October 05, 2016

Hurricane Matthew and Work Life Balance

As many of you head to work together with the storm in mind, I know your family safety, preparations, and work life issues are weighing on your mind. TV anchors are telling parents to pick their children up from child care and school as early as possible today. I hope employers will be understanding.,
 
Here is a column I wrote in 2012 when we were facing a storm that I thought might be of interest:
 
 
 
The Miami Herald

Storms, school closings provide ultimate workplace flexibility test

The Miami Herald

BY CINDY KRISCHER GOODMAN

As Floridians set out frantically buying storm supplies this past weekend, one announcement created almost as much panic as the threat of high winds: public schools would close on Monday.


For working parents, the news triggered a mad scramble for child-care solutions, particularly when most businesses chose to stay open. Trapped, some parents were forced to take a vacation or sick day, others showed up at work with kids in tow, while the desperate begged relatives or babysitters to step in at the last minute.


Across the country, hundreds of companies boast of being family-friendly workplaces. But to me, days like Monday speak volumes about the reality of that label. For parents, it’s not only how our employers react to our need for accommodation during weather related events; it’s also how well they’ve planned for it.

As news of Tropical Storm Isaac circulated, top managers at C3/CustomerContactChannels in Plantation held meetings to prepare for various scenarios. Supervisors were told to
allow employees to work from home when possible and
encourage staff to download documents to their laptop hard drives to be able to work on them even without an Internet connection. Even more, the company, which operates call centers around the world, began brainstorming ways that hourly workers could make up time off for weather-related office closures.

On Monday, when downpours flooded the streets, Alicia Laszewski, vice president of communications at C3, asked to work from home. Pregnant, Laszewski says she felt uncomfortable making the commute to the office and had two young children out of school. She got the green light to work from home. “It builds loyalty that they have respect for me and my health and my family,” Laszewski said.

At some offices such as Boardroom Communications in Plantation and Soffer Health Institute in Aventura, the emergency child-care plans for staff include allowing
parents to bring kids with them to work. Emira Soffer
works as a business manager for her brother at Soffer
Health Institute in Aventura. On Monday, she brought her
two daughters, 7 and 9, with her, putting them to use inserting promotional paperwork into informational folders. “It’s not typical that we bring kids to the office, but it’s a warm environment and there’s an understanding that it’s OK if we’re in a pinch.”

With storm season in full swing and weather-related shutdowns nationwide more common, brace for an even greater need for good planning. Nationwide, parents are discovering school districts are closing more often, hesitant to take chances with student safety and fearful of lawsuits. At the same time, the recession has led businesses to cut back on employee benefits that help with disaster preparedness. Only 32 percent of organizations now allow employees to bring their children to work in a child-care emergency, while 17 percent offer a child-care referral service and 3 percent provide access to backup child care, according to a Society for Human Resource Management survey of 550 employers.

Working mother Aida Segui-Luciano says she accepts that planning for last-minute school closings is her responsibility. Segui-Luciano, works in retail services at Tropical Financial Credit Union in Hollywood. Knowing she can’t do her job from home or bring kids to the bank, she saves a few days in her paid-time off bank as a precaution for storm season. On Monday, at home with her 13- and 12-year-old children and no power, Segui-Luciano said no one at her workplace questioned her decision to dip into her PTO bank of time off: “My manager is understanding that I have a family and have to take care of my family. I said I was taking the day off and he said, not a problem, see you tomorrow.”

Of course, some parents don’t plan and don’t have accommodations at work. Backed against a wall, they drop their kids off unsupervised at libraries, malls and movie theaters that are open for the day. Others leave their kids home alone. Felicia Jones, a security guard for a residential community in North Dade, gets paid by the hour and faced the tough choice Monday of losing a day’s income or leaving her pre-teen home alone. Going forward, Jones says she will make a backup plan to leave her daughter with friends.

If the home alone option is your back-up plan, prepare your children for how to handle emergencies and potential danger, parenting experts say. New to Florida, Amy McGraw, vice president of marketing at Tropical Financial Credit Union, says she overcame her storm panic and left her 16-year-old daughter at home on Monday to do her homework. But McGraw says she checked in often throughout the day, something family-friendly employers should expect and
encourage their working parents to do.
Of course, working from home and keeping young kids entertained takes planning, too. On Monday, Janice Lusky Greenspan, a Miami public relationships account executive, pulled out a special bin with activities to keep her boys busy and prevent the need to lock herself in the bathroom to make a work-related phone call. The bin held items such as crossword puzzles, model airplane kits, comic books and dollar-store toys for her two sons, 6 and 9. “As a mom, if you don’t prepare, you’re screwed. We have eight more weeks of hurricane season with a good chance of this happening again.”

Remote workers say it’s days like Monday when the flexibility of their jobs pay off. A South Florida sales representative for Microsoft, Stephanie Kleiner says she had the technology in place and a boss with the right mindset to cope with the last-minute school closings. Kleiner says her manager quickly granted her request to stay off the roads and at home with her kids. “Mobile workers are always thinking ahead,” she says. “We’re used to managing and making due. We looked at it as a great day to catch up with desk work.”

September 30, 2016

How to discuss work problems at home

Talkingwork
Lately, my husband has been frustrated at work. His team members aren't carrying their weight and he feels like he is at the office much later than he should be. For the last week, he's been coming home in an awful mood.

As a spouse, one of the big challenges in a relationship is letting your partner blow off steam and slowing down long enough to listen. The temptation for me is to jump right in with an opinion or let my mind wander off to think about the 10 things I need to get done instead of focusing on what he is saying. Sometimes I want to shout: "Enough work talk already!"

 

Yet, I have noticed that how I react when he wants to vent can be crucial to our relationship and to the harmony of our household.  Most of us have seen how household dynamics shift with each member's mood. For my husband, knowing he can offload without being attacked or dismissed helps him return to his office in a better frame of mind and improves our household harmony.

I've heard people say, "I never bring my work problems home." When them say that, I think that it is unhealthy. Physically we may spend the day in two places but in our minds we don't. We think of work at home and personal issues at work. It's just how we balance our lives today.  So it's natural to want to work through workplace aggravation with someone who loves you and has your best interest at heart.

By listening, really listening, I can gauge what my husband needs from me, or even ask him directly. When I do, I often can help him come up with ideas for how a problem at work can be resolved, or get him see the situation in a different light or just offer empathy. When I have a problem at work, I want the same support from my husband. Even though he doesn't work in the same field, he understands workplace dynamics and worker behavior and has offered me some great advice over the years -- or sometimes, he just listens. Just yesterday, I was at an event in which a CEO told the audience he relies on his wife to help him navigate his workplace conflicts and it's the reason he has been able to survive in the top position at his company.

The trick is learning how to support our significant other while setting some boundaries that limit how much we allow workplace irritations to loom over our home life. At some point, switching off is important, too. 

What are your thoughts on bringing work stress home? Do you find allowing your spouse to discuss work problems at home is a good thing for your home life or does it lead to arguments and stress on the family? How important is it for you to be able to vent to your significant other?

September 27, 2016

Is it okay to interrupt women?

Last night, I watch Donald Trump continuously interrupt Hillary. Indeed, by the time the debate was over, Trump had interrupted Clinton 51 times — whereas Clinton had interrupted Trump just 17 times, according to the fact checkers. You could say it is Trump's personality to speak his mind and that he interrupted the men, too, during the Republican debates. 

What was different in last night's debate were the Twitter comments that ensued, such as this one:

 

Shout out to all the women having stress flashbacks to being yelled over in important meetings

 

Stacy Marie was just one of the women took to Twitter to complain about how often she is interrupted by men, particularly in the business setting. Decades of research show that women get interrupted more often by both men and women, and that women are often given less credit, or even penalized, for being outspoken.

Last night, these dynamics were on display on a worldwide stage and the reaction was fascinating.

Whether it's in the boardroom, the conference room or in front of TV viewers, interruptions are not only rude, they prevent a speaker from making his or her point, and moving on. At the end of the day, not being heard affects our efficiency, effectiveness and our work life balance.

Men likely are more comfortable interrupting women because they have been raised from day one to believe what they have to say is important. However, women interrupt each other, too. In a blog post on Vox, it was noted that tech startup CEO and linguist Kieran Snyder designed an experiment that found men in tech industry meetings interrupted twice as often as women did, and that men were three times as likely to interrupt women as they were to interrupt other men. When women did interrupt, they interrupted other women 87 percent of the time.

Post debate, I've heard little criticism of Trump for interrupting as much as he did. In fact, Vox points out that Hillary is more likely to be criticized for the way she responded to Trump's interruptions.

 

I appreciated this tweet:

A President should always interrupt someone by yelling "wrong, wrong" in a microphone.

 

Don't be naive to think such "wrong, wrong" behavior doesn't go on in workplaces. It does and it needs to stop.

In fact, recently workplace columnist  Rex Hupkke wrote about mansplaining and described the term this way:

"The all-too-frequent instances when a man explains something to a female co-worker in a condescending manner. It often begins with the man interrupting the woman — "Actually …" — or talking over her, all so he can explain something she already understands."

Rex even offered a solution to men:  Stop and think. Before you cut off a female colleague or launch into an explanation of something that needs no explanation, ask yourself: Am I about to mansplain?

I am sure Trump could care less about curbing his mansplaining or his interruptions. It's been an effective tool for him in business. But when our effectiveness and work life balance are at stake, women need to make men more aware of their behavior, whether or not it is intentional, and nudge them to change it.

Of course, let's not let ourselves off the hook either. We have just seen what interruptions look like and it isn't a pretty picture. Let's set the example for men and stop and think before we interrupt other women.

Everyone deserves to be heard. It's time to make that loud and clear.

 
 

 

 

 

 

September 22, 2016

How to help your child find balance

                                        Momandson

 

My son has taken on too much. I tried to warn him a month ago when school first started. Now, he is going to bed too late and waking up cranky. He's exhausted and knows something has to give.

At the beginning of the school year, he wanted to take difficult high school classes. He wanted to start clubs at his school. He wanted to play travel lacrosse. When he told me all he wanted to take on, I told him to reconsider. I explained to him that giving himself time to chill out is important, too.

Balance is a hard concept to explain, a difficult one to teach and an even more challenging one to master.

At some points in our lives, we may have too much on our plates. At other points, not enough.

But as the next generation of young people try to find their way in the world, their lessons on balance are starting early. They want to participate on sports teams, excel in music, perform in competitions, take honors classes and hold part-time jobs. They have tons of homework, and little time to unwind.

What can we teach them about when to say no and how to prioritize what's most important? Are we willing to explain how too much structured activity can contribute to anxiety and stress?

When I was young, my grandfather explained to me his job was a lawyer and my job was a student. He taught me to put school first and to be a reliable student and assured me that education pays off. When I signed up for afterschool clubs and extracurricular activities, I knew that they were secondary to my school work. I think the clear vision he created for me of my top priority helped me all the way through college and into my first job.

Today our children experience the pressure of competition early and they need our help to know when to push themselves and when to ease up. We are going to have to teach them trade offs for the sake of time management, help them recognize activities that are habits rather than passions, and encourage them to make choices that are good for the family. Those choices might require taking only one piano lesson a week instead of two, or giving up one after school activity for another. These are the same types of tradeoffs we need to get comfortable with ourselves.

As my son considers what to take off his plate, we have been going over what he needs to do and what he wants to do. He is learning how to prioritize, a skill that will serve him well the rest of his life. I'm pretty sure that by helping my son rework his schedule to create balance, I am helping myself work towards it, too.

When we find ourselves stressed, rushed, multitasking, and feeling overwhelmed on a regular basis, we are receiving a clear signal that something needs to give and the entire family may need to readjust priorities. As I explained to my son, it's okay to take a deep breath and acknowledge when our lives are out of balance. What's not okay is to ignore it.

 

 

September 16, 2016

How Ruth Bader Ginsburg Suggest We Make Work Life Balance Easier

RuthShould we be working at all hours all the time? Should any professional be at the beck and call of a supervisor or client after he or she leaves the office? These are questions we're going to be asking ourselves more often.

The answers aren't simple. In law or any profession, expectations for customer service usually mean an immediate response. Businesses will need to figure out how to give their professionals the work life balance they want and deserve, and please the customer.

When I saw this interview with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the National Law Journal, I thought she hit the work life balance concerns right on. She wants to see more action. Most of us do.

"Firms don't seem to be moving that fast to be flexible," Ginsburg said during a conversation with former U.S. solicitor general Theodore Olson before the D.C. chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel.

But instead of just complaining, Ginsburg gave solutions, which is why I truly admire this woman.

Despite major advances under the law, as well as new technology that facilitates remote work, law firms “don’t seem to be moving that fast” to allow new parents of both genders to balance work and home life, Justice Ginsburg said at an event on Wednesday in Northern Virginia hosted by the Association of Corporate Counsel.

Ginsburg said women and men at firms "should get together with each other and decide 'what we want' " in terms of workplace changes, and "make it known and illustrate by example that you can have a home life and a work life.Ginsburg gave a great example of how a firm can be flexible.

As an example, Ginsburg said a former law clerk of hers who now has three young children worked out an arrangement with an unnamed law firm to have a three-day work week. "They are delighted with her work," Ginsburg said.

While that's one example, there are others that include men and women. Yes, men and women need to discuss  'what we want' " in terms of workplace changes.  We need to see changes that help both genders be the lawyers or professionals they want to be and have a life outside the office, too.

Ginsburg has reminded us that the struggle for work life balance is real and needs to be addressed. Will firms heed her call to action?

 

September 08, 2016

Patrick Dempsey On How to Set Marriage As a Priority

One of the most difficult things in a romantic partnership is staying on the same page throughout life, particularly as we navigate work life balance. Sometimes as you go through phases of life, your priorities are different from your significant other's, they just are. And that's when keeping the relationship strong gets tricky.

I loved the interview with Patrick Dempsey in People Magazine that addressed his struggling marriage and how he has worked on keeping it, rather than giving up. 

Patrick-dempsey-435x580

Here are a few quotes from the interview that spoke volumes about setting priorities:

 "It's always destabilizing when you're potentially breaking up a family or you have a big section of your life that's ending. Everybody has their own path," says Dempsey, 50. "Jill and I decided it was time to work on our issues and improve. We wanted to be role models for our kids like, okay, if you have differences, you can work them out."

People explained that Dempsey, who left Grey's Anatomy in April 2015, also began to pull back from his passion for car racing, in order to devote more time to his family.

"You can only do one thing at a time and do it well," he says. "I [learned] to prioritize. Our union has to be the priority. I wasn't prepared to give up on her and she wasn't either. We both wanted to fight for it." "

Now, Dempsey refers to his marriage as a "new beginning," and says he's learned what it takes to keep his relationship strong.

"You've got to keep at it," he says. "You've got to communicate, and stay open and not get lazy. And not give up. And lots of sex!"

By the way, Dempsey is in Bridget Jones's Baby, out Sept. 16. 

See full interview here

 

 

 

 

September 02, 2016

How to find work life balance during Labor Day Weekend

                                               Chair

 

Here it is, the weekend we've been waiting for...three days of fun with friends, family or a romantic interest. 

Now, it's time for your confession....will you spend time this weekend looking at email, thinking about work or fretting about what awaits you on Tuesday morning?

Don't do it! 

Now, that's a lot easier for me to say than it is for you to do. Still, here are my 5 tips to find work life balance during the holiday weekend:

 

1. Stay present in the moment: If you respond to emails and texts while doing an activity with a friend, family member or boyfriend, you’re not really with them. Your divided attention works against you and forces you to be two places at once. Do one thing at a time, and stay mindful about that one thing. You will enjoy your weekend so much more!

2. Prioritize fun. Something you will try to tackle this weekend is probably not a real priority. Ask yourself which mundane tasks can wait so you can get to those that are more enjoyable.

3. Block off time for something special. What is something you've been putting off all year because you just were too busy? If that's a book you want to read, start it this weekend. If it's a movie you've wanted to watch, do it. If it's a television you want to binge, no harm in pulling an all nighter like you did when you were a kid. There's no better time than a long weekend to get to the task that will bring you joy.

4. Work toward a goal. If you have something big you want to accomplish, use the holiday weekend to take a small step to move forward. You don't have to run an entire marathon, but if that's your goal, run a mile and end the holiday weekend with a sense of accomplishment.

5. Be positive and worry free. Put your worries and negativity into a shoebox for the weekend. Agree with all those you come in contact with to be in vacation mode and think only positive thoughts. If you're used to working all the time, it can feel stressful to let go for a few days. Tell yourself everything will be okay and everyone else is powering down, too. 

For many of us, this weekend really is the end of summer. Enjoy all that it represents and don't feel guilty! Happy Labor Day!

 

Timetorelax
 

 

 

 

 

August 29, 2016

How to survive back-to-school as a working parent

Sommer davis
(Sommer Davis and her family/ Photo by Shannon Kaestle)

 

For years, I've heard people say it takes a village to raise a child. Most working parents will agree with that statement. But I haven't read much on how to build your village. So this week in my Miami Herald column, I set out to help working parents build a support team for a better work life balance.

If you're a mother or father trying to adapt to a new school routine, here is where you should look to build your support team:

Workplace: The least-stressed working parents have their employers on their team. In fact, at least 4-in-10 mothers and fathers say they cannot be successful as parents without a supportive boss, according to Bright Horizons’ Modern Family Index, a 2014 survey of 1,005 American parents who work at least part time.

When the boss is not understanding, try to find co-workers who you can rely on in a pinch. Barbara Baker, an assistant in a Cutler Ridge medical office, remembers the day she needed to attend an unscheduled parent-teacher conference but saw a line of patients waiting to be checked in. Her co-worker, another working mom, stepped up and filled in.

Community: Many working parents reach into the community to build their team by joining carpools, courting neighbors and trading favors with other parents and friends. A parent who travels often for work may ask for help driving their child to after-school activities in exchange for doing a weekend pickup from a “Sweet 16” party, for example.

 

Peggy Sapp, president and CEO of Informed Families, suggests take time now to build connections: “Some people think they are too busy, but it is worth it to take time at the beginning of school. Introduce yourself to other parents or offer to meet over coffee at Starbucks. Anything you can do to create a bond now is going to make it easier than a cold-call later when you need some help.”

Family: With nearly 70 percent of mothers in the workforce, you and your spouse need to work as a well-functioning team. Today more fathers are helping to make dinner, pick up kids from school, or even leave work early to handle emergencies. For others, family members such as grandparents or aunts are critical to their support team. Don't feel bad asking a family member for help, often they enjoy the time with their young family members.

Sommer Davis says her husband, Lawrence, a long-distance truck driver, is on the road for months at a time. For Davis, raising two daughters and succeeding as a public information officer for the Miami-Dade County Water & Sewer Department requires her parents’ involvement. "I am fortunate I am able to rely on them for assistance,” Davis says.

School: You might want to make your child's teacher part of your team, too.  On back-to-school night, put teachers’ contact information into your phone, along with contact information for after-school providers, bus drivers, coaches and any other school faculty who you can call for help. Some teachers will allow a helpful child (or teen) to stay in their classrooms after school for a short while.

As this school year kicks off, start now to assemble your team. You may need it sooner than you  think.

 

 

 

 

 

August 18, 2016

A Back-to-School Tip for Working Mothers (and Fathers)

 

                                           Mom on phone

 

Today, I was interviewing an expert for a back to school article, when she shared a piece of wisdom with me that I wish I had thought of years ago.

She suggests creating a file on your phone with the email or phone number of every person your child comes in contact with during the school day. For example, the file would have the bus driver's number, the transportation department's number, the mother who drives your child to school. It would also have the teacher's contact info and the school's contact info. If you child is in aftercare, it would have the aftercare director's number or one of the care providers. If you child is in extracurricular activities such as piano lessons, the file would have the piano teacher's number or another parent whose child takes lessons the same day with the same teacher. 

The key is ALL the numbers are in ONE place. No need to search around and wonder whether you filed someone's info by first or last name or by topic or some other way. 

If the bus doesn't show up or you need to reach someone to reach your child, NO NEED TO PANIC! Making contact with someone who can help becomes much easier when everything is in one place and at your fingertips.

As much as our phones draw our attention away from our kids if we let them, our phones can be our lifeline when our children need to reach us, or when we need to reach them. 

It's also good to collect phone numbers of your child's friends parents. That could be a separate file on your phone. If you don't know all the parents, use the new school year as the perfect time to get to know them. 

There will be days that unpredictable events with our kids turn our lives upside down. Inevitably those days will be the ones in which we have a big presentation at work or our boss is riding along with us on a sales call. Getting our safety net prepared ahead of time can make all the difference in a working parent's work life balance!

What tips can you share with other working parents who are trying to keep it all together during the school year?

 

August 16, 2016

How to survive political discussion in the workplace

                                                               Politics

 

 

Your co-worker mentions that he's a big Trump fan and went to the rally over the weekend. You're repulsed but you have to sit next to this guy every day. Do you engage and ask him why the heck he would support a guy like Trump? Do you tell him not to mention politics at work?

Drawing the line between work and politics can get tricky with the November election only months away. With new election developments daily, political discussions in the lunchroom, parking lot and office cubicles are inevitable. So how do you navigate workplace discussion knowing the election will soon be over but your co-worker will sit next to you for months and years to come?

Here are a few ways to approach political conversations at work:

Take a cue from the top. In some offices, managers have made employees remove buttons and stickers on cubicles in support of a candidate, or discouraged workers from political talk on the job. In other workplaces, managers are comfortable with respectful debate about personalities and issues and encourage workers to stay abreast of current events that could affect business.

Think carefully before you speak. Longtime Florida lawmaker Elaine Bloom, now president and CEO of Plaza Health Network, the largest nursing home network in Miami-Dade County, says in her daily interaction with executives and healthcare workers she often gets asked her thoughts on a political issue or candidate. “I have to be very careful,” she says. Sometimes, she will clarify a fact or give her opinion, but make it clear that she doesn’t expect her staff or nursing home residents to agree with her view. Sometimes, she will discourage the conversation if she believes it’s going to create hard feelings. “I’ll say something like, ‘Let’s leave the political discussion for outside the workplace.’ 

Speak up. If you feel bullied or harassed or can’t get your co-worker to stop talking politics, it's time to mention it to a manager. “These conversations could drag on for hours and become a productivity issue. When voices are raised, threats come out, or it becomes a distraction, a manager needs to step in," says Edward Yost, director of employee relations for the Society for Human Resource Management.

Agree to disagree.  If your colleague mentions he supports Marco Rubio for Senate and you despise Rubio, you may want to give your perspective but agree to disagree. It's difficult -- if not impossible -- to change someone's political opinions so the best approach is to verbalize that you don't see eye to eye and that it's okay to have perspectives. The key is to stop the conversation before it gets personal.  

Think long term. If someone sees a bumper sticker on someone’s car or finds out a colleague is campaigning for a candidate, it's easy to make a snap judgment about a co-worker’s beliefs and even cast someone as prejudice. But remember, you are going to be working together after the election and it’s not smart to damage a cooperative working relationship.

Use caution on social media. If a supervisor touts his political views on Facebook where a staff member can see it, that could be considered harassment, says April Boyer, an employment attorney at K & L Gates in Miami . “It’s possible the employee could come in and complain. These are complicated issues to work through.”


For more on talking politics at work, read my column in The Miami Herald.