August 18, 2015

A life-changing, must-read book

Recently while on vacation, I browsed in one of Portland's largest bookstores called Powell's. On the shelf of best sellers, I saw a title that intrigued me. The book is called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I found it odd that a book with that title would be on the best sellers list. I remembered that one of my favorite bloggers, Penelope Trunk, had written a post about the book. How could I resist buying it!

I spent the plane ride home devouring the book. By the time I landed, I was energized and ready to purge the clutter in my home. What's unique about this book written by Marie Kondo is that it recommends a single-shot, all out purge of anything that doesn't bring you joy to wear or inspiration to own. Kondo believes reducing the amount of stuff in our homes makes us feel more energetic and can even lead to weight loss and lifestyle change. She also believes when you clear clutter, you can find what you are truly passionate about.

Kondo gives a great example: When one of her clients de-cluttered her bookcase, the IT professional saw the remaining books on her shelf that inspired her were about x and realized what she really wanted to do. She spent a year preparing and then quit her job and started a childcare company.

Over the last few days, I have filled about a dozen garbage bags with stuff from my closet, drawers and shelves. I haven't finished. As part of the process, I rearranged the order of items in my closet to create a system that helps me get out the door faster. I already feel different.

I admit, I'm a saver. But there really is something rewarding about discarding and then organizing all at once. It is unbelievably helpful to see clearly what you need in life and what you don't, once you get into the right mindset.

For all of us, the goal in purging our clutter is less stress looking for things and more time with people who make us happy. Thanks to Kondo, I have a new recipe for work life balance: Get rid of stuff I don’t use, need or that doesn’t bring me joy and surround myself with what makes me happy such as a new project at work or an old pair of shoes.

We hang on to stuff because we have an attachment to the past or anxiety about the future, according to Kondo. She explains that by figuring out what we need now, at this moment, we will gain confidence in our decisions and be able to achieve much more at home and work. We will be closer to work life balance.

Who knew there was so much to be gained from tidying up?

 

IMG_4498

 (Just the beginning of my tidying spree!)

 

 

 

July 31, 2015

The surprising life of a childcare worker

The cost of caring for a child in America keeps rising, but childcare workers' salaries are not. What's it like to take care of someone else's kid all day while you are being paid subpar wages for your work?

I don't usually post pieces that are political, but this is a topic that affects all of us who care about the next generation of children and the people who care for them while their parents hold jobs. Today, I'm thrilled to have a guest blogger/childcare worker give us some insight into what it's like for her. Her name is LiAnne Flakes, she is 40 and has been working in child care for 22 years. She currently works at the Bible Base Fellowship Childcare Center in Tampa and makes $10.75 an hour.

 

LiAnne Flakes

(LiAnne at an event outside the U.S. Capitol)

Here is LiAnne's story:

After working in child care for 22 years, I’ve seen firsthand how our broken child care system is holding our communities and our families back. Working parents can’t afford quality care, and child care workers can’t cover rent, groceries and basic bills for our families.

Each day, I care for and teach eight children between 10 months and 3-years-old, making sure that they eat healthy, learn to socialize and play and learn new words and songs. But I’m paid just $10.75 an hour to take care of our country’s most precious resource – our children. That means I can’t afford a car and health insurance.

Most child care workers are among the lowest paid workers in cities around the country. To be able to go to the grocery store is a luxury for me. Right now, my fridge is pretty empty – the last time I was able to buy groceries was about a month ago. 

Sadly, though, many parents are in the same situation, as far as not getting paid enough to afford rent, food and healthcare and relying on public assistance to survive. We’re in a system that’s not working for anyone – parents, children or child care workers. 

That’s why I joined the Fight for $15, and am joining with parents and our political leaders to call for a stronger child care system a $15 an hour wage for all child care workers.

Outside the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, I stood with parents, workers and members of Congress to announce a bold plan for a stable, reliable child care system and a stronger workforce that has the pay, training and support we need to provide the best care possible. Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici said at the event, “Families need a reliable and affordable child care system that’s available when they need it. And importantly, the care should be provided by skilled child care workers who are paid enough to support their families,”

In DC this week, I met child care workers, parents and families who are also struggling to juggle bills and make sure their kids are happy and safe when they are at work. She’tara Brown, a mother of three who works at the Dollar Tree in Tampa, and is paid $8.05 an hour told me that affordable care would change her life. Right now, her mom takes care of her 6-year-old and 3-year-old daughters and her 4-year-old son because she can’t afford center-based care. She told me, “I work so hard. But with what I’m making, I can’t support my kids. My check is $170 every two weeks. After lights, rent and necessities for my kids – like school supplies – I have nothing.”

I want to have children someday, but sometimes I think it’s a blessing that I don’t have any right now. It’s one thing if I go hungry, but an entirely different matter if a child doesn’t have enough to eat. The fact is too many families are working hard each day but can’t pay the bills like me and She’tara.  

Starting next week, child care providers, parents and members of Congress will be holding roundtables and town halls to discuss  policies that strengthen the childcare workforce and invest in affordable quality care. In the Fight for $15 we have already been taking our recommendations to elected leaders. In May, parents and child care workers met with Hillary Clinton to talk about what we need to provide the best care without living in poverty.

It hurts our entire community when hard-working parents can’t make ends meet and child care workers live in constant stress and anxiety about where to get their next meal. It’s time we had a child care system that supported all families and working parents – those who provide and those who need child care.

 

 

July 21, 2015

Should you check your email on Saturday?

A friend, a senior executive for a pharmaceutical company, told me he has made a rule for himself. He doesn't check email on Saturday. He said he set the rule because he would check, see an email that needed action, but felt it was wrong to reach out on the weekend to the people he needed to contact to resolve a matter. Then, he would spend his Saturday aggravated about the unresolved issue.

Since he stopped checking emails on Saturdays, he says he is more relaxed. It's like he gave himself permission to enjoy his weekends and regain some work life balance. His wife, a teacher, is more relaxed, too. She doesn't have to worry that he's going to be steamed about a work concern while they are at the beach or on their boat. 

Listening to him, his email rule made sense. It wasn't that long ago that weekends were family time. There wasn't the expectation that we would react to work concerns on a Saturday -- unless we were in the office, specifically to handle a matter. While we've built an expectation of immediacy, my friend has found waiting until Monday to resolve an issue has given him time to think it through and approach it from a well-thought-out perspective. So far, nothing has been so urgent that waiting to respond to email Sunday night or Monday morning has been a problem. 

What are your thoughts on checking emails on Saturday? For so many of us, it's become a habit. Would you be able to abide by a "No email on Saturday" policy?

No-email

 

July 16, 2015

How weird would it feel to do a digital detox?

 

                                      Detox

Have you ever gone away for a day -- a full 24 hours -- and not checked email or Internet?

I've done it and It felt kind of strange, like I was missing out on something. But at the same time, it felt good, like I actually got something done, even if that something was a day at the beach enjoying my family. The question is...can you make it more than a day without logging on to an electronic screen? 

First of all, why should any of us try it? After all, logging on is how we do business, keep in touch with friends and let the world know what we are up to.

There are a few reasons why it's worth trying.

The first reasons is our eyes. This morning I was reading an article about why our kids need digital detox. The article suggested all the screen time might be hurting our kids development growth and their eyesight. The article even quotes an eye doctor who is seeing more children than ever before with vision problems because of too much time in front of screens. I have trouble believing these problems are confined only to children. Are we setting ourselves up for a severe case of short-sightedness as we grow older?

The next reason is our brains.  A few weeks ago I read about digital amnesia. Our addiction to our smartphones has wreaked havoc on our short term memories. Most of us can't remember basic phones for family and friends. We rely on our cellphones to keep the information on file for us. Worse, we're no longer worrying about remembering information of any sort, figuring instead that we can just go the Internet to recall a fact. Experts wonder if we will completely lose our ability to memorize.

Another reason is our anxiety level. In our increasingly tech-dependent society, the emotional stakes are high. In a survey of 1,000 people, many said they would become “overwhelmed by sadness” if they lost their phone. Some even said they’d go into a panic. I would definitely fall into that category.

Now that we know why we should cut back on screen time, we need to figure out how to do it.

I'm realistic enough to know I could never go more than a few days without connecting to the Internet. But this year while on vacation, I am going to try to go a little longer than I have in past years. And, I'm going to try to try to enforce "No Internet Saturdays." That's my version of digital detox.

Frances Booth writes in Forbes that ideal digital detox is 24 hours. She says all it takes is turning the power button to off on our digital devices. Easy! Not so easy?

She offers some steps: Remind yourself why you want to detox, choose a realistic time (not when you're super busy at work), announce it on your social media sites, plan something enjoyable to keep you focused. You might also warn your parents and friends that they shouldn’t take it personally when you don’t text them back or like their picture right away.

 

Give digital detox a try and let me know how it goes.  It might feel weird at first. But then, it might feel great!

July 10, 2015

Why I'm considering standing while working

My lower back is killing me. So, when I began to hear people talking about standing desks, I was intrigued. 

I thought standing while working would be tiring. But the people I spoke to who have standing desks say it's actually invigorating, especially after lunch when most of us hit our afternoon slump.

Here's my Miami Herald article on the standing desks:

Unknown-3

Miami wealth manager Adam Carlin has a more invigorating afternoon routine than those of us who retreat to our cubicles after lunch and sink into our desk chairs. Carlin spends his afternoons on his feet at his standing desk: “I feel so much healthier.”

The emphasis on wellness outside of work has shifted inside, and desk dwellers are the new target. With research showing Americans sedentary lifestyle taking a toll on our health, a trend toward standing desks is gaining ground as the U.S. workforce continues to shift to office-based work. People who use standing desks say the benefits are fewer backaches, more energy and a boost in productivity, allowing them to leave work in better a mood and with more work completed.

To avoid foot pain, users are switching it up, opting for desks or workstations that allow them to adjust the height, either electronically or manually. Throughout the day, depending on the task, they find a comfortable balance between sitting, standing and moving.

Carlin bought his standing desk two years ago after noticing the trend had infiltrated New York’s financial offices. He initially saw a standing desk as a way to alleviate back pain, but he quickly discovered it also helped him avoid the afternoon slump. Returning from lunch, he raises his desk that holds a keyboard and two monitors and reads research or talks on the phone while standing. Carlin said it was an adjustment, at first, for his feet, but after a short while, he found that standing gives him a second wind: “It feels like it’s how I should be situated, not trapped at a desk, unable to move around.”

Unknown-2

 

Once upright, most standers tend to move around their work spaces. Miami publicist Sissy DeMaria of Kreps DeMaria PR began using a standing desk two years ago. She still does tasks like writing notes or signing checks while sitting down, but she tackles other responsibilities like writing press releases or reviewing proposals while standing up. She stands most of the day and notices that she moves easily around the office and interacts more with her employees: “When you’re sitting, it’s an effort to get up out of your chair. When you are standing, it’s easy to go over to the printer or to someone’s office to ask them a question.”

The research in favor of standing desks is rising with their popularity. Experts have found the effect of sitting all day for years is associated with a range of health problems, from obesity to diabetes to cancer. One study published in the British Medical Journal found that spending less time sitting could help people live longer by preventing their DNA from aging. Another published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute contends that spending less time sitting could reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. Experts quoted in the British Journal of Sports Medicine said Americans should stand, move and take breaks for at least two out of eight hours at work.

The shift to standing desks started in home offices but has spread to varied workplaces. Employers such as Google and Intel offer standing desks as part of an employee-wellness program to those workers who request them. Priority Health in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has given all of its 1,200 employees sit-to-stand desks. And in June, Westin launched a pilot program to offer treadmill desks to business travelers in guest rooms at its Chicago hotel.

It is difficult to quantify how large the standing desk/treadmill desk sector is, but it is growing at an impressive rate, both in terms of buyers and suppliers, according to Ron Wiener, CEO of iMovR.com, a manufacturer of adjustable-height standing desks, sit-stand meeting tables and treadmill desks. Weiner, who also hosts the website workwhilewalking.com has a full showroom in Bellevue, Washington. “We see new vendors and new products popping up almost daily in this category,” Weiner says.

At a recent office furniture trade show, Wiener says the number of desk manufacturers that were introducing new height-adjustable versions of their office desk furniture caught attendees’ attention. “There were literally dozens of desk manufacturers and component vendors unveiling new sit-to-stand desks in every shape, color, material and size imaginable,” he says. Adjustable-height or standing desks range from about $400 to $1,000. Some companies offer conversion kits that turn a regular desk into a sit-stand desk for a price tag of around $300.

Jeanne Becker, senior vice president at Miami’s Wragg & Casas, spent months researching options before purchasing a standing desk last month. Meanwhile, she rigged her computer atop a pile of magazines to test the concept and noticed an improvement in her lower back. “It’s been a relief to stand for a while,” she says.

Of course, buying the desk is just the first step toward better health. There are people who buy a traditional sit-stand desk and don’t move it out of the sitting position after the novelty wears off, according to industry research. Now, Weiner sees innovation around the next phase: cloud-based technology that measures the time workers spent sitting or standing at their adjustable desks, prods them to stand more often, and finds user patterns. “When you have the ability for companies to tell whether this is a good investment, that’s the inflection point,” Weiner says. Already, Stir, a California manufacturer, has created a kinetic desk that tracks when you are sitting or standing and can be programmed to nudge users to stand up and move more.

For office dwellers who want more movement, treadmill desks are catching on, too. Sharlyn Lauby, owner of a South Florida management training and HR consulting firm, says that when she would get busy with work, the first thing that would go by the wayside were her trips to the gym. She bought a treadmill desk to fit exercise into her work-life balance. Now, she starts her workday with 45 minutes at her treadmill desk doing simple activities such as reading news stories, checking social media, conducting online research, and listening to webinars or podcasts. “I won’t say it’s a replacement for a desk, but it definitely is an opportunity to move more activity into my day,” she says.

Unknown-4


Lauby recently joined a LinkedIn group for treadmill desk users. The group’s 170 members are standing or walking while working as architects, real-estate appraisers, marketing consultants, software developers, corporate trainers and high school teachers. Discussion centers on everything from the best shoes to wear or floor mat to use to where to go to try out new models. Lauby, who wrote about her new treadmill desk on her HR Bartender blog, says they may not be for everyone, but she has gotten her return on investment: “We’re all busy, so for anyone who wants more activity in their day, these desks are a great way to get it.”

 

July 08, 2015

Carli Lloyd, US Women's Soccer Champ, envisioned her goal and we can too

Carli

For years, I've been told to envision my career goals to make them come true. 

I've been advised to create vision boards and urged to read books on the power of visualization. And still, I have resisted. I have prefered to take opportunities as they have come my way.

Not long ago, I heard comedic actor Jim Carrey talk about his experience trying to make it in Hollywood. While trying to break into acting, he says he visualized his success and wrote himself a $10 million check for acting services rendered and post dated it Thanksgiving 1995. The amazing part is that just before Thanksgiving 1995, Jim Carrey signed a contract for $10 million.

But today, I am re-committing to visualization after Carli Lloyd explained how it helped her during Sunday's championship game of the 2015 World Cup for Women's Soccer. 

Carli scored twice in the first five minutes and added a third goal roughly 10 minutes later to give her a hat trick in the game (she scored from midfield). While some were surprised at Lloyd’s scoring output for the game, Lloyd wasn’t one of them. Lloyd says that before she left for the World Cup she visualized scoring four goals in a World Cup Final. ( She scored three, but the team scored a total of four in the first half)

USWNT manager Jill Ellis also envisioned success, saying saw her US Women's team lifting the trophy at the end of the game.

While Carli stood out as a superstar, all along the players have said that teamwork and a strong belief that together they could win made their dream of being world champions come true.

For those of us who get bogged down in "doing it all" and forget to envision where we want to go, the lessons from this championship soccer team are inspiring. 

NBC Sports says Carli, who turns 33 years old this month, has evolved from an out-of-shape young player, who was cut from youth national teams and on the verge of quitting the game over a decade ago, to one of the greatest players in the history of the greatest women’s soccer program on the planet now that it has become the first nation to win three titles, in addition to four Olympic gold medals. Carli also won the Golden Ball award for the 2015 World Cup, given out on Sunday to the tournament’s best player.

NBC also called Carli  "the epitome of an athlete who is laser-focused, eyes wide and hungry at every moment on the field." Her secret for success is that she disconnects from her personal life during major tournaments and maintains minimal contact with her family and friends in order to focus solely on herself.

I think we can all learn from Carli's focus on her goals. In the age of distraction, envisioning what you want in your career and staying focused can be a big challenge. But Carli -- and her teammates -- have proved to all of us that it's worth the effort.

You still have half of 2015 left...what goal do you envision accomplishing by year end? How do you plan to stay focused on your goal?

 

July 02, 2015

More work but we're happy: the new work life balance reality

 

          Happy-employee-group

 

 

A strange phenomenon is going on in workplaces. We are walking around, smartphones in hand (sometimes even in bed when we sleep), complaining about how much we're working, and yet -- we're happy in our jobs and have no intention of leaving them.

What the heck is going on? Have we settled comfortably into a new reality?

Here is what new research reveals:  We are putting in more than 8-hour days, working on weekends at least once a month, eating lunch at our desks, and working after hours to complete work we didn’t finish during the day.

Even with our heavier workloads, the majority of employees (85 percent) said they are happy at work and motivated to become future managers. These are the findings of a new Workplace Index study of about 2,600 workers in the United States and Canada conducted by Staples Advantage, the business-to-business division of Staples, Inc.

"Workers have accepted that work is no longer 9 to 5," says Dan Schawbel, founder of WorkplaceTrends.com, a research and advisory membership service for HR professionals.  "They might have to answer an email after 11 p.m. I think people have adjusted to the new reality."

So, why exactly are we working so much -- and at all hours? 

More than 30 percent of employees participating in the research say the driving force behind the "always on" work culture is the need to complete work they don't have time to do during the day, followed by a desire to get ahead on their work for the following day.  One in five employees said they spend at least two hours a day in meetings and just as many report the meetings are inefficient (a possible reason we're taking work home?).

While we've accepted the new reality of work life blend, how can we be happier? Here are suggestions given in the Staples Advantage findings.

- Flexibility is key to happiness at work. So true. When I talk to employees I notice the happiest workers have flexibility. In the Staples Advantage research,  37 percent of employees say that if employers provide more flexibility it would increase their happiness.

-Office perks are important too. Employees want simple things like break time to refresh or an onsite gym.

-Improving technology would make a difference. Employees say more advanced technology helps them be more creative and better at their jobs.

-Providing better office design is key as well. Employees thrive in offices with high-ceilings, lots of windows, lounge areas and a laid-out break room designed to promote collaboration and rest.

In a definite sign that workers have accepted the new reality of our heavier workloads, few are planning job changes. Only 19 percent said they expect to make a job change in the next year and money was the top reason.

Schawbel says the research confirms that workers are doing more with less on shorter time frames, and have accepted the 24/7 work philosophy -- if it comes with flexibility.  But he wonders if there will be a point where burnt out employees will push back, especially because the study found about a third of employees consider work life balance the leader contributor of loyalty.

Have you accepted the new reality that 9 to 5 workdays have disappeared? Despite a heavier workload, would you say you are happy in your job?

 

June 25, 2015

Why Americans are afraid to take vacation

Are you afraid to take all your vacation days? If so, you're not alone.

Erich McLane, a corporate recruiter, is planning a cruise for his summer vacation. It will be a short cruise over a long weekend. Erich gets two-weeks paid vacation, but says he has no intention of using all his allotted time off. He says he wants his boss to think he's dedicated. Still, Erich admits he's not entirely sure his boss notices who takes all their days. 

The fear of taking vacation has Americans leaving 429 paid vacation days on the table. 

Like Erich, many of us have become obsessed with showing off how much work we do and we've convinced ourselves that taking too much time off makes us look replaceable or less committed to our jobs.

But most bosses don't really look at vacation as unproductive time. In fact, many see at as critical to re-charging and bringing more innovation to the job. One boss told me he can tell when his employees or managers need vacation by the air of fatigue they give off at work.  Stuart Chase, president and CEO of HistoryMiami, Miami’s historical museum, says he wants his employees to take vacation and come back re-energized,with new ideas.

In my Miami Herald column this week, I revealed the results of new report released this month, “The Mind of the Manager: What Your Boss Really Thinks About Vacation Time.” The report found that managers understand the need for time off, but they don't convey that well to their staff.

"It’s very important what signals a manager sends,” says John de Graaf, president of Take Back Your Time, a nonprofit trying to reduce overwork in America. “Often, because managers don’t send any signal at all, their employees tend to fear the worst.”

When an employee asks for time off, managers say their first thoughts are how that person’s responsibilities will be covered, what tasks need to be done in advance and, depending on the employee’s level, whether that person will be reachable if needed.

In some workplaces, employees say they sense hesitation, even a little judgment, when people take time off.They also say they fear the pileup of work that will await them when they get back.
 
Don't let that deter you. 
 
Get your vacation on the calendar, remind your boss, co-workers and customers that you will be away, and delegate your responsibilities. Instead of being afraid to take time off, look at it as an opportunity to show your manager you are organized enough to plan ahead. Yes, staff is lean in most workplaces. But that's even more reason you need to get away and re-energize. 
 
"When team members take vacations, they are more productive, happier, healthier and have an improved overall well-being," says Nizar Jabara, senior vice president, global human resources for Diamond Resorts International.
 
 
Everyone deserves a break. Is this the year you will take all your vacation days?

June 19, 2015

Why paternity leave is the hot topic this Father's Day

Dadson

 


As we head into Father's Day weekend, the topic du jour is paternity leave.

We are hearing about who offers it, who doesn't, who takes it, who doesn't take it and why we should care about it. 

The bottom line is that when fathers take time off when their babies are born, they establish a lifelong bond, according to research. That's not to say fathers who don't take paternity leave don't bond. It's just that when they do take it, a pattern is established that's good for fathers, mothers and babies. It sets the tone from day one that dad will be involved in childcare.

One of the interesting trends we are seeing around paternity leave is even as national efforts are underway to promote more businesses to offer paternity leave, men are admitting they often are afraid to take it even if it's offered. They fear being stigmatized as someone who is less committed to work.

So basically, fathers are fighting two battles. One to get family-friendly policies approved. A second one to be able to use those policies without being penalized.

Both are worth the attention media outlets are giving them. Paternity leave is a family friendly benefit that fathers can claim for themselves. It moves the conversation about balancing work and family from being a "mother's issue" to being a father's issue, too)

This morning, I heard a report on paternity leave on NPR. I've seen articles in Fortune, in USA Today, in TIME.

Even celebrity entrepreneur Richard Branson has hyped the topic by announcing Virgin will give new fathers up to 12 months paid time off (if they qualify). 

 Lifehacker has drawn up a list of companies with the best paternity leave policies

I expect the conversation will continue well after Father's Day has come and gone. I hope it will continue because what's good for fathers is good for families.

Unfortunately, only about 14% of private employers in the US offer paid paternity leave, according to a 2014 survey by the Families and Work Institute. Right now, offering paid paternity leave is useful in the war for talent, but that's assuming fathers covet such a benefit and plan to use it. 

We have a long way to go to make fathers part of the work life conversation, but the discussion has begun and we are moving in the right direction.

Happy Father's Day!

 

June 09, 2015

When the boss is on vacation, are you?

                                               Boss on vacation


A friend has been going in a little later to work, dressing a little more casual, taking longer lunches, leaving a little earlier....

The reason is her boss is on vacation. She sees his absence as a mini vacation for her, too.  I can understand that line of thinking. But, I'm not sure I agree with it. To me, work ethic is self generated. Either you're a responsible worker, or you're not. I wouldn't want my boss to feel as if I took advantage or as if no one was minding the store. I also look at the boss going on vacation as an opportunity for my friend to show her traits as a leader and advance her prospects with others at the company.

Some studies have found that workers are more productive when their boss goes on vacation, because being micro-managed isn’t slowing them down. 

My friend argues that she deserves the leniency. During the year, she puts in long hours. She says the combination of summer and her boss being on vacation signals an opportunity to regain some personal time. I do understand that line of thinking, and I feel like it's okay to kick back a little. But I also feel like my friend's boss deserves to go on his summer vacation without worrying that his staff is slacking off.

What are your thoughts? When the boss is away, is it time to play?