May 15, 2015

More workers than ever are struggling with work life balance

                                                 Woman nyc

 

Today, I spoke with a female executive while she walked through the streets of New York on her way to a business meeting. I could hear the horns honking and the street sounds as she explained to me it was the only time she could fit the conversation into her busy day. As it was, she explained, she was already going to have to work late into the evening.  

It's no wonder that more than a third of 9,700 workers surveyed by tax and professional services firm Ernst & Young say managing work life balance has become more difficult in the last five years. Here is how and why people are struggling with work life balance:

People are working more. Around the world, about half of managers work more than 40 hours a week and four in 10 say their hours have increased in the last five years. I think that pretty clearly shows the traditional 40-hour workweek is becoming obsolete.

People are stressed. And as people work more and struggle with balance, they are not happy about it. The survey found dissatisfaction highest among white-collar workers in their 20s and 30s who are establishing families at the same time they are moving into management and other jobs that carry more responsibility.

People are struggling. These workers say their salary has not increased much, but their expenses and responsibilities at work have increased. That's making work life balance more difficult to achieve.

Here's a finding that might surprise you: U.S. men are more likely than women to change jobs or give up a promotion for work life balance reasons. Clearly, everyone is struggling with work life balance, not just women. 

People are suffering when they use flex schedules. Nearly one in 10 (9%) U.S. workers say they have "suffered a negative consequence as a result of having a flexible work schedule." That rate is higher for millennials, of which one in six (15%) reported either losing a job, being denied a promotion or raise, being assigned to less interesting or high profile assignments, or being publicly or privately reprimanded.

People are encountering work life hurdles. The biggest hurdles faced when U.S workers try to balance their personal and professional lives were: Getting enough sleep, handling more responsibility, finding time for me, finding time for family and friends and additional hours worked.

People are quitting their jobs. EY looked at the leading reasons full-time workers quit. The top five reasons were minimal wage growth, lack of opportunity to advance, excessive overtime hours, a work environment that does not encourage teamwork and a boss that doesn't allow you to work flexibly.

People are feeling the effects at home. The economy caused one in six (15%) full-time workers to get divorced or separated and almost one-sixth (13%) to delay getting a divorce. Nearly a quarter (23%) decided not to have additional children and more than one in five (21%) delayed having additional children.

So what exactly is it that employees believe will help them achieve work life balance? After competitive pay and benefits, employees want to work flexibly (formally or informally) and still be on track for a promotion. The want paid parental leave and they don't want excessive overtime.

Do you think some of those wants are doable? Will it make a difference when more millennials become bosses? 

 

 

(The Global Generations survey, EY’s second attempt to study generational issues in the workplace, was conducted in the U.S., Germany, Japan, China, Mexico, Brazil, India, and the U.K. In addition to international findings, 1,200 full-time U.S. workers were asked about major changes they have made, or would be willing to make, to better manage their work-life balance, paid parental leave, and couples’ work schedules by generation.)

 

January 15, 2015

Where work life balance is headed in 2015

I recently had a conversation that enlightened me. I spoke with a 2014 college graduate working at an accounting firm, who is assigned to the Miami office. She told me she also works from other Florida offices or from home. She explained that her supervisors know when she is working because the company system shows her logged in, but they don’t know her exact location, which makes it easy to work from home. “I love that about this job,” she told me.

Yesterday in The Miami Herald, I outlined my predictions for workplace trends in 2015. One of the trends I feel most strongly about relates to flexibility and this conversation.

I believe in 2015, more employees, like this young accountant, will quietly use flexibility. While many companies are considering policies on flexible work arrangements, their workers are quietly working from outside the office whenever possible. Working where you want or when you want and is a perk employees will put a premium on in 2015.

Those workers who can work from home on occasion tell me they plan to stay in their jobs as long as possible, because not having that flexibility would cost them in commute time, babysitter fees or missed parenting opportunities. Most workers say they are more productive on the days they work from home.

Expect to see lifestyle choices over money when it comes to career decisions in 2015. Alex Funkhouser, CEO of Sherlock Talent, a Florida staffing firm for technology and marketing talent, says seven out of every 10 job candidates he encounters would make a move if he or she could work remotely at least two days a week. “They even would take a pay cut just so they wouldn’t have to commute into an office,” Funkhouser says. Smart employers will recognize and embrace that trend to attract and retain loyal employees, particularly now that their upgraded systems make it easier to work remotely.

 
I also believe America's workforce will struggle even more for work life balance. Google marketing experts are telling us our smartphones are the new remote control for our lives. They are where we go for finding movie times, answering work emails, playing games, communicating with our teens. The more data our smartphone has, the smarter it will be, and the more it will simplify our life — or tether us to the office and distract us from making face to face connections. In 2015 more of us must decide if we use mobile technology — even wearable mobile technology — as a new powerful tool to work and communicate, or if we let it dictate our lives.

“We have to define what’s important for us at which time of the day, the week and the year, and act consistently,” says Geoffroy de Lestrange, a marketing professional.

With our laptops and cell phones tempting us to bring work home, we are going to have to work harder this year to keep work at the office and protect our personal and family life from the demands of work. That will be a focus for my blog this year. I look forward to sharing my tips and hearing yours.

 
 

November 05, 2014

The Way Men Use Flex is Different

Flexibiilty at work. 

For many years, those three words have been associate with working mothers.

But quietly, working fathers are tapping flex, too.

Rather than making the formal flex arrangements that moms make, dads are using flex under the radar. 

Take Phil Ward, for example. Twice a week, Phil arrives at his Fort Lauderdale law office earlier than usual and plans his day knowing he wants to watch his son’s lacrosse practice at 6:30 p.m. If his wife can’t drop his son off at practice, Ward does some extra maneuvering of his schedule to leave his office earlier. He might work through lunch or log on later in the evening. 

How Men Flex, a newly released report commissioned by Working Mother, shows that seven in 10 men enjoy the ability to influence their schedule and do so without fear of negative consequences. But only 29 percent report that their flexible work schedule is a formal arrangement that repeats week to week. Men “flex” mostly as needed.

To better understand how men are navigating the flexible work and home terrain, the Working Mother Research Institute (WMRI), with support from Ernst & Young, surveyed 2,000 men and women about the impact of “flexing” on their lives. Researchers discovered that working dads, whose spouses now work too, increasingly want and need flexibility in their schedules as they partake in the juggling act once considered the exclusive domain of women.

Jose Hernandez-Solaun, president of a Miami real estate firm, notices that most men who need informal flexibility — in jobs where it is possible — negotiate it on the fly, and get it. Yet, “flex” comes paired with expectations, he says. “If I need you to produce spreadsheets and a presentation by Friday and you ask to leave early because you need to be with your kids, you better produce that information. It’s really about accountability.”

Hernandez-Solaun, a father of young children, says the expectations are two-sided: men expect leeway in their schedule and, in return, bosses expect a certain level of availability — even at home or on vacation. “Ten years ago, that wasn’t the case.”

Going beyond informal flexibility gets trickier for men. Most men fear that formal arrangements — such as a scaled back work schedule, telecommuting from home or leeway in starting times —  create the impression that they aren’t fully committed. 

For men in particular, there is a real fear of the stigma, too. “The No.1 concern … is that men feel the moment they step out or step back, they become dispensable. That’s the greatest insecurity of every man I know,” says Mike Tomas, a South Florida entrepreneur.

Like women, men with access to flexibility are more likely to say they are happy at work, productive, loyal and have good relationships with co-workers. And, those men who do flex — even informally — report higher levels of satisfaction with their relationships with their children.
 
The men surveyed say the ideal mix is working in office but from home occasionally as needed. To do that regularly, requires a workplace that allows that type of schedule. It looks like slowly, with more managers doing the balancing act, we're moving in that direction. Working moms may have paved the way, but men are quickly learning that flexibility has benefits.
 

August 18, 2014

Back to School: A teacher's work life balance

As we struggle with work life balance and adjusting to new school routines, we think teachers have it easier than we do because they already are at school - and/or have school hours -  and can be involved in their kid's education.

 

 

Not so, says Kerri Medina, a former teacher turned college adviser who reached out to me. Below is her perspective as the new school year kicks in. I think you will find it insightful:

 

Kerri2 (1)

 I worked for the Miami-Dade County Public School System for 11 years and have a son who is 15 years old and starting his 10th grade year. In all of my time working for the school system, I was rarely able to attend his school events, shows, be a room parent, be active in the PTA, volunteer for school events, or anything else school-related because I worked the same hours the events were taking place.

I wasn't able to even do something as simple as dropping children off the first day of school, which for most parents is an exciting time with their children. Unfortunately, educators are unable to share in this experience. For me this was especially painful his first day of kindergarten. I always thought it sad and ironic that those involved in education in many cases can't be as active as they might like in their own child's school.

This past year I left the school system and became an independent college adviser at International College Counselors. This last year, for the first time, I was able to drop my son off the first day (and any day I needed, or wanted to), attend my son's school performances (he's a musician at New World School of Arts), go on any field trip I wanted to, serve on the board of the PTSA, and really feel like an involved parent at my son's school.

I am thrilled to still remain in education, but now have a better work/life balance through my company's flexibility. I noticed the same scenario of other parents who were involved in education, that although they were making a huge impact on other students' lives, they oftentimes couldn't be involved in their own child's school.  

For most part with my son, I still take a minimalist approach. I do what I need to do to make sure he’s on track. I have never rushed a project to school for the child who forgot it,because I couldn’t do it before. Now, I'm still letting my son take the lead when comes to school work.  

As a working, single mother, I am constantly balancing work and life in many ways. But now, as the new school year arrives, I can approach it differently and strike a better balance. 

 

July 31, 2014

Women can become law firm partners - and have a life

As a young lawyer, Tiffani Lee found a partner who believed in her ability and helped push her up to the top ranks of Miami’s Holland & Knight. Most often, the opposite is true: Organizational mechanisms at firms push out women and people of color.

But in a room full of women and minority lawyers, I heard some great advice on how to change that pattern. Here’s an employer and employee guide for how to navigate the challenges that lead people to leave.


Inclusion: Don’t leave women and minorities on the fringes. Amy Furness, a shareholder with the lawfirm of Carlton Fields Jorden Burt in Miami, says having someone in a leadership role who recognizes and shows a commitment to diversity by his actions can help the message of inclusion permeate throughout the firm, which can be particularly important for those partners who may not be thinking about diversity when they choose staff to work on their cases. “Getting leadership involved in ensuring inclusion prevents [diversity] from becoming marginalized,” Furness said.

Accountability: It is easy to create company policies that promote diversity, flexibility and volunteerism and work/life control. But there are some partners who will tell young associates that if they want to be successful, they should not take advantage of those policies. That is where accountability becomes crucial.

Tiffani Lee at Holland & Knight, said partners at her firm are evaluated — and even compensated — based partly on how many opportunities they provide to women and minority associates and what they’ve done to support diversity and inclusion. “The only way to drive change is to factor it into compensation,” Lee says. At her firm, partners “are asked about who is on their team and how they are working with the client to ensure the team is diverse and and how they are supporting the firm’s broader diversity efforts.”

She says ties between a commitment to values and compensation happen at all levels. Associates perform a self evaluation, too. They are eligible for a diversity kudos bonus if they have done something extraordinary.


Flexibility: At some point, the success of the firm – and the diverse talent pool — will depend on whether it offers flexibility, Most associates want a reputation for getting things done; however, they want control over how and when.

“We need to change the mindset around flexibility,” Says Manor Morales, president and CEO of the Diversity and Flexibility Alliance. “When managers hear flexibility, they think people don’t want to work as hard. Flexibility is not just reduced hours but also control over hours. It’s a different way to approach work and people actually achieve increased efficiency."

At most firms, men are taking advantage of flexibility – although informally and quietly. Morales found at one firm, a senior male partner works from home every Monday, but few realize it. "Flexibility will be embraced when firms encourage people who have power to be open about how and when they use flexibility."

Succession: While most law firms have eliminated a mandatory retirement age, many of the boomers at the top will begin paring back in the next decade. As leaders retire, it creates opportunity for the next generation – and for more inclusion. Some firms already are planning ahead.

Nikki Lewis Simon, a shareholder at Greenberg Traurig in Miami, says her firm has worked consciously to bring women and minority lawyers into leadership, onto the executive committee and onto committees that interact with senior management. This allows the firm to address issues of the next generation not just years from now, but today.

“I think the next generation of leaders will have a sense of mutual respect: With them, it isn’t us and them, it’s we. There’s an understanding that we all have stuff we want to accomplish outside the office.”

Transparency: Women who have made it to the top have this advice for others: Don’t over-explain.

Women tend to give a detailed explanation for why they need to leave early or work from home. “They give much more information than necessary,” says Yuliya Laroe, a lawyer and business coach. Laroe say that often hurts them when partners assume if they don’t see them in the office, they are with their kids. “We need to empower ourselves to believe it’s no one’s business as long as we have met our deliverables.”

Simon, a mother of five, says she advanced to partner while on maternity leave, and has been quite clear about her whereabouts to derail assumptions: “I let them know when don’t see me, it doesn’t mean I’m not working. It just means I’m not working here. I’m doing something to advance cause of the firm.”


Time management/work-life control: Getting to the top to become an equity partner and staying there is giant responsibility that requires the ability to bring in business and make a contribution to the firm’s bottom line while balancing home life and community involvement.

Morales tells lawyers to be strategic. “You could have activities that fill your plate but not all give you the same benefit,” she explains, adding that women tend to be on committees that don’t advance their careers. “When you’re asked, think, ‘Will this committee connect me with the right people? Is it valued in the firm? Or, is it just busy work?’”


Clearly, support for talented women and minorities needs to be evident at all levels. Says Laroe: “People don’t leave firms, they leave individual partners who make staying difficult.”


Image
Photo by The Miami Herald: Tiffani Lee with her mentees and her mentor pictured behind her.

July 25, 2014

How to negotiate workplace flexibility

After having two kids a year apart, I realized at that time in my career, I could not survive motherhood and news deadlines unless I negotiated flexibility. I asked for a four day work week. For me, the key to getting that schedule and finding some work life balance was the fact that I had proved myself and I was able to tell my boss exactly what he would gain by giving me flexibility. 

Today, my guest blogger, Tonya Lain, Regional Vice President at Adecco, the world's largest staffing firm, provides great advice for anyone who want to negotiate flexibility. Although Lain targets moms who want flexible schedules, there are dads out there who want them too. Her advice is useful to all.

 

Tonya
 

It seems a day doesn’t go by without reading or hearing about whether it’s possible for working mothers to “have it all” successfully, advance and balance their careers with their responsibilities to their children. Given today’s economy and cost of living, a family with two working parents is the norm, and in many cases an absolute necessity. A Pew Research poll shows that though the gap between the number of hours moms and dads spend with their kids and doing house chores has grown smaller in recent decades, women still spend more time than their spouses tending to the kids and home. This leaves mothers often feeling as though they are expected to be in two places at once.

 

A lot of this stress can be alleviated by pursuing a flexible work schedule – something 13 million Americans are doing. Stanford University conducted a study to debunk any misconceptions associated with the productivity, revealing that those working from home “were noticeably more productive, spending 9 percent more time on calls and handling 4 percent more calls per minute.” Even so, many of us aren’t prepared to have that conversation with our supervisors. Here are some ways to best make a case for a flexible working arrangement:

 

  • Do your research. Your company may already have guidelines about flexible working arrangements in the employee handbook. You may also want to consult with other moms in the company who have successfully negotiated a more flexible work schedule. This will allow you to develop a proposal based on what’s been done and what’s possible.

 

  • Determine what works for everyone. Really think about what arrangement would produce the best results for you and your employer—whether working from home three days a week or coming in later in the morning, allowing you to send your kids off to school. Consider how your employer will benefit as well. Will you be less preoccupied with how your children are being cared for? Will you gain two extra hours a day for working that you would normally spend commuting? Emphasize how this will produce results that will please everyone.

 

  • Establish quality control. Approach your employer with your research and a clear proposal on what your ideal flexible arrangement will be. This gives your supervisor a starting point to react to.  In the proposal, include recommended check-points to ease any doubts they may have on your performance. Suggest implementing frequent performance evaluations and communications standards, such as joining meetings electronically or establishing the expectations for responsiveness while you’re working from home. Emphasize a feedback system so concerns are communicated and rectified quickly. You may also want to suggest a trial run where both parties test the flexible working schedule for a month to three-month period before committing to anything long term.

 

Women today must take pride in all they have accomplished as far as their career and in their role as Mom. Carefully planning a conversation about work flexibility with an employer can help women gain the flexibility they need to make their lives less stressful and more productive.  

July 16, 2014

How much is your time worth? Why you need to outsource

My cleaning lady is at my house today. If I didn't have her, I would spend several days cleaning and not writing. I would be miserable and I'd have less money in the bank. By doing the math, I figured out I come out ahead spending my time writing rather than cleaning. 

Outsourcing is all about doing the math. What are your spending time doing -- maybe even not doing well -- that you could farm out and come out ahead? I've discovered that busy working parents need to outsource something if they want work life balance. Do you agree?

Here's my Miami Herald article on outsourcing...

How much is your time worth? Consider outsourcing some tasks

 

BY CINDY KRISCHER GOODMAN

TODD

(ABOVE: Todd Paton of Paton Marketing)

Todd Paton has a booming Miami business getting customers noticed on the Web. One tool he uses is generating online press releases to build brand awareness and create links that will send traffic to a customer’s website. But Paton, owner of Paton Internet Marketing, acknowledges that writing the releases is not his strong suit. Rather than spend his time doing it, he hires out the task.

 “You have to value your time so you know what is or is not a good use of it,” Paton says.

As a proliferation of outsourcing sites spread, today’s business owners have more options for hiring out tasks that detract from generating income and having a balanced life. For some small firms, outsourcing has had a compelling impact on their growth, productivity and bottom lines.

An important first step in outsourcing is figuring out what doesn’t make sense for you to do personally. Paton suggests dividing your income by the hours worked and coming up with an estimate of your time value. Then, factor in the time it would take you to become an expert at a specific function and complete it. “Often you find you are spending time on something you could have done by an expert for a lot less than your time is worth,” he says.

How much you can you expect to pay a contractor depends on the type of work you’re buying, the skill level and location of your provider, and your own preferences. For example, Paton goes to eLance to find U.S.-based freelancers, and pays about $30 a press release. Rather than spend half a day on the task, hiring it out is worth the expense.

Elance and oDesk (which merged in 2013) are two of the most popular marketplaces for employers to connect with talent on an as-needed basis. They are joined by an ongoing rollout of sites that give business owners access to a global pool of human capital such as virtual executive assistants, marketing directors, graphic designers, transcriptionists, paralegals, Web designers, human resources consultants, bookkeepers, public relations directors and information technology specialists.

Lesley Pyle founded HireMyMom.com seven years ago to allow owners in need of outside expertise to tap mom professionals. She finds small-business owners increasingly coming to her site to hire skilled, work-at-home moms to build or design websites, create social media followings and manage email marketing campaigns. For many entrepreneurs, the new demands of technology are the most natural tasks to outsource, Pyle finds.

“There are constantly new and better ways to do things online. Unless you enjoy that or have time for that, it’s an easy one to put on your delegation list,” Pyle says.

Mande White-Pearl, a South Florida marketing strategist for female entrepreneurs, says that even when a business owner outsources, she needs to understand the specific outcome she wants from whomever she hires. White says she has used more than 20 virtual workers to complete tasks like data entry, graphic design or project management while she concentrates on bringing in business and spending time with her new husband.

The first year she began using contractors to help carry her workload, White-Pearl says, she doubled her company's revenue.

White locates her freelancers on oDesk and has paid $5 to $50 an hour, depending on the task. She typically gives out small projects to new hires, testing them before doling out ongoing needs. “Over time, I have gotten much better about being clear on what exactly it is I need people to do. If I have had a bad experience, it has been because I had not properly communicated what I needed, wanted or expected.

To ensure quality from freelancers, sites such as Elance, oDesk and Freelancer.com allow the hiring party to see how previous clients rated prospective vendors’ work, as well as detailed profiles of the vendors and what they charge. There is no charge for freelancers to post profiles on the sites and to apply to jobs.

The sites make money by charging the employer a fee that equals a share of the total amount they paid the freelancer. Expect to pay U.S.-based contractors higher fees, but remember, with offshore providers there may be a language barrier. Fees are paid per hour or per project.

For more-creative tasks, business owners are finding talent on Fivver.com, which introduced a mobile app in December. While the site is now far from the original everything-for-$5 concept, the costs of specific jobs are straightforward. White-Pearl says she has used Fiverr to find individuals to do video editing, logo design, animation and proofreading, and she has spent from $5 to $40 to get the job done.

With the increase in demand, a variety of models for online hiring are gaining popularity. Sites like OnForce and FieldNation have created networks of independent workers in the same specialty who can be hired per gig and dispatched to a job site as opposed to working remotely. In Spring 2013, OnForce introduced a mobile app to help pair the buyer with the freelancer who might already be out on a job nearby.

Kevin Michael, managing partner of Invizio in Coral Gables, runs a business that provides IT support to local companies. However, Michael says he recently became a vendor on OnForce, a network of independent IT professionals looking for gigs in their area. “We see it as a way to get our foot in the door.”

While on OnForce he’s the independent contractor, Michael says that as a business owner, he, too, has at times been the outsourcer. He has used hiring sites to tap professionals to create logo designs or marketing materials. “If you are a small business and trying to grow, adding headcount isn’t what you want,” he says. “It is much better to find someone with expertise who is affordable. Now you have more time in your day, and you’re still getting what you need done.”

 

 

Kevinvmichael_datacenter_shot

(Above: Kevin Michael, managing partner of Invizio, IT Support)

May 31, 2014

Surviving end-of-school-year madness

If I had to bet, I would say that by now, most working parents are exhausted. As we get down to the end-of-the-school year, celebrations and activities are coming fast and furious. Can you find time and energy to always be there...physically and mentally? Here's why you might feel swamped: Because of a rising interest in rituals, ceremonies have proliferated, marking nearly every life transition—from preschool to college graduation—and making each the focus of festivities. As a result, families face a long list of must-attends including class parties, award ceremonies, tournaments, recitals, picnics and banquets. They happen all in the few weeks leading up to summer, making this time of year the busiest season of all for many households. I just have to look at the Facebook posts to see how my friends are bouncing from one event to the next. Fortunately, I have some flexibility at my job to attend my kids end of school year activities because I work from home. Sadly, many parents do not have flexibility or understanding bosses. Many of us working parents beat ourselves up for not getting to all of these events. It’s especially awful when our kids really want us there, points out mommy blogger Wendy Sachs. Remember, this is the time to use your goodwill bank -- call in those favors you've done for other parents at work or at school to get some help with the driving. If you can't stay for the entire class party or recital, make sure you speak to your child about the portion you observed: something like, "I enjoyed watching because you were concentrating so well.'' If it's an event you absolutely don't want to miss, offer a solution to your boss or client -- something like "I will come in early tomorrow to tackle that project if I can leave for a few hours mid- day today? " How are you handling the end-of-year madness? Do you find your workplace gives you the flexibility to attend school activities? If not, are you resentful?

December 26, 2013

Rearview Mirror: Work life balance and workplace challenges of 2013

When I look at the year in review, I see a continued struggle for work-life balance exemplified by a question I raised in a recent Miami Herald column: What is an average work week?

For those of us with anything beyond the most basic level of responsibility, most agree that a 9-to-5 work day no longer is a reality. Many of us feel like we’re “always on.” The technology that brings our home life into our workplace and our jobs into our homes presents opportunities and challenges. I have tackled some of them in this column in 2013.

One area of challenge arises from where we do our work. Can people be as productive at home as they are in the office? And, aren’t most of us working from places outside the traditional workspace at least some of the time? Earlier this year, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer called remote employees back to the office and set off a firestorm of debate.

In my March 6 column, I asked: Can anyone really argue that Mayer is wrong to feel that there is value in the conversations that arise when people are physically together in a room? There’s a reason that Google has configured its offices with a lunch room extraordinaire. It’s to keep people on campus and working together, I noted.

After a multitude of conversations with experts and employees, I’ve come to believe that the best workplaces strike a happy medium — allowing workers to come to the office some of the time but also manage their own schedules.” Corporate futurist Christian Crews, principal of AndSpace Consulting in Fairfield, Ct., said companies with the greatest competitive advantage are “managing the tension between getting engagement from employees who can make their own hours with the tension of getting critical mass in a building to create innovative new approaches to business.” To me, companies that get that right will be around much longer than those that don’t.

Another challenge involves the technology we use to do our work. In my July 3 column, I noted that with continuous new technology, many employees want the latest smartphones, tablets or laptops to balance their work and home lives on their devices. We are more satisfied when we use our own preferred devices on the job. Allowing us to do so saves our employers money buying and maintaining equipment.

But as more employers embrace the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement, questions abound over whether we are ready for the heated issues cropping up such as our expectation of privacy and what happens if there’s a security breach. Should an employer have the right to search our personal device or wipe out the memory remotely should it suspect a concern?

Niza Motola, special counsel with the Miami law firm of Littler Mendelson, says the BYOD trend has made it evident that with the rapid advance of technology, the laws and workplaces haven’t caught up. “The lines are blurred on what’s personal and what’s professional at work and that’s only going to get more obvious.”

Some see opportunity in blurred boundaries between work and personal life. My July 24 column addressed the trend toward working vacations. It seemed the economic worries that led American workers to limit themselves to drive-by vacations for the past several summers had lifted. The two-week vacation made a comeback, mostly because people have figured out ways to integrate work and travel to make for a better return. The new guilt-free vacation centers on knowing when to check in and field calls and when to disconnect.

Cristy Leon-Rivero, chief marketing and merchandising officer with Navarro Discount Pharmacy, discovered that working on vacation meant she could take a full week off, but she and her husband tag-teamed to ensure their children wouldn’t feel shortchanged when their parents connected to their offices.

“I might say, ‘Watch the kids for a minute; I’m going to get on a call,’ or he might do the same, but we keep our family activities time-protected.” Leon-Rivero found that when she took a full week to let go of stress and relax, she was more productive when she returned. “The best ideas happen outside the office.”

Throughout the year, I dug deeper into the mindset of millennials, our youngest employees who are changing how all of us think and act on the job. In my Sept. 11 column, I wrote that millennials want an entrepreneurial culture in their workplaces where their ideas can help shape the business. But research shows managers often feel millennials want too much too soon and don’t know how to keep them on a career path that keeps them engaged. Frustrated, young innovators often take a “move up or move on” attitude.

Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding, feels the best strategy for managers is tell younger workers specifically what to do to become a manager in a set number of years. “Those expectations are so important, and nobody is setting them, which is why turnover (and frustration) is so high,” he said.

While most of us have tried to separate our work and home lives, millennials want their personal and work lives intertwined. In my Sept. 18 column, I wrote about new research showing that this generation wants workplaces to be like second homes, their co-workers to be their friends and their bosses to be their workplace parents or mentors. While the big push in creating social workplaces has centered on ice cream-making contests and costume competitions, experts say the future is going to require a more strategic approach. Employers will need to build a “fun” culture that encourages camaraderie, collaboration and dedication. Employers who get it and create that culture will find this innovative generation has a lot to contribute.

Of course, it’s not just businesses that can win from working well with millennials. In my Oct. 2 column, I wrote about a trend called reverse mentoring: Companies are pairing grizzled veterans with young up-and-comers. The arrangement works to retain eager young workers and keep older executives technologically and socially relevant. In some instances, it’s a formal arrangement; in others, it’s casual — much like traditional mentoring. But those of us seasoned workers who allow the younger generation to teach us how to use better use technology to communicate and connect will find ourselves more efficient. Our work-life balance is sure to benefit.

Lastly, I must point out that the Family Medical Leave Act celebrated its 20th year in existence in 2013. In our struggle to balance our family lives and our work lives, it is the one law that has made a giant difference for 35 million American workers. It’s been a godsend for those of us who want time to bond with our newborn, care for an aging parent or deal with a health emergency without the fear of losing our jobs. But as I wrote in my Feb. 6 column, FMLA does not guarantee time off with pay, and some of those who need it can’t afford to use it. Those involved in the passage of FMLA say they are pushing forward on the next step — federal legislation that would expand eligibility to more of the workforce and introduce a nationwide paid family leave. I hope the men and women of this country understand how vital this is for all workers and push for change.

Going forward, I believe the big work-life debate will be whether constant connectivity will lead to additional productivity and profitability, or whether just the opposite is true. Time will tell. In my experience, those who manage to disconnect, at least for a while, will find more of the balance that makes life fulfilling.

 

 

October 30, 2013

10 Workplace Trends that Affect the Way We Work

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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