the level of anxiety and friction around using them. Downsizing and economic realities have left workers with a real fear of what might happen if they are out of touch too long. Will the client go elsewhere? Will the boss find a new protégé? The fear has turned into a compulsion that has workers tethered to their mobile phones — even when they’re supposed to be off the clock.

But for the spouse, partner, friend, or travel companion of a smartphone addict, the fear can ruin a vacation, a night out or worse — a relationship.

“When you’re on the phone you’re ignoring the person you are traveling with; that creates resentment,” says Kimberly Young, a psychologist and director of Center for Internet Addiction Recovery.

The digitally hooked often overlook the toll on their companions. Married to an attorney, Bob Greene says it completely unnerves him to watch his wife’s reaction to an incoming work-related email. “We’re supposed to be on vacation relaxing, and I can see that something at the office didn’t go her way. It not only stresses her out, it stressed me out, too.”

While smartphone addiction has been difficult to track, in a survey by mobile-services provider  iPass, 91 percent of mobile users said they use their free time, both day and night, to check their smartphones. Among those, almost 30 percent check their smartphones three to five times an hour, and 20 percent check them five to 10 times an hour. Young calls anxiety around constant connectivity “a chronic and universal problem.”

Travel companions say the problem often comes to a head on vacation or during leisure activity when the goal is to reconnect and their partner sends the message that business is a priority. Companions say they find themselves torn between bringing the smartphone user into the present and coming across as a nag.

Miami marketing strategist Michelle Villalobos says the only way to travel with a smartphone addict is to establish the rules upfront, before the loaded minivan leaves the driveway. “If you wait until you’re in the moment, you find yourself in the situation where the other person is looking at you like ‘who are you, the cellphone police?’ When traveling, she and her boyfriend not only set the time when they will check in with work, they also set the place — for example only in the hotel room in the early morning hours.

Making the rules together and negotiating is key. Some people really do need to be accessible and forcing them to disconnect could create business challenges, Young says. “You may need to accept a middle ground, and instead of setting overall vacation rules, set daily rules based on what everyone needs.”

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Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/07/10/v-print/2890154/smartphone-addiction-can-put-damper.html#storylink=cpy