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?

June 04, 2015

Why high school graduation is tough on parents

 

                                    Grad

 

The day you become a parent your life changes. Everyone warns you this will happen and it's true. This experience is emotional in a way that feels odd and exciting at the same time.

Eighteen years later, a parent feel as emotional on high school graduation day as we do the day our first child came into our life -- maybe even more emotional. Regardless of how much we know it is coming, graduation day catches us off guard. Tonight, my oldest son, Jake, will walk across the stage and get his high school diploma and while he prepares for the pomp and circumstance with excitement, I face it with a strange, difficult to explain feeling.

I wonder if other parents feel as I do. I think part of it is bewilderment, the feeling that 18 years went by and I can't account for every day of those years. Part of it is fear, the feeling that I am getting older and entering a new phase in my life as my son is entering one in his and I don't know how it will play out. Part of it is excitement, the feeling that there is so much opportunity ahead for him, which I have learned from benefit of hindsight. Of course, part of it is pride, the feeling that I have shaped another human being and guided him to this day of accomplishment.

From having an older daughter, I know this life event is pivotal. Regardless of whether your son or daughter goes to college, high school graduation marks a change in the parent/child relationship. From this day on, you treat your teen differently,  You give him or her a little more independence and engage in conversations on a different level.

As a parent, there are so many adjustments as your children mature into adults and leaves home. It's not easy but you come to accept that you may not know where or how they are much of the time. They are out there living their own lives, and as a parent you can only hope for the best.

As I head into the auditorium tonight, I will look around the room and see the faces of little boys who played dodgeball in my backyard, now young men who shave, and drive, and like my son are leaving home to go make their way in the world.

Somehow, I feel as if watching them graduate will be happening in slow motion. I  honestly can't see the road ahead for any of us. But as strange as that is, it is also freeing. The responsibility for making sure my son's homework is done, he gets to his activities on time and he gets to bed at a decent hour is behind me. Tonight my son graduates, and in many ways, so do I. There's an interesting path ahead for both of us, and tonight we are one step closer to taking it.

May 28, 2015

10 Ways Working Parents Can Prepare For Summer

                                         Summer camp
  

 

 

Many summers, I would scramble to leave the newsroom by 4 p.m. to pick my kids up from summer camp. Still, I would be one of the last parents in the camp pickup line. When my kids complained, I wondered how other parents made their summer schedules work.

For working parents, summer can be one of the most challenging and expensive times of the year. The free and low-cost day camps usually fill up quickly. Most camps end at around 3 or 4 p.m., and aftercare programs charge an additional fee — if they are available at all. This week, I tackled the topic in my Miami Herald column about planning ahead for summer

I also asked Linda McKnight for her thoughts. As a working parent, founder of TheChildCareSquare.com and a former owner of a child care center, Linda has a lot to say on the topic of putting steps in place to ensure a smooth summer while balancing work and family.

Here are her 10 tips for preparing for summer season:  

1.     Start early – Summer camps have limited space and fill up quickly. These days there are a myriad of resources for finding summer camp options. Camp guides are offered by local parenting magazines, the YMCA as well as local county Parks & Rec Depts. Guides are generally available by March and April. Be sure to be on the look out for the printed guides at your local libraries or check websites for online versions. Additionally, a quick google search for “Summer Camp” in your city will produce even more options.

2.     Do your due diligence – When enrolling your child in a summer camp program you want to give the same attention to due diligence that you would when enrolling your child in a school year program. To check on licensing status visit the Florida Dept of Children and Families at www.myflfamilies.com. To further assess the quality of summer programs you are considering, remember to look for reviews on review sites like Yelp, Yahoo Local Listings and even the BBB. For a comprehensive checklist on how to check out a child care program visit http://thechildcaresquare.com/doing_your_research.php

3.     Include your child in the decision – A week or more in a program that your child dislikes can be an eternity for both your child – and you. Make sure to interview your child as to the kinds of things they are interested in participating in this summer and have your child weigh in on picking which programs to sign up with.

4.     Try to enroll with a friend – Even the most gregarious children can experience angst when faced with a new situation and new people. The transition to a new environment can often go off without a hitch when there is a buddy in toe.

5.     Mitigate separation anxiety – Children who experience separation anxiety or are shy can find the short stay in a new environment uncomfortable at best. The best remedy for separation anxiety is information, information, and more information. Keep your child completely in the loop as to where the camp is, what they will be doing while at camp and how long they will be there etc. If possible, pay a pre-first-day visit to the facility so your child can meet the staff ahead of time. Visit the program’s website and Facebook page and any other social media sites to see pictures of some of the activities and the children having fun.

6.     Fees and Discounts - Be sure to inquire about additional fees or even discounts. The base tuition may be what you are quoted when you inquire about a program, but there may also be additional fees for special activities, events or field trips that are planned.

7.     The right clothes can make or break the experience - Be sure your child is dressed appropriately. Summer activities often involve water, mud, sand, watermelon and/or pie eating contests and more, hence, expect messiness. One of my best tips for parents is to visit your local second hand store and buy 6 or 8 outfits that are “camp only” clothes. This relieves everyone from worrying about stained-beyond-salvage situations. And don’t forget about appropriate shoes. Shoes with laces or buckles are out. Sandals can be a tripping hazard. So if sandals are worn they should be in good condition and fit well. And finally, use a Sharpie to label everything with your child’s last name.

8.     Stay up on communication – After you decide on a program, make sure you are signed up on any email list that the program uses to communicate with parents. Also be sure to join any social media they participate in so you can stay abreast of any and all new development that will affect your child’s participation.

9.     Read the fine print – Generally there is plenty of paperwork that goes along with signing your child up for any camp program. Be sure to carefully review program details for items like extra registration or insurance fees, closure days that are out of the ordinary or maybe special fieldtrips that you may want to participate in.

10.  Consider traffic patterns - When evaluating summer camp programs, they will likely be located outside of your normal routes. Summer traffic patterns can be different than when school is in session and can cause extended time on the road.

Summer can be a nice break for working parents -- no homework to supervise or lunches to pack. A little planning can make it even better!

 

 

May 12, 2015

How Should Sheryl Sandberg Handle Grief at Work? Advice from former LiveNation CEO Jason Garner

My heart goes out to Sheryl Sandberg with the tragic loss of her husband, Dave Goldberg. Dealing with the death of a loved one is difficult but even more so when you return to work and try to carry on while knowing everyone is tip-toeing around you.

Today, my guest blogger is Jason Garner who will talk about dealing with grief in the workplace, sharing his very personal experience.  Jason says when his single mother, who struggled and sacrificed while raising him, died from stomach cancer,  he lacked the tools, support, and understanding to get through the grieving process. Garner’s book And I Breathed (2014) tells his cautionary tale  and he has lots of advice, tips and insight for people like Sandberg who must readjust their work life balance and fit grieving into the equation.

 

  Smaller Jason headshot-1

Six years ago I was the CEO of Global Music for Live Nation, the world’s largest concert promoter … and then my mom died.  My life took a drastic turn as I found myself unable to deal with the crippling grief while continuing my duties of overseeing thousands of employees and live concerts around the globe.  I lacked the tools, support, and understanding to get through the grieving process, and have spent the last six years on a journey to better understand myself.  I’ve spent thousands of hours learning with masters of body, mind, and spirit with the hope that by sharing what I’ve learned, others won’t have to face life alone like I did.

Dealing with the death of a loved one is a complex and difficult experience full of powerful emotions.  Experts say the grieving process takes around three years for us to heal, understand, and accept life absent a person we deeply loved.  I’ve learned this process is necessary and can’t be rushed.  But few of us have three years to pull ourselves together before getting back to the pressures of work.  This is where simple tools can be valuable in helping us cope with our grief as we return to work after a loss. 

Following are ten tools that can help us better function in our jobs while dealing honestly with the pain and loss that comes with death.

  1. Be real.  Grieving is tough.  Our hearts are filled with emotion that often comes spilling out in the form of tears, anger, and lack of patience with others. Accepting this fact and giving ourselves permission to be human in the process relieves the tension of trying to “gut our way through it,” “put on a game face,” or “just move on.”  Have patience and compassion with yourself and set the tone for how you hope others will deal with you during this process by being kind and understanding with yourself.
  2. Breathe. When we are going through pain we often hold our breath in the fear that letting go might lead to us breaking down.  In reality though, the body interprets the holding of the breath as an emergency, which causes our bodies to feel even more stress and pressure.  Take frequent breathers — regular intervals where you remind yourself to breathe deeply — and send the soothing message to your body that all is well.
  3. Move. The grieving process is filled with emotion, which is stored in the body as adrenaline.  This stagnant adrenaline is the cause of the racing and trapped feelings we often feel under stress.  Movement allows the body to release the pent up emotions and promotes flow.  Find time in the day to move: take a walk, stretch, do yoga, or just stand up and move your body to allow the stagnant emotions to move and release.
  4. Cry. Crying on the job is often seen as taboo.  But when we spend half our day at work, it’s bound to happen at one point or another, especially when we are mourning the loss of a loved one.  Bursting into tears can be embarrassing and can cause alarm to our coworkers.  So find a safe space and time — in the bathroom, at the park on your lunch break, or for a couple of minutes in your car — and give yourself permission to let go, to really cry, and to feel the sadness that naturally comes with death instead of bravely trying to hold it all in.
  5. Share. Sometimes during life’s challenges we behave as though we’re the only one having problems.  So we bottle our troubles up inside and try to be superhuman.  The result is rarely positive and eventually we break down, feeling misunderstood, alone, and isolated.  The reality is, though, that many people are going through challenges at the same time.  Death in particular is an experience to which we can all relate.  Be open with your boss and coworkers.  Share your challenge with them, ask for the patience, and allow yourself to be supported.
  6. Sleep.  Getting enough rest is a powerful way to help regulate your emotions.  Be sure when you’re grieving to plan for extra sleep.  Pulling all-nighters at work or with friends is a sure way to leave your emotions frazzled and increases the likelihood of a breakdown on the job.  Make it a point to shut down work at a reasonable hour and give yourself ample time to rest and relax.
  7. Get away.  Many employers offer some kind of leave following a death.  Even if your job doesn’t have a formal policy for leave, talk to your supervisor and ask for some time.  A few days away from work to process your loss and let your emotions out in private can go a long way in making your return to work less emotional and more productive.
  8. Get help. For many of us, our job has become all-encompassing and we have little time for friends, family, or hobbies.  While grieving, this adds another element to the challenge of coping at work because we lack outside outlets where we can share our feelings.  Find a friend, family member, or therapist and allow yourself the chance to vent your feelings so you don’t have to carry so much to work.
  9. Meditation. Even if you’ve never practiced meditation, the grieving process is a good time to start.  A few minutes of silent meditation gives you a break from the stress of the day to be present to yourself and your emotions. Don’t worry about how to do it; just sit, close your eyes, breathe, and give yourself a little space.
  10.  Be tender. Be tender and gentle with yourself even if the world around you isn’t understanding.  Share words of encouragement, give yourself space and patience, and don’t add extra stress by taking on new responsibilities or obligations.  Most of all, understand that you’re going through a major life event and give yourself love and compassion along the way.

 

Remember: you aren’t alone.  The process you’re going through is one that everyone faces at one time or another. Use these tools as trusted friends to lean on when times are tough.  And above all be kind and gentle with yourself as you grieve. 

 

May 07, 2015

Sheryl Sandberg, her husband's death, and her new work life balance

                                         Sheryl:dave

 

What a week it has been for Sheryl Sandberg. The news of her husband's death stunned the world. 

The official report said Dave Goldberg,  chief executive of SurveyMonkey, died from head trauma and blood loss after apparently slipping off a treadmill while vacationing with family and friends in Mexico. He was 47.

Sheryl has handled the hand she was dealt in a way that has moved many of us.

As the author of Lean In, COO of Facebook and someone who has credited her husband and his household contributions, for her ability to find some semblance of work life balance, Sheryl certainly will have some readjustment. Mostly likely, Sheryl has help at home (a nanny/housekeeper). Most high powered women do. But there are things only a parent can do and Sheryl will have to figure it all out. Single moms know that travel, late night work functions and work obligations become much more difficult when there is only one parent in the picture. As a single mother, it becomes more of a challenge to Lean In, even more so when the world is watching how you handle the rebalancing act and when you're dealing with grief.

If you haven't seen Sheryl's post on Facebook, I think all of you will find it inspirational. 

Sheryl writes:

I want to thank all of our friends and family for the outpouring of love over the past few days. It has been extraordinary - and each story you have shared will help keep Dave alive in our hearts and memories.

I met Dave nearly 20 years ago when I first moved to LA. He became my best friend. He showed me the internet for the first time, planned fun outings, took me to temple for the Jewish holidays, introduced me to much cooler music than I had ever heard.

We had 11 truly joyful years of the deepest love, happiest marriage, and truest partnership that I could imagine... He gave me the experience of being deeply understood, truly supported and completely and utterly loved – and I will carry that with me always. Most importantly, he gave me the two most amazing children in the world.

Dave was my rock. When I got upset, he stayed calm. When I was worried, he said it would be ok. When I wasn’t sure what to do, he figured it out. He was completely dedicated to his children in every way – and their strength these past few days is the best sign I could have that Dave is still here with us in spirit.

Dave and I did not get nearly enough time together. But as heartbroken as I am today, I am equally grateful. Even in these last few days of completely unexpected hell – the darkest and saddest moments of my life – I know how lucky I have been. If the day I walked down that aisle with Dave someone had told me that this would happen – that he would be taken from us all in just 11 years – I would still have walked down that aisle. Because 11 years of being Dave Goldberg’s wife, and 10 years of being a parent with him is perhaps more luck and more happiness than I could have ever imagined. I am grateful for every minute we had.

As we put the love of my life to rest today, we buried only his body. His spirit, his soul, his amazing ability to give is still with us. It lives on in the stories people are sharing of how he touched their lives, in the love that is visible in the eyes of our family and friends, in the spirit and resilience of our children. Things will never be the same – but the world is better for the years my beloved husband lived.

 

What advice do you have for Sheryl now that she's a single mother? Do you think her adjustment is easier because she has no money concerns or is it more difficult because she lives such a public life and will have her every move scrutinized?

 

 

May 06, 2015

The cost of your commute on your work life balance

 

Two weeks ago, I did a 45-minute commute to a conference in Miami for two days. I tried to stay calm during my drive, but I couldn't believe how often I got cut off by other cars, honked at for no reason and stuck behind trucks dropping stuff on my car.

I found myself asking out loud several times, "How do people do this every day?"

Commuting is stressful so the incentive needs to be there -- better pay, great co-workers, flexibility, a job you love or one where you have built up seniority.  Some people are willing to make the commute to live in a nicer neighborhood or one with better schools.

But as the economy rebounds and traffic worsens, people are less willing to put up with a stressful commute. Commuters are once again negotiating with bosses and changing jobs to cut back on the time they spend on the road. 

Research shows that the longer a person’s commute, the more profound the effects on personal well-being and life satisfaction. Spending hours in a car, day after day can be a drain on productivity and happiness. To improve work/life balance, attorney Patricia Ferran looked at her options and found a job closer to her home-- slimming her commute from 60 minutes to 10.  “Now I can sleep more and go out at night with friends because I’m not as tired.”
 
A 2013 Census Report shows that more than 1.5 million American workers commute 90 minutes from work to home, a time toll that can make it a struggle to put dinner on the table, pick the kids up from childcare, make it to an exercise class, or have downtime before going to sleep and doing it again the next day.
 
Jorge Alvarez of Albion Staffing says job candidates are specific that a new position be in close proximity of their home or where they have childcare, Gonzalez says. Lately, he has been getting more rejections from job candidates who don’t want to drive the distance — even with the promise of a higher salary. “Employees now have choices, and they will turn down an amazing job because the commute is out of what they consider comfortable.”
 
It wasn’t primarily the distance or time that led Susan Greene to change jobs — it was the stress and toll on her health. She had been commuting an hour each way for her job as marketing director of a law firm. Two weeks ago, Greene took a new job as chief marketing officer for The Beacon Council, about 10 minutes from home. “It’s liberating,” she says. “I can make dinner plans. I am so much happier.”
 
One women I spoke with says the tradeoffs are worth it. She tries to shake off the stress before she walks into her office.   Angela Foskolos told me she added about two hours of driving to her day when she took on a new position with her company, a currency exchange near the Miami International Airport. Foskolos said her cross-counties commute is a tradeoff for a higher salary and additional experience, but mostly she endures it because she likes her co-workers: “Everyone is in an upbeat mood, and the environment is positive. It makes me happier to do the drive.”
 
A lot of managing the daily commute comes down to making compromises — in terms of limiting where you take a job, what kind of job you take, what neighborhood you live in and the nearby schools, and which partner in a dual-income household sacrifices personal time. “For some of us, commuting to our jobs is just a normal way of working,” South Florida commuter Lynn Holtsberg says.
 
How does the commute affect your work life balance? As the economy rebounds, are you considering a job closer to home?
 
 
Carla

(Above: Carla Vertesch was able to work out an arrangement to leave her television production job earlier, allowing her more time for her commute to pick her children up from aftercare. The Vertesch family owns CertaPro Painters of Central Miami and counts on Carla's income as their family business gets off the ground.)

 

April 27, 2015

The ideal worker is ruining our lives

                                                 Ideal

 

 

The idea worker is not me and it likely isn't you.

The ideal worker doesn't take parental leave when a child is born. He or she has no need for family-friendly policies like flexible schedule, part-time work or telecommuting. The ideal worker doesn't need to find babysitters, deal with school closures or worry about child-care responsibilities.

The ideal worker, freed from all home duties, devotes himself completely to the workplace. He or she is a face-time warrior, the first one in in the morning and the last to leave at night. He or she is rarely sick, doesn't take vacation and is willing to hop on a plane whenever needed. The ideal worker will answer email at 3 a.m. or pull an all nighter if asked. He is the guy who works endless hours, even if it cost him or her their health or family. 

In her book, Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play when No One Has Time, Brigid Schulte brilliantly points Overwhelmed-TPBookshot-250x372out that the notion of the ideal worker wields immense power in the American workplace. "We are  programmed to emulate him at all costs, or at least feel the sting of not measuring up," she notes.

Here we are in the 21st Century, one in which most women and men work and most have some kind of home responsibilities. Yet, as Brigid points out in her book ( a must read!) most of us are being penalized because we can't meet the expectations of the ideal worker. 

This outdated notion of the ideal worker is a big reason why some education mothers disappear from the workplace and why some men hate their jobs. "Fathers are stigmatized when they seek to deviate from the ideal worker," Brigid writes. That leaves men with children faced with a sharp choice -- either they choose not to be equal partners at home or they choose to be equal partners and hurt their careers, she writes. 

What's it going to take to zap this longtime definition of the ideal worker?

That's a loaded question because with fast emerging technologies, the ideal worker is now expected to be on call and ready to roll all day, every day, all the time. Even worse, people who work for ideal worker managers sleep less than those who have flexible managers and are at great risk for heart disease, Brigid points out.

"No matter how much you do, how hard you work, how much you sacrifice, how devoted you are, you can never attain the ideal," Brigid convincingly argues.

So, here we are raising our kids, trying to please our customers and bosses, working crazy hours, and still, the workplace demands more. We are stressed. We are exhausted. We are on an unfulfilling search for happiness and we need a new definition of the ideal worker. NOW.

My definition of the ideal worker is someone who gives work his or her full attention while at the office and refuels once he or she leaves. My definition includes working parents who take their vacations, fathers who take their children to school or meet with their teachers, and singles who take time to do activities they find enjoyable. Under my definition, the ideal worker doesn't necessarily work less, he workers smarter and more innovatively.

If the outdated notion of the ideal worker is ruining your life, causing you to be overwhelmed and unsure of whether you can ever please everyone on the job and at home, it's time to work toward change. We can make the new definition stick, we just need to acknowledge it needs changing and get the movement started.