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12 posts from October 2013

October 31, 2013

Halloween: the ultimate work life balance test

When it comes to being family friendly, employers prove themselves on Halloween night. I brought back this blog post from the past that reflects my thoughts on this important day for working parents.



If you're a working parent, chances are high you are nervous right about now. You are stressing over making it home in time to enjoy Halloween night with your kids. Any small obstacle to leaving your workplace at a decent hour becomes a giant source of frustration.

Halloween is the make or break it night when it comes to expecting flexibility and understanding from the boss. If you miss out on trick or treating and you will be resentful for the rest of the year. I know because it has happened to me.

As a news reporter, Halloween has always terrified me.  What if a news story were to break out in the late afternoon? Would I get stuck tracking down sources and miss out on trekking through the neighborhood with my Thomas the Train or Indian Princess?

A friend of mine, a high powered lawyer, told me she once cried all the way home at 9 p.m. on the Halloween night after getting stuck at the office with a partner who demanded she stay and work with him on a legal brief. She quit a few months later to go to a smaller, more family-friendly firm. This year, she took the day off, just to make sure she would be home at dusk.

My two older kids are teens. They no longer want to go door to door in costume, especially with mommy trekking along. I now realize how little time we have to enjoy the trick or treat experience with our kids. I am thankful for those Halloweens past I spent trick or treating with my kids, rather that at work.

For all you parents stuck at the office tonight, you have my sympathy. For all of you bosses, your behavior tonight toward working parents speaks volumes about how much you value them. Behave wisely.

Happy Halloween!


October 30, 2013

10 Workplace Trends that Affect the Way We Work


Eric Holland designs office space for ADD, Inc. at One Biscayne tower in Miami, but his own office reflects the new design of a more collaborative space where workers can move themselves to other desks around them to work in teams. CW Griffin / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

As we wind down the year, I’ve identified major workplace trends affecting the way we work.

From an individual perspective, understanding these trends will give you an advantage. From an employer perspective, it will help make more informed business decisions. Here are my top 10 that I believe will define 2013 and reshape the way we work in 2014.

1. Flexibility rises in importance. Ask employees what benefit they most value: Flexibility is at the top of their wish lists. Most say it is a key factor they consider when looking for a new job or deciding between offers — and they’re often willing to sacrifice salary to get it.

 What might surprise you is that most working parents (80 percent) say they have “at least a little” flexibility in their current job. That number rises a little each year, according to Moms Corp., a professional staffing franchise that has a focus on flexible placements.

2. Job stress gets attention. More than eight in 10 employed Americans are stressed out by at least one thing about their jobs — mostly poor pay and increasing workloads, according to a 2013 Work Stress Survey by Harris Interactive on behalf of Everest College.

The stress has permeated all levels within organizations. Lindsey Pollak, Gen Y career expert and spokeperson for The Hartford Insurance Group’s My Tomorrow campaign, says stress and anxiety are the top reasons millennials use disability insurance. Over the past three years, Ceridian, a provider of employee assistance and wellness programs, reports a 30 percent increase in calls related to stress. Mary Jane Konstantin of Ceridian said employers are addressing this growing concern through stress reduction workshops, on-site chair massages and wellness programs: “It’s within a company’s best interest to think through how it can support activities to help employees better handle stress.”

3. Freelancers rise in numbers. Right now, mid-size and large businesses are hiring freelancers in record numbers to help deal with the rapid pace of change and innovation in the global economy and control costs. New data show one-third of American workers are freelancers. Next year, there will be millions more freelancers, replacing full-time workers, reports NBC News.

A study by Accenture, a management-consulting firm, shows that “even top-level managers and executive teams are being replaced by temporary CEOs, CFOs, COOs and other highly skilled troubleshooters.” Accenture found that the top fields for freelance work include sales and marketing, IT and programming, design and multimedia, engineering and manufacturing, and writing and translation

4. Overtime pay heats up. Employers continue to be besieged by wage-and-hour lawsuits. The wave of class actions started with claims that employers were misclassifying employees as independent contractors to avoid paying benefits and overtime. Settlements of wage-and-hour cases totaled about $2.7 billion from 2007 to 2012, with $467 million coming from last year, according to a new U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform trends report. “Certainly, the trend in wage-and-hour class actions is they are growing and they are here to stay,” said Paul Ranis at the Greenberg Traurig law firm in Fort Lauderdale.

5. Collaboration gains importance. Companies want their staff working in teams, sharing ideas and solving problems. The concept has sparked changes in staffing, office design and the way work is done. It has even triggered some companies, such as Yahoo, to bring remote workers back to the office. Eric Holland, a senior associate principal at ADD Inc., an architecture and design firm in Miami, said clients from accounting firms to call centers have hired him to redesign their workplaces to decrease worker isolation. Many clients want more open layouts with shared spaces and more break rooms, he said. He also said that some clients also want less hierarchy: They want workers at all levels to occupy the same size offices or workstations so they can move and work together more easily.

6. Generational shifts take hold. The shift in workplace demographics is happening in a workplace near you. Boomers are starting to retire, freeing up positions for Gen X and Gen Y managers to move into.

“There will be shift in leadership and the way companies are run,” said Lisa Bonner, senior vice president at Roberts Golden Consulting, Inc. “If there is no pipeline, we’re going to see some gaps. That’s going to be a challenge.”

7. Work-life boundaries erode and get reset. Technology enables many workers to take their jobs home with them and their personal lives to the office. “We’re not hemmed in anymore by walls or clocks,” notes Konstantin.

Yet for all the benefits, workers are feeling exhausted by being “always on.” Konstantin says companies are realizing it — yet many have set up the expectation that their workers are on call 24/7. Now, the conversations are around what’s the middle ground and how to create boundaries, she said.

8. Women outpace men in workplaces. One billion women will enter the workplace in the next decade. Research shows that they are more educated than men and are starting to take leadership positions. Already, four in 10 American households with children younger than age 18 include a mother who is the sole or primary earner for her family, according to a Pew Research Center analysis.

Jennifer Van Buskirk, president of Aio Wireless, plays that role in her family. “It’s empowering,” she said. “You establish your values, priorities and what you want to accomplish.” However, at home, the new dynamic does require marital negotiation: “In my family, we discuss how team Van Buskirk is going to approach life, and we divvy up responsibilities. It all works.”

9. Employees take to social media. Companies are struggling with policy around use of social media at the office. Some will start to leverage their talent and use employees as social-media advocates to recruit staff and market to customers online. Of course, employers will continue to need to remind workers to use common sense on the Internet.

10. Companies embrace employee retention. Employees have lost their enthusiasm. According to the latest State of the American Workplace Report, 70 percent of U.S. workers don’t like their job. In 2013, companies began realizing that they should be concerned about this because it’s costing them money. Disengaged workers can impact everything from customer service to sales and other business areas. The best companies will take the time to understand what drives their workforce and customize a plan to motivate their employees.

If you see other workplace trends, what are they? Which ones on my list do you think are long-term trends?


October 29, 2013

Got a granny? Her caretaker now gets overtime

Grandma and caregiver

I remember sitting at my dad's funeral next to my grandmother and realizing I was going to have to take over managing her care. Fortunately, I found an in-home caregiver who was a godsend. She took a huge burden off me because I trusted her to take good care of my granny. In return, my siblings and I paid her well. But now, paying well (or at least fairly) means giving an inhome caregiver overtime pay if he or she works more than 40 hours. 

Today, my guest blogger, Mark J. Neubergerr, a labor and employment attorney with Foley & Lardner in Miami, weighs in with a legal update that sheds light on the a new law that gives minimum wage and overtime premium protections to most in-home companionship workers.  As baby boomers age, more of us are going to be confronting the reality that we need to know this new law  -- a costly one for those hiring the caretaker. 

How will this change affect your financial outlook?


Got a Granny? Minimum Wage and Overtime Premium Extended to In-Home Companions

Neuberger-MarkIn a long anticipated move, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently announced that it will will extend the minimum wage and overtime premium protections to most in-home companionship workers.

This is a major policy shift, which not only affects the staffing companies that provide such workers, but also affects individuals who have hired someone on their own. If you currently have, or anticipate having, an elderly or disabled relative or friend who needs “in-home care services,” regardless of who actually “employs” them, the cost of providing such services will likely increase.

The law applies to anyone whose job titles include home health aide, personal care attendant, home maker, companion and others. With an aging population and changes in health care delivery systems, the demand for in-home care for persons of all ages and with all sorts of medical conditions has exploded. The DOL estimates that an additional two million workers will come under the guarantees of the federal minimum wage and time and one-half premium after 40 work hours in a week mandated by the FLSA.

Recognizing that many such workers are employed directly by either the individual receiving the services or a family member, there is a widespread assumption that many such in-home employees are currently underpaid.

The bottom line is that anyone who employs a home care worker will have to pay the minimum wage (currently at $7.25 per hour), pay time and a half the base wage for all hours worked over 40 in any one work week, and keep all of the legally mandated records, including detailed records of all hours worked. Also, be sure to consult the laws in your state, where the state law may provide a higher minimum wage or more restrictive regulations

Clearly, the DOL’s new regulation is not only designed to raise the earnings of these in home workers, but also seeks to kill the “off the books” nature of many of these employment relationships. Even those employees who simply provide non-professional, non-skilled “sitting” services will be covered by the new regulations. Newly covered employees who are engaged through employment agencies or other third party companies will also be covered.

The new rules will become effective January 1, 2015, giving various federal, state and private insurance funding sources sufficient time to come into compliance.  These rules are complex and sometimes confusing. If you are using in-home companions or other workers be sure you understand your obligations. The FLSA is one of the few employment laws that carries criminal penalties for offending employers.



October 23, 2013

When work life balance gets overwhelming, consider a radical sabbatical

My friend, Laura Berger, did what most of us only dream of doing. She ditched her stressful life in the city and her struggles to achieve work life balance and headed to the jungle for a radical sabbatical. Berger is now back in the corporate world, coaching corporate executives how to get ahead, but she credits her time in the jungle with giving her new perspective. 

Laura and her husband, Glen Tibaldeo have published a book about their experience and lessons learned on their sabbatical. It's a great read and has been described as a couples Eat, Pray, Love meets the Hangover. Today, Glen is my guest blogger and shares some insights.

Radical Sabbatical, an Amazon Kindle bestseller by Laura Berger and Glen Tibaldeo, is available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com. Check out Owen Wilson Loves Radical Sabbatical

Laura Berger and Glen Tibaldeo

The Joys of Imbalance

Is your life out of balance? Why you should be thrilled.

by Glen Tibaldeo

“I was a magnet to a better professional image. If all of a sudden those guys following horses in parades with shovels drove BMWs, wore Armani, and were the talk at cocktail parties, I’d be the first to sign up for a Master’s of Science in Equestrian Excrement Elimination. Add to that my all-or-nothing mentality and my need to be a hero for more kudos and accolades. If too much of a good thing is bad, then what’s too much of a bad thing?”

This is how my wife Laura and I describe my life before our big adventure in Radical Sabbatical began. But for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, and nowhere is it more apparent than in our story. I was a hopelessly overworked geek who had inflicted an extreme imbalance to my life, and the universe was yearning to rectify it.

And so at 35, Laura and I moved to the gorgeous, untouched seaside town that we call Pair-o-Dice village. In less than twenty-four hours we had gone from roaring subway trains and dodging fellow sidewalk pedestrians to rugged dirt roads and wildlife dripping from the trees—so plentiful that sometimes it just randomly fell from the sky.

And all the while, all we could wonder was, “why us?” “Why here?” And “How did we get here?” But with time comes wisdom. We can see how the universe corrects all imbalances -- and get this: the less balance you have, the more the cosmos wants to get you there. So how ironic that when your life feels out of whack — when it is, you’ll know it — the universe is waiting to push you to center.

So what are the laws of nature waiting for? They’re waiting for you to just give things a good, deliberate nudge. Yes, Laura and I went from the big city to the middle of nowhere overnight, but it took us 2 years to analyze all our options and make our decision. But once we decided to quit our jobs and move to the jungle, our world blew up.  

We describe that life-changing explosion in Radical Sabbatical, our new comedic travel memoir about the time we risked everything we had to get the life we always wanted. In the midst of a setting that couldn’t be better for someone in the right mindset to find inner peace, we struggled to adjust to our abrupt life change. We battled serpents and surreal insects. We risked our lives on harrowing mountain runs in decrepit 4x4s. We were given mysterious potions from shamans. Laura, until then deathly afraid of heights, launched herself off a 2,000 foot mountainside. And last, but certainly not least, we rather clumsily navigated a brand new culture.

And to experience all that, all we had to do was decide to make a change. That may seem hard from where you’re sitting, but once you have decided to move, you’ll wonder what you were waiting for.

Still not convinced you’ve got it in you? Here are a few things you can do to give things that little nudge:

1. Think of a handful of easy and enjoyable tasks you can do to make progress toward your big dream. The hardest and most important part is starting.

2. Post pictures or collages of your dream life in the places you go most frequently. The more joy you can simulate, your subconscious will eventually want to make that dream happen.

3. Clear minor changes from your life so you can focus on the big bang of your dream. Your spirit can only take so much change at once.

4. Anyone trying to shake up their lives experiences significant setbacks. God knows we did. Anticipate them, so they won’t throw you off balance when they happen.

5.If you’re having trouble getting in the right mindset to start, go on vacation somewhere with the express goal of thinking and fantasizing about your new life. Habits play a huge part in staying in a rut. Just changing settings can be enough to get you to decide to get going.


We owe our exciting lives as they are now to that magical and trying time in the jungle. The people we met, the experiences we had, and all our successes and failures made the jungle both a natural theme park and life boot camp.

The brilliance of it all is that if you are so far out of balance that you can’t even see straight, you might just be on the precipice of the ride of your life.


October 22, 2013

Resigning for family reasons -- work life balance or bogus?

As I sat eating my breakfast, reading my newspaper and saw an article that Mark Templeton, the CEO of Citrix had temporarily resigned for family reasons.

My reaction was "really?"

Mark has been at Citrix since 1995. He led the Citrix vision and is responsible for the company’s market direction, product strategy and passion for customer care. Mark transformed Citrix from a $15 million organization with one product, one customer segment and one go-to-market path, to a global powerhouse with annual revenues of $2.59 billion in 2012. He is the face and the brain of the Fort Lauderdale company. 

So, for him to resign must have been difficult.

Usually, when I read that someone resigned for family reasons, I have my doubts. The majority of the time, when it's men, "family reasons" is code for I want to leave gracefully and take another job as soon as possible." It can often mean "I'm being forced out." It kills me when that top leader who resigned for family reasons takes another high profile job within a few months -- turning that term into a big farce.

The article went on to say that Mark's son had died this summer. Here's a man who has wealth, and business success, but may be in need of some down time to grieve or regroup. In this case, "family reasons" seems plausible as the explanation for a leave.

The press statement read like this: 

Citrix Chairman Thomas F. Bogan said, “As many know, Mark recently suffered a tragic death in his immediate family. He now needs to step back from his executive responsibilities for a period of time to be with his family and heal from the impact of this loss. "

Mark's example may help other men. 

Recently, I read about a head college football coach who never missed a day of work when his son died  -- but struggled season after season to bring his team victories. 

Will Mark's example send a signal to the younger generations of men who look up to him as a role model? I would like younger managers and future leaders see that it's okay to step out of the workforce temporarily when family matters take priority.

Some workplace experts believe millennial men already think differently.

 University of California at Hastings law professor Joan Williams  argues that Millennials—particularly the men—want a different structure in their work life priorities. She writes in the Harvard Business Review blog that there's a generational shift taking place between those currently in executive positions (where 75 percent of the men are married to homemakers) and the group behind them. The "he works all of the time, she does all the housework" arrangement won't cut it with the younger group, writes Williams

She cites a study by Michèle Lamont who finds that blue-collar men regard the competitive, all-consuming corporate ethos to be signs of "selfishness." Instead of accepting the work-till-you-drop culture, she says millennial men are beginning to do what women have done for decades: to work as consultants or start their own businesses that give them the flexibility for better work-family balance.

Men shouldn't need to work as consultants or step permanently out of Corporate America if they can create workplaces where dealing with personal problems are as accepted as dealing with work concerns.

I already admire Mark Templeton for the culture of mobility he has helped create at Citrix. Now, I will admire him even more if he becomes a role model for work life balance and gives some credence to citing "family reasons" as a valid explanation for taking time off. It will be interesting to see how and if the company handles his return.  

Readers, do you think a change is on the horizon? Are men able to comfortable take time off and return to the workplace?


October 17, 2013

Is this all there is? How to find more fulfillment in life

Have you ever asked yourself, "Is this all this is?"

My guest blogger today, Gayle Carson, noticed that people hit their 50s and often start asking themselves that question. So, she began working with boomers on reinventing themselves from the inside out, in both their personal and business lives to help them feel more satisfied. She now has two different radio shows--"Women in Business" and "Living Regret Free." Her website is www.spunkyoldbroad.com.

If you find yourself asking "Is this all their is?" then Gayle has some advice that should help.


GCarsonwebAfter five decades of business success, I was hit with a 10-year span of unbelievable challenges. I had built a business from nothing to seven offices and 350 people. I sold that and embarked on a magical speaking and consulting career with 1,000 clients in 50 industries. I worked in 50 countries and 49 states. Then I co-founded an internet information marketing association and now, I am working with boomer women and beyond on the joy of living.

During this time, I raised three children, helped my husband develop a real estate business and volunteered and led many professional and community organizations.

I had a wonderful life. And then—-everything changed.

 In a 10-year period, I lost a son, a husband, had my third case of breast cancer, custody of a grandchild, and my 16th surgery. To make it even worse, almost to the day my husband died, the real estate market collapsed.

Yet, people kept remarking that I always seemed happy and had a smile on my face. They questioned why I wasn’t depressed or feeling sorry for myself.

To me, it was simple. You have choices in life, and mine was to be happy. 

But that's when I began to notice that women in the 50 to 65 age range were expressing emotions of being invisible and feeling incomparable stress from being responsible for elder care and having older children come back home to live.

I kept hearing thee phrase “Is that all there is?” over and over again and this was from homemakers, business women and society people. As I listened more and more, I realized this was a very common problem.

No one seemed to know how to deal with it.

It became my mission to work with this population to show them how to live a regret free life. I developed what I call “The 9 Secrets to Living Regret Free” and started speaking and writing about them wherever I could. 

Here's a glimpse at my nine secrets:

#1 Attitude and Spirit

We know that your mindset has to be right for you to live a life without regret.

#2 Fit and Fabulous

We are aware that the benefits to being healthy and a lifestyle of wellness pays off with big dividends.

#3 Uniqueness

Most people don’t think they’re unique. But I know you are. I know it sounds scary, but writing your own obituary will enlighten you.

#4 Energizing Your Life

I believe everyone should wake up with a smile on their face and go to sleep in peace. Discovering what you love to do will make all the difference in how you live your life.

#5 Power Relationships

I know you’re aware that everyone is supposed to be just six degrees away from Kevin Bacon. Well even if you don’t have a high level job or are the King or Queen of Society, you can have power relationships.

#6 Personal Growth

 Keeping your mind active and alert is important for your mental and spiritual growth

#7 Taking and Keeping Control

You must control your life if you want to change it.

#8 Balance

Everyone talks about balance, but how many people practice it. Are you one who does?

#9 Plan for Daily Living

It all comes down to having a plan. Whether it’s in business or your personal life, you need a plan.


If you are unhappy with your situation, you need to change it and live out your dreams. What have you done lately to move yourself in that direction?



October 16, 2013

Promotions without raises? Good career move or work life balance disaster?

More work, more responsibility, same pay?

On the surface, I would wonder, why would anyone want that? 

But I've come to learn that promotions without raises are pretty common place and at least half the working population says they would consider taking one -- even if it affected work life balance.

So, I tackled the topic in my Work Life Balancing Act column and tried to examine all considerations.  Personally, I wouldn't do it but I'd love to hear from you. Would you consider a promotion without a raise if it put you on a desireable career path?

When there’s no raise, is it really a promotion?

No raise

Rosie Hernandez found herself standing in her manager’s office in disbelief. He was offering her supervision of a larger team and a title that reflected her new role. What he wasn’t giving her was a raise. “That will come when we all reach our goals,” he told her.

Hernandez hesitated before answering. She was a mother of two young children and a marketing representative at a Miami medical sales firm. The added responsibility would require more hours devoted to work and wreak havoc with her work/life balance. Turning down the offer, though, might be viewed as a lack of career ambition.

Such dilemmas are becoming more commonplace at workplaces as employers continue to cautiously guard their salary budgets. New research from CareerBuilder found that nearly two-thirds of employers (63 percent) said that a promotion at their firms doesn’t always entail a pay raise. And, according to an OfficeTeam survey of 433 office workers, 55 percent polled said that they would be willing to accept a promotion that doesn’t include a raise.

Career coaches say when faced with this sort of situation, it is important to consider your experience, your career goals and the internal politics of your organization.

“If the promotion helps to develop your career and you might need a little bit of development, that would be a reason to take it without a pay raise," says Daniel Heimlich, president of The Heimlich Group, a Washington, D.C. marketing advisory and consulting firm. Even without the commiserate compensation, a better title could put you in a stronger negotiating position and lead to a higher salary at future employers. “Once people think of you in that way, you become that, and money will come along with it eventually,” he says.

But before you sign on for an unfunded promotion, you want to make sure you’re not agreeing to simply do more of what you’re already doing. The promotion should come with greater scope and responsibility and more decision-making authority. Hemilich warns: “You don’t want to be continuously strung along with new job titles.”

It’s imperative to at least discuss a pay raise, says Erin Knight, a banker who has experienced the promotion-without-a-raise scenario. “Set up a time frame and an outcome to consider for a pay increase. It should not be an open-ended time frame.”

Knight, Miami market president at Stonegate Bank, suggests you back-up the agreement in writing. “Managers change, people move on and you will be forgotten.”

In her case, she had a long history with her boss, trusted he would bump her pay after she proved herself and he came through.

Before accepting a new role, workers may consider requesting a compensation review in six months or discussing other perks such as more flexibility in exchange for the longer hours, more vacation benefits, a higher stipend for expenses or even management training.

“If someone is a key employee, I’ve seen clients who entice them with a small percentage of stock,” says Dorothy Eisenberg, a partner in the Miami Beach accounting firm Gerson, Preston, Robinson & Co. in Miami Beach. “If you’re going to continue to help in the growth of the company, you should be rewarded for that.”

Without some type of incentive, Eisenberg advises against accepting more responsibility. “It might be fine for the short term, but I would not do it for long-term period of time.”



October 14, 2013

Stop displacing your stress and improve your work life balance


No matter who we are, we all stress about something, sometime.

It creeps into our lives and comes out in ways that affect our behavior.  The cause might be a change in our work situation -- the boss piles more work on us; it might be a problem with a parent -- mom fell and needs more supervision. Now, our work life balance is out of whack, we're likely to unleash our stress on an innocent bystander -- an assistant, our children, our spouse. One simple question from your husband or child, like where to find the peanut butter might cause you to roar, "Don't you have eyes? Would it kill you to use them?" 

Oprah Magazine calls it "stress rolling."

Learning to reclaim our ability to relax and stop our stress rolling is one of the best things we can do for our relationships and our work life balance. 

So, how do you stop it?

Here are a variety of suggestions gleamed from different sources, including O Magazine.

1. Notice it in other people. For example, the mom on the phone with a client who yells at her kids in the grocery store when the kid asks for a bag of candy or the guy who yanks his dog around after a hard day at work. When you see it in others, identify the same sort of reaction in yourself. One sign you're stress rolling might be a hint of guilt.

2.  Catch yourself doing it. The moment you get the slightest inkling you're stress rolling, be aware of it. Take some deep breaths, figure out what's really bothering you, and ask yourself, 'what's the worst thing about that?'

3. The next step is action. Apologize, admit to stress rolling, and go find someone who offer you guidance with the real issue at hand. This is where you think big about who's in your advisory team from best friends to couple counselors to senior leaders in your office.

4. Be cautious. Not everyone you ask for help will be able or willing to give it. Be aware enough to know when someone's advice to you is wrong. Yet, it's possible that the very people you once stress rolled onto may join you in solving the problems you face.

5. Expect glitches in life. The goal is to gain confidence in how to manage when things don't go according to plan. If we remain open to the unexpected instead of panicking, be willing to change what we think we know and more aware of how we react, we're likely to feel less overwhelmed and more balanced.

Just last week, I caught myself stress rolling onto my son when I had too many writing assignments on my plate. He asked me to sign a permission slip at the last minute with the carpool mom waiting for him in the driveway. I signed the form but unleashed fury on him. When he arrived home from school, I apologized, came up with a new system of staying on top of school paperwork, talked with my editor and reevaluated how many assignments I take on in a given week.

Of course, not every cause of stress will be easy to resolve, and it may take time to get work life balance issues under control, but having a game plan helps. 

Do you think stress rolling is unavoidable? Have you ever caught yourself doing it and justified it?


October 11, 2013

Workplace suggestion boxes have gone high tech -- good or bad idea?

Do you think it would be a great idea to work half day Fridays but feel like if you mentioned it to your manager, he might think you're a loaf?

I bet all of you have great ideas for how to make your workplace better, save your company money, and improve employee work life balance. It's no wonder then, that employers have taken the suggestion box high tech, making it easier to contribute great ideas whenever and whereever  -- and kept the ability to let employees speak up anonymously. 

I think this trend toward electronic suggestion boxes is here to stay...Now, let's see if employers actually listen to what their employees suggest!


Suggest boxes

Employee suggestion boxes move into the digital age

At BGT Partners in Hallandale Beach, founder David Clarke wanted to give his staff a say in how to make the company better. So, Clarke took the classic suggestion box into the 21st century, creating a dedicated website where employees anonymously give him input on everything from perks to problems they want addressed. “It exposes things I otherwise wouldn’t have known about,” Clarke says.

The physical suggestion box has gone digital, creating new opportunity for workplace communication. From phone apps to websites to intranet portals and blogs, businesses are replacing paper communication with an online format where employee can manifest their visions and ideas.

“Companies have discovered that the ability to let their employees give ideas and share information is critical,” said Leslie Caccamese, director of strategic marketing and research with Great Place to Work. With employees often dispersed in multiple locations, leaders are turning to technology to encourage innovative ideas and help transmit them to the key decision-makers within the company. The companies that land on the Best Places to Work lists are those that have a foundation of communication, and increasingly electronic suggestion boxes are part of their program, she said.

Research shows employees want to have their say on issues or problems that arise in the workplace. On an informal basis, some 54 percent of employees make suggestions to their bosses at least 20 times a year, according to a recent survey by Right Management, an international career and outplacement consultancy firm. But without a formal system to submit ideas and respond, only a small number of those suggestions turn into results. “At a time when many employees feel stifled in their job, it is even more important that employers show that they are listening,” said Monika Morrow, senior vice president of career management for Right Management, in a statement.

At BGT, Clarke says he gains valuable insight from employee suggestions and has made it clear nothing is off limits. Through its interactive website, BGT Damn, employees anonymously have shared opinions on work-life issues, suggestions for perks and concerns about some managers’ lack of communication and leadership skills.

“We were able to provide coaching for leaders and prevent bigger internal issues that may have come from that down the road,” said Clarke, who sold his 150-employee interactive marketing company to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ advisory strategy and consulting services arm last month. Clarke says for his company, the complete anonymity of it allows people to be brutally honest; “it’s an important feature because we really learn more from the bad than the good.”

In other workplaces, employers are using collaborative suggestion boxes with a sharing component. Last year, hotel company Kimpton — which counts the Epic in downtown Miami and Surfcomber on Miami Beach among its 50 boutique hotels nationwide — launched a “Great Ideas Board” website where employees can upload suggestions and brainstorms at any time, from anywhere. Co-workers are able to log on and build on those suggestions. Steve Pinetti, Kimpton’s SVP of Inspiration & Creativity, started the concept to get employees brainstorming together. Either he or the appropriate division head provides a response to every post within 48 hours.




October 08, 2013

Time with kids -- exhausting or rewarding?

Tired mom

My fellow mothers, here's what a new survey says about us. 

We're exhausted.

When my kids were younger, I definitely found going to the office, some days, was more relaxing than being with my kids. Sitting at my desk, clacking on my keyboard, was a piece of cake next to dealing with temper tantrums. Now that my kids are older, spending time with them isn't as physically exhausting but with teens, it can be mentally exhausting.

I may be exhausted, but spending time with my kids also brings me intrinsic rewards I don't get from work. Do you feel the same way?

According to a  new Pew Research Center analysis of government data, mothers report feeling “very tired” in 15% of child-care activities, compared with 6% for fathers. Mothers also report a higher level of fatigue than fathers did in paid work, housework and leisure time.

I think this survey reflects what Katrina Alcorn  asserted in her recent Time Magazine article, Motherhood Gave Me a Nervous Breakdown. She says women are more at risk for the health effects of stress and fatigue because we're juggling so darn much and we're tired. Very tired.

Yet, even though we're tired, we're finding meaning in what we're doing -- at home, with our kids, and at the office.

Pew says mothers are more likely than fathers to feel what they are doing is highly meaningful when they are taking care of the house or engaging in leisure activities. Mothers rate 46% of their housework activities as “very meaningful,” while fathers do the same for 28% of their housework activities. Likewise, mothers rate 63% of their leisure time as highly meaningful, compared with fathers at 52%.

Mothers and fathers are about equally likely to find meaning in caring for children: 63% of child-care activities are “very meaningful” to mothers, compared with fathers at 60%. Paid work has similar meaning to fathers and mothers as well.

Not only do we find meaning in what we're doing, we're happier than fathers when taking care of our kids. Some 37% of mothers’ child-care activities were “very happy” moments, compared with about 29% of fathers’ child-care activities.

So, we may be tired, but I think this survey reflects what most moms believe: we love being working moms!