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11 posts from January 2014

January 31, 2014

How Heather Faces Her Fear

Today, my guest blogger is Heather Von St. James. I received this email from Heather and wanted to share it with all of you:



My name Heather and I am an 8-year survivor of mesothelioma – a rare cancer caused by asbestos exposure. When I was diagnosed at the age of 36, I had just given birth to my little girl and was told I had 15 months to live. After undergoing a risky surgery, which required the removal of my left lung, I beat the odds and created Lung Leavin’ Day as a way to commemorate this day that changed my life forever.

Lung Leavin’ Day is now used to encourage others to face their fears! One important thing cancer taught me is the importance of acknowledging these apprehensions that prevent us from living life to the fullest extent. Each year on February 2, friends and family gather at my house for a bonfire where we write our fears on plates and smash them into the fire.

This year, we are asking you to face your fears and raise awareness of this event by virtually participating in Lung Leavin’ Day! I have created an interactive page that tells the full story of this special day, and allows all of you to face your fears and virtually smash them. The website can be found here: Lungleavinday


January 30, 2014

What does the next generation CEO look like?

Last night I was channel surfing and caught an interview on Bloomberg West with Yahoo Chairman Maynard Webb. It was eye-opening. My favorite part was when he spoke directly about how he wants to see more women CEOs. He says future CEOs will need some of the same attributes as current CEOs. In the future, he said CEOs will need to be more visionary and way  more in tune with how fast everything is evolving.  "At the end of the day, every CEO just plain has to work hard," he said.

People want to work with someone who has vision, Webb pointed out. But he says "I don't know a CEO who hasn't made mistakes long the way. It's how fast you learn from them and correct them.




January 29, 2014

Lots of demands, little free time...trying to find work life balance as a non profit leader

Work-life demands intense for CEOs at nonprofits


Most CEOs of nonprofits say passion for the cause outweighs the personal tradeoffs. Meanwhile, many young people say they don’t want leadership roles in nonprofits.
Ileana Ramirez-Cueli chats with Sheila Silverman as she creates a new work of art in the Art from the Heart program. Ileana is the Executive Director of the Schott Communities Enviroment Center program for the intellectually and physically disabled clients in Cooper City.
Ileana Ramirez-Cueli chats with Sheila Silverman as she creates a new work of art in the Art from the Heart program. Ileana is the Executive Director of the Schott Communities Enviroment Center program for the intellectually and physically disabled clients in Cooper City


A nonprofit leader, Saliha Nelson, 41, has dragged her two kids with her to community meetings, written grant proposals in the middle of the night, and even substituted for sick workers at youth after-school programs: “I want the organization to be successful, so I do whatever it takes.”

When you lead a nonprofit, where the end game is about making the community a better place to live, the workload can be immense and the emotions intense. It’s a big responsibility — and one that people in their 20s and 30s aren’t rushing to undertake.

As the demand for leaders in nonprofits increases, young workers say they don’t want to make the work-life sacrifices required of nonprofit executives like Nelson, who leads Miami’s Urgent Inc., which supports low-income youth with after-school and camp programs, according to research by the Meyer Foundation in Washington, D.C.

The 2008 study of 6,000 next-generation leaders shows that even young workers already employed at nonprofits are wary of rising to executive positions, an outlook researchers say hasn’t improved in the past five years. While the daily responsibilities for nonprofit chief executive can vary with the size and scope of the organization, the deterrents include low earning potential and an expectation of doing more with less. “Young people are saying, ‘I can still do good and help out with causes whether or not I work for [a nonprofit],’ ” says Derrick Feldmann, CEO of Achieve, which helps organizations reach younger generations of donors and volunteers.

As the nation struggles to recover from the economic downturn, the pressure on executive directors to deliver has intensified. Leaders must manage their organization’s internal operations and programs, be the public face of the organization, attend events, and work harder at courting donors and identifying funding sources. Because of small budgets and a lack of resources, “as executive director, you are trying to make up for the deficits yourself, and it becomes way more than a 40- or 50-hour-a-week job,” says Rick Moyers, vice president of communications at the Meyer Foundation, which invests in visionary leaders and effective community-based nonprofit organizations.

Most leaders say passion for the cause outweighs the personal trade-offs. “I like giving services to communities who wouldn’t ordinarily be able to afford them,” explains Kathleen Cannon, CEO of United Way of Broward County.

On a given day, Cannon, 49, races from morning meetings with business partners to the office to meet with her board or staff. On weekends, she often will attend a Saturday night gala or a community fundraiser: “I have to get in front of people and remind them of the difference they are making.”

In her off hours, the single mother raises a teenage son.

“It takes an unbelievable commitment,” she says of her work with United Way. “This is a partnership with the community like none other, a way to create big change.”



January 27, 2014

Why you need to make time to tweet

If you're not making the time for social media...here's why you should be.



Tweet success: Small businesses turn to social media marketing to build brands


REACHING OUT TO MOMS: Joanne Vivero, left, owner of R & J Baby in Doral, with Marirose Mardeni, R&J’s vice president.



It's mid-morning and Michael Mendez snaps a photo of the new beer he has just stocked in his convenience store. Within minutes, he posts it on Twitter to his 7,000 followers. If the response is typical, customers will stream in by late afternoon, asking for the rare brew.

Mendez strategically has branded his four Miami-area fuel stations as much more than places for a fill-up. Using Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, he has created buzz about craft beers and other products inside the station shop, where the profit margins are higher than at the pump.

“Branding in today’s world is knowing people and relating to them,” said Mendez, whose Mendez Fuel customers often share the photos and spread the word online about his new arrivals.

In recent years, small-business owners like Mendez have turned to social media, email and mobile marketing websites to build visibility for their brands. In 2014, say experts, digital marketing is no longer simply a way to bump up brand awareness: It has become essential. With 73 percent of U.S. internet useres turning to social networking sites and 53 percent of American adults carrying a smart phone, businesses that don’t employ social network marketing may find themselves losing out to the competition.

“If you are counting on your business to generate profit for a while or if you plan to leave it as a legacy for a family member, if you’re not branding and marketing online, you’re being irresponsible,” says Stephen Cabeza, founder of Amplification Inc, a Fort Lauderdale social media marketing company.

At a time when 85 percent of buyers go online to research purchases, successful social media marketing has the potential to generate more traffic to a website, send customers to a retail location, create awareness for a brand and build allegiance. According to a 2014 State of Marketing Report produced by ExactTarget digital marketing firm, 86 percent of the 2,500 global marketers surveyed believe social media is currently or will eventually provide financial return. “With this in mind, we expect to see marketers using social media to better boost their brand with customers,’’ wrote the report’s authors.

Already, more than two-thirds of small business owners are spending more time on social media than a year ago, according to a survey by VerticalResponse, a San Francisco-based company. Indeed, 43 percent of respondents said they spend six or more hours per week on social media activities for their businesses. They are posting to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and Google Plus and blogs. But those who do so effectively aren’t just spending hours blasting blindly into the ether.

“Conversation is the new marketing,” said Kellie Kuecha, a Boca Raton life coach who calls herself the Brand Re-Coder. The key, she says, is to consistently post meaningful, authentic content across all of your social channels and get people to trust you and talk about your brand. You want to interact with your followers by replying to direct messages and posing questions and you want to post more of the content that you notice followers like, share and comment on the most. That could include photos, videos, graphics, illustrations or words.

By sparking a conversation, telling your story and offering something special rather than just pitching your product, you have a chance to make your company stand out and chose you instead of a competitor, Kuecha advised. “You have to use social media to attract people into your world. Once you do that, the selling process is easier.”


January 24, 2014

Do employers care about your stress?

Stressed worker

I received an interesting email in response to my article and blog post on companies encouraging mindfulness at work. (Mindfulness is a stress-busting technique that focuses on being reflective rather than reactive) The email came from a reader who believes companies don't care at all whether their workers are stressed out.

Here's what reader Julio Ugarte wrote to me:

"Maybe a few businesses are willing to practice this (mindfulness) but the majority of Corporate America is not in that bandwagon. Have you checked the Post Office lately? How about all the retail businesses? What has to happen is that not only they practice "mindfulness" but also "COMPASSION". Starting from the CEO on down. Apply this to their WORKERS! After all how are you going to change Corporate America when they are making the biggest profits in years treating their workers like GARBAGE!"

He continues...

"I wish what you write becomes true. I can only pray that it will happen. But that is not what is happening now in Corporate America."

Julio, you have a point. As a nation, our job-related stress levels have soared. People feel under pressure if the demands of their job are greater than they can comfortably manage. Other sources of work-related stress include conflict with co-workers or bosses, constant change, and threats to job security.

Businesses are making efforts to promote wellness, which in the end enhances their bottom line by reducing health care costs and curbing absenteeism. But do you think employers realize their workers are stressed out? Are they reading the signs such as aggression, depression, impatience and even physical illness?

Employers could help reduce stress if they wanted to. Just to start, they could make sure workers are properly trained for their jobs, provide an outlet for communicating grievances, and staff appropriately.

Julio convincing argues that businesses don't care about their workers' stress levels. Readers, I'd love to hear your thoughts...  Is interest in helping workers reduce their stress levels isolated to a few employers? 


January 22, 2014

Mindfulness in the workplace

My column today in The Miami Herald delves into a workplace trend that peaked my curiousity. If you're looking to reduce your stress and improve your work life balance, you might want to consider practicing mindfulness in the workplace.

Working with ‘mindfulness’ reduces stress in the workplace

A few years ago, when Miami attorney Paul Singerman received a hostile email from opposing counsel, he would react with an immediate terse response. Not anymore. “The first thing I do is nothing,” he explains. Then, he says, he takes a deep breath, processes both his mental and physical reaction, and thinks carefully about how to stop the negative dynamic taking shape.

For Singerman, reflecting before reacting is the first step in practicing mindfulness — a stress-busting technique quickly spreading in workplaces across the country. In the rush to accomplish multiple tasks or respond to job pressures, people often lose connection with the present moment. They stop being attentive to what they’re doing or feeling, and react from a place of stress. Mindfulness is the practice of focusing awareness on the present moment.

Teaching and encouraging mindfulness in the workplace has become a part of corporate efforts to reduce the stresses that can lead to burnout. Increasingly, the practice has gone mainstream, buoyed by the recent endorsements of CEOs, educators, actors, and politicians who link mindfulness to improved psychological and even physical health.

Singerman said not only is he working on mastering mindfulness, his law firm, Berger Singerman, has sponsored workshops for clients, employees and colleagues. “I really believe mindfulness can make you more effective and enhance your prospects for success,” he says. Singerman’s own experience with mindfulness has been cultivated over 2 ½ years and has helped him become a better listener and more observant person, he says.

Businesses have bottom-line reasons to embrace it. Using mindfulness at work can make for a happier employee, according to Sharon Salzberg, author of the book Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement and Peace. Salzberg believes mindfulness can be applied in any career and says once an employee trains his mind, all kinds of conscious moments of awareness start seeping into the workplace. For example, practicing mindfulness at work could be pausing and planning before picking up a phone, or taking a deep breath and focusing on the desired outcome during a contentious meeting. “It’s a great tool for coming back to the moment and remembering your intention,” she says.

According to the World Health Organization, the cost of stress to American businesses is as high as $300 billion — a cost estimate that includes healthcare and lost productivity because of diabetes, high blood pressure and other illnesses. For businesses, stress reduction and mindfulness have become a key part of wellness efforts.

Mindfulness programs in the workplace typically involve multiple sessions that teach meditation techniques, such as controlled breathing and bringing thoughts back to the present. They also include exercises for toning down mental chatter and improving listening skills. Employees learn how to apply the techniques in their daily routines on the job and in their personal lives.

At Aetna, more than 49,000 employees have access to three different wellness programs that incorporate mindfulness. Paul Coppola, director of wellness-program strategy at the insurance company, says about 13,000 have participated either in person or virtually. “Classes always fill up quickly,” he says, mostly because word of mouth has increased interest. Coppola says employees who have participated report a decrease in stress levels and more awareness of triggers. Employees who participated in a 12-week program saw increased productivity and even improvements in physical health, such as lower blood pressure and weight loss. Aetna also offers two mindfulness programs to its employer customers; some are offering it through one-on-one coaching.

Other big companies that have offered mindfulness programs include Google, General Mills, Nike and Proctor & Gamble. Media mogul Arianna Huffington, a proponent of this stress-busting technique, has referred to mindfulness as “a proven competitive advantage for any business that wants one.”

Kelley McCabe Ruff runs eMindful, a Vero Beach company that puts on virtual workshops for businesses, including Aetna. Myriad timely factors are bringing attention to mindfulness, she says, including high, job-related stress levels, an increasing corporate interest in wellness, an explosion of research on the neuroscience behind the technique, more data on its effectiveness, and more buy-in from corporate leaders. She has been able to tie mindfulness programs to results, showing that these tools support behavioral change that leads to physical changes, such as reduced cortisol levels and lower blood pressure. “We actually supply employers a return on investment calculation.”

Life coach Judy Martin, founder of Work Life Nation, says she now includes mindfulness in her consultancy toolkit. “It makes sense that we’re seeing more interest in mindfulness. If workers are worried about past projects that weren’t stellar or a future deadline creeping up, how can they be creative and focused on the work at hand?’’ Martin says she teaches her clients that even lunchtime can provide mindfulness moments: mindfully eating a meal, noticing the scent of your food, the colors and texture of the food in your mouth. She also recommends talking a walk outside and being aware of the weather, the trees, the colors of the flowers, the warm sun.

At the University of Miami, associate psychology professor Amishi Jha has delved into brain research on the link between mindfulness, productivity and health. She says the science behind mindfulness training shows it can build resilience, and enhance memory and concentration. “Just as physical exercise is critical for our body’s health, mental exercises, such as mindfulness training, are necessary for our psychological and brain health.”

One profession where mindfulness has gained particular traction is law. University of Miami professor Scott Rogers pioneered a Mindfulness in Law course, introducing more than 700 students to the technique during the past five years. He isn’t alone; at least 50 faculty members at 25 law schools have introduced mindfulness to law students. Now, he says, mindfulness workshops are offered at law firms and at judicial and legal conferences.

Lawyers like Singerman, who apply mindfulness in the legal setting, are able to gain more control during heated disputes, Rogers said. “They are more clear about what’s taking place so they can be more effective in those moments,” he explains.

Columnist Cindy Krischer Goodman is CEO of BalanceGal, a provider of news and advice on work/life issues. To suggest topics or provide comments, connect with her at www.workinglifebalancingact.com or balancegal@gmail.com

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/01/21/3884295/working-with-mindfulness-reduces.html#storylink=cpy


January 20, 2014

Want a better work life balance? Exercise.


Today, I have a lot on my plate  -- work deadlines, kids home from school, my parents coming over for dinner. I just don't have time to workout in the gym, even though I made an exercise schedule and I should be sticking to it. When I'm stressed and feeling overwhelmed, I usually give up exercise to get more done. 

Now, I'm rethinking my behavior.

Researchers have found that exercise empowers people to feel they could better manage their work life balance. People who exercised regularly were more confident they could handle tough tasks. They felt better prepared for the challenges of the interaction of their work and home life and were less likely to be stressed at work, researchers found.

"The idea sounds counter-intuitive," admits Russell Clayton, assistant professor of management at Saint Leo University and lead author on the research report. "How is it that adding something else to our work day helps to alleviate stress and empower us to deal with work-family issues?"

However, Clayton said,  "We think exercise is a way to psychologically detach from work -- you're not there physically and you're not thinking about it either -- and, furthermore, it can help us feel good about ourselves." 

The study's researcher believe the findings suggest employers can help employees with work life balance by encouraging them to exercise. I think we are seeing many employers move in this direction. We definitely have seen more of an emphasis on wellness in the workplace. 

As the new year arrived, many of us made resolutions to exercise more and take better care of ourselves. Our motivation might have been the physical benefits but now we know there are mental benefits, too. As researchers put it, "an hour of exercise creates a feeling that lasts well beyond that hour spent at the gym." 

So, I guess I have to break the habit of blowing off exercise when my plates start overflowing with to-dos. This research is just another nudge to get moving. 

As Clayton put it:  "If you have been feeling torn between resolutions to exercise more and to be a better working parent or spouse, then this should come as great news: You can do both. Here’s to your success and happiness in 2014."




January 15, 2014

Should you tell a sick co-worker to go home? Flu season hits the workplace...

I woke up this morning with a terrible cold. I'm convinced I jinxed myself by talking to so many people with the flu last week. When you work from home, you can be sick and it doesn't affect anyone. But when you work in an office, going in with the sniffles and a cough can lead to others getting sick. So which is the better route...to brave through it and get work done...or to stay home and keep the germs contained?

I tackled the topic in my Miami Herald column today:


Should sick workers stay home?


Bringing flu and other communicable diseases into the workplace can significant hurt business. But many employees are reluctant to stay home.
Flu is expected to hit especially hard nationwide this year, with tourists sure to bring germs to South Florida. Local workplaces will surely face the question of whether to ask sick employees to stay home.
Flu is expected to hit especially hard nationwide this year, with tourists sure to bring germs to South Florida. Local workplaces will surely face the question of whether to ask sick employees to stay home. 




After four days in bed with the flu, Cindy Papale returned to her office only to have a colleague come in sniffling and coughing, touching common surfaces and spreading germs. Within a few days Papale was out again with a fever. “If people would stay home, then the rest of us might not get sick, too,” she said.

Flu season is here with a vengeance and it can be tough on the workplace, creating resentment among co-workers, testing flexibility policies and putting the boss in awkward situations. Whether motivated by fear of losing their jobs, a desire to look responsible, a need for income or reluctance to give up vacation days, employees inevitably come to work sick. Some even put up a fight when colleagues or a boss suggests they go home.

“When you work in a close environment, if someone is not telling you to go home, they’re thinking it,” explained Papale, an administrative assistant in a Miami-Dade office. “We’re all just trying to stay well.”

Experts are calling this flu season the worst in a decade, predicting that at least 20 percent of the population has fallen or will become ill. In the last few weeks, odds are that if you haven't had the flu, you know someone who has had it.

For businesses, a single flu-struck worker can have a domino effect. According to a new survey from the office supply company Staples, nearly 90 percent of office workers come to work even when they know they are sick. California-based Disability Management Employer Coalition estimates that employees who come to work with the flu increase lost workdays by 10 percent to 30 percent.

Still, some workplaces seem blind to the potential cost. One non-profit employee complained that in her workplace, if you call in sick, the boss treats you like you're a slacker and even compliments the work ethic of those who come to the workplace sniffling. Others say they are given a cold shoulder by fellow workers when they ask to work from home.

Office manager Rosie Toledo doesn’t agree with that line of thinking at all. “You have to think about the whole office,” she said. Toledo, who manages a Miami medical office, said she has no qualms about telling sick employees not to come in, or to go home if they come in ill.

“If you work somewhere with little interaction with others and can quarantine yourself, then it’s understandable to come in,’’ said Toledo. “But we interact with patients. I’d rather struggle without a person than have someone sick in the office.”

Toledo says she will allow an employee to work from home doing what they can and take a partial sick day. “I try to be flexible. It is tricky. Some people will question, ‘are they really that sick?’ ” Toledo notes that an employee at any workplace who comes in under the weather, typically fails to be productive, anyway. “When you are sick, you’re not fruitful anywhere you are at.”

Of course, some hourly workers come in sick because they need the income. More than 70 percent of low-wage workers get no paid sick days at all, according to the recently released Shriver Report, A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink. Others save their time off to care for sick children.

Salaried workers who do get paid sick days say their behavior stems from dedication or fear. Research suggests businesses should be doing more to curb employees’ perceived workplace obligation to be at the office. “It’s rare that you have a manager who tells an employee who is sick to get his butt to work unless there’s a pattern of abuse of sick days,’’ said Bruce Elliott, manager of compensation and benefits at the national Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

As flu season drags on, bosses often find themselves in an awkward quandary. They need work completed, but they also want to avert widespread absenteeism.

At a restaurant, if a dishwasher stays home sick, that’s a hole in a key position. But the alternative could be worse. “If someone is on the edge and comes in, it can be devastating if they take out two or three other employees,” said Abe Ng, CEO of Miami-based Sushi Maki and Canton Chinese Restaurants, which has 15 locations. “It’s hard because some on the team are hourly, and they want to work.”

Telling a worker – or forcing them– to go home can be problematic. Ng tries to use diplomacy. “They understand when I explain the bigger picture. If they tough it out and get really sick, they will be out longer. If I am down one sushi chef, no big deal. But if I am down three, I’m in trouble. I try to put it in context for them. “

Increasingly, bosses say they get pushback from employees who insist they are well enough to be present.

“It comes down to counseling the employee and letting him know he really should go home,” said Elliott of SHRM, who has told employees to go home. Still, he says, “I would caution managers that if the employee says he is fine, leave it. You might want to monitor his activity though, and if it is way off, talk to him about taking tomorrow off.”

Some businesses try to curb flu outbreaks in their workplace by administering vaccines. Others rely on an effective leave policy and encourage workers to step up hygiene efforts.

Elliott said he has seen a definite return on investment for employers that offer flu shots in terms of lessened absenteeism. “It’s a proactive approach.”

This year, the Miami Dolphins took that proactive approach and gave its players and office workers flu shots. Some sports teams have gone as far as to quarantine players with flu symptoms to prevent contaminating teammates.

DHL, with 600 employees in Plantation, encourages flu shots by reimbursing the cost at 100 percent and emphasizing preventative care. The company allowsworkers to accrue sick time by hours worked from their first day on the job. And it separates paid vacation time off from sick time to encourage its use.

Most importantly, says Mari Toroker, senior manager of H R at DHL Express Americas, “We’re a tight environment, a cubicle environment, and we encourage anyonewho is sick to work from home. We really promote that internally.”

In the workplace, the flu viruses can survive on hard surfaces like keyboards and desks for up to 48 hours. But the most common way flu virus is spreadin offices is through person-to-person contact and airborne from coughing, said Giorgio Tarchini, an infectious disease doctor with Cleveland Clinic in Weston.

Often, he notes, people go back to work too soon. “They should wait 24 hours with no symptoms,” he said.

For those who have yet to get a flu shot, there still is time and reason to do so, said Tarchini. Flu season peaks in January and February and runs through April.

Now that she’s feeling healthy after two bouts of the flu, Papale is taking precautions by wiping down her work area and telephone. She hopes others in her office will do the same, that feverish co-workers stay home and that the flu virus is finally behind her -- at least for 2014. 


For more topics like this one, visit my new blog CindyKeepsUp.com.


January 13, 2014

Is working long hours a bad thing?

Is there anything wrong with wanting to put in long hours at the office?

After reading a fantastic post on WallStreetOasis.com by a blogger named NorthSider who says he happily puts in the 60-plus hours required of an investment banker, it made me think about the work side of the work life balance equation. 

The blogger wrote: 

I had gone into the job with the preexisting belief that my work/life balanced sucked, and I should be upset/sad/angry about it. I chatted with my coworkers about it and occasionally mentioned it to my friends. I was the picture of a perfect post-undergrad IB analyst: disgruntled and passionately pursuing greener pastures.

Until, one week, I started to realize that I was neither dissatisfied about my work nor my life (whether that means I have a "work/life balance", I have no idea)...

And it wasn't long before I started to realize that my friends in more "traditional" jobs complained just as often about working too much as my friends in IB.

Since reading the post, I've been thinking about the long hours some professionals happily put into their work. And, I realized that regardless of what job you are in, there's always someone at a different stage of life than you who is willing to put in more work hours than you or gains more enjoyment from it. As this blogger pointed out: if you're in a job and you're working tons of hours and you enjoy it, you may be happier than someone working 40 hours a week.

In this work life balance discussion, have we shifted the focus too much away from finding satisfaction in work? Do we frown too easily on people who want to spending the bulk of their waking hours working?

Recently I was at a concert and heard a young singer, Austin Mahone. To me, he looked like a younger version of Justin Bieber, only I enjoyed his music more. Just as Justin is taking a hiatus from music, there's a young up and comer right behind him who is putting in the hours to get his name and music out there. 

Work life balance is about spending our time in ways that bring us satisfaction. If someone is at a time in life when they want to put in hours to build a business or advance in their careers or because they enjoy what they do, the rest of us shouldn't feel threatened by that. How many times have you muttered..."so and so has no life?" If someone wants to tip the work life balance scale in the direction of work, shouldn't we be okay with that?

Of course, we know that an extreme commitment to work (70 hour weeks) over a lifetime may not be sustainable, particularly when job-related stress levels are at an all time high.  At some point, you would want to find ways to create free time to decompress.

As one commenter noted: working 40 hours per week doesn't guarantee happiness. Nor does working 80 hours per week guarantee unhappiness. So true!

In this work life balance discussion, the key is making choices about how we spend our time and being satisfied with our choices. If someone else is okay with putting in long hours at work, even energized by it, that's their choice. Let's stop being judgment when we talk work life balance and respect the trade-offs all of us make to achieve our definition of what it means to us. 



January 08, 2014

What does work life balance look like for you?

Below is my column in today's Miami Herald:


Wherever I go lately, people tell me they want better work/life balance in the new year. My response is to ask, “What does work/life balance look like for you?”

Finding a balance between work and personal life is not like reaching balance on a scale with equal weights. It is not about working less. It is about spending your time in a way that brings satisfaction. In a survey by the University of Scranton, one of the top New Year’s resolutions for 2014 is to enjoy life to the fullest. In a society where stress levels have soared, that’s a good goal for all of us.

As 2013 came to a close, I heard such statements as this: My family life and my health have suffered because of work, and I am not going to let that continue. I also heard the opposite: I want to acquire language skills or get a certification to finally advance at work.

Experts say we need to get more specific about what personal fulfillment looks like and define our path to find it because less than half of us will keep our resolutions past the first six months. Does fulfillment and better work/life balance mean eating dinner as a family a few nights a week? Does it mean reclaiming Saturdays to take rides with a bike club? Or taking on a new project at work that excites you?

“Narrow it down and set one important intention, because behavioral change is hard,” says Shani Magosky, executive coach and owner of Vitesse Consulting in Fort Lauderdale “Our brains are hard-wired to reinforce habits that exist.”

Once you know exactly what a better work/life balance looks like, Magosky suggests you figure out what you need to do to make it happen. Remember creating a habit or breaking an old one takes time and practice. It requires change. What specifically are you going to do to make sure that change happens?

If your goal is to eat dinner more often with your kids, post a photo of you doing it somewhere you will see it each day — maybe on your computer desktop. “You need some kind of reminder to keep the intention in the forefront of your mind,” Magosky says. Digital reminders with built-in alerts are catching on, too, and often provide the nudge to get a late-night dweller out of the office at a scheduled time.

If you find yourself spending a Saturday at the office instead of with your bike club, don't fret or give up. Change the background on your mobile phone to yourself on your bike as motivation for making it happen the next week.

The key is to examine what is at stake if you don’t make a change. For example, if you are on the phone or online all the time, will your health suffer, your relationships become strained, your children become resentful? “Considering the consequences will help you get clear on why you should put forth the effort to make that change,” Magosky says.

Judy Martin consults stressed employees who want to feel better, work better, and live better. Studies highlighted by the American Institute of Stress show that jobs are by far the major source of stress for American adults, and that job-related stress levels have escalated over the past decade. If your work life has you feeling pulled and anxious, Martin, founder of Work Life Nation, recommends taking baby steps toward change in 2014. “The secret sauce is in the planning. Plan out the change you need to make and the actions you need to take.”

For example, Martin says, one client in middle management felt stressed every night by trying to get home early enough to spend time with his family, yet complete his job responsibilities. Together, they came up with a plan for him to go to the office an hour earlier, use the quiet time to more strategically plan out the day and work while it is quiet, and leave an hour earlier to enjoy family time. “It wasn’t just about changing work hours,” she explains. “It was also about giving him time to switch modes and start the day more positive.”

Business consultant Nigel Marsh notes: The companies we work for aren’t going to create work/life balance for us. We have to take control of and responsibility for the life we want to live.

Often in January, people become convinced they need to change jobs to feel like their work and personal life are more in synch. Tom Connelly, an executive recruiter with Boyden global executive search in Coral Gables, said he already has seen a flood of résumés from people who feel unfulfilled in their current jobs.

“It’s not just a pondering about their professional situation, family stuff comes into play. Over the holidays, people are spending time with family and everything bubbles up into a volcano and they think if they find a new job everything will be OK.”

If you do feel that way, Connelly suggests you network and find a business coach to help identify your weak areas and improve on them as steps toward a job search. The economy is expected to show more life in 2014, which will present workers with a number of opportunities, he believes.

But Connelly cautions that a new job does not guarantee better work/life balance, regardless of whether you work fewer hours. You can have satisfaction with work, despite having a work profile that would scare the living daylights out of the 40-hour work week.

Christine Denton, a Miami Mary Kaye executive sales director, said accomplishing her work goals fuels her. She enjoys inspiring her team to become a million-dollar sales unit and that motivates her as she puts in nights and weekend hours. This year, she will keep a photo of a pink Cadillac Escalade on her desk as she aims to hit her sales goals and become a national sales director even while giving birth to her first child in April. Denton said the baby, the Escalade, and the idea of leading by example are motivation as she resolves to use her time wisely in 2014 and establish the boundaries that will allow her to feel satisfied at work and home.

As many of us have learned, you can have more personal time but spend it in ways that aren’t fulfilling. If you’re coming home from work just to pick up where you left off, it’s time to draw a line in the sand. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. As a blogger on WallStreetOasis.com notes: “Having more ‘free time’ won’t make you happy. Having a job to which you want to contributeand a life that you're enjoying every minute of will.”

It will take some planning and discipline, but if work/life balance is your resolution, you really can accomplish it in the new year.


 Christine Denton, a Mary Kay Elite Executive Sales Director, and her hubby get ready for their first child, scheduled to arrive in April! ( photo by Cristina Morgado)


Christine Denton keeps this photo of a pink Escalade on her desk as motivation!