November 24, 2014

Should I let my son come along on date night?

As my kids get older, I feel more grateful when they want to spend time with me. With one in college and the other leaving next year, I'm clinging to my 13-year-old because I know the time he wants to spend with me is dwindling. 

So, this weekend, instead of date night on Saturday evening, my husband and I took our son out with us. By coincidence (or not) he sat right between us at the movies and then between us at the counter at a sushi restaurant. The seat choice was his both times.

My husband and I looked at each other, smiled, and decided to say nothing to him about it.

We probably wouldn't have responded that way with our two older children. Until now, we have guarded our alone time. In our struggle for work life balance, date night is an important ritual in protecting our relationship. Now, all of a sudden, we find ourselves torn on sticking to this ritual. We realize we have lots of together time ahead and less time to spend with our son, especially while he still wants to hang out with us. 

With our son munching on popcorn in between us, we find ourselves coveting him and yet already seeing the inevitability unfold. Tomorrow my daughter will return home from college for the Thanksgiving holiday. While balancing work and family is easier now, I never imagined when she was first born the sense of loss that I would feel each time she returns to school. 

As your children grow up, you realize that the time will come sooner than imagined when you are compelled to release all that you have held fast to for so many years. And with the benefit of hindsight, you understand your world continues to shift.

Holding fast to date night every week, once a critical component of my work life balance, seems less neccessary. Suddenly, my husband and I see no harm in letting our youngest sit between us or venturing out with him in tow because now we can see our future table for two much more clearly than we ever thought possible.

Do you agree with our parenting decision to let our son come out with us on date night? Have you changed any of your parenting rules with your youngest child?

 

October 31, 2014

Should we care that Apple CEO Tim Cook is gay?

Tom cook

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, has announced he is gay. 

We should be saying who cares about someone's sexual preference. But we're not. We've turned his public outing into big news because unfortunately, it's still news. Cook is the most high profile CEO to openly say he's gay.

Some will say this is a turning point in the evolution of business, that this announcement expands economic opportunities for LGBT poeple. 

To me, it's a signal that the lines between personal and professional are gone. We bring our whole selves to work -- we're moms, we're dads, we're grandkids, we're domestic partners -- and no one should care. Today, we trouble shoot our home life from the office and our office life from home and it's all good. Cook says he's been open in the workplace about his sexual orientation and that it doesn't make a difference in how his co-workers treat him. It shouldn't. I don't care if my boss is gay. I just care if he or she is a good boss.

I asked my teenage son what he thought of Cook's public announcement about being gay. My son quickly replied "what's the big deal if he's gay?" That's the outlook of the next generation: a big "who cares" about someone's sexual preference.

The highest level corporate executive to come out of the closet has signaled that there is a place for all in the business world. He's shown that we don't need to hide who we are outside the office.

We're still going to buy Apple products. We're still going to apply for jobs at Apple. We're still going to want to work for Tim Cook because we like his management style.

Should we care that Tim is gay? We're getting much closer to the day when society's answer will be no. 

October 29, 2014

The High Cost of Caregiving

My friend called me this morning to vent. She just learned her mother has an illness that needs ongoing treatment. She's worried she can't balance her demanding job, her kids and now her sick mom.

I've been there and it isn't easy. 

My friend is considering asking for a leave from her job as an inhouse recruiter at a big company. It's a job that requires face time and has little flexibility.  "What do you think I should do?" she asked me.

"That's a difficult and very personal decision," I replied.

I told her that experts say proceed with caution when pursuing this work life balance path. A few months off can turn into much longer and have serious impact on your finances.

Met Life found that for someone over 50 who leaves work temporarily to care for a loved one, the average lifetime setback is $303,880, including lost wages and retirement benefits.The total estimated aggregate lost wages, pension, and Social Security benefits of these caregivers of parents is nearly $3 trillion.That's a huge number!

Should you need to lean out for a while, it's possible to keep damage to a minimum with these smart moves published in Money Magazine

1. Plan ahead when possible and re-do your budget by setting aside funds for essential expenses first.

2. Check federal and state leave laws regarding paid and unpaid leave.

3. If you need to quit—but wish to return—make the case ahead of time for a comeback. 

Chances are that almost all of us will face what my friend is experiencing. The number of people who provide personal care and/or financial assistance to a parent has tripled over the past 15 years. MetLife's study found daughters are more likely to provide basic care and sons are more likely to provide financial assistance. (No surprise there!) Both scenarios, though, come with their own costs.

If you've confronted this scenario, what would you advise my friend? What are steps you've taken to minimize the financial and emotional toll of caregiving?

October 27, 2014

How to be less forgetful

I-lost-my-keys-joke-of-the-day

 

 

You regularly rack your brain to remember a book a friend recommended. You were on you way home from work and you can't remember the errand you were supposed run.  You suddenly can’t recall the name of your kid’s teacher. Sound familiar?

It does to me.

I feel like I have too much on my brain in my struggle for work life balance. Increasingly, I find I have to write even simple things to remember down them. And still....

Fear not: most forgetfulness isn’t anything serious, says Majid Fotuhi, MD, PhD, founder and chief medical officer of NeurExpand Brain Center in Luterville, MD and co-author of The Memory Cure.

Here are surprising things that impact your memory in not-so-good ways, according to an article in Time Magazine.

1. Thyroid. “People with high or low thyroid levels—which are very common in women—may have difficulty with memory and concentration,” he says. Ask your doctor for a simple thyroid test to determine if it’s the culprit behind your memory problems.

2. Hot flashes. “The more hot flashes a woman experiences during menopause, the worse her ability to remember names and stories,” says Dr. Fotuhi. “Fortunately, hot flashes don’t damage the brain in any way. Memory improves once the hot flashes subside.” 

3. Lack of Sleep. “Individuals with sleep deprivation a. Don’t stop taking your (potentially life-saving) medications, but talk to your doc if you believe any drug you’re on may be messing with your memory.nd sleep disorders not only suffer from impaired memory but also daytime fatigue, impaired attention, and reduced reaction time.” The standard recommendation of eight hours of sleep a night doesn’t necessarily work for everyone.

4. Stress. Do you worry  -- a lot? Worrying can affect your memory, several studies show. Prolonged periods of everyday stress increase cortisol levels in the brain, which causes our brain cells to lose synapses (the bridges that connect our brain cells to one another), and make it more difficult to create and retrieve memories. Researchers found that repeated stress reduced receptors in the part of the brain that’s connected to thought processes.  Finding ways to relieve stress may help. 

5. Pharmaceuticals. Check your medicine cabinet: many common prescription drugs can make you feel forgetful. Don’t stop taking your (potentially life-saving) medications, but talk to your doctor if you believe any drug you’re on may be messing with your memory.

Here are things that can help with memory:

1. Green Tea. How much green tea has not yet been determined, Dr. Fotuhi says in Time Magazine. He recommends combining green tea with other healthy habits such as exercise for greatest memory improvement benefits.

2. Exercise.  Dr. Fotuhi recommends 45 minutes of aerobic exercise four days a week for the best memory boost.

3. Vitamin B12.  In addition to fatigue, loss of appetite, constipation, and weight loss, a B12 deficiency can also lead to memory problems. Your doctor can give you a blood test that determines whether you should be taking a vitamin B12 supplement.

4. Keep lists. Getting things off your brain and on to paper makes a huge difference in what I'm able to remember. Paula Rizzo is a master in helping people create lists that help them remember things. Her new book,  “Listful Thinking: Using Lists to be More Productive, Highly Successful and Less Stressed” is will be coming out in January and it's on my to do list to buy it.

5. Visualization. Need to memorize a list of terms or names? You'll have a better chance of being able to recall them if the words are associated with an image, according to The Huffington Post. For example, if you have to remember a meeting at 4:30 p.m., try remembering your favorite quartet (The Beatles?) and a 30th birthday cake. It may sound silly, but you'll be grateful when you're right on time.

6. Label. Franklin Roosevelt was known to have a memory that would put most of us to shame -- he could remember the name of someone he met just once, months ago, seemingly without difficulty. His secret? Roosevelt was able to remember the names of everyone on his staff (and everyone he met) by visualizing their names written across their foreheads after being introduced to them. This technique is even more effective when the name is imagined being written in your favorite color marker, CNN claims.

7. Pay attention. Perhaps the best (and arguably most difficult) memory boost of all is simply paying attention to the task, conversation or experience at hand. Distraction makes our memories weaker, and consequently we are more prone to forget things.

I'm confessing that over the weekend, I said "nice to meet you" to the mother of my son's friend. She sounded annoyed and told me we've met before. Being forgetful is so embarrassing!

Do you think we're getting more forgetful as a society? Do you think it has something to do with all the information coming at us? What's something you've forgotten recently and do you have any tricks for ensuring you don't forget the small stuff?

 

October 23, 2014

Friends at work, but how about outside the office?

My daughter is having a great time in college. She has made a ton of new friends. Listening to her talk about her social life reminded me how hard the transition is from college to the workplace. Suddenly, a few months after being around people your own age, having a social life takes much more effort. It helps though, when you make friends at work.

Workplace friendships might seem like our personal business, but our social connections have become our employer’s concern too. Research shows employees who have close friends at work are more engaged, more likely to stay, and more likely to say they love their companies. 

But there seems to be a gap what expectations are around workplace friendships.

Younger workers view the workplace as an ideal venue to look for people to have dinner with, to catch a movie with and hang out. At the same time, many Generation X workers, the mid-level leaders who are in their late 30s, 40s and 50s, want friends in the workplace but aren’t as interested in socializing with them outside the office. 

The challenge for managers becomes how to encourage those bonds and balance a workplace that young workers see as a venue to expand their social network and older generations see as a separate from their personal lives.

Some companies organize social activities that will get their entire staff engaged. Some do nothing and the office morale reflects it. Some employers try another approach -- empowering their younger staff to come up with ideas. 
 
Marston, president of Generational Insights, which consults businesses on generational trends in the workplace, says the more successful companies encourage young workers to take charge of creating the camaraderie they want at work. “Young people are saying we want a happy hour or we want a cooking class and we would like to organize it.” Marston says. “Employers are then facilitating those activities by giving millennials space on the bulletin board or Intranet to promote those offerings and not frowning when requests are made.”
 
Luis Vega, 25, a new hire at Grant Thornton in Fort Lauderdale says he is excited about the possibility of a company kickball team, but Vega says he would be as happy going to dinner with his team after a long day of work: “It doesn’t have to be a firm-scheduled event. It would be great just to socialize with people on my work team who have the same hours.” 

Marston says older generations are going to need readjust their attitude and  make more effort to connect with their team on a personal level if they want to keep their workers happy: “Millennials are saying I don’t feel connected to my workplace or my boss.” 

To be fair, Marston says that most people, regardless of generation, want friends at work: “It’s just a matter of how far that friendship goes.”

What are your thoughts on workplace friends?  Do you think it makes a difference in the workplace when people are friends outside the office, too? Has having a good friend at work ever affected your decision to stay or leave?
 

October 13, 2014

Workplace support important when breast cancer is a personal cause

This month, pink is everywhere. And that's a good thing. 

Look around your neighborhood and you will find all kinds of businesses supporting breast cancer awareness or sponsoring events to raise money for the cause. When there's a personal connection to the disease, those efforts take on new meaning. 

Throughout October, Scott Collins’ employees are wearing pink shirts in support of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month as they disperse across South Florida. Scott's wife, Lori, is battling breast cancer. At the end of the month, Affordable Window Cleaning Co. in Davie will donate a percentage of its profits to For The Gift of Hope, a South Florida foundation that helps local breast cancer patients with financial needs.

“I want to support my wife in every way I can,” Scott says. “My crew understands that.”

Some owners, like Scott, start small, asking employees to wear pink clothing or ribbons and to get involved in fund-raisers. Others, like Rocco Mangel of the popular Rocco’s Tacos, rally customers in a bigger way. Mangel raised $32,000 last year from an October promotion in which a portion of Tuesday night proceeds at all five restaurants went to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. (Rocco’s girlfriend’s mother, whom he is close to, is now fighting her second battle with the disease.)

The efforts of both represent more than just fund-raisers or awareness events. For spouses and family members of breast cancer patients, these are a way to ease heartache or show solidarity. Some small-business owners gain emotional support from signing up employees for local Race for the Cure teams.

Some take other approaches. Oscar Padilla says the annual cut-a-thon his Kendall salon helps him feel like a doer. A decade ago, Padilla said, he was “devastated” when his mother died of breast cancer. The memories of her rapid decline still sting, he says. “Anything I can do to spread awareness is gratifying.”

Every October, Padilla turns his Kairos Hair Salon pink for the month and donates 10 percent of sales from services and products to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. On Oct. 19, his 10 stylists will participate in a cut-a-thon with raffle prizes donated by neighboring vendors; “They see how important it is to me to give others the potential to survive.” The last three cut-a-thons raised about $3,000 each.

Breast cancer remains the leading cancer killer among women ages 20 to 59; more than 1.4 million cases are diagnosed annually worldwide. It is a life-changing event with repercussions that extend beyond the disease and treatment, and affect those who act as a support system.

If you see a business in your area supporting breast cancer, chances are high there's a personal connection. If you're an employee or customer who is asked to donate time or money, think about how much that support means.
 
Sherri Martens-Curtis, whose mother/business partner died of breast cancer, says she gets purpose from passionate colleagues and friends who participate in her fund-raisers and the knowledge that the money helps promote early detection: “For those of us with a personal connection, it’s that true collaboration that makes a difference.”
 

Scott collins

THINKING PINK: The wife of Scott Collins, above right, is being treated for breast cancer. Collins, owner of Affordable Window Cleaning, and employees wear pink in October, and some profits will aid The Gift of Hope.WALTER MICHOT/MIAMI HERALD STAFF



October 09, 2014

Work Life Balance Can Be Small Moments

Mother-son-cuddle-alamy

 

This morning, my son woke me up, laptop in hand, and sat down on my bed. He had risen early to work on his essay for English. He wanted my help and figured that asking me early in the morning would be better than waiting until the evening when he was rushing off to lacrosse practice and I was distracted by email, phone calls, and getting dinner on the table.

I was bleary eyed but I gave my son a good 15 minutes of my undivided attention before the chaos of the day kicked in. It was the best 15 mintues I've had in a really long time. We worked together, uninterrupted by phone calls, and enjoyed creating sentences that read well. It was quality time that I haven't had with him in weeks. I've heard parents say how much they value quality time with their kids over quantity and this morning, that concept really kicked in for me.

I've listened as dozens of people have complained about long work hours, long commutes and not spending enough time with family. I understand the struggle for work life balance.

Most of the time work life balance is a big picture concept. But sometimes, just sometimes, it can be a small one, too. 

My lesson this morning was simple: Learn to value the quality of the time you spend doing something over quantity. You can feel immensely satisfied getting in one good workout or having special time with your kids where you are fully engaged.  

To most of us, work life balance is something we dream about.  Blogger Amy Duffin calls it: "As valuable as a winning lottery ticket." She says, "achieving work life balance means that we would actually have the time to meet the expectations of our career AND have enough quality time for ourselves, our families and our hobbies so that we feel balanced."

Don't beat yourself if you aren't exercising enough or spending as many hours with your child as you would like during the weekdays. What good is an hour at the gym anyway if you spend most of the time on a work call?

I am a big believer that we have a large role in our own happiness, balance and success. It's easy to spend lots of time doing something that really isn't meaningful. It takes conscious decision making to spend quality time doing something that without interruptions that will bring you satisfaction. Work to develop this highly valuable skill –you can do it! 

My nice interaction with my son set me up for a good mood all day. It almost made me want to wake up early again tomorrow. Almost.

Have you had a small moment lately when you realized that quality was more important than quantity in the work life balance equation?

 

September 29, 2014

Must you work overtime?

Last week, I was talking to a CEO who said to me, "I am not going to hire anyone anymore who can't work overtime."

He explained that at certain times of the year, he needs to ramp up, usually for only a few weeks at a time. But when an employee can't put in longer hours ( even if paid extra) it creates a problem for all.

I responded by telling him that many people have outside responsibilities that could prevent them from coming in earlier or staying later. That's understandable," he said. "But I have a company to run so a job at my company would not be for them."

There in lies the clash of business needs with real life responsibilities of many of today's workers. This is a complicated issue: Even if someone signs on for occasional overtime, what it his life demands change? Should a worker be allowed to say, ' I don’t want to work overtime and would rather go home?' And,  when does occasional overtime become more than “occasional”?

Allison Green at Ask A Manager says this:

* Generally, you should try to be flexible and accommodating when you’re asked to take on something at work outside of your normal work schedule, particularly when it’s temporary, but there’s a point beyond which it’s reasonable to push back. Certainly sleeping at work and working 18 hours days falls well over the line of reasonable (unless you knew you were signing up for that, such as if you were working on a political campaign).

* Your employer can require you to work whatever hours they want, and can change it at any time, unless you have a contract that states otherwise.

* A reasonable manager will work with someone who isn’t able to take on additional work hours, particularly when it’s many extra work hours, and particularly if the employee is willing to be flexible to the extent they can be.

* Not every manager is reasonable. But plenty are.

The CEO I spoke with said he  is upfront about expectations. His position on it made me wonder:  If overtime is mentioned during the interview process, could it eliminate your ability to get any flexibility on this issue in the future? 

Here's what you should know: There’s no federal law on the number of hours someone can be required to work or the length of a break (or even requiring any break at all); that’s all up to individual states.

CEOs have their eye on the bottom line and the health of the business, and they may forget that employees are persons with real needs and real responsibilities. I find it unrealistic for this CEO to think he can hire loyal employees who will be willing to work overtime at any given point in time. In life, complications arise with kids, parents, friends, community commitments -- even our own health. There will be some who will jump at the job because they want the opportunity to earn overtime pay. But will they stay long term?

 

September 08, 2014

Would a pay raise improve your work life balance?

 

                                   Pay raise

 

 

What would you do with a raise?

Would you make changes that would make your home and work life easier? Would you buy a more reliable car to drive to work?  Or how about hiring someone to care for your elderly parent while you're not home?

My son gets minimum wage as a bus boy at a local pizza restaurant. He works like a dog for each cent he brings home. Still, he doesn't think a small increase would make a big difference for the dishwasher who works a second job to support his family. I disagree and have told him that every penny counts when you are living paycheck to paycheck.

Across the country, fast food workers have been rallying for higher wages, trying to get food businesses to pay at least $15 an hour. Now that's a significant increase from the $7.93 a cook at a Miami fast food joint says he makes. The cook says that extra $7 an hour would  allow him to pay rent and have enough left to buy an ample supply of food for his family.

White collar workers are struggling, too. In some workplaces, staffers haven't seen a pay jump in at least five years -- even if they are busting their butts.

The good news is U.S. employers are planning to give pay raises averaging 3 percent  in 2015, on par with the 2.9 percent average raise in 2014 and 2013, according to a survey of nearly 1,100 U.S. companies by compensation consultant Towers Watson.

A small raise is better than no raise, right? But what if you feel like you're working harder than your colleagues?

Who gets a raise and why can create major contention. Employees believe that employers are falling short in how pay decisions are made, and that there is much need for improvement,'' says  Towers Watson managing director Laury Sejen. Only half believe they are paid fairly. Their big gripe is that employers are not differentiating pay for top performers as much as they have been in recent years.

The median annual salary among the nation's 106.6 million workers is now about $40,560, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"Base pay is the No. 1 reason why employees join a company or choose to leave,'' Sejen told USA Today.  "So there's value in companies making the effort to improve base pay."

Would a pay raise make a difference in your work life balance? How significant a raise would you need to see a real different in your lifestyle?

September 05, 2014

Work Life Balance Joan Rivers' Way

                                                 Joan

 

Life was not always easy for Joan Rivers, but in her struggle to balance her life as a comedian with her role as a mother and wife, she had one thing going for her. Joan liked to laugh.

It was humor that took her through the toughest times in her life.

Humor. 

Joan made jokes about issues that others considered taboo: Her husband's suicide. Her plastic surgery. Her weight. Her so-called lack of sex appeal. Her husband's one leg. 

For Joan,  it was work that fulfilled her, the pursuit of laughter. Joan never relaxed, always looking for the next and better punchline, according to her obituary. It was a trait that kept Joan in the limelight --  even at age 81.  

During a brief time in the 1980s, Joan's career seemed in shambles.  She even became estranged from her daughter. Struggling with grief, Joan made jokes: "Think positive. Make a list. One, I don't life in Bosnia. Two, I never dated O.J."

In the end, it wasn't just Joan's ability to laugh at herself that I found admirable. It was the close relationship she eventually formed with her daughter, the way she eased Melissa into show business and the way she was proud for the world to see her as a mother and career woman. 

When your morning routine goes awry, your client gives you grief or you have an argument with your spouse, kid or boss, think about Joan. Would she melt down, or laugh it off? Would she say it is just too hard to overcome the setbacks that life throws your way? Or, would she turn up the raunchy humor and pursue on?

The New York Times says, that around Joan's 80th birthday when an interviewer asked her whether she planned to retire, there was no laughter in her voice as she replied, "And do what?"

Clearly, it wasn't fame and fortune that Joan was after. She drew fulfillment from an audience that enveloped her in laughter.

R.I.P. Joan and may we all incorporate the lessons you taught us into our work life balancing acts. If we follow your lead, we will know what fulfills us in life, use laughter to release stress, and never give up when the going gets tough.