March 24, 2016

How Adam LaRoche got the work family conversation started again

 

 

                            Adam

 

 

Years ago I worked in a newsroom bureau next door to a charter school. Every afternoon, my co-worker would pick up his young son from school and bring him to the office to do his homework. While I thought it was awesome, I also kind of resented it because I thought that a mother who brought her child to the office every afternoon would get disciplined.

The topic of bringing your child to work became top of mind again last week when Adam LaRoche, a power-hitting first baseman, informed the White Sox that he intended to retire with a year and $13 million left on his contract. He made the decision after being told by club President Kenny Williams that his 14-year-old son, Drake, should appear less frequently in the clubhouse.

Initially, the White Sox welcomed LaRoche's son Drake and even outfitted him with a uniform and gave him a locker inside the clubhouse. Drake began traveling with his father during baseball season, receiving home-schooled lessons.

But Williams had enough of Drake’s constant presence and defended his position to ask his player to leave his son at home by saying, "Where in this country can you bring your child to work every day?"

The answer, of course, is hardly anywhere. And that got me thinking.

Some parents like LaRoche may want to bring their child to work. Some may need to bring their child to work. Indeed, as the Washington Post notes, “most people who wrestle with children-at-work issues do it for straight-up survival, not to form an unusually close bond with a child.” And, while it was LaRoche's choice to quit because he couldn't bring his son to work with him, some people (particularly mothers) have been fired for doing it. 

Fortunately, for workers who prove themselves valuable, businesses are starting to bend a little to keep their top talent happy.   Now, it’s up to each of us to ask for what we need to keep our work and home lives on track, convince our employers to give us those accommodations, and be prepared to make decisions based on the response to our requests. In Adam’s case, he faced a tough choice between work and family, and chose family. His decision resonated with baseball players around the country who rallied behind him when he quit, citing #FamilyFirst as the reason.

Tadd Schwartz, a father of two young children and owner of Schwartz Media Strategies, says thinks LaRoche should be able to bring Drake to work with him. Schwartz just allowed an employee to bring a sick dog with him to work. “Culture is critical and if an employee is productive and wants his or her son/ daughter (or dog) in the office and it's not a distraction then I'm fine with it. It’s called flexibility.”

I asked another employer what he thought about LaRoche's action and he told me doesn't think that anyone, male or female, should bring their child to work: "We're paying people to focus on their job, not their child. On an emergency basis, that would be different. But on a day to day basis it's a distraction for the parent and a liability for the company." 

I appreciate LaRoche's position as a father who travels a lot for work and wants to spend time with his son. I also appreciate the fact that LaRoche has America discussing this important topic. The movement to make workplaces more kid-friendly has been slow to take hold. But, as more men take on their fair share of childcare duty, I foresee fathers making the tough decision LaRoche made and more employers suffering the consequences for refusing to be open-minded. 

March 14, 2016

My Birthday Work Life Balance Lesson

 

 

                                                Cake2

 

Today is my 51st birthday and I'm officially in the "Over 50" age bracket. That could be a little depressing but instead of looking at what's behind me, I'm looking at what's ahead. 

Fortunately, I read something this morning that inspired me in my quest for work life balance in a stage of life that depends less on taking care of my children (two who are now in college) and more about finding the right fulfillment from work and life. 

Life coach Martina E. Faulkner says two little words can make a big difference in how we live our lives. Do you want to know those two words?

Get ready because they are simple and complicated at the same time....

“What if..?”

For example, you can ask yourself, "What if I could..." or What if I did..."

Instead of feeling frantic, overwhelmed or unfulfilled ...What if we ask ourselves "What if?"

What if I wrote the book? What if I published it? or What if I took on a new position at work? What if I asked my boss for flexibility?

Martina says “What if..?” is a simple little phrase that belies its greatness. It is an incredibly powerful tool that can be used to manifest the greatest joys or undermine even the most assured confidence. It all depends on how you use it. 

What if I let go of the sad feeling I have that I don't have toddlers to tuck in bed at night and embrace the fact that I can talk to my kids about my work challenges or hear their thoughts about who should be President?

What if I allow myself to feel less stressed about the constant stream of information coming at me from every direction and make more effort to work productively and pursue new outside interests?

There are so many ways to strike a better balance if we ask ourselves "What if.."

I look forward to all the possibilities that those two words bring. Happy Birthday to Me!

March 10, 2016

We have to stop stressing ourselves out

                                                 Stressed

 

Today I judged the Miami Herald Silver Knight contest for high school seniors. One of the students I interviewed had Chinese parents -- her father is a doctor and her mother has doctorate degree in psychology. The student, a high school senior, had dozens of activities on her resume, really time consuming activities such as working in a medical lab 20 hours a week, playing violin in a youth orchestra and tutoring students in math. She did this all while getting straight As in 17 AP courses.

"How do you do it all?" I asked her. "My parents raised me to be busy all the time doing the things I love to do,"  she replied. She said this matter of fact without appearing the least bit stressed, despite all the demands on her time.  

Look around and you will see that most Americans have a lot to learn. We may be accomplishing as much as this young girl, but we're completely stressed about it.  People are stressed about such things as   “deadlines,” “traffic,” “over-commitment,” “not enough time,” "difficult bosses" and “dealing with stupid people.”

Many of us are too stressed to take vacation. The latest survey commissioned by Alamo Rent A Car found that "vacation shaming" or being made to feel a sense of shame or guilt from co-workers for taking a vacation has become prevalent in the American workplace.

"We've created this kind of work martyr culture," said Cait DeBaun, spokeswoman for the U.S. Travel Association's "Project: Time Off." The number of vacation days American workers take annually has fallen steadily since about the dot-com era..."

Meanwhile, we walk around completely stressed while we are at work. Only about a third of employees are happy on the job, according to a Gallup and the Families and Work Institute study. The study also showed that more than half of workers felt overworked or overwhelmed at least some of the time.

Now, let's look a little further....We aren't taking all our vacation so that's stressing us out, we're stressed when we're at work, and we're definitely stressed when we're commuting back and forth to work. So, what about at home? Are we stressed at home?

study from the Council on Contemporary Families found people are actually more stressed at home than at work. Three Penn State researchers measured people’s cortisol, which is a stress marker, while they were at work and while they were at home and found it higher home.

Ugh...we can't go on like this. We have to lower our stress levels. 

Here are my top 7 suggestions:

  1. Get moving. Every time you find your stress level on the rise, get up and move. You can stretch, run in place, dance, or walk around the office or building. Just try to get your blood and endorphins flowing.
  2. Think positive. It's inevitable that something during your day is going to go wrong, or not as planned. You can take the sting out of these negative events by focusing on what’s great in your lives.
  3. Say no. Be polite but firm: Explain to others (even your manager) that you are overcommitted and that you must say no.
  4. Gift yourself time. Plan time in your day for fun, creativity and socializing. Even if it's just five minutes.
  5. Shake it off. Life is hectic. People are busy. You can choose to let small things stress you out, or you can let the little things go and tell yourself we deserve to live a happy, contented life. Focus on what you can control and shake off what you can't.
  6. Make a list. I bet you can think of a million stress-relieving, calm-inducing activities when you don't need them. Keep a list in your car, on your phone or in your office to refer to when you need to get back in balance.
  7. Set your alarm. It's up to us to establish a clear time to go home or set times after which we don't check email. Even if you have a difficult boss or client, it's up to you to set your limits.

Do you feel like you're living your life more stressed than your parents lived theirs? Do you think job stress and the stress of trying to strike a work life balance is inevitable, or do you think we can learn to manage our stress better than we are now?

March 03, 2016

Big changes in the workplace in 2016

Now that we welcomed March, the luster of the new year is starting to wear off. I've been hearing people complain more about their co-workers, their bosses, their clients, their workplaces. With all the grumbling going on, it's good to stay abreast of legal changes that affect us in our workplaces. Some of them may put more money in your wallet, make your work life easier, or prevent you from getting fired. For employers, keeping up with changes is critical for avoiding a costly lawsuit or government audit.

Adam Kemper Photo 2

Fort Lauderdale labor attorney Adam Kemper, of Greenspoon Marder Law weighs in today to bring us up to date on the changes we need to know about:

 

 

 

 

Ten Employment Issues to Lookout for in 2016 

 

  • 1- Increased Salary Requirement for Exemptions: Employees may get a boost in salary in 2016. The threshold for many exempt (salaried) employees is increasing later this year from $455 a week (or $23,660.00 per year) to $970.00 a week (or $50,440.00 per year). For workers affected, employers will need to increase salaries or pay overtime.

 

  • 2- Increase in Minimum Wage: As of January 1, fourteen states increased their minimum wage requirements. Employers  in those states must pay the new minimum wage or risk wage violations.

 

  • 3- Sexual Orientation is a Protected Characteristic: Employers are now liable for sexual orientation discrimination in their workplace. Expect employers to implement policies to avoid potential claims for sexual orientation discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation.

 

  • 4- Transgender Rights in the Workplace:  Employers must ensure all anti-discrimination workplace policies include protection for transgender workers. They also must provide their employees adequate access to restrooms that correspond to their employees' gender identity.

 

  • 5- Increase in Age Discrimination Claims: Another year, another birthday for the country's aging baby boomer demographic. Employers must now give more thought to eliminating positions belonging to individuals in the protected age class (of age 40 or over). 

 

  • 6- Safety in the Workplace: In 2015, there were a number of violent attacks in the workplace. Employers have a legal obligation to protect their employees from harm. Employers will need to revisit workplace safety policies to ensure their employees are adequately protected.   

 

  • 7- Marijuana Regulation: In 2016, expect to see more regulations passed that permit individuals with health conditions to be treated with marijuana. That means employers will need to revisit their workplace policies. Overly restrictive policies on the use of medical marijuana (or any prescribed medication for that matter) could result in a potential ADA violation.

 

  • 8-Social Media: While the boss might want to keep employees off social media, a complete ban on can run afoul of Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act because employees have a right to engage in concerted activity on social media. Additionally, employees can now refuse to give their employers their Facebook or Twitter passwords as more states have enacted legislation which ban an employer's request for login and password information for employees' social media accounts.

 

  • 9-Background Check Litigation: Worried that a background check will unfairly be used against you? With increased safety concerns, more employers are conducting background checks on their applicants and employees. However, many employers are not familiar with laws concerning background checks and violations of both the Fair Credit Reporting Act and federal anti-discrimination laws. Employers will need to ensure that their background check processes complies with all laws.

 

  •  10-Misclassification: Are you a contractor or an employee? The Department of Labor and Internal Revenue Service are now sharing information to notify the other of instances when employers are misclassifying their employees as independent contractors. The consequence of misclassifying is penalties assessed by both federal agencies (in addition to lawsuits by private litigants).  Employers will need to understand the distinction between employees and independent contractors, and classify workers properly. That could mean paying benefits and overtime to workers who are misclassified.

 

We all know there are many personalities in a workplace and issues that arise that can easily lead to conflict. Kemper advises being mindful of legal changes to avoid major headaches and disruption! Expect to see more changes in the year ahead!

 

March 02, 2016

How to pivot for better work life balance

So, you know you're in a rut. You are working hard, catching up on email even when you should be enjoying your time off. Lately you are asking yourself..."Is there all there is?"

You need a change. You want more fulfillment. More work life balance. But where do you start?

Last Friday, I sat in the audience of Office Depot Foundation Women's Symposium and I listened to speakers motivate the audience with stories of their path to success. As I listened, I noticed that all of them had pivoted to find better work life balance, or more fulfillment from how they live their lives.

Personal branding consultant Michelle Villalobos had just returned from a year long road trip that she said re-energized her. While that's not realistic for most of us, Michelle  suggested we stop living in the day to day and start thinking about what we want our work and home lives to look like. “You need to think about how you want your life to look in a year and what’s standing in your way,” Michelle told us. “Sometimes, that’s hard to see by yourself. You may need to get the right people to help you."

For some people, pivoting to achieve better work life balance may require a slight shift, while others might need a complete change in direction.

GilaIf you own your business and you're working much more than you should be, think about how you can change that. Do you need to bring in a partner, hire more employees or rely more on the ones you have? Gila Kurtz has spent the last year figuring that out. “I had lost who I was in the volume of work,” she said. Kurtz, who is founder, co-owner and vice president of sales for Dog is Good, a California company that creates and markets gifts and apparel for dog lovers, made a plan.

She transitioned from a hands-on role as vice president of sales to a leadership position as brand ambassador. Over the past year, she hired a sales team, wrote a book called Fur Covered Wisdom, and began speaking at events, including the women’s symposium, to promote her brand. Kurtz also got a puppy that she takes to the beach, and body-surfs with, on weekends. “I have put play back into my life,” she says.

 

Let's say you're traveling too much or you want flexibility. A slight pivot may be all that’s needed. Christine Lam at Citigroup describes how she reached her pivot point when her son washed his hands without a step stool and she realized she had missed most of his growing up because of her constant business travel. Instead of a drastic career change, a conversation with her manager at Citi led to a new position with Citi’s Global Consumer Bank that halved her travel and improved her work life balance.

Randy McDermott at Robert Half, a staffing firm, finds people often underestimate the support from managers for the right work/life balance. “The first step should be to talk to your direct supervisor about changing your circumstances in your current role,” he says.

Still, a growing number of frustrated workers find an extreme pivot is their best path to a more fulfilling and balanced life. They change jobs and even careers, give up responsibility, or find new interests outside the office.

Making an extreme pivot takes courage. But it could turn out to be the key to a much happier life.  Jen JenLancaster says she did an extreme pivot when she got laid off and couldn't get a job in marketing. She launched a website to air her frustrations about unemployment and shortly after became a humor columnist. She now has 12 books. 
 
"I learned to embrace the pivot," Jen told the audience at the Office Depot symposium. "It takes being introspective and reframing your thinking."
 
So, if you're sinking under the weight of work, or just plain fed up with having no time for fun, reframe your thinking and come up with a plan, Jen says. "Consider it the first brick as you pave your path to success."
 
 

 

 

 

 

February 29, 2016

How to Be Super Productive on Leap Day

                                     Leap


If you're like me, you feel like you never have enough time to tackle all the things you want to get done. So, Leap Day is like a big bonus for us who want a better work life balance  -- it's an additional 24 hours or 1,440 minutes that we don't have every year.

Wow! A whole extra day to get things done sounds awesome, right? 

Here are suggestions for what you can do with your bonus day:

  • Take time to make a list of the events you want to get to during the rest of the year. It can include play and work activities such as races, art festivals, conferences, webinars.
  • Book a spa day. Some spas are giving discounts if you book a treatment today. 
  • Have dinner somewhere exotic. It doesn't have to be expensive. Pack a picnic or bring pizza and wine to the beach to celebrate leap day.
  • Get moving. This doesn't mean you have to run a marathon. Just take a walk, or if you already walk, take a longer walk. You can spend the extra time because, well...why not? It's time you would not have had if it wasn't February 29th.
  • Spend time with someone you've been meaning to get together with for a while, even if it's only by phone.
  • Use the day for strategy. Sometimes we get so caught in the day to day, we don't have time for big picture thinking. Today's your day to do that....think big!

 

Whatever you do today, make it special. You won't get a leap day again for four more years. Wishing you a great day!

 

                              Leap day

 

February 25, 2016

Why we think everyone else has it together

                                            Sign

Have you ever looked at someone in a high powered job with a big family and thought Wow, she really has it together. Then, you paused and wondered, "Why is it so easy for her when I'm exhausted and struggling to keep up?"

If you answered, "I think that just about every day" then we totally think the same way.

But this week, two things have changed my thinking. The first is a column by Fred Grimm in this morning's Mugshot Miami Herald. Fred wrote about that "crazy" guy whose strange jailhouse mug shot was smeared with black grease paint. The media reported that this crazy Virginia man in Florida was arrested for strange and threatening behavior. But Fred dug deeper to learn who this guy really was, the story behind the image. He found out that the guy in the mugshot was an American soldier who did three combat tours in Iraq. When he returned, his mother had died of breast cancer, he hasn't been able to find a job and there hasn't been much support for him making the transition from war life to a normal one. In other words, an image of someone isn't always what it seems.

Coincidentally, I did an interview with a successful restaurateur who spoke about how hard he works to support his two young children. He seemed so positive, so together, despite the long work hours he puts in. He made work life balance seem so effortless. It was later that I learned his newborn is not well and he's been a mess about it. In other words, an image isn't always what it seems.

As we live our lives, we will face constant challenges at work and home and we must resist the urge to think everyone else has an easier time with work life balance than we do. Next time you find yourself struggling with work and life and stress and competing time demands, don't get hung up on an image of what work life balance is supposed to look like. Everyone has challenges, whether or not they are visible to us.

We are struggling more than previous generations. Parenting a generation ago was simpler. It just was. Parents just didn't feel pressured as much to help their children succeed academically, socially, athletically. Being a stand out worker a generation ago was easier. It just was. Workers just didn't feel pressured to be on call at all hours and collaborate across teams and stay relevant. We are living in an increasingly competitive world and we need to stop second guessing ourselves because keeping up is hard work.

Today, Dear Abby wrote a column about how young moms feel pressure to do a good job raising their Dabbychildren in a way their grandmothers may not understand. The truth is all of us  feel pressure to succeed at everything we do, but we have to be okay with knowing that today success comes with exhaustion, sacrifice, regrets and a struggle to make multiple people happy at the same time. 

We need to look past the image of the amazing CEO, or senior leader, or celebrity who seems to have it all and see what we can learn from what we think he or she is doing well. I'm sure if you asked about work life challenges, that amazing person you think has it so together would rattle off a list without a blink of an eye --  and be as willing as the rest of us to invite change. Maybe, just maybe, the saying is true...The secret to having it all, is believing you do!

February 24, 2016

Friends can make great business partners -- or destroy your work life balance

 

 

One day I visited a friend at her children’s clothing shop. The merchandise was displayed nicely, the store had customers, but my friend was furious. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “My partner went home early again,” she grumbled.

It wasn’t long after that my friend closed the shop and the friendship with her partner disintegrated. The two mothers both wanted flexibility, but one used it way too often at the detriment of the business, the partnership and the friendship.

Most of us want to help out our friends. Most of us also want to keep our businesses afloat once we start them. Sometimes, the two are in conflict. I am in a business partnership with a friend and about to enter another with a friend/acquaintance. I've noticed in my first partnership, I carry more of the weight. So, I'm being very careful with my second partnership.

Today, people are starting businesses in droves, aspiring to be their own boss and have the flexibility they crave. But, as I noted in my Miami Herald column today, when you go into business with friends, more than just financial rewards are at stake, and increasing work-life issues are at the crux of conflicts.

How many hours are each of you going to work? If you have flexibility, what does that look like? Are you going to split the responsibilities and the profits 50-50? There are so many questions to be answered before the business even gets started.
 
In asking around for advice, I've been warned by people in partnerships and by my attorney friends to make sure I have a written agreement in place. I thought about that when I spoke to Neydy Gomez and Claudia Machado who told me they spent about three months putting together a partnership agreement for their new business, Zaniac Miami. They told me the process of writing an agreement brought up all kinds of scenarios they hadn't really thought about. Both moms have young children and want to spend time with them. They also want their afterschool enrichment program to be successful. That means figuring out a way to make sure they both get their work life needs met.
 
New zaniac
(Neydy Gomez and Claudia Machado, owners of Zaniac Miami)
 
One of the nice things about going into business with a friend is that the person is usually someone you trust and can rely on. That can be important when you have a personal crisis and need someone to pitch in or "get your back" in your business. Dana Rhoden of The Dana Agency likened a successful partnership a successful marriage: "there's a lot of give and take and ongoing communication."
 
Dana also imparted this wisdom which she learned from a prior partnership that has since been dissolved: “A best friend doesn’t always make a great roommate, and all friendships don’t transfer into good business partnerships.”
 
 
Cynthia
Dana Rhoden (left) and her new business partner Cynthia Demos (right)
 
 
 

February 17, 2016

Work life balance? Let's call it work life blend

There is was...the question that often gets lobbed at successful women....

How do you balance work and family? Christine

Christine Barney, CEO and Managing Partner of rbb Communications, saw it coming. As a panelist at The Influential Women of Today event sponsored by MBAF in Miami, she had her answer ready.

"It's not balancing, it's blending," she said "Blending is the important part. Work does not happen between 9 and 5, and personal life does not happen 5 p.m. and after. There are personal things that happen during the day, and work things that will happen at night and weekends. Not just for me but everyone at my firm."

Christine then explained that her Miami public relations firm was built on respect and flexibility.

"Everyone in my firm chooses when, where and how we work. That will be different depending on your situation. I have clients in California that are going to want me at night so I have to be available for that. You have to bend in your mind to say how do I effectively do the things I want to do." 

Like most working mothers, Christine tries to be available for her children and her clients. That means blending her two worlds together and determining priorities on a given day. She has a lot to juggle.

"I have three children and I feel like I have three only children," she said. "I have a step daugher who is 35, a daughter who is 18  and a son who is 11. I have had kids my whole life and I will be paying for college until I'm dead. I was homeroom mom two years ago when my son was in second grade. I was the kindergarten art teacher for daughter one year. I am chair of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce in addition to running my businesses."

With all that responsibility on her plate, Christine makes tradeoffs. She says she strives for excellence, not perfection.

"You can't do it all. I could work 24 hours a day and there would still be more to do. So you have to make choices and ask yourself, "What is really important to me? If I want to be homeroom mom, what am I going to give up and what am I going to feel guilty about? I put more guilt on myself than anyone else could put on me."

Of course, like most of us, Christine says her husband complains he is not a priority.

"My husband kids that my priorities are work, the kids, the dog and then him. My priorities shift. Next week my  daughter hears from a college. I am not making any appointments that day. She is getting an email in the morning and I will drive to school and be there with her. That's really important to me. Think about in advance what's important to you and don't let others make those decisions for you."

Christine says sometimes, she has to help her employees figure out their priorities.

"They will say I have to go to this or that and I say, "Really? Do you really have to go to that?" I tell them, to look at what's value add for business and there usually is stuff you can cut out. We can't do it all."

And then, Christine reconfirmed her thoughts on work life balance.

"Balance is not the right word. It's blend."

I really like Christine's way of looking at the roles we play. Blend is a great way to describe it. 

February 11, 2016

How to multitask to find love (Your Valentine's Day Guide)

My friend works really long hours an attorney. She often tells me she has little free to date but wishes she could meet someone. While asking to bolt early to go to happy hour might be frowned on, her firm encourages her to sit on boards, join professional organizations and network for business.

The solution, of course, is to multitask. Why not network for business and love at the same time?

The great part of networking for business and love at the same time is that doing so removes the pressure of forcing a love connection. At business networking events, people are there to meet people and there's not that judgmental vibe or desperation that one might find at a singles event.

You might think that most people meet dates online but that's not true. Although 1 in 10 Americans now use online dating platforms, the vast majority of relationships still begin offline, according to Pew Research Center.

Fort Lauderdale publicist Kerry Phillips, a widow for four years, told me she wants to date again. She says going to a networking cocktail party to drum up business feels less stressful than going to a singles event: “I’m not going in thinking I’m there to find a date or a life partner. The pressure is not there. I’m going in to build business, and if I hit it off with someone, that’s a bonus.”

As workloads grow, time-pressed singles increasingly view relationship-building for business and social purposes as good time management. Sitting on a committee or organizing an event provides the opportunity to go beyond superficial conversations with someone you want to get to know better — and it may allow love to bloom.
 
Robert Goltz, President and CEO of the Miramar Pembroke Pines Regional Chamber of Commerce, offers a few tips.

* People looking to combine business and love should ask more personal questions when they meet someone of interest. It could be something like, “What do you enjoy doing outside of work?”

 * Call the chamber or business organization and ask about the age and type of people who attend their events: “If you tell me you want to meet mid-level professionals in their 30s to 40s, I would tell you which events draw that crowd.”

 Dan Silverman, founder of MatchmakingMiami.com, offers these tips.

* Start the flirtation and see whether you get feedback. If you do and it’s positive, then take it forward. If you’re not getting feedback, then shift gears and keep it business.

 * Steer clear of making anyone feel uncomfortable at a business function. (Watch out how much alcohol you drink!) But if you sense someone is interested, arrange a follow-up after the event.

* Hand someone of interest your business card and urge them to call. You can decide later what direction to take the connection.

Hope Plevy, a Fort Lauderdale attorney, met a man at a legal organization networking dinner who asked her out for dinner. After a few dates, the two didn’t see a romantic future, but they did start referring each other’s business.

If you find yourself alone this Valentine's Day, brainstorm what networking events you want to go to or business organizations you want to join. If you don't find love, at least you might drum up a new client.