August 26, 2013

Can you work yourself to death?


Last week, I cringed when I heard the tragic story of a 21-year-old Bank of America intern. The poor young guy, an intern in the bank's Merrill Lynch investing banking unit was found dead in his London apartment after allegedly working round the clock for three days in a row. 

The incident has created a lot of buzz about work life balance and whether it's possible to work yourself to death. It also has raised questions about whether employers need to play more of a role in discouraging an unhealthy work pace.

Bank of America has said  it would be studying how to improve the work-life balance of the institution’s junior staffers, a week after the summer intern unexpectedly died.

Right after the death was announced, an intern at a different investment bank described the toll his daily 12 to 13 hours on the job had taken on his personal life and health: “I don't have time to do much else after work, and when I have a little rest over the weekend, I can feel my heart pumping faster than usual. A standard 6-hour sleep is considered decent around here.”

While it may still be a badge of honor to show such commitment to work, I think employers have a duty to step in when someone puts in night after night of work, with little sleep.

About a year ago, I wrote about a law associate who also appeared to have worked himself to death. The 35-year-old passed away at home after working "maniac hours" at his regional law firm the week before. While the cause of death was not certain, his friends said he was gunning for partner and had been billing over 20 hours a day for multiple days in a row prior to his death. No one had stepped in to stop him. 

There's a reason we are seeing so much conversation around the need for work life balance. There are plenty of workplaces with hard-charging, competitive cultures. But we are seeing that maniac work schedules can't be sustained. You CAN die of overwork.

To its credit, Bank of America isn't taking this death lightly. It has told The Huffington Post  it will be looking at, among other things, whether its interns and other junior employees are encouraged to work overly long hours or are pushed into unhealthily competitive environments as they vie for a limited number of jobs.

Someone needs to teach young workers that it's a combination of work ethic and results that count -- and that there are ways to impress with quality, over quantity.

Nathan Parcells of, an online community that links employers and potential interns recommended Bank of America give interns and young employees more access to senior mentors: They can still remain a very competitive culture, and provide better expectations and goal-setting, and maybe show interns how to manage so that they can get the work done in 80, instead of 100 hours." 

To me, the death of this young intern is a real tragedy, but also a wake up call. If it really causes management introspection, then maybe this tragedy can be the springboard for change. Do you think some corporate cultures encourage overwork at the expense of employee health? If so, what would it take to change the culture other than a tragic death?



April 17, 2013

How to tell the boss you're overwhelmed

I'm not going to lie, even balance gal feels overwhelmed sometimes. But I've learned that there are tactics that can help and restore your work life balance. 

One of those tactics is having a conversation with your boss about your workload and priorities. How you go about that conversation is key. Today, in my Miami Herald column, I talked with career experts and bosses for their advice on how to tell the boss you're overwhelmed. Today's the day to have that conversation!


Overwhelmed at work? Be smart when you share it with the boss


Have you ever stormed into your boss’ office and blared out: “I’m overwhelmed?”

It’s a declaration more employees are considering after being stretched to the limits. With business picking up but employers still reluctant to hire, many workers find themselves with too many things that need to be done at once; others are responsible for tasks they’re not skilled to do well.

A Harris Interactive study released this month reports that more than 80 percent of those surveyed are feeling workplace stress. The top cause: an unreasonable workload caused by recession staff cuts.

John Swartz, regional director of career services at Everest College, which commissioned the survey, said although the economy has improved, choices employers made three and four years ago are taking a toll on employees. “If 83 percent of workers are stressed, someone will reach a breaking point,” he said.

Rather than wait for a disaster, you need to talk to your boss – and take the right approach.

Career experts say whether or not the boss will react favorably depends on how you present your situation, how much effort you’re putting into your job and whether you come in with a solution. “The cause of overwhelm has to be something specific that can be addressed,” Miami executive coach Margarita Plasencia explained. “Otherwise it comes off as whiney.”

Introspection can help you set the right tone, she says. Before you approach the boss, identify why you’re overwhelmed, what’s going on in your life, the systems you have in place for managing commitments and how you use your energy. Once you’ve taken stock of the situation, you’re ready to address the problem with your boss.

“You want to speak to the boss in a manner that exudes confidence,” Plasencia said. Most importantly, she advised, let the boss know what you need from him or her. “You want to bring a solution, not a problem. Most often, the boss is overwhelmed, too.”

Still, awkward moments can ensue. “If it’s handled poorly, a boss can look at [the complaints] as someone who is not putting in enough effort, or not being a team player,” said Scott Moss, president of Moss Construction Management in Fort Lauderdale, which has 240 employees and projects spanning the Southeast. And even the most positive approach won’t be effective if you routinely leave earlier than the boss or spend chunks of time making personal calls at work, say career experts.

But for hard-working employees focused on company goals, keeping your mouth shut and missing deadlines or making mistakes is worse, Moss said.

As a boss, he has had workers, even high level executives, come to tell him they have too many new jobs starting at the same time. Moss said he listens when the employee shows how the situation could adversely affect the company and suggests a solution. “I’d rather they speak up than the company suffer.”


Conveying the attitude that you are in this together to resolve an important workplace concern is a positive approach.

The majority of bosses are willing to help with setting priorities, managing competing deadlines or reallocating responsibilities.

Case in point: Lawyer Jeff Schneider, managing partner of Levine Kellogg Lehman Schneider & Grossman in Miami, was clacking away on the keyboard one day when an associate walked in. “I’m dying,” the young lawyer declared. “Deadlines are piling up on me.”

“Take a deep breath,” Schneider replied, “Tell me what the issue is.”

The associate explained that two cases had exploded at the same time and work was piling up. Schneider suggested bringing in another lawyer for support.

It’s a familiar scenario, Schneider said.

Most bosses prefer that conversation, he said to the alternatives — missed deadlines, mistakes or health issues. In the past, he has worked in environments where people fear speaking up or asking for help. “Usually, they lose it and quit.”

And, as the Pew study showed, many employers aren’t even aware how stressed employees have become.

Miami financial administrator Karen McCarthy was already stewing over an increasing workload that was leading to longer hours. As her boss handed the single mother yet another assignment, her heart began racing and anxiety took over.

When she snapped at her boss, he looked stunned. “That’s when I realized he wasn’t even aware of the weight of the workload he had dumped on me.”


But addressing the situation isn’t only the job of the company. Cali Yost, author of Tweak It and an expert on work-life dialogue, says while a boss can help set assignment priorities, it’s up to each of us to set our life priorities. Once we’re clear on them, we can make small adjustments to get the sense of overwhelm under control rather that reacting drastically, she says.

“The real reason people disengage or quit their jobs is an accumulation of small frustrations,” she said. She advises people to speak up before the situation becomes a powder keg. Ask for small changes that can lessen the load, like a more efficient computer program, a shift in work hours or a scheduled weekly priority meeting.

“People have to partner with their employers.” And that, she says, helps everyone prosper.

January 09, 2013

Know your workplace rights and resolve a crisis before you get fired

Over the holidays, I made the time to read Donna Ballman's book, Stand Up for Yourself Without Getting Fired: Resolve Workplace Criis Before You Quit, Get Axed or Sue the Bastards. I found myself screaming out to my husband: Did you know......

For instance:

  • Did you know that a hostile work environment is not illegal. Being a bully in the workplace is not illegal. 
  • Most employers are required to have workers' compensation insurance -- but not all.
  • You can be sued personally for something you do as a manager.
  • No federal law requires your employer to carry health insurance coverage for employees. However, once they do have coverage, there are requirements they must follow.

What I like about Donna's book is that it uses lots of examples of real life workplace dilemmas. Donna gives you several options for how to handle them and the consequences of choosing the different options.

My Miami Herald column today goes into more detail about workplace rights. But basically what you need to know is that most of the time, employers can fire you for any reason. So act accordingly!

What you don’t know about workplace rules could cost you your job


Most employees believe they have more rights than they really have. What they don’t know could cost them.

Employment lawyer Donna Ballman has written a new book out aimed at shedding light on the legalities of the workplace for workers.
Employment lawyer Donna Ballman has written a new book out aimed at shedding light on the legalities of the workplace for workers. (CARL JUSTE / MIAMI HERALD STAFF)



The holidays are over, your boss is still a jerk and now you’re deciding whether to set him straight about how to treat you in 2013.

What you do next could cost you your job, shut you out of your industry for awhile or help you win a case against your employer.

As we launch into a new year, it’s an ideal time to brush up on your workplace rights.

“What you think you know about your employment rights is probably dead wrong,” says Donna Ballman, a Fort Lauderdale employee-side labor attorney and author of Stand Up for Yourself Without Getting Fired: Resolve Workplace Crises Before You Quit, Get Axed or Sue the Bastards.

If you think your boss needs a reason to fire you, you’re wrong. In every state in the nation, with the exception of Montana, employers can fire employees for any reason or no reason at all. But you can learn strategy to help you come out ahead in career-threatening situations.

Let’s say you choose to tell your boss he’s a bully or publicly criticize his style of management. Know that not a single state has a law against workplace bullying and that your criticism could get you fired in most states.

“When you work for a private sector employer, you have no constitutional right of free speech,” says Mark Neuberger, a management-side employment attorney with Foley & Lardner in Miami. “Most workers think they do and think they can speak out, but they are wrong. They get fired and learn the hard way that they might have been better off addressing their issues differently.”

Knowing your workplace rights starts even before you land the job.

Prospective employees are getting tripped up in the hiring process by answering questions on job applications and in interviews without knowing what’s legally allowed. An employer isn’t supposed to ask questions that reveal a protected status such as age or race. If an employer asks, “What race are you?” or “Do you have any kids?” you should answer truthfully, Ballman says, but keep a copy of the application or make a note of the inappropriate question.

Also, an employer isn’t supposed to do credit checks without your written permission. If you have bad credit, be ready to explain your situation. “They are supposed to give you a copy of the report and an opportunity to respond,” Ballman says.

Once hired, new employees face another quandary. They often sign paperwork without carefully reading what’s shoved in front of them. Big mistake.

“You should understand what you are agreeing to, and assume it will be enforced,” Ballman says. “And, if you are bound by an agreement, make sure you have a copy.”

Increasingly, non-compete agreements are at the center of workplace conflict. By signing one, if you leave or get fired, you may be forfeiting your right to work in your industry for a year or more after you stop working for this employer.

Ballman has discovered employers are slipping non-compete language into employee handbooks and job applications. Sometimes they are even told these agreements are never enforced. “Don’t sign anything if you aren’t sure what you are agreeing to or if you can’t live with it,” Ballman says. “Florida is one of the worst in the nation. Non-competes are being misused to bully employees into staying in terrible workplaces.”

January 07, 2013

Who to turn to for work life balance advice?

                                       Work life scale

Over the holidays, I had lunch with a friend who has been in her new job about two years. I asked her about the hours and whether the job has been more conducive to her work life balance. It was like I had let the flood gate down and suddenly she could vent, ask questions and get an outside opinion on work life matters.

If you have problems with work-life balance or overwhelming stress, it would seem logical to seek advice. But that’s not something we are prone to do.

Is it that we think we can handle it ourselves? Or, is it just that many of us don't know who to turn to for work life balance advice?

Harvey Schachter, author of  Advice is for Winners, says seeking advice is so rare – in work and in life, even in an era of counselling and consultants – that he has written a manual to encourage the process and help us navigate the terrain. “The book came about as I kept observing that people don’t seek advice and therefore make mistakes that are avoidable." He says gender is not a factor, "Generally we all are weak on seeking advice."

Schachter believes the No. 1 reason we don't ask for advice on work life issues is that it simply doesn’t occur to us. When we hit an uncomfortable situation, we don’t go through the process of asking ourselves: Do I have what it takes to handle this well, or should I seek advice? 

Right now, ask yourself: Do you have someone in mind you would go to for advice for a specific problem or issue?

Your go-to person might be right down the hall or in the next cubicle. Or he or she may be a complete outsider, someone you could become better acquainted with by asking for advice.

My suggestion is make your go-to person someone who doesn't have a stake in the outcome of your work life dilemma. For example, you wouldn't want to ask your co-worker if she thinks you should ask for a flex schedule if she has something to lose by your getting it approved. 

Good advice givers are often colleagues or even peers at another company who have navigated a similar scenario with success. He or she might even be able to help you change how you look at a situation or provide assurance that your approach or solutions make sense. Years ago, when I asked to scale back my work hours, I vented my work life issue to a women in the newsroom who had a similar schedule to the one I was requesting. She told me the pros and cons of making the change and encouraged me to ask, even guiding me with the right language to use when I made the request.

It's pretty common to create New Year resolutions around better work life balance. People pledge to give more time to their kids, or have a regular date night with their partner. Yet, we all know how hard it is to make resolutions stick. 

I think real change starts with getting in the habit of thinking about asking for advice when you are struggling with work-life balance issues and it moves on to identifying an advice giver. Remember, I'm here for you as a resource. Email me anytime at Wishing you lots of fulfillment in 2013!


November 08, 2012

Wasting time at work turns out to be a good thing



Let's confess: We all waste time at work. I just wasted time getting up from my desk to get myself a little snack -- and then I got distracted by all my choices. Have you wasted time in the last hour? Maybe you chatted with a co-worker about the election or possibly peeked at Facebook?

I get kind of upset when I realize I have wasted time. I have oodles of tasks I want to accomplish each day, which is why I'm always hunting down new time management tips.  

Now, new research says time wasting can be beneficial. Yes, you read that right.

Columnist Lucy Kellaway at the Financial Times asserted this to be true this morning on NPR's Marketplace. Lucy recently wrote a column about research  by Jane McGonigal, a woman who designs computer games. McGonigal published research in the Harvard Business Review and says a small amount of time wasting, such as time playing Angry Birds, can make us more resilient. 

McGonigal immersed herself in research and says engaging in some activities we assume are nonproductive—as tiny exercises—may actually be a smart way to spend time, especially at work. These practices can make people more-resourceful problem solvers, more collaborative, and less likely to give up when the going gets tough. In other words, they can make people more resilient, more capable.

She found that time-wasting can be good when it boosts us in one of four ways – physically, mentally, emotionally or socially. An example of physical time wasting might be going for a walk around the office. An example of good mental time wasting would be an arbitrary task such as snapping our fingers exactly 50 times, which apparently increases willpower. An emotional time waster might be looking at photos of babies or puppies (or playing Angry Birds). When it comes to time-wasting that boosts us socially, the best way, she says, is to shake hands with someone for a full six second, which raises oxytocin levels associated with trust.

So, do you buy into this notion that some time wasters actually make us sharper? What's your favorite way to waste time at work?


October 17, 2012

Become a better problem solver in the workplace

Are you a born problem-solver, or is it a skill you learn?

Miami Publicist Lisa Palley says it's a skill you learn and she was taught it at a young age. Her parents told her to stay calm when she had a problem and think it through. Over the years, they showed her how to sharpen her ability to be a problem solver by believing there's always a solution.

At the same time, I have friends who just seem to be totally incapable of doing anything but complaining about a problem. The inability to think like a problem solver hurts them in business and often destroys their work life balance.

This week in my Miami Herald column, I decided to go to the experts and offer readers advice on how to be a better problem solver. If you have strategies that have worked for you, please share.

  Lisa & Myrna

(Lisa Palley and her mom, Myrna) 


Learn how to find solutions on the job


Don’t be a workplace whiner. Here’s how to become a problem solver in your workplace.



Most days, real estate agents storm into Ron Shuffield’s office with problems. They might have a closing that’s about to blow apart or a commission in dispute. They lay out all the obstacles and argue that there is no possible resolution.

“I tell them to stop, listen a little longer, learn all the pieces and focus on a solution,” says Shuffield, CEO of Esslinger-Wooten-Maxwell Realtors.

With the recession and cutbacks, it has become easy to be a workplace whiner or someone who points out roadblocks. What’s more difficult is being the person who calmly puts on his or her problem-solving cap and bring ideas and solutions.

“Companies are dying to have people play these roles,” says Dwayne Spradlin, CEO of InnoCentive, a Massachusetts-based crowd-sourcing company that helps businesses identify problems and connects them to solvers all over the world.

Being viewed as a problem solver can put a career on the fast track, even lead to better work-life balance. Problem-solving ability ranks high as a desirable trait for job candidates and it should become even more in demand from all level of employees. “It’s a key skill workers of the future will need to tackle the technology and global changes that lie ahead,” says Sayed Sadjady, talent management and organizational design leader with PwC’s advisory practice in New York City.

With a little effort and some know-how, you can become a problem solver. Here’s how:

•   Define the problem. Before jumping in with a quick and easy solution, become better at asking the right questions so that you tackle the right problems, Spradlin says. Recently, a manufacturer hired Spradlin’s InnoCentive to help find the right lubricant that would work for its machinery. But by asking questions, he learned that rather than finding a new lubricant, the company actually needed a new way to make its product. “It takes asking lots of question and brutal introspection to understand what the real problem is and why it hasn’t been resolved.” Spradlin says. “A better-defined problem is already closer to a solution.”

•  Think bigger. Craig Robins, a Miami real estate developer, has built projects that have been on the forefront of neighborhood turnarounds. As a pioneer in redevelopment, Robins has encountered all kinds of difficult situations. But he has become a problem solver by “getting out of box and not being consumed by conventional thinking or process.” Robins now has an ambitious plan to turn Miami’s urban Design District into a super-high-end retail destination. He has partnered with a Paris-based investment fund that owns high-end brands to make it happen. “Usually, innovative solutions involve collaboration,” Robins says. Most important, though: “It takes looking at things differently and perseverance to come up with a solution that’s better than what’s currently contemplated.”

•   Examine a failure. When faced with a challenge, be the person who does his or her homework. Learn the history of problem-solving efforts and what went wrong with already-attempted solutions. Shuffield, of Esslinger-Wooten-Maxwell Realtors with 10 offices in South Florida, says he encourages real estate agents to come to the negotiating table prepared for possible problems to crop up and with research on previous solutions that have been successful. By doing that, he says, you can enter a situation with a problem-solving mind-set. “You are prepared to take charge of the situation. People want to do business with you.”

October 16, 2012

Why we're miserable at work. The reason might surprise you.

Lately, I'm starting to wonder about all the negativity I'm hearing about workplaces.

I've heard employees are whining, bosses are bullying  and workers are completely unengaged.

On top of that, employees are stealing each others lunches, sending curt emails, shooting down good ideas and sometimes even getting violent.  

What's going on? Are most people miserable at work?

Of course, not everyone is naturally cheerful. But what's making all of us so unhappy at the place where we spend a good chunk of our waking hours?

A new Study by says our bosses are to blame. 

Bosses are leaving Americans feeling unappreciated, uninspired, lonely, and miserable, says the results of the study conducted by Michelle McQuaid, a consultant who offers positive psychology interventions in the workplace.

The study found that:

 •     Only 36% of Americans are happy at their job and 65% say a better boss would make them happier.

•     31% of employees polled feel uninspired and unappreciated by their boss, and close to 15% feel downright miserable, bored and lonely.

•     Only 38% of those polled describe their boss as “great,” with 42% saying their bosses don’t work very hard and close to 20% saying their boss has little or no integrity.

•     Close to 60% of Americans say they would do a better job if they got along better with their boss.

•     Close to 70% of those polled said they would be happier at work if they got along better with their boss, with the breakdown equal amongst men and women, but younger workers in their 20s and 30s skewed even higher (80%).

•     Over half  (55%) of those polled, think they would be more successful in their career if they got along better with their boss.

•     When stress levels rise at work, a disturbing 47% say their boss does not stay calm and in control. Although 70% of boomers polled say their boss doesn’t lose his/her cool in times of stress.

Most bosses are never offered training for skills required to succeed in their job...something to think about today, which has been declared National Bosses Day.

If you're not too fond of your boss, it might seem repulsive to kiss up. But you might want to consider doing something to improve your relationship with your boss because it most likely will help you better manage your stress. It may as simple as saying thank you as a response instead of grumble or you may want to consider using one of these 5 tricks to beat a bad boss.

Michelle McQuaid at suggests trying to improve your relationship by telling your boss what your strengths are – the things you like doing and are good at - and suggest new ways to use these in your job.

Readers, what action will you take today? McQuaid is encouraging us to share our National Bosses Day action on social media #tellyourboss. I'm planning to tweet my plans @balancegal!




September 21, 2012

How to Copy Working Mother's 100 Best Companies

Have you ever wondered, "Why doesn't my employer get it?"

The good news is that some employers do get the concept that a business can turn a profit while still making life more manageable for working parents.

WMCoverOctoberNovember2012Working Mother just came out with its list of the 100 Best Companies and they are offering some very cool benefits. Some of those benefits, guaranteed to help with work life balance, are easy to replicate, even by small employers.

Check this out: AOL’s New York City office recently gave employee parents a break by babysitting their kids for an entire Saturday. That's an easy perk for a small business to offer.

Here's another cool program: At First Horizon National Corp. they have a Working Parents Network: “It gives those of us who are caring for others the chance to exchange ideas, share photos and cry on each other’s shoulders,” a member says.

The “top” companies on the Working Mother best list offered paid maternity leave, telecommuting options and on-site lactation rooms. This year, the winners have shown their commitment in new ways like elder care referral and legal assistance to help busy parents manage their responsibilities. Those two perks aren't expensive to offer and mean a lot to those who need them. 

Some of the best companies even offered back-up child care, adoption assistance, health screenings and smoking cessation programs. Twenty-three percent had on-site nap rooms. Does that make you jealous, or maybe a bit sleepy?

Many on the list, such as Valassis Communications, offered flexible work hours. I see that as a family-friendly benefit an employer of any size could provide to its workers. 

Valassis also offers child care reimbursement, a complimentary car seat for newborns, college care packages and convenience services like on-site fitness centers, family rooms and dry cleaning services. It also offers an adoption assistance program,  up to $5,000 toward the adoption of a child.

The interest in fitness to help with work life balance is increasing. At Abbott,  at least 75% of employees are enrolled in the LiveLifeWell initiative, which features 12-week exercise challenges and 10,000-steps-per-day walking competitions. I bet even a small business could engage its employees in an exercise challenge.

Read more here:

Here is a full list of Working Mother's 2012 100 Best Companies and some key statistics on their performance.

What one “family” benefit would you most like to have at your office?

Read more here:

September 18, 2012

How the Best Companies handle health and wellness

Every year I look forward to the Working Mother 100 Best Companies. I'm fascinated by who these savvy employers are and what they offer their workers. Like most working mothers, I'm envious of those parents who are fortunate enough to work for companies that want happy workers.

Now, Working Mother named for the first time the Top 10 Best Companies for Health
and Wellness. This new award recognizes top employers that have created programs and policies that encourage health and fitness as a way to reduce stress in the workplace.

The Top 10 Companies for Health and Wellness for 2012 are: Cornell University, Discovery Communications, Ernst & Young, General Mills, Goldman Sachs, Johnson & Johnson, Mercy Health System, Morgan Stanley, Verizon Communications, and Wellstar Health System.

At these companies, seven feature fitness centers, all offer fitness classes and many have on-site medical clinics. General Mills’ on-site fitness center offers personal training and massages, while Goldman Sachs holds a weeklong program on resilience and health. At Discovery, 65
percent of the workforce participated in a four-month fitness challenge.

Jennifer OwensI spoke with Jennifer Owens, Editorial Director for Working Mother and Working Mother Research Institute, and asked her about the magazine's interest in health and wellness.

Q. Health and wellness certainly is on the minds of most working moms. How did the idea for finding the top employers in this category come about?

A. This was something the work life practitioners were talking about. They see it coming up as an issue because of burnout, employee engagement and productivity concerns. 


Q. Did you have a personal interest in the topic?

A. I used to handle wellness on my own when I was single. But between long hours,  keeping the business going and the kids, it's more complicated now. I'm completely passionate about this topic because I do personally need the help.

Q. What, to you, was most interesting about what the Best Companies in this category provide?

A. About 98 percent offer stress management. I thought, "Wow! That's cool because I’m stressed." I wondered, "What is that?"  I learned that it's time management, delegation, work strategy...breathing is part of it and communication is part of it. It's about being part of a supportive team. These companies are teaching employees how to manage their stress and be more resilient.

Q. For what you've seen, what's the key to wellness? What works?

A.  About 81 percent of these Best Companies have fitness centers and walking paths.
But the companies that see a difference are the ones who are getting people to work together to get well.

Q. It's great to work for a big employer that offer on-site fitness centers and other benefits but what can a small employer do?

A. I don't think it costs a lot to have someone come in and talk about stress management or nutrititon. Many small employers also get lower prices for their staff at the local gym. There is a way use the power of your workforce to get everyone involved. I worked at tiny publishing company and we got together and did lunchtime yoga. One lady led it and everyone got involved. It cost nothing. Most of us spend a lot of time at work. If we can carve out time at our workplace for health and wellness, that may be the answer.

Q. How do you squeeze fitness into your schedule?

A. It is very hard. To be completely honest, I should do more. I work from home on Fridays so I use my commute time to go to the gym and work out. I'm not at the point where I can work from home more often. I feel like I'm fighting an endless battle, but I'm working on it again. I think all of us at Working Mother are going to figure it out and come up with a plan. I may have to take the lead.

Q. I know most of the companies on your 100 Best understand the need for flexibility. Do you think there are employers who have made the link between flexibility and wellness?

A. They do at the 100 Best. I think they understand that how you get your work done feeds into your
sense of well being.


Here is a full list of the Working Mother 100 Best Companies, now in its 27th year, and a link to how 10 working moms keep wellness on their to-do lists. I'm also including a fabulous infographic from Working Mother that shows some of the wellness benefits that the Best Companies offer. I think it's interesting that 97 percent offer a weight loss program. That's a tremendous benefit!



July 11, 2012

Smartphone addiction and summer travel

Every summer, my family vacation is a negotiation when it comes to wireless gadgets. It starts before we even leave the house. Will my husband bring his work laptop? Will I? Should the kids bring their cell phones? I'd like to ban all electronics but I usually get vetoed.

When I think about it, it's not the gadgets we're arguing over, it's what we do with the gadgets that creates the problem. They pull us into a virtual world that takes away from connecting with the people around us.

Of course, my husband argues that he needs to check in with work. Many people feel that way. Checking in now and then is one thing. Smartphone addiction is another. From the palm of our hand we can connect with our offices, and some people just can't disconnect. It really stinks if you're the person traveling with the smartphone addict. 

Leslie Perlow, a Harvard Business School professor and author of Sleeping With Your Smartphone  thinks people can beat smartphone addiction and take real vacations if they work in teams. Important things come up and someone needs to handle them, she says. "But there's no reason you have to be on all the time." If you work as a team and have the conversation where everyone gets the same benefit ( a stress free vacation or one night a week off),there are lots of ways to cover for each other, she says. "It's about being proactive."

Today, in my Miami Herald column I wrote about the effect of smart phone addiction on spouses, partners, friends and travel companions. If you've can relate, let me hear from you. How do you handle it being around a smartphone addict?

The Miami Herald

Smartphone addiction can put damper on vacations, relationships

By Cindy Krischer Goodman

Tim Lee / MCT
On vacation, Annabel Fernandez watched incredulously as her husband splashed in the pool of a beachfront resort with their twin daughters. Between the giggling and water play, she saw him glancing at his iPhone on the pool’s ledge. The night before, she had caught him checking email on his smartphone under the table at dinner.

“I started realizing it was an addiction,” she said. “I felt like we were losing him to a screen.”

As the number of smartphone users rises, so does the level of anxiety and friction around using them. Downsizing and economic realities have left workers with a real fear of what might happen if they are out of touch too long. Will the client go elsewhere? Will the boss find a new protégé? The fear has turned into a compulsion that has workers tethered to their mobile phones — even when they’re supposed to be off the clock.

But for the spouse, partner, friend, or travel companion of a smartphone addict, the fear can ruin a vacation, a night out or worse — a relationship.

“When you’re on the phone you’re ignoring the person you are traveling with; that creates resentment,” says Kimberly Young, a psychologist and director of Center for Internet Addiction Recovery.

The digitally hooked often overlook the toll on their companions. Married to an attorney, Bob Greene says it completely unnerves him to watch his wife’s reaction to an incoming work-related email. “We’re supposed to be on vacation relaxing, and I can see that something at the office didn’t go her way. It not only stresses her out, it stressed me out, too.”

While smartphone addiction has been difficult to track, in a survey by mobile-services provider  iPass, 91 percent of mobile users said they use their free time, both day and night, to check their smartphones. Among those, almost 30 percent check their smartphones three to five times an hour, and 20 percent check them five to 10 times an hour. Young calls anxiety around constant connectivity “a chronic and universal problem.”

Travel companions say the problem often comes to a head on vacation or during leisure activity when the goal is to reconnect and their partner sends the message that business is a priority. Companions say they find themselves torn between bringing the smartphone user into the present and coming across as a nag.

Miami marketing strategist Michelle Villalobos says the only way to travel with a smartphone addict is to establish the rules upfront, before the loaded minivan leaves the driveway. “If you wait until you’re in the moment, you find yourself in the situation where the other person is looking at you like ‘who are you, the cellphone police?’ When traveling, she and her boyfriend not only set the time when they will check in with work, they also set the place — for example only in the hotel room in the early morning hours.

Making the rules together and negotiating is key. Some people really do need to be accessible and forcing them to disconnect could create business challenges, Young says. “You may need to accept a middle ground, and instead of setting overall vacation rules, set daily rules based on what everyone needs.”



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