May 16, 2014

How to make work fun -- even when it isn't

I love what I do for a living but I used to like it that much more when I would go to the office and there was a feeling of camaraderie with my fellow reporters. 

Let's face it, some people don't consider their jobs fun but they do feel like the people they work with are fun to be around.

When we're striving for work life balance, it helps to work in a place with camaraderie. That's what I think makes a job fun. Have you ever seen tv shows where doctors are doing a surgical procedure but they're talking each other and even making jokes? We all know surgery is pretty serious but watching the banter makes me want to get in there, put my scrubs on and join in.

Jac Fitz-enz is founder and CEO of the Human Capital Source and The Predictive Initiative has this take on what makes work fun.

Amy Lyman, co-founder of the Great Place to Work Institute, says her organization has have found five factors that make a great workplace — credibility, respect, fairness, pride and camaraderie. This is topped off by the magic factor, trust.

As Bob Levering, the organization’s other co-founder, summed up, it is fun to work there.

Nowhere does it say free lunch, games or the things we read about at places like Facebook and Google. My experience in walking around the fun companies shows that what makes work fun are most of the factors in the research presented here.

How can it be fun to sit at a computer writing code until your fingertips have blisters and your eyes bug out? Yet when I watch the people, I see them smiling, laughing and crunching their way through 50-hour weeks. Where’s the fun?

Fun comes from two factors. One is they really like the work and they feel achievement. Second, they can turn to a co-worker and share something interesting about the work. This is the camaraderie spirit.

But can you find as much interest in a rubber gasket factory? Maybe it’s not as exciting as new computer apps, yet where would we be without gaskets? Machines can’t function without gaskets. The point: A company doesn’t exist unless it fulfills a need, and it is up to management to keep that vision in front of the workforce.

Here’s an opposite example. Ten years ago Yahoo Inc. was an exciting place to work. It was among the leading search engines. People wanted to work there. But in the past five years management lost its way and the company lost market share. People who used to work from home and be very productive slowly lost their motivation.

When Marissa Mayer came in as CEO, she saw what was happening and significantly reduced the work-from-home option. She had to get control before she could turn Yahoo around and make it a fun place to work again.

At the end of the day, the lesson is: If you want a great company, you have to make it a great place to work. The basic elements of that are a shared vision, a trust-based atmosphere and, of course, interesting work.

Rather than concentrating on free lunches and dry cleaning, focus on the elements that make the workscape a place that can be fun and intrinsically rewarding.


Are employers going about creating "fun" workplaces the wrong way? What do you think makes a fun workplace? 



May 13, 2014

Do you love your job enough to do it without pay?




The other morning, I was listening to radio show host Elivs Duran talk about how much he loves his job. He said he would do his job even if he didn't get paid. Of course, the rest of his crew hushed him and told him his agent would be mad.

But today, when I saw a story about small business owners, it made me feel good that there are people out there who love what they do for a living. According to a new survey from BMO Harris Bank, ONLY 39% of entrepreneurs say they would sell their company if they won the lotto.

“Over half say they would definitely continue running their small business,” says BMO Harris Bank head of small business banking Daniela O’Leary-Gill. “They’re passionate about their business and committed to succeeding,”

With so much on our plates, having real passion for your work helps. But sometimes we don't realize we get more out of work than pay. Like what, you ask? I saw this on and had to share it with you. 

1. Social connection.

It's hard to make friends after you're out of school, and work is one place to do it. Even if you don't fall madly in platonic love with your co-workers, humans need company. Ask any unemployed person or freelancer, and they'll tell you: when people are alone too much, they start to get weird.

2. Structure.

What would you do if you didn't have to do anything? If you said "nothing," you're in good company. But doing nothing at all -- or even just doing whatever you want, whenever you want -- gets old fast. Having to show up at a certain time and do things because they're required builds discipline, which makes it easier to do everything else that makes you a healthy, happy person, from eating well to exercising, to keeping a regular sleep schedule.

3. A sense of identity.

Quick: who are you? We bet your job title or at least your field came up in the first five words. You're not just your job, of course, but what you do becomes a big part of who you are, at least eventually. Now, if after considering all of that, you realize that you hate everyone you work with, have a daily schedule that's the opposite of how your brain and body chemistry work, and can't stand the idea of identifying yourself as Job Title X or Y, then it might be time to rethink your career track. Not everyone can do what they love, but everyone should at least try to like what they do.


If your current job doesn't fulfill you, start thinking about jobs you would want to do even if you won the lottery. It might take some effort to land that job or start that business, but nothing is impossible if you work to achieve it. That's the message I heard loud and clear on my radio from Elvis Duran.


May 09, 2014

Celebrating working mothers on Mother's Day

As Mother's Day approaches, I think about what my mother and I have in common -- we both balanced work and family.

My mother, a teacher and single mom, had to find patience for her own three kids after coming home from spending her days with a classroom full of noisy kids. That takes real patience. Because I work from home, I too, must find patience when my kids come barging into my home office noisily or bring large groups of friends home after school while I'm on deadline.

I guess what I'm saying is that combining work and family is never easy but do it well and it's extremely rewarding.

Today, as I sort through the Mother's Day stories and press releases coming into my Inbox, I wanted to share a few that I found interesting.

* 9 Tips for Moms who own their own businesses.

*  Findings from survey by Happify, a popular emotional well-being startup, in honor of Mother’s Day: (see infographic)

  • 31% of moms say they pretend to like their Mother’s Day gifts
  •  62% of working mothers would rather work part-time
  • The best medicine for mommy stress? A female social network.
  • What do moms really want for Mother’s Day? Quality time with family, a gift card to their favorite store, or fine dining out!

* MyHeritage, the world's largest online family-history network,  just conducted research on the evolution of women over the last 100 years just in time for Mother's Day. Here are some of its findings:

Average Age Women Got Married : 1914 – 21.6/ 2014 – 26.9

Percentage of Women Who Got Divorced:  1914 – 0.1%/ 2014 – 50%

Average Age During First Birth:  1914 – 22/ 2014 – 30

Cost of Weekly Grocery Shopping 1914 - $4/2014 - $200

 Percentage of Women in the Work Force 1914 – 19.9%/ 2014 – 46.3%

 Life Expectancy: 1914 – 51.8/2014 – 82.2

 Number of Children: 1914 – 3/2014 – 2

* 9 Surprising Facts about Mom from a recent survey by, the largest mobile productivity app maker: YouTube video


* Working Mother Magazine has revealed its list  of 50 Most Powerful Moms of 2014. There are some great surprises on this list. 


* Lastly, with Mother’s Day coming up this weekend, the personal financial social network WalletHub released a study analyzing the Best & Worst States for Working Moms, based on nine metrics ranging from the cost and quality of day care to the gender pay gap and parental leave policies in each of the 50 states as well as the District of Columbia. My state (Florida) didn't make either list. Check here to see if your's did. 

To all you working mothers out there doing your best every day to balance work and family, I applaud you and wish you a very happy Mother's Day!

May 07, 2014

Working mothers share best apps for work life balance

My Mother's Gift to all of you out there scrambling for sanity.... 

(From today's Miami Herald)

One night last week, I scooped up sliced meats and cheeses that were waiting for me in a bin at the Publix deli. As I did this, I gave a sympathetic look to a frazzled woman in a business suit who was waiting her turn to order while a child screamed in her cart. I wondered why this mom hadn’t used the amazing time-saving, free Publix Online Ordering app that has cut at least a half hour out of my own grocery shopping time.

Today’s smartphones have led to the development of hundreds of thousands of mobile apps that can make working mothers’ work and home lives run more smoothly. But sorting through them is no simple feat. In celebration of Mother’s Day, I have asked working mothers to share the apps they use for better work/life balance.


Liliana and family


Being a mom and business owner can be a challenge. Liliana Paez runs two businesses, travels at least once a month for work, and raises two children, ages 4 and 6. This supermom uses Dragon Dictation, a free app that uses voice recognition to type text messages, create emails or compile to do lists on the go. She says the simple app allows her to get business done from her car without touching her screen. Paez is sales and marketing director at Key International, a Miami real estate sales company, and CEO of Global Smart Products, a company that sells innovative products through infomercials. Paez regularly needs to meet with manufacturers abroad or designers in cities across the United States. She uses the GoToMeeting app on her iPad (free and paid versions available): “I can see what the other person has on his computers, where their mouse goes and we can talk in detail about renderings.” She says using the app helps her avoid extra business travel — time she now can spend with family.

In many homes, moms handle the family finances. Tammie Purow balances her job as a Miami trusts and estates attorney with being the mother of twin 15-year-old boys and twin 11-year-old girls. To keep organized, she uses Bill Keeper. The free app allows her to manage and track bills and reminds her when a payment is due. “As I pay the bill, I check it off on the app,” Purow says. She finds Bill Keeper also helps her keep in her budget: “I usually try to pay a bill a day so at the end of the month, I don’t get overwhelmed. I look at what’s next on the list and pay it from my phone.”

MerciFor moms who work from home, there are apps to help stay connected to the office. Merci Suarez, mother of two and a young hands-on grandmother of two, runs her husband’s pediatric office in Pembroke Pines from home as often as possible. “I tend to use every app that is office-related so I don’t have to drag my rear end to the office,” Suarez says. One of her favorites is Adobe Reader mobile app, (free) Pro Edition ($4.99), which allows access to pdf files on the go. Suarez will open a file, make changes, highlight sections, sign it with a finger and fax or email it back to the sender from her phone. She also uses the free CamCard app to photograph business cards and quickly store the information in her phone and other devices: “If I can find an app that gives me back a few minutes that I can invest in my family, I’m happy.”

Moms who commute are discovering that apps that cut down drive time are great finds. Vivian Conterio, a Homestead mother of an 11-year-old daughter and a marketing director at Cool de Sac children’s entertainment center, commutes — often 30 miles a day — for her job. She relies on Waze, a free mapping, traffic and navigation app. Waze gives directions, but it also allows users to share accident and road information in real time, making it easier to avert traffic jams and congestion. “It’s my lifesaver for not getting lost and knowing how long it will take me to get anywhere,” Conterio says. She also relies on the free service, “If this then that” allows users to connect different apps and sites to create their own “recipe” or action they want their media channels to perform. Conterio has created a recipe that will automatically send photos from her gmail to a Dropbox folder.

Some mothers turn to apps to save their sanity or stay focused on goals. Rushing into client meetings, accountant/mom Susan Marquet would fish around in her purse for change for parking meters — and pull out pacifiers instead. She says the PayByPhone app has changed her life. To use it, she set up an account, entered her license plate, location and how long she wants to park. “The best part is you can be at a restaurant, tap the icon and extend your time without having to leave and go to the meter,” she says. Julie Vessel, a director of talent at an advertising agency and mother of three young children, uses an iPhone app she developed called Intention Reminder (99 cents) to keep her sanity and her goals top of mind. Vessel creates a visual intention of her goals with photos and words. She then set reminders throughout the day for her intention to pop up on her phone screen. “Given I have my phone with me 24/7, this app allows me to stay mindful in a really easy way.”

Of course, working mothers know the best uses of applications often are for tempering Paulafrustration levels. Paula Rizzo, founder of, hates wasting time on hold to get through to customer services representatives — the bane of most busy working mothers. She uses the free Fast Customer app, which links into many companies and navigates through phone trees. Rizzo, author of the upcoming book "Listful Thinking: Using Lists to be More Productive, Highly Successful and Less Stressed"  also considers the free TalkTo app to be one of her favorites: With it, she can communicate with any business across the country to find out if there’s an item in stock, what the price is, or to make an appointment. Instead of trekking all the way to the grocery store after work, hoping they have, say, golden beets, she just sends a text — even if the business is closed. Rizzo says TalkTo will get back to her when the store reopens.

Lastly, for working mothers like me whose teens drive, tracking apps such as Sprint Family Locator($5 a month), Find My Friends (free) and Life360 (free or $4.99 a month for non-smartphones) offer some peace of mind while at work with your teen (or parent) on the road. Of course, it’s never enough.

What apps do you find helpful with work life balance? Do you have any that you find critical to saving your sanity?


May 01, 2014

Should we really care about a positive reputation at work?

Today, I was reading a press release and I found myself declaring out loud that it was just a big bunch of B.S. 

The topic was how to have a good personal reputation in the workplace. 

The release says:  "A good reputation is much more than simply being a hard worker; how you behave both as an individual, and with others, directly impacts your professional growth."

I'd like to think this is true. But look at the people who lead companies today and you are likely to find real jerks. Unfortunately having a reputation as a jerk often is overlooked if the person is a rainmaker or an innovative leader.

The release went on to say, "Understanding the value in showing gratitude, handling conflict in an appropriate manner, and simply being friendly, are all essential characteristics to a positive reputation in the workplace."

To that I say, having a reputation for being friendly gets you nowhere. Sometimes, it even gets you passed over for a promotion -- particularly if you are a woman. I have heard men say, "She's not up to the job. She's too nice."

All of us, or at least most of us, want to be known as a valuable employee. And, some of us want to be viewed as leadership material. While being friendly can help you make the connections that land you a job or a promotion, it's what you do with those connections that matter. To me, having a good personal reputation at work is less critical to advancement than being someone the boss or client can trust to get a job done well or someone who comes up with a great idea and acts on it. I'd like to say that requires people skills. But often it doesn't.

Being friendly, handling conflict well, showing appreciation....those are nice qualities but unfortunately not always the ones that tend to lead to advancement.

What are your thoughts about reputation? How important do you think it is to be "friendly" at work?





April 30, 2014

Even lawyers can achieve work life balance

RJON-ROBINS-headshot-finalWhen consultant Rjon Robins tells lawyers then can make a great living and still have lots of family time, they often don't believe him. Most believe that sacrificing their personal lives is mandatory for professional success -- until Rjon shows them otherwise.

"My biggest challenging is helping them believe it's possible," he says.

Rjon, founder of, says many lawyers think if they are not being martyrs to clients, they aren't working hard enough. 

He and his staff serve as hired managing partners for small law firms around the country and help attorneys to run their practices more efficiently.

The first step to efficiency is having a business plan and ensuring your staff understands the plan and their role in it, Rjon says. Overwhelm and inefficiency are the result of not having the help you need because you don't have a plan for how to hire or make hires pay off.  "Clients can tell when you are frustrated and overwhelmed and it's harder to market the firm," he says.

Here's the big mistake that lawyers and others often make: treating a firm like a hobby and wondering why it doesn’t function like a business. They key to a profitable business is for the leader to focus on highly effective tasks, rather than busy work, he says. 

"Clients don’t’ benefit when you work on weekends. They benefit when you're smart enough to figure out how not to work on weekends so you’re fresh and smart and brilliant. Stop telling everyone how busy you are and replace it with effective!"

Mary Leslie SmithJust as law firm owners can achieve a better work life balance, so, too, can lawyers at the big firms. Leslie Smith, a partner at Foley & Lardner, says women lawyers at big firms are learning how to do business development early in their careers so they can have the security that comes with generating revenue. Without that security, they often resent the work load heaped on them, the lack of recognition, and the pressure to bring in business. They often leave when personal challenges crop up. 

"Attrition is a big issue," Smith admits.

Smith says large law firms like hers, Foley & Lardner in Miami, are re-examing when more associates are needed. "We know we need to make it easier for people to be in the legal profession and still have family life. If we don't help them, we can lose a great skill set and client relationships that have been built up over years." 

Smith sees a reality to what Robins encounters --  a belief that lawyers work long hours and make personal sacrifices. "No one comes into this profession -- especially an Am law 100 firm -- and thinks they are going to get weekends off and neverwork late. You  know you’re signing up for that and people are willing to do it. It doesn’t mean we can’t get creative about not losing talent men and women."

Rjon says the path to balance is believing it's possible. Smith believes it takes a clear plan for how you want to structure your work life.

So lawyers, I want to hear from you. Do you think concentrating on efficiency rather than volume is enough to create better work life balance? Do you think a financially successful lawyers can control expectations of clients to allow for a life outside of work?



April 28, 2014

Surviving a tyrant boss

Inside one of Miami's most interesting art museums lurked a tyrant boss whose behavior made her staff dread coming to work. The boss' behavior was so horrendous that former employees say working at the museum was akin to being trapped in a psychological torture chamber.

This is what the employees allege their tyrant boss did:

* Insult an employee in front of everyone .

* MaKe workers afraid to come to work because they were unsure of her state of mind.

* Bully workers on a personal level and call them stupid

At one point, this boss was asked to work on her people skills with a professional coach. But at some point, she stopped meeting with the coach. Some say she actually became worse.

If any of you have worked for a boss who speaks to you with a condescending tone or criticizes you publicly, you probably feel the frustration of these museum workers.

An article in yesterday's Miami Herald draws an interesting picture of what went on behind the public displays at Florida International University's Wolfsonian Museum and it reminded me how much leverage a boss holds over our professional and personal well being.

When questioned about employee accusations against her, this boss claimed that getting the Wolfsonian Museum recognized as a hip up and comer on the arts scene required long hours and sometimes stressful working conditions. Does that sound familiar to those of you whose boss claims that he or she is the only one who is keeping the business afloat? 

Must you be a tyrant to lead your business to success? Steve Jobs was tyrant. The business world is famous for its difficult bosses. But there are plenty of bosses who prove that a more colloborative style is equally as successful.

Today, there are lots of employees cheering the end of the 17-year reign of this museum director. Yes, it took 17 years for her to fall from grace -- even after repeated complaints to human resources. Of course, by now, most of the employees with any sanity left have quit.

So, what if you don't have 17 years to spend with someone who makes your work life miserable? What if you don't want to dread coming to work on Monday? 

Changing jobs is always an option. When it comes to keeping your sanity and your stress levels in check, it's an important option. Now that job market is rebounding, it might be a good time to put feelers out. 

Another option might be to have a sit down with someone who has influence on your tyrant boss -- a company owner, a big customer, an investor, a managing partner. This is risky. But it can work if complaints are posed as problems with solutions and issues are posed as hurdles to the success of the company or department.


As for the tyrant boss/museum director who is now unemployed, I wonder if she has learned her lesson or still considers herself a fabulous leader.  I wonder if she will change her leadership style in her next job. I can't see it happening but I don't want to rule out the possibility for reform.

Have any of you seen a horrible boss who was able to be reformed? Do you think this woman's reputation as a tyrant will prevent her from getting another job?  How did you handle being bullied at work and did you outlast your bully boss?




April 24, 2014

Managing work and life as you move up the ladder


What if you’re the middle manager and your boss is making your staff miserable? What if his or her actions are wreaking havoc on everyone’s work life balance?  Do you confront him or her with constructive criticism? Or, do you direct your staff the way you want and ignore your boss’ behavior?

Yesterday, I got up close and personal with Leading Women in Broward, an initiative led by Laurie Sallarulo of the Leadership Broward Foundation. About 50 women were at the program and I heard some pretty interesting answers to the questions above. The discussion centered on managing up and down, taking risks, balance work and family and ascending to leadership.

 I learned that work life balance is a constant struggle for all business women at all career stages, and that being successful in most careers will require some politicking and risk taking.

Here are some things successful women shared that I found helpful:

  1. Have a mission statement. Make sure it includes what you live by now and what you aspire to live by. Stay focused on it. Keep it on your computer desktop so you can remind yourself what you should be focused on when you stray from your mission or find yourself climbing the ladder up the wrong wall?
  2. Leaders eat last – When you put your people or your team first, they become the kind of team that wants to follow you.
  3. Take risks – Have the attitude that you will try things. If a risk goes south, recognize it, get out and don’t be afraid to try again.
  4. Speak up carefully – sometimes you have to manage your boss. That means picking your battles, pausing and thinking carefully about the outcome you want to achieve.


Travisano (1)The highlight of the program was Jackie Travisano, executive vice president & COO of Nova Southeastern University. Jackie shared her amazing story of becoming a single mom at a young age,  pursuing her MBA degree, working as an accountant, remarrying, going to work in her husband’s business, landing jobs in higher education with progressively more responsibility, and making lots of tough decisions and personal sacrifices along the way. Today she manages thousands of employees and 11 departments. She also reports to NSU’s president and is accountable to all university stakeholders.

Here is her advice on managing up and down:

  1. When you’re at a crossroads, listen to your gut. Don’t let fear take over when you can achieve greatness.
  2. The key to managing lots of departments is to hire great people.  No one leader can compensate for an underperformer.
  3. Only attend meetings you need to be at. Let your people handle as much as they can.
  4. Lean In, but listen. Don’t react to those above you until you have truly listened. Find the right time to speak and do so confidently.
  5. When life doesn’t work out as planned, that’s okay. It’s great to have goals, but let life happen.
  6. There will be sacrifices that come along with leadership. Having the right ear can help make changes that make the workplace better for all.
  7. Have a sounding board, a champion, someone who will encourage you to reach for the stars.


What have been your experiences as a middle manager? How do you handle upper level management when those below you are complaining? When is it worth the risk to speak up? And, what do you think is the key to being a good leader?

April 23, 2014

Are we too busy for religion?

As we emerge from Passover and Easter, religion was on my mind. I noticed that more of my friends saw holiday celebration as an inconvenience or something they wanted to observe festively rather than religiously. It made me think about the future of religion and wonder as a society obsessed with busyness, are we too busy for religion? 

Here's my take on the topic from my Miami Herald column:


In our hectic, time-crunched society, religion has become less of a priority


Cantor Debbi Ballard has a “virtual” synagogue and takes her religious message on the road.
Cantor Debbi Ballard has a “virtual” synagogue and takes her religious message on the road. 


As worshipers packed churches on Easter Sunday, Rodman Armas crowded into the AmericanAirlines Arena with his 6-year-old son, Anthony, to cheer for the Miami Heat as its NBA playoff series began. Armas said he and his son had been looking forward to the game all week. “Going to church is not a big deal for us. We pray in our home,” Armas says.

While the lives of many Americans today are filled with going to sporting events, running kids to activities and answering email, studies suggest we’re squeezing in religion how and when it’s convenient — if at all.

“People are very busy, but it’s a matter of what they prioritize,” says the Rev. Tim Lozier, pastor of Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Jacksonville.

Clearly, in our hectic, time-crunched society, religion has become less of a priority. Study after study tells us that Americans are less religious than we used to be.

Just last week, a survey of 804 children by the Bible Society found that young people had little understanding of the true meaning of Easter, or of the Bible itself. The research triggered the Bible Society to launch a “Pass It On” campaign, challenging parents to help keep the Bible alive for future generations by telling stores each night over the Easter period.

Yet, a survey by the American Bible Society found a huge drop in the number of adults reading the Bible, most citing a lack of time.

For many of the worshipers who jammed churches on Easter Sunday, it was a rare appearance. The percentage of Americans who say they “seldom” or “never” attend religious services has risen in the past decade — to 29 percent from 25 percent a decade ago, according to Pew Research Center surveys.

Pew Research also has identified a movement toward Americans leaving religion in droves. One-fifth of all Americans — a significant number from anyone’s perspective — claim no affiliation when asked to state their religious preference. The number of people without religious affiliation has doubled in the past two decades. This is particularly true of millennials, our young generation and the nation’s future parents.

Some blame the Internet for Americans losing religion. Allen Downey, a computer scientist at the Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts, says the increase in Internet usage since 1990 has a significant correlation with the drop in religion.

Others point to factors such as the rise of working mothers, the increase of organized activities and homework, the 24/7 culture and the struggle for work/life balance.

Cristy Gutierrez says that for her family, all those factors are at play. She works full-time and has two kids on travel sports teams. She spends most weekends on the fields or courts. Although she is affiliated with a church, she rarely attends Mass: “I just don’t get enough out of it to make the time to go.”

Meanwhile, some religious institutions are trying to evolve — offering young adult services on Saturday nights, live streaming of services on the Internet, integration with social media and contemporary worship music.

“People are not too busy for religion if organized religion adapts to the way in which people are living their modern lives,” says Eric Stillman, president of the Jewish Federation of Broward County. “They don’t want the obligations that come with membership. They want to pick and choose what’s convenient and to do so in way similar to going to restaurant and ordering à la carte.”

For example, Stillman says the staying power of the Passover Seder is its informality and flexibility: “The exact time is not prescribed, and there’s no obligation for temple membership associated with it.”

Indeed, this year, to accommodate busy work and travel schedules, more American Jews held their Seders — the elaborate ritual meal at the heart of the eight-day holiday — on different nights, not only on the traditional first two nights, The Washington Post reported.

Lozier says people no longer feel compelled to build their personal schedules around attending religious services. They no longer feel “expected” to go to church on Sundays, nor compelled to go for a sense of community. Still, his Jacksonville church has a congregation of 700 families, many of them minorities, whom he continually coaxes to participate: “Even in our day to day busy-ness, we need God at some level.”

In South Florida, Cantor Debbi Ballard says she identified the change in attitude toward religion several years ago and has catered to it: “If you want people to affiliate, you have to show them how religion can fit and be balanced in their lives.”

For a decade, Ballard ( has run a “virtual” synagogue, meeting at hotels or community centers for families who find it easier than a bricks-and-mortar environment. She has served almost 500 families in Broward, Aventura and Boca Raton. This fall, she will launch a mobile Hebrew School concept that she hopes will attract even more families — taking religious learning directly to those who want it.

Read more....

 What are your thoughts on religion? Are families too scheduled to make time for it? Are religious institutions too steeped in tradition to accommodate working parents and busy families? Are young people finding spirituality outside of traditional religious affliliation?

April 17, 2014

Is your paycheck stressing you out?

Our paychecks aren't big enough and that's stressing us out. 

For the fourth year in a row, American workers told Neilsen our low pay is our biggest stressor. That makes sense because most of us haven't had substantial raises in more than five years. 

When you're struggling to pay the bills, typically the padding is gone that gives you the leeway to better balance your work and family life. Who can afford a babysitter when food and gas prices are going up and our paychecks aren't. 

So what can we do about it? Fortunately, it looks like there may be some hope of raises or a better paying job in the near future. Here's what some experts shared in my Miami Herald column this week:


Low pay





Workers at all income levels are frustrated that their workloads have increased but they haven’t seen a raise or hiring of more workers. Even as revenues have improved, for the past two years pay raises at private employers have hovered at around 2.8 percent and are expected to be only about 2.9 percent in 2014, according to global services firm Towers Watson. At the same time, the cost of living has gone up with housing, gas and food prices rising.

Career experts suggest we get aggressive and creative to fatten our paychecks. For skilled workers, the best route may be a new job. “One factor has decreased: the fear of being fired or laid off,” says Wendy Cullen of Everest College. “Now that there are more jobs, people aren’t afraid to start looking, but there is still a big question as to whether it is better someplace else.”

This may be the time to find out. “Slowly, companies are starting to compete for talent again and add to their headcount,” said Matt Shore, president of Steven Douglas Associates, a South Florida executive recruiting firm specializing in finance, accounting and information technology. “People who are in stagnant jobs are starting to look around and, in some cases, the market finally is telling them they can do better.”

For those stressed by low pay because of underemployment, negotiation may be necessary. After losing his marketing position at a bank, Jorge Espinosa saw his finances fray as he spent month after month in a job search. Now in a job that pays much lower than his previous one, his credit card debt has piled up. Espinosa says he has begun a new search but notices job ads reflect far lower salaries than what he previously earned. “It’s stressful to think I may be locked into a lower salary for another few years.”

Rather than get discouraged, one CEO suggests having a conversation with your boss. Most employers still have the mindset that workers are fortunate to have a job, admits Michael Rose, CEO of Mojo Media Labs, a Dallas Marketing Agency. However, Rose says certain arguments could justify a raise: “Come to your boss armed with information. Maybe you’re doing more than what is in the scope of the job description. Maybe you just got a certification. Maybe you can work on project or learn new skill set that will allow you to start in a new role that pays better.”

Even if negotiations don’t pan out, there is hope. Recruiters say salaries in some occupations are creeping toward pre-recession levels. Terri Davis, a Miami recruiter for a global software company that specializes in IT solutions for the travel industry, said that in her industry, job offers are about 20 percent higher than two years ago. Davis says job seekers also have a little room for pay negotiation: “When an employer extends an offer, they are evaluating it, and if they don’t feel it’s competitive enough, they are questioning the potential for a bonus — and getting it.”

All of us have some control over our paychecks, depending on how much we are willing to invest in ourselves, by adding to our skills, Cullen says. “I don't think you can ever eliminate all the factors that cause workplace anxiety, but as individuals, we can definitely create a plan of action to improve our careers and change our lives.”