January 26, 2015

Is stress contagious?


Some days when I feel stressed about work deadlines, I complain to my husband about everything on my to do list. After a few minutes of listening to me vent, he tells me I'm stressing him out. 

He may not be experiencing stress to the degree I am, but it doesn't surprise me that new research has found stress is contagious. It's pitiful but there's just so much to be stressed about these days -- demanding clients,  never ending streams of incoming email, huge bills from the vet or daycare provider, a parent that's showing signs failing health. Work life balance issues are a huge source of stress.

While we may not even realize it, we experience stress and then pass it on to others through what we say, the facial expressions we make and the way we physically show tension. 

Research found when we become aware of stress of others, it sends a signal to our brain and our bodies release the stress hormone cortisol. It doesn't matter what's causing stress for our spouse, co-worker or best friend, it only matters that we observed the other person in a stressful situation. How strange is it that our bodies actually process other people's stress?

It's no wonder we're seeing shorter tempers and higher levels of impatience! 

Of course, if it isn't stressful enough that we pass along stress through personal interaction, now, there's a new way to expose others to our stress -- social media. 

Just today, I saw on Facebook that my friend's adorable dog Charley, has cancer. It worried me because I know she lives alone and has a close bond with her dog.

Pew Researchers are calling the heightened stress we're feeling from learning on social media about undesirable events affecting our friends or relatives "the cost of caring." They say this is adding to a growing pool of evidence suggesting stress is contagious.

So while we might be venting on social media to make ourselves feel better, our posts about rough patches that we've hit or disappointing life events are stressing out the people near and dear to us who read what we write. 

In other words, while increased levels of stress have us searching for ways to blow off steam, we're blowing it right on to the people we count on to prop us up. Pathetic, right?

Think about how much stress we would save from multiplying if we just learned how to manage our stress through simple activities like breathing, walking or visualizing calm.

Or am I fooling myself by thinking the solution is that simple? 

January 11, 2015

How to actually take vacation, time off in 2015




Close you eyes and for a moment imagine yourself relaxed, happy and at your best at work. When I do that, I envision myself about a week after I have returned from vacation, all caught up at work and in a much better mindset than before I left.


Being my best self at work affects how I lead, treat others, show compassion and patience, and exhibit creativity. Most of us need a break from routine, a chance to decompress, to be our best selves. But surveys show we are not taking that crucial opportunity.


Just less than 42% of Americans didn't take a single day of vacation in 2014, and women took fewer vacation days than men, according to Skift, a travel intelligence site. The findings show many full-time employed Americans have at least 10 days of allotted vacation. Because workplaces often have use it or lose it policies, not taking vacation is like leaving money on the table.


What's going on?


There are all kinds of reasons people gave. Some said they were reluctant to use their vacation time for fear of appearing replaceable or concern about their work piling up. Some didn't have money to go on vacation or believed there was no one who could cover for them if they took time off.


Right before my vacation this summer, I felt like any story ideas I came up with were stale. I felt tired and disengaged. Most of us recognize we are not at our best when we haven’t been able to disconnect from work physically and emotionally for a long stretch of time.


Vacations don’t have to be costly or long to be revitalizing. Now is the time to think ahead for 2015. Start by establishing expectations that you will take time off, guidelines for how you will disconnect and back up plans for when you are on vacation. Help your boss (or client) get into a routine of contacting others for some issues that he’d normally contact you about. Do this even when you are in the office to train those who will cover for you.  You want you boss to gain more confidence in them and allow you a real vacation from work.


Even in workplaces that don’t encourage time off, let others know that they will benefit from your post-vacation rejuvenation. I feel like taking vacation in 2015 is doable if you keep your “best self” vision in mind and plan for it now.


October 01, 2014

Overwork in America: How to stay alive

When I read about someone dropping dead after intense periods of overwork, it makes me wonder -- did anyone try to step in?

In a society in which overwork has become the norm, and work life balance a constant struggle, is it our responsibility to prevent a co-worker, friend or employee from working himself sick.

It's tricky from a boss's perspective. A boss wants his employee to be superstar. It's a boss's  own best interest for someone to put in longer hours and get more work done. But at what expense?

As I wrote in my Miami Herald column today, on rare occasions, decisions to ignore or defy excessive work stress can reap unknowing consequences. There are a few horrific examples: 

-A Wall Street intern who worked through the night eight times in two weeks, including three consecutive nights, before he collapsed and died in his apartment in 2013

-A Skadden Arps associate who died in 2011 after months of intense pressure and rumored 100-hour work weeks,

- A copywriter for an ad agency who in 2013 suffered heart failure and slipped into a fatal coma just after sipping energy drinks and tweeting “30 hours of working and still going strooong.”

Because we live in a culture that applauds overwork, stories of people working themselves to death or collapsing of exhaustion force us to look at what has become the new normal. Employers are asking almost all workers to take on higher workloads. But when multiple 15-hour workdays get met with a pat on the back rather than a look of concern, we need to figure out our role in workplace well-being.

The signs of burn out are rather easy to recognize — hair loss, weight loss or gain, fatigue, the popping of stimulants to combat anxiety or exhaustion and extreme over-reaction or irritability.
Intervention can be complex. For some workers, getting ahead is their priority. It is not only what they spend the majority of their days doing, it represents a core part of their identities. They choose to tip the work life balance scale in favor of work.
But there are ways to help. Here are a few approaches:
  • Push it. Leah Carpenter, CEO of Memorial Hospital Miramar says as the company leader, “you have to push it a little,” with those who may not realize they need work-life balance. I tell them, “We are no good to the patients we treat if we don’t take care of ourselves.”
  • Set an example. “I have to put myself in check so they won’t follow.” Carpenter says she won’t send out emails past 9 p.m. and she conscientiously takes vacation days: “I don’t want to send the wrong message about expectations.”

  • Show a general concern. If pointing out a lack of balance or extreme overwork leads to resistance, workplace expert David Torrance, CEO of Renaissance Executive Forums Dallas, recommends another approach: a more generic show of concern such as, “Hey, are you doing OK? I see you’re working long hours. I’m concerned for you. What’s going on?”


  • Use good judgment.  In most workplaces, co-workers are most tuned in to a peer’s exhaustion or anxiety and often reluctant to get involved. “At first blush, it’s no different from me going to a colleague and saying, ‘Not married yet, what’s going on with that?’” said Nikki Lewis Simon, a shareholder at Greenberg Traurig in Miami. “Working around the clock is a personal decision, not unlike the decision to have kids, marry, be openly gay. Some people don’t know what to do without work. If you forced them to go home, they would be in a funk.”


  • Offer to pitch in.  Simon said she would show interest as a friendly overture: “I might say, is everything OK? I see you’re working hard, is there something I could do to help?”


  • Point out health concerns. Sometimes it takes a health practitioner to convey the message that changes behavior. While balance can be a struggle for all, Simon says people need to need to be told: “You must unplug and rejuvenate because your body will not forgive you forever.”



September 12, 2014

How to help a co-worker who is burning out

One day at work, one of my co-workers put her face into her hands and screamed. It was bizarre. All of us just watched, not really sure how to react. After a few minutes went by, the screaming got louder.

She was having a HUGE meltdown and it felt like acknowledging it might make it worse. I know that burnout happens. But watching it happen feels awful. For weeks, this co-worker, a single mother, had complained to me about having too much on her plate. When I arrived at the office, she was there. When I left, she was there.

Burn out has ended more than a few careers. But is it possible to help prevent a co-worker or even a boss from burning out?  In most companies, hard work is rewarded with more work. Should anyone step in when they see someone who can't seem to strike a work life balance? 

CareerCast.com says "We usually reach the point of being burned up when we try and tough out unpleasant work-related situations without an effective strategy. We ignore the signs of unhappiness, make excuses for the miserable way we feel on the job, justify staying on the job with any number of reasons, and gradually fall into a downward spiral where our motivation to change the situation is gone and, running on fumes becomes running on empty."

While it may be hard to recognize in ourselves, burn out could be easier to recognize in our co-workers. So, if we see some like my co-worker on the verge of a meltdown, what should be do about it?

CareerCast.com offers these suggestions:


  • 1. Urge your co-worker to seek help from a trained mental health professional who treats work-related problems.


  • 2. Step in with a gentle suggestion before the problem becomes so severe your co-worker loses his or her job or burns bridges.


  • 3. Urge your co-worker to consult a career counselor to find out if he or she has other career and work interests at a new and possibly different type of job, profession or career.


  • 4. Let your co-worker know that just because he or she is burned out on a current job or in a current role, doesn't mean it will necessarily be the same on a new job or new position. Circumstances change and, with it, a different job could lead to increased energy and a more positive frame of mind.


After my co-worker's complete crash, she was encouraged by her boss to take a long weekend. When she came back to work, she was offered a  less stressful, lower paying position at the same company. I encouraged her to take it, although it meant she has to live more frugally. 

A year later she seems much more in control of her work life balance and happier at work. 

Lot of us see co-workers every day who can't or don't make time for a personal life. Sometimes it is by choice. Sometimes he or she feels the company expects a 24/7 commitment.

Have your ever witnessed a co-worker burning out? Do you feel a responsibility to say or do so something? 


April 08, 2014

The secret weapon behind work life balance

We all  struggle for work life balance, but most of us don’t realize that sometimes the path towards achieving might be something so simple.

Some of the most successful people I know are sharing their secret weapon for remaining strong and finding balance. 


One of them is Donna Shalala. By her own admission, Donna Shalala is a workaholic. She is the president of University of Miami and has a resume that anyone would find impressive -- accomplished scholar, teacher and administrator. Her jobs titles include a stint working for President Bill Clinton as secretary of health and human services. While Donna doesn't have kids, she does take care of her elderly mother and oversees thousands of employees. Last week, I was at a luncheon in which Donna was asked about work life balance. 
The secret weapon, she says, is a good night's sleep. "The biggest mistakes I've made in my career happened because I was overtired," she told more than 400 women at a lunch sponsored by The Commonwealth Institute South Florida.
Coincidentally, or maybe not, Arianna Huffington, cofounder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, also is on a campaign to advocate for a good night's sleep. Her personal wake-up call came in the form of a broken cheekbone and a nasty gash over her eye -- the result of a fall brought on by exhaustion and lack of sleep. She wondered, "is this really what success feels like?"
Instead of bragging about our sleep deficits or how busy we are, Arianna urges us to shut our eyes and see the big picture: We can sleep our way to increased productivity and happiness — and smarter decision-making. The first step, she says, is getting 30 minutes more sleep a night.
So, there you go! Two powerful women are telling you that sleep is key to good decisions and our well being. If you're giving up sleep to get more done, it's time to change that habit. Arianna says sleep deprived women will learn the hard way the value of sleep as she did, especially when trying to see the big picture in business. 
As someone who is guilty of giving up sleep, I'm going to change my habits. I hope you will, too. 

February 05, 2014

Adult camps, a great way to restore work life balance!

As a kid, I never went to sleep away camp. But, I have learned, it's never too late. 

Camps for adults are the hot new trend and I can see why. Most of us struggle with work life balance and so many demands on our time.  Who wouldn't want to escape from daily demands and have some fun?

Today, in my Miami Herald column, I profile a few of the camps.


Camps for adults help workers recharge


 Tammi Leader Fulller sets a pie eating contest in motion at Campowerment



A year ago, Joseph Dawnson, a communications manager at a South Florida biotech company, sat at his work computer dreaming about connecting with musicians who shared his passion for rock music. So, Dawson jetted to Las Vegas, wehre he spent a week playing drums at Rock N Roll Fantasy Camp with other working professionals also looking to escape their routine.

“It was kind of like self-help group therapy,” Dawson says. “It changed me on a level I didn’t expect.”

With time demands and stress levels rising, U.S. workers are desperate to connect with others who feel trapped in the same dynamics. Camps for adults have become increasingly popular as an antidote to workplace stress, offering workers a weekend or weeklong opportunity to unplug their devices, recharge their personal batteries, re-evaluate priorities and experience much needed camaraderie.

Stress experts say building bonds with others in a completely new environment encourages positive thinking and resilience. “The brain is hardwired that we must have a tribe or community in order to survive in this very challenging world,” says Heidi Hanna, CEO of SYNERGY Solutions and author of Stressaholic. “Social support not only boosts optimism, it makes challenges appear less difficult.”

For Dawson, 32, rocking out with rock legends like KISS’ Ace Frehley and Alice Cooper was decidedly cool. But the deeper experience came from bonding with fellow band mates who were strangers just the week before. Dawson has stayed in touch with all of them — insurance agents, doctors, IT experts, all tethered by a common love of music. He says they support each other’s lives outside work, even traveling to attend performances. “It’s over a year out, and the experience still changes me, “It’s given me confidence to play more, and I now work with co-workers better.”

According to grownupcamps.com, there are more than 800 adult camps in the U.S., most of them operating throughout the year. They tout the draw of the adult camp experience as an opportunity to break free of routine, learn something new, make new friends and have fun. The American Camp Association (ACA) says it expects interest in adult camps to continue to grow. Camp organizers say typically about 50 percent of adult campers return.

David Fishof launched Rock ’n’ Roll fantasy camp in Doral more than a decade ago to appeal to the booming population of rock star wannabes. He since has secured a permanent location for his fantasy camp in Las Vegas and just entered talks to open a second location in South Florida. The camps pair attendees with professional musicians and band mates and range in price from $299 for a one-day rock star experience, $1,699 for two days of Rock Camp 101 and up to $5,495 for a four-day headliner package. Campers write and record their own songs in a professional recording studio and finish with a live performance. Fishof says campers leave with better work and life skills. “They learn to listen. What makes them successful in a band is to listen to what the other person is playing. So many people forget success is in teams.”

Like Fishof, Tammi Leader Fuller, 54, became aware of the dynamics behind the adult camp trend and now runs Campowerment, a combination of fun and games and empowerment workshops. Fuller calls it a place where women who are struggling to juggle all that life throws at them can unwind in a group setting.

“A lot of women have hit a wall,” explains Fuller. “They want to know others are experiencing what they are feeling.” Fuller says camp rules are that campers can’t talk about what they do for a living for the first 24 hours. “Sweatpants, we have learned, are the great equalizer.”

In between bonfires and singalongs, the women learn journaling, vision board making and stress management skills. Fuller runs the camps at kids’ sleep-away properties around the country. Her next one will be in Orange Springs, Fla., from Feb. 21-24. She expects about 70 women to attend.

Patrice “Treecy” Eichen, a 55-year-old Broward County assistant attorney and mother of a teen daughter, flew to Malibu last April to participate in a four-day Campowerment. “I wanted to experience bonding and friendship away from electronics and cell service. It was four days just to do what I want and not have demands on me.”

Eichen, who signed up for Campowerment again this March, said she found the “sharing circles” and waking up to women giggling in her bunk more restorative than a day at the spa. “I think it has more long-term benefits.”

Camp organizers are discovering that even the young generation of workers sees the benefit of breaking away from the modern world for a camp experience. Levi Felix, 29, co-founded Digital Detox in 2012 to lead device free retreats and programs. He has hosted more than 15 three-day retreats for people who feel addicted to their gadgets. For 72 hours, the participants eat vegan food, practice yoga, swim in a nearby creek, take long walks in the woods, and keep a journal about being offline.

From those retreats, Felix got the idea for Camp Grounded, a full-scale, adults-only camp held in June on former Boy Scouts quarters about 2 ½ hours north of San Francisco. Last summer, about 300 people from all over the country attended and participated in activities such as truffle-making workshops, yoga and archery. Campers, mostly in their 30s, were prohibited from electronics, watches and work talk. “People are looking for a place to unplug, re-energize and build community, ” Felix says. “The idea is to leave with new perspective.” Initial Camp Grounded success, he says, led him to offer three camp sessions of 300 people each this summer.

Taking a different approach, Vicky Townsend, 53, launched Inspiration University to encourage women to talk business — but also build friendships — in a relaxed environment. She has partnered with high-end spas throughout South Florida and invited executive women to come to electronics-free retreats that include inspirational workshops, wine and cheese and spa treatments. “We encourage the women to talk about what they do and what they need,” Townsend says. “You get to know someone on a different level when you’re getting reflexology or scalp massages together.”

Stress expert Hanna says more adults need to seek an outlet for pent-up tension and anxiety: “Unfortunately, people think that if they seek help for stress, they will be perceived as weak, when the reality is everyone is stressed.” While the goal is to re-energize, the real advantage, camp organizers say, are the coping abilities that help upon return to former routines. Says Fuller: “Everyone leaves with the tools to live the lives they want and a new sense of purpose.”



October 23, 2013

When work life balance gets overwhelming, consider a radical sabbatical

My friend, Laura Berger, did what most of us only dream of doing. She ditched her stressful life in the city and her struggles to achieve work life balance and headed to the jungle for a radical sabbatical. Berger is now back in the corporate world, coaching corporate executives how to get ahead, but she credits her time in the jungle with giving her new perspective. 

Laura and her husband, Glen Tibaldeo have published a book about their experience and lessons learned on their sabbatical. It's a great read and has been described as a couples Eat, Pray, Love meets the Hangover. Today, Glen is my guest blogger and shares some insights.

Radical Sabbatical, an Amazon Kindle bestseller by Laura Berger and Glen Tibaldeo, is available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com. Check out Owen Wilson Loves Radical Sabbatical

Laura Berger and Glen Tibaldeo

The Joys of Imbalance

Is your life out of balance? Why you should be thrilled.

by Glen Tibaldeo

“I was a magnet to a better professional image. If all of a sudden those guys following horses in parades with shovels drove BMWs, wore Armani, and were the talk at cocktail parties, I’d be the first to sign up for a Master’s of Science in Equestrian Excrement Elimination. Add to that my all-or-nothing mentality and my need to be a hero for more kudos and accolades. If too much of a good thing is bad, then what’s too much of a bad thing?”

This is how my wife Laura and I describe my life before our big adventure in Radical Sabbatical began. But for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, and nowhere is it more apparent than in our story. I was a hopelessly overworked geek who had inflicted an extreme imbalance to my life, and the universe was yearning to rectify it.

And so at 35, Laura and I moved to the gorgeous, untouched seaside town that we call Pair-o-Dice village. In less than twenty-four hours we had gone from roaring subway trains and dodging fellow sidewalk pedestrians to rugged dirt roads and wildlife dripping from the trees—so plentiful that sometimes it just randomly fell from the sky.

And all the while, all we could wonder was, “why us?” “Why here?” And “How did we get here?” But with time comes wisdom. We can see how the universe corrects all imbalances -- and get this: the less balance you have, the more the cosmos wants to get you there. So how ironic that when your life feels out of whack — when it is, you’ll know it — the universe is waiting to push you to center.

So what are the laws of nature waiting for? They’re waiting for you to just give things a good, deliberate nudge. Yes, Laura and I went from the big city to the middle of nowhere overnight, but it took us 2 years to analyze all our options and make our decision. But once we decided to quit our jobs and move to the jungle, our world blew up.  

We describe that life-changing explosion in Radical Sabbatical, our new comedic travel memoir about the time we risked everything we had to get the life we always wanted. In the midst of a setting that couldn’t be better for someone in the right mindset to find inner peace, we struggled to adjust to our abrupt life change. We battled serpents and surreal insects. We risked our lives on harrowing mountain runs in decrepit 4x4s. We were given mysterious potions from shamans. Laura, until then deathly afraid of heights, launched herself off a 2,000 foot mountainside. And last, but certainly not least, we rather clumsily navigated a brand new culture.

And to experience all that, all we had to do was decide to make a change. That may seem hard from where you’re sitting, but once you have decided to move, you’ll wonder what you were waiting for.

Still not convinced you’ve got it in you? Here are a few things you can do to give things that little nudge:

1. Think of a handful of easy and enjoyable tasks you can do to make progress toward your big dream. The hardest and most important part is starting.

2. Post pictures or collages of your dream life in the places you go most frequently. The more joy you can simulate, your subconscious will eventually want to make that dream happen.

3. Clear minor changes from your life so you can focus on the big bang of your dream. Your spirit can only take so much change at once.

4. Anyone trying to shake up their lives experiences significant setbacks. God knows we did. Anticipate them, so they won’t throw you off balance when they happen.

5.If you’re having trouble getting in the right mindset to start, go on vacation somewhere with the express goal of thinking and fantasizing about your new life. Habits play a huge part in staying in a rut. Just changing settings can be enough to get you to decide to get going.


We owe our exciting lives as they are now to that magical and trying time in the jungle. The people we met, the experiences we had, and all our successes and failures made the jungle both a natural theme park and life boot camp.

The brilliance of it all is that if you are so far out of balance that you can’t even see straight, you might just be on the precipice of the ride of your life.


July 24, 2013

Does staying connected to the office allow for longer vacations?

I know it's important for work life balance to disconnect from the office -- completely. But is it realistic? If not, is there an upside to staying connected? I say yes. The upside is it may allow for a longer vacation. Here's my take on the topic from my Miami Herald column.

Vacations that restore the working soul

Cristy Leon-Rivera of Navarro Discount Pharmacy and  husband Alex Rivera balance family vacations with work by tag-teaming on office check-ins.
Cristy Leon-Rivera of Navarro Discount Pharmacy and husband Alex Rivera balance family vacations with work by tag-teaming on office check-ins. 



My husband and I differ over what constitutes a vacation in 2013. For my husband, getting out of town for a few days would be defined as a vacation, an important part of work-life balance. That of course doesn’t mean unplugging all together. He still sneaks in brief phone calls to the office, 6 a.m. emails, and work-related reading.

For me, those few days away aren’t enough. In this workaholic, multitasking society, I need more than a few days to unwind — and less time in contact with “the real world.’’

Of course, I realize my family is fortunate to be able to take a vacation at all. Many Americans — about 23 percent, according to a recent survey by Kelton research commissioned by SpringHill Suites — don’t get paid time off, or have the money to get away. But the economic worries that led American workers to limit themselves to drive-by vacations for the past several summers seem to have lifted. Fortunately, this summer, the two-week vacation is making a comeback — even among overachieving professionals.

Mostly, it’s because people have figured out ways to integrate work and travel to make for a better return.

Travel agents, hoteliers, and rental-property owners report a trend toward longer, farther trips this summer, according to TravelMarketReport.com and AAA. The trend is buoyed by more hotels that offer wi-fi and more mobile devices that have the same functionality as desktop PCs. A new TeamViewer survey found about 70 percent of employed vacationers bring work-capable devices with them.

“You have to weigh the ability to disengage fully with how much pain there is in the return,” said Michael Crom, executive vice president of Dale Carnegie Training, who just returned from a two-week road trip from New York to North Florida. “People are coming to the decision that they need a mental break, but they don’t want to come back to thousands of emails.”

Cindy Kushner, tax partner at Crowe Horwath in Fort Lauderdale, brought a laptop with her when she traveled throughout China for 15 days with her college-age son last month. Before bed each night at hotels, she would read and respond to work email, schedule meetings on her calendar, and flag and prioritize what needed to get done when she returned. She also checked email on train rides.

“I was able to stay organized and I think it helped me enjoy my vacation more,” she said. “It felt good to come back and not feel overwhelmed.”

While that might not seem like pure vacation, Kushner says she spent her days exploring and stayed away from working on tax returns or other documents.

“I just flagged it with a reminder and left it for later so that I could enjoy my vacation.”

An abundance of research has found employees who take advantage of their vacation days perform better (short- and long-term) and are happier than those who let their days squander. I believe it. One year, when my husband and I moved homes, we opted not to take a family vacation all year, by the time the next summer rolled around, my husband and I lacked patience for each other, our kids, and our jobs, particularly during intense work weeks. Crom says getting out of the office for an extended time has big benefits: It allows you to work on bigger-picture ideas and come back reinvigorated. “It’s one of the critical drivers of engagement.”

CareerBuilder recently surveyed almost 6,000 workers and discovered that 12 percent of them say they feel guilty they’re not at work when they’re on vacation. The key to a guilt-free working vacation is building work activities around your family’s or companion’s schedule — knowing when to check in and field calls and when to disconnect. If it’s before family awakes, that’s palatable. If it’s mid-day during a zip-line excursion, that’s a problem. It’s also important to avoid anything complex that will pull you out of vacation mode.

Cristy Leon-Rivero, chief marketing and merchandising officer with Navarro Discount Pharmacy, discovered that working on vacation means she can take a full week off, but she and her husband tag team so their three children don’t feel short-changed when their parents connect 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.” Even on a beach escape, Leon-Rivero says it takes at least a week to let go of stress and relax. She believes time away from the office pays off. “The best ideas happen outside the office.”

With the return of longer vacations, more companies are going toward unlimited vacation policies, convinced it leads to better productivity and engagement. Tech companies, such as Evernote and small-business loan-finder Lendio, both on the West Coast, have told their employees they won’t be tracking the amount of time they take off, just their individual results. When announcing the policy change, Brock Blake, cofounder and CEO of Lendio said, “I trust all of you to do your job and take the time off you need.”

Others who have tried similar approaches have had positive results. Two years after instituting its vacation policy, the web service Hubspot found “the company has been ranked as the #2 fastest-growing software company on the Inc. 500.” The same goes for website GoHealthInsurance.com, which claimed a 200% increase in growth over the last year.

But such free-wheeling policies don’t work for every type of firm. Mayi de la Vega, founder and CEO of One Sotheby’s in South Florida, says if she took long vacations and went completely off the grid, she would lose business. But she can combine business with pleasure.

This summer, when she took a week off to vacation in Aspen, she used her getaway to build new relationships with potential Florida buyers. While away, De la Vega organized a Burger Bash at an Aspen lodge for vacationing professionals and area residents, teaming up as host with Sotheby’s affiliates in Colorado and Florida. She also attended getting-to-know-you meetings with the marketing director at an Aspen condo/hotel project.

The key: people who own homes in Aspen often also want homes in Miami. “I would wake up and go for a bike ride on the Rio Grande trail or take a nice hike. Then I would come back and go to a meeting in my gym clothes. Back in Miami, she says she feels completely rested and invigorated. “I’m ready to go back to 14 hour days.”

Here in South Florida, my husband and I are still negotiating our summer vacation. But I think I have him convinced that a longer break in work routine pays off – particularly if we intend to stay connected with our jobs.


March 05, 2013

Do you need an electronic curfew?

Sleep and devices

As someone who has personally fought the battle of electronic devices, I am absolutely convinced that powering down an hour before tucking in leads to a better night's rest. 

But as much as I'm an advocate for electronic curfews, I'm also wondering if it's realistic to give ourselves one. I don't know about you, my iPad loves hanging out on my nightstand and it occasionally, falls into my hands right before drifting off to sleep.

I have lots of company in this habit. According to a newly released study by The National Sleep Foundation, more than 90 percent of Americans regularly use a computer or electronic device of some kind in the hour before bed. We're hooked and we know it.

Now, I've learned that researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute showed that exposure to light from computer tablets significantly lowered levels of the hormone melatonin, which regulates our internal clocks and plays a role in the sleep cycle. Playing a quick game of Fruit Ninja on my iPad at bedtime could lead to sleep disturbances. But it may not be the light of a cell phone or computer alone that triggers sleep problems. It could be the anxiety produced when you, say, read a work e-mail that makes you angry. 

I've noticed that having had a good night's sleep does make a difference in my work day. It's almost as if waking up well rested puts me in the right frame of mind to be a better problem solver. Beware: This weekend, our sleep schedules are about to get messed up -- Daylight Saving Time begins this Sunday morning at 2:00 am. Sleep experts say this presents the perfect time to give yourself an electronic curfew. They suggest dimming the lights and listening to soft music before going to bed, having a nice conversation with your spouse or kids, or maybe even reading a magazine or taking a warm bath.

I can think of at least three reasons to give yourself an electronic curfew. 

1. Your work day will be more productive when you can focus.

2. You have less chance of an afternoon slump.

3. You will cut your chance of sleep texting, leading to possible embarrassment.

What can I say? You might be far less effected than others who use electronics right up until they time they shut their eyes. But you will never know if you feel more rested and balanced until you try powering down earlier, will you?



December 12, 2012

When does workplace stress turn into burnout?

All of us have workplace stress of some sort -- maybe we're dealing with a demanding boss or a mounting pile of paperwork. And then there's technology, making it more difficult to disconnect.

But there's that line when crossed turns stress into distress.

Today, one of the most respected medical professionals in the country weighs in on stress and provides some insight on how he recommends his patients better cope with it.

Readers, I hope you find this helpful and if you have ways of coping with stress that work for you, please share!


Work/Life Balancing Act

Tips for managing workplace stress


Many of us struggle with stress, but some cross over into the danger zone. The telltale sign: a near or complete lack of work-life balance.



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Stress at a glance

• Health problems linked to stress include heart attack, obesity, depression, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome and diabetes.

• Common traits of burnout are excessive devotion to work and productivity at the exclusion of leisure activities and friendships; inability to delegate tasks.

• Symptoms of burnout: chronic fatigue, cynicism, emotional exhaustion, failure to take time off, headaches and explosions of anger.

• Almost a third of all workers feel “extremely stressed” at work. About 14 percent of workers felt like striking a coworker in the past year, but didn’t.

Sources: The American Institute of Stress; Charles Nemeroff, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.






            There are end of the year deals to close, budgets to meet, gifts to buy, and just thinking about it has your stress level rising. But when does stress turn into distress and at what point should your employer intervene?

For American workers, coping with workplace stress is a year-round concern that employers are beginning to see as partly their responsibility. Three-fourths of employees believe that workers have more on-the-job stress than a generation ago and nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage it, an Attitudes in the American workplace study by the American Institute of Stress shows.

Most of us harried workers struggle with the daily pressure of time demands, but some cross over into the danger zone. The telltale sign that a breakdown is near is a complete lack of work-life balance.      

“Often these are the people working 14 hours a day and expecting others to do it, too,” said Charles Nemeroff, chairman of the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “I’ll ask them when is the last time you had fun and they look at me like are you kidding?”

Service professionals such as lawyers, financial advisors, accountants and doctors particularly are susceptible with increased client demands and technology making it more difficult to shut off job stress. Often they push themselves harder and harder to achieve.

Attorney Harley Tropin, a shareholder at Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton, just doesn’t see that formula leading to a long career. He wants to help his lawyers strive for balance and change the way their brains and bodies react to stressors. Last month, he brought in medical experts to help them identify stressors and learn coping skills such as breathing and meditation. “It’s important to deal with stress the right way, to make a conscious effort to do something about it and not assume it will take care of itself,” Tropin says.

Tropin personally defuses the stress of arguing in court, by practicing Mindful Meditation, a widely adopted form of meditation that has become increasingly popular with business leaders. It involves focusing on your mind on the present and becoming aware of your breathing.

Alan Gold, a federal judge for the Southern District of Florida, also practices mindfulness meditation and has become a proponent of teaching practices for stress reduction to attorneys. Gold has advocated for the creation of a task force on the mindful practice of law with the Dade County Bar Association and the local Federal Bar Association.

Gold says he regularly sees attorneys shuffle into his courtroom on the brink of a breakdown. He links erosion in the degree of civility in the profession with lawyers’ inability to cope with extreme stresses.

They may lash out in anger at a co-worker, assistant, client — or even a judge.

“If you recognize you’re in this situation, the next step is to get out of it. The quickest and simplest way is to slow down and take time to focus on your breathing. This is not something that comes naturally for lawyers. It’s counterproductive to their bottom line way of doing business,” he says.

Outside of meditation, some employers are turning to on-site yoga, or just simply workload management to help employees better manage stress. At Kane & Company, a South Florida CPA firm, employees recently learned from a psychologist how to become more effective controlling their job-related stress. Suggestions included breathing exercises, exercise in general and focusing on relaxation techniques. Monte Kane, the firm’s managing director, says the workshops help his staff with everyday stress, but he makes it his responsibility to know when they have entered the burnout zone.