November 20, 2015

Does Thanksgiving Stress You Out?




It may just be me but I find Thanksgiving to be stressful. It started when I got my first job and I had to work the day after Thanksgiving. While everyone else seemed to be at the stores, I was stuck in my office. I stressed over whether to take a vacation day, whether to cut out early or whether to just grin and bear being an average American worker with limited time off.

As the years have gone by, there are so many additional aspects of Thanksgiving that stress me out -- the cooking, the setting up and cleaning up. And, of course there's the family dynamics to fret about. Someone is bound to say something that offends someone else. I have seen a simple compliment of a recipe lead to a big brouhaha.

This year, my husband is stressed over potentially overeating. He's trying to lose weight by year end and already is worrying that he won't be able to resist pumpkin pie. 

I have friends that are stressed over Thanksgiving travel. This year, travel experts predict more than the average travel craziness so there's good reason to be stressed.

I have friends in retail that are stressed about having to work on Thanksgiving and others who are stressed about whether or not to cut their holiday short and shop the sales.

Of course, even with all this stress, most of us need to realize that we have a lot to be grateful for. At a time when the world seems to be volatile, we are fortunate to be able to find a sense of peace and hope. 

I offer these five tips for making it through Thanksgiving with the least amount of stress possible.

1. Smile and nod. There is very little you can do to control your relatives. However, you can control how you respond to them. The other thing to remember is that when it comes to conflicts between family members, they don't necessarily need to involve you. Don't take sides and don't assume it's your job to resolve those conflicts on Thanksgiving. Practice self-control. Smile and nod and don't let anyone ruin your day.

2. Make your life easier. Order what you can. Make what you can. Ask for help with the dishes. Use paper, plastic and foil. If someone doesn't think your holiday meal is fancy enough, let them shop, cook and clean up.

3. Enjoy your company. My young cousin was around to celebrate Thanksgiving last year. This year he is gone. His death certainly made me more appreciative of the people at my holiday table and made me realize I want to make my meal last as long as possible. I can hit the sales the next day.

4. Take a walk. Let's face it, we probably will eat more than we should on Thanksgiving. We probably will find travel exhausting and we probably will deviate from our normal exercise routine. But taking a walk is an amazing stress reliever and great bonding time with family members. Do it, you won't be sorry!

5. Make a pact. Agree going into the Thanksgiving weekend that you will not argue -- not with your spouse, your friends, your parents, your cashier, the jerk in the parking lot who takes your spot or the pushy customer who butts in line in front of you. Telling yourself (and reminding yourself) you will stay zen regardless of what craziness you encounter will lead to a much more enjoyable holiday weekend.

Do you find Thanksgiving stressful? Have retailers added to our stress levels or made it easier by starting sales earlier?

November 03, 2015

Improve work life balance and fight cancer at the same time

As October came to a close, I began to miss the month when pink was everywhere. Still, it's great that at least one month a year, there is a focus on preventing and curing breast cancer. 

But now that November is here, there is no reason we should stop talking about cancer prevention, particularly when there are some easy things we can do to reduce the risk of cancer and improve our work life balance at the same time.

Dr. Pedro Serrano-Ojeda headshotDr. Pedro Serrano-Ojeda (CEO and Chief Radiation Oncologist of Caribbean Radiation Oncology Center in Doral) offers some suggestions that seem pretty doable:

Cut the sugar and exercise Obesity has surpassed the use of tobacco as a cancer causing factor. Making exercise a part of a daily routine can help minimize stress – make sure to leave the cell phone behind – and it makes for a healthy body.  Even just a brisk walk or light jog for 20 minutes a day will all help towards reducing the risk of cancer. 

Shop smart There are many household products – including certain shampoos – that contain parabens, such as sulfate, that could increase the risk of breast cancer.  There are many online resources that can help with finding products that do not have these elements, just a little bit of research before hitting the grocery store goes a long, long way. 

Read the label Using containers that are not suitable for the microwave can be a cancer-inducing practice. Cancer is an ancient and formidable enemy, yet there are some things we need to avoid in the modern world that will assist us in preventing the disease. Looking carefully at how we are using everyday products can make a difference.

Take Vitamin D– Women with breast cancer often have low levels of vitamin D so it is important to have a regular vitamin D check

Chill out Stress has a great impact on the body and predisposes it to cancer. It’s inevitable that sometimes situations will arise that will lead to stress, but if we stop and ask, “Is this item we are stressing over worth risking cancer for?” then I really think we wouldn’t sweat the small stuff.  

Live with purpose- As Einstein used to say, “Only a life lived for others is a life worth living.” And, as I say, “People do not die from old age, but people die when they stop dreaming.” So keep dreaming and keep living with purpose.

October 27, 2015

REI's Work Life Balance Move Gets a Big Thumbs Up

I already loved shopping at REI and now I love the outdoor/sporting goods company's CEO. REI President and CEO Jerry Stritzke announced he will close its stores on Black Friday and give all of the company's 12,000 employees a paid day off to enjoy the beautiful outdoors. 

Wow! What an amazing idea! It's not only an endorsement for the products his company sells, it also says something about his commitment to work life balance.

While its online sales will remain open, no sales will be processed until the next day. There will be a message on the corporate website encouraging people to spend time outside.  With the hashtag #OptOutside, REI will ask people to share what they're doing on Black Friday on social media. REI is hoping to convince consumers to start a new Black Friday tradition, one that encourages relaxation and fitness over stress and consumerism.

"Any retailer that hears this will be startled by the idea," says REI President and CEO Jerry Stritzke, who admits he was apprehensive about closing at first. "As a co-op ... we define success a little differently. It's much broader than just money. How effectively do we get people outside?"

Jerry Stritzke is taking a big gamble by closing on one of the busiest shopping days of the year. But it's a gamble I think will pay off. Imagine the good will he is creating with employees and customers who understand the message he is sending. 

"Somebody has to be the one to kind of put their flag in the sand and say enough is enough,"  Brian Harrower, store manager at the REI in Bloomington, Minn.,told USA Today. "That's what #OptOutside is for us, is saying we're going to be the first, we think this doesn't make sense anymore, it's not healthy. And an outdoor life is a healthy life."

Of course, the idea of closing on Black Friday was enthusiastically embraced by REI employees.

Here is Stritzke on CBS News on why the company is closing its stores on Black Friday:


"There's more to be gained from brand identity and showing our values than the money we will make on that one day!" he said.

What do think of REI's announcement? Do you think other retailers should do the same thing?

July 16, 2015

How weird would it feel to do a digital detox?



Have you ever gone away for a day -- a full 24 hours -- and not checked email or Internet?

I've done it and It felt kind of strange, like I was missing out on something. But at the same time, it felt good, like I actually got something done, even if that something was a day at the beach enjoying my family. The question is...can you make it more than a day without logging on to an electronic screen? 

First of all, why should any of us try it? After all, logging on is how we do business, keep in touch with friends and let the world know what we are up to.

There are a few reasons why it's worth trying.

The first reasons is our eyes. This morning I was reading an article about why our kids need digital detox. The article suggested all the screen time might be hurting our kids development growth and their eyesight. The article even quotes an eye doctor who is seeing more children than ever before with vision problems because of too much time in front of screens. I have trouble believing these problems are confined only to children. Are we setting ourselves up for a severe case of short-sightedness as we grow older?

The next reason is our brains.  A few weeks ago I read about digital amnesia. Our addiction to our smartphones has wreaked havoc on our short term memories. Most of us can't remember basic phones for family and friends. We rely on our cellphones to keep the information on file for us. Worse, we're no longer worrying about remembering information of any sort, figuring instead that we can just go the Internet to recall a fact. Experts wonder if we will completely lose our ability to memorize.

Another reason is our anxiety level. In our increasingly tech-dependent society, the emotional stakes are high. In a survey of 1,000 people, many said they would become “overwhelmed by sadness” if they lost their phone. Some even said they’d go into a panic. I would definitely fall into that category.

Now that we know why we should cut back on screen time, we need to figure out how to do it.

I'm realistic enough to know I could never go more than a few days without connecting to the Internet. But this year while on vacation, I am going to try to go a little longer than I have in past years. And, I'm going to try to try to enforce "No Internet Saturdays." That's my version of digital detox.

Frances Booth writes in Forbes that ideal digital detox is 24 hours. She says all it takes is turning the power button to off on our digital devices. Easy! Not so easy?

She offers some steps: Remind yourself why you want to detox, choose a realistic time (not when you're super busy at work), announce it on your social media sites, plan something enjoyable to keep you focused. You might also warn your parents and friends that they shouldn’t take it personally when you don’t text them back or like their picture right away.


Give digital detox a try and let me know how it goes.  It might feel weird at first. But then, it might feel great!

July 10, 2015

Why I'm considering standing while working

My lower back is killing me. So, when I began to hear people talking about standing desks, I was intrigued. 

I thought standing while working would be tiring. But the people I spoke to who have standing desks say it's actually invigorating, especially after lunch when most of us hit our afternoon slump.

Here's my Miami Herald article on the standing desks:


Miami wealth manager Adam Carlin has a more invigorating afternoon routine than those of us who retreat to our cubicles after lunch and sink into our desk chairs. Carlin spends his afternoons on his feet at his standing desk: “I feel so much healthier.”

The emphasis on wellness outside of work has shifted inside, and desk dwellers are the new target. With research showing Americans sedentary lifestyle taking a toll on our health, a trend toward standing desks is gaining ground as the U.S. workforce continues to shift to office-based work. People who use standing desks say the benefits are fewer backaches, more energy and a boost in productivity, allowing them to leave work in better a mood and with more work completed.

To avoid foot pain, users are switching it up, opting for desks or workstations that allow them to adjust the height, either electronically or manually. Throughout the day, depending on the task, they find a comfortable balance between sitting, standing and moving.

Carlin bought his standing desk two years ago after noticing the trend had infiltrated New York’s financial offices. He initially saw a standing desk as a way to alleviate back pain, but he quickly discovered it also helped him avoid the afternoon slump. Returning from lunch, he raises his desk that holds a keyboard and two monitors and reads research or talks on the phone while standing. Carlin said it was an adjustment, at first, for his feet, but after a short while, he found that standing gives him a second wind: “It feels like it’s how I should be situated, not trapped at a desk, unable to move around.”



Once upright, most standers tend to move around their work spaces. Miami publicist Sissy DeMaria of Kreps DeMaria PR began using a standing desk two years ago. She still does tasks like writing notes or signing checks while sitting down, but she tackles other responsibilities like writing press releases or reviewing proposals while standing up. She stands most of the day and notices that she moves easily around the office and interacts more with her employees: “When you’re sitting, it’s an effort to get up out of your chair. When you are standing, it’s easy to go over to the printer or to someone’s office to ask them a question.”

The research in favor of standing desks is rising with their popularity. Experts have found the effect of sitting all day for years is associated with a range of health problems, from obesity to diabetes to cancer. One study published in the British Medical Journal found that spending less time sitting could help people live longer by preventing their DNA from aging. Another published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute contends that spending less time sitting could reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. Experts quoted in the British Journal of Sports Medicine said Americans should stand, move and take breaks for at least two out of eight hours at work.

The shift to standing desks started in home offices but has spread to varied workplaces. Employers such as Google and Intel offer standing desks as part of an employee-wellness program to those workers who request them. Priority Health in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has given all of its 1,200 employees sit-to-stand desks. And in June, Westin launched a pilot program to offer treadmill desks to business travelers in guest rooms at its Chicago hotel.

It is difficult to quantify how large the standing desk/treadmill desk sector is, but it is growing at an impressive rate, both in terms of buyers and suppliers, according to Ron Wiener, CEO of, a manufacturer of adjustable-height standing desks, sit-stand meeting tables and treadmill desks. Weiner, who also hosts the website has a full showroom in Bellevue, Washington. “We see new vendors and new products popping up almost daily in this category,” Weiner says.

At a recent office furniture trade show, Wiener says the number of desk manufacturers that were introducing new height-adjustable versions of their office desk furniture caught attendees’ attention. “There were literally dozens of desk manufacturers and component vendors unveiling new sit-to-stand desks in every shape, color, material and size imaginable,” he says. Adjustable-height or standing desks range from about $400 to $1,000. Some companies offer conversion kits that turn a regular desk into a sit-stand desk for a price tag of around $300.

Jeanne Becker, senior vice president at Miami’s Wragg & Casas, spent months researching options before purchasing a standing desk last month. Meanwhile, she rigged her computer atop a pile of magazines to test the concept and noticed an improvement in her lower back. “It’s been a relief to stand for a while,” she says.

Of course, buying the desk is just the first step toward better health. There are people who buy a traditional sit-stand desk and don’t move it out of the sitting position after the novelty wears off, according to industry research. Now, Weiner sees innovation around the next phase: cloud-based technology that measures the time workers spent sitting or standing at their adjustable desks, prods them to stand more often, and finds user patterns. “When you have the ability for companies to tell whether this is a good investment, that’s the inflection point,” Weiner says. Already, Stir, a California manufacturer, has created a kinetic desk that tracks when you are sitting or standing and can be programmed to nudge users to stand up and move more.

For office dwellers who want more movement, treadmill desks are catching on, too. Sharlyn Lauby, owner of a South Florida management training and HR consulting firm, says that when she would get busy with work, the first thing that would go by the wayside were her trips to the gym. She bought a treadmill desk to fit exercise into her work-life balance. Now, she starts her workday with 45 minutes at her treadmill desk doing simple activities such as reading news stories, checking social media, conducting online research, and listening to webinars or podcasts. “I won’t say it’s a replacement for a desk, but it definitely is an opportunity to move more activity into my day,” she says.


Lauby recently joined a LinkedIn group for treadmill desk users. The group’s 170 members are standing or walking while working as architects, real-estate appraisers, marketing consultants, software developers, corporate trainers and high school teachers. Discussion centers on everything from the best shoes to wear or floor mat to use to where to go to try out new models. Lauby, who wrote about her new treadmill desk on her HR Bartender blog, says they may not be for everyone, but she has gotten her return on investment: “We’re all busy, so for anyone who wants more activity in their day, these desks are a great way to get it.”


June 03, 2015

How to be healthier at work


As I slipped on my shorts and t-shirts to brave the summer heat, I got mad at myself for indulging during the winter months. As I do most summers, I vowed again to be healthier. For the last few days, I am eating more fruits and vegetables and forcing myself to exercise at least every other day.

I'm sure I'm not that different than the rest of American workers who get a dose of reality when they peel their jackets and slacks off to celebrate the summer months and suddenly notice cellulite that we hadn't noticed a few months ago.  So what can we do about our exercise and eating habits when we work hard for a living? If you're like me, it's so easy to say, "I just don't have time for exercise."

Sue Blankenhagen_CeridianMy guest blogger today is Sue Blankenhagen, Wellness Program Specialist & Certified Wellness Coach with Ceridian LifeWorks ( I happen to be a work life blogger for Ceridian LifeWorks)

Sue notes that while we benefit from a healthier lifestyle, our employer benefits as much as we do.  Reserach shows employees who spent 30-60 minutes at lunch exercising boost their workplace performance by 15%, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. Additionally, 60% said their time management skills and ability to meet deadlines improved on the days they exercised.

Here are some of Sue's suggestions for how we can become healthier and still have work life balance:


1. Get moving:

·         Take a brisk walk for just 30 minutes a day or choose the stairs over the elevator. Schedule and participate in “walking meetings.” If you are planning a face-to-face meeting with a colleague and you do not need access to a computer, plan to walk around your building while you meet.

·         Schedule and participate in “walking meetings.” If you are planning a face-to-face meeting with a colleague and you do not need access to a computer, plan to walk around your building while you meet.

·         Get your heart pumping by taking the stairs to another level. Walk laps on one of the floors or go outside and walk around the building perimeter or campus.

·         Taking a walk during the day with a co-worker while in a meeting or during a break - even if just for 15 minutes - will re-energize you and help to clear your head so you can remain focused and productive.

·         Try measuring your progress to help you stay motivated. Use a device to record the number of steps you take each day to help you keep track of your fitness goals.

2. Fit exercise into your busy schedule while at work.

·         Sitting at a computer all day can strain the upper body causing back and shoulder pain. Use a standing desk, or purchase an adjustable platform to be able to use your laptop in a sitting or standing position.

·         Use an app on your phone, tablet or computer to remind yourself to get up from your chair and stretch during the day. While you are sitting, make a conscious effort to pull your shoulders back to encourage good posture, rather than remain hunched over your computer.

·         Give up your desk chair for an exercise ball. Sitting on an exercise ball will keep your back straight, force you to use your core muscles and serve as inspiration to stretch more often. You may also want to bring some light weights or stretch bands to work (keep them under your desk) so you can do arm exercises/curls while on phone meetings, behind closed doors.

·         Look for apps or YouTube videos with 5-10 minute workouts that can be done in the office, with no equipment.

·         Have sneakers and workout clothes at your desk or in your car, so you can take a walk or go to the gym right from work. Have a few travel-size toiletries at your desk to freshen up with after a lunchtime workout or walk. Or coordinate with co-workers to have a communal stash of toiletries in the ladies or men’s room, including spray deodorant, powder, wipes, hairspray, a blow dryer, etc.

·         Get your co-workers involved.  Create interoffice health and fitness challenges to spark some motivation and friendly competition amongst colleagues


3. Keep nutrition in mind.

·         Supply the office pantry and fridge, or your desk drawer, with healthy (yet still budget-conscious) snacks such as fruit, nuts, etc.

·         Offer healthier versions of treats as an alternative for celebrations.

·         Bring a water bottle or cup to work, and be sure to drink your water.


4. Look for ways to decompress mentally, not just physically. 

·         For stress relief, put up photos, bright fabric, or other visual items that make you smile and reduce your stress level.

·         Take a music break, or listen to music that you enjoy during the workday – making sure not to cause a distraction to your co-workers. If allowed, use ear buds to listen to your favorite music.

·         Find a restful spot for lunches or breaks, where you can take a few minutes to relax and recharge.

·         Practice random acts of kindness in the workplace. Send someone a thank you email, recognize them with employer-sponsored rewards programs, leave a healthy treat on someone’s desk – anything to brighten someone’s day. You never know when it will be your turn to be on the receiving end.

·         Smile more! The act of smiling, whether on the phone or when meeting others, can automatically put you in a happier state of mind. Who knows – your smile might make someone’s day.

For employers, Sue suggests considering providing resources, such as LifeWorks Employee Assistance and Wellness programs, to help employees struggling with their health on a more personal level. 

I just read an article on that suggest employers help us become healthier by blending healthy breaks into our work day rather than restricting our self-care to non-work hours. To me, that's the ultimate incentive. What are your thoughts? 

How involved do you want your employer to become in your health? Do you want your employer to help make exercise part of your work day,  or would you rather have your employer encourage you by giving you a flexible schedule that allows exercise and relaxation on your own time?


May 12, 2015

How Should Sheryl Sandberg Handle Grief at Work? Advice from former LiveNation CEO Jason Garner

My heart goes out to Sheryl Sandberg with the tragic loss of her husband, Dave Goldberg. Dealing with the death of a loved one is difficult but even more so when you return to work and try to carry on while knowing everyone is tip-toeing around you.

Today, my guest blogger is Jason Garner who will talk about dealing with grief in the workplace, sharing his very personal experience.  Jason says when his single mother, who struggled and sacrificed while raising him, died from stomach cancer,  he lacked the tools, support, and understanding to get through the grieving process. Garner’s book And I Breathed (2014) tells his cautionary tale  and he has lots of advice, tips and insight for people like Sandberg who must readjust their work life balance and fit grieving into the equation.


  Smaller Jason headshot-1

Six years ago I was the CEO of Global Music for Live Nation, the world’s largest concert promoter … and then my mom died.  My life took a drastic turn as I found myself unable to deal with the crippling grief while continuing my duties of overseeing thousands of employees and live concerts around the globe.  I lacked the tools, support, and understanding to get through the grieving process, and have spent the last six years on a journey to better understand myself.  I’ve spent thousands of hours learning with masters of body, mind, and spirit with the hope that by sharing what I’ve learned, others won’t have to face life alone like I did.

Dealing with the death of a loved one is a complex and difficult experience full of powerful emotions.  Experts say the grieving process takes around three years for us to heal, understand, and accept life absent a person we deeply loved.  I’ve learned this process is necessary and can’t be rushed.  But few of us have three years to pull ourselves together before getting back to the pressures of work.  This is where simple tools can be valuable in helping us cope with our grief as we return to work after a loss. 

Following are ten tools that can help us better function in our jobs while dealing honestly with the pain and loss that comes with death.

  1. Be real.  Grieving is tough.  Our hearts are filled with emotion that often comes spilling out in the form of tears, anger, and lack of patience with others. Accepting this fact and giving ourselves permission to be human in the process relieves the tension of trying to “gut our way through it,” “put on a game face,” or “just move on.”  Have patience and compassion with yourself and set the tone for how you hope others will deal with you during this process by being kind and understanding with yourself.
  2. Breathe. When we are going through pain we often hold our breath in the fear that letting go might lead to us breaking down.  In reality though, the body interprets the holding of the breath as an emergency, which causes our bodies to feel even more stress and pressure.  Take frequent breathers — regular intervals where you remind yourself to breathe deeply — and send the soothing message to your body that all is well.
  3. Move. The grieving process is filled with emotion, which is stored in the body as adrenaline.  This stagnant adrenaline is the cause of the racing and trapped feelings we often feel under stress.  Movement allows the body to release the pent up emotions and promotes flow.  Find time in the day to move: take a walk, stretch, do yoga, or just stand up and move your body to allow the stagnant emotions to move and release.
  4. Cry. Crying on the job is often seen as taboo.  But when we spend half our day at work, it’s bound to happen at one point or another, especially when we are mourning the loss of a loved one.  Bursting into tears can be embarrassing and can cause alarm to our coworkers.  So find a safe space and time — in the bathroom, at the park on your lunch break, or for a couple of minutes in your car — and give yourself permission to let go, to really cry, and to feel the sadness that naturally comes with death instead of bravely trying to hold it all in.
  5. Share. Sometimes during life’s challenges we behave as though we’re the only one having problems.  So we bottle our troubles up inside and try to be superhuman.  The result is rarely positive and eventually we break down, feeling misunderstood, alone, and isolated.  The reality is, though, that many people are going through challenges at the same time.  Death in particular is an experience to which we can all relate.  Be open with your boss and coworkers.  Share your challenge with them, ask for the patience, and allow yourself to be supported.
  6. Sleep.  Getting enough rest is a powerful way to help regulate your emotions.  Be sure when you’re grieving to plan for extra sleep.  Pulling all-nighters at work or with friends is a sure way to leave your emotions frazzled and increases the likelihood of a breakdown on the job.  Make it a point to shut down work at a reasonable hour and give yourself ample time to rest and relax.
  7. Get away.  Many employers offer some kind of leave following a death.  Even if your job doesn’t have a formal policy for leave, talk to your supervisor and ask for some time.  A few days away from work to process your loss and let your emotions out in private can go a long way in making your return to work less emotional and more productive.
  8. Get help. For many of us, our job has become all-encompassing and we have little time for friends, family, or hobbies.  While grieving, this adds another element to the challenge of coping at work because we lack outside outlets where we can share our feelings.  Find a friend, family member, or therapist and allow yourself the chance to vent your feelings so you don’t have to carry so much to work.
  9. Meditation. Even if you’ve never practiced meditation, the grieving process is a good time to start.  A few minutes of silent meditation gives you a break from the stress of the day to be present to yourself and your emotions. Don’t worry about how to do it; just sit, close your eyes, breathe, and give yourself a little space.
  10.  Be tender. Be tender and gentle with yourself even if the world around you isn’t understanding.  Share words of encouragement, give yourself space and patience, and don’t add extra stress by taking on new responsibilities or obligations.  Most of all, understand that you’re going through a major life event and give yourself love and compassion along the way.


Remember: you aren’t alone.  The process you’re going through is one that everyone faces at one time or another. Use these tools as trusted friends to lean on when times are tough.  And above all be kind and gentle with yourself as you grieve. 


May 06, 2015

The cost of your commute on your work life balance


Two weeks ago, I did a 45-minute commute to a conference in Miami for two days. I tried to stay calm during my drive, but I couldn't believe how often I got cut off by other cars, honked at for no reason and stuck behind trucks dropping stuff on my car.

I found myself asking out loud several times, "How do people do this every day?"

Commuting is stressful so the incentive needs to be there -- better pay, great co-workers, flexibility, a job you love or one where you have built up seniority.  Some people are willing to make the commute to live in a nicer neighborhood or one with better schools.

But as the economy rebounds and traffic worsens, people are less willing to put up with a stressful commute. Commuters are once again negotiating with bosses and changing jobs to cut back on the time they spend on the road. 

Research shows that the longer a person’s commute, the more profound the effects on personal well-being and life satisfaction. Spending hours in a car, day after day can be a drain on productivity and happiness. To improve work/life balance, attorney Patricia Ferran looked at her options and found a job closer to her home-- slimming her commute from 60 minutes to 10.  “Now I can sleep more and go out at night with friends because I’m not as tired.”
A 2013 Census Report shows that more than 1.5 million American workers commute 90 minutes from work to home, a time toll that can make it a struggle to put dinner on the table, pick the kids up from childcare, make it to an exercise class, or have downtime before going to sleep and doing it again the next day.
Jorge Alvarez of Albion Staffing says job candidates are specific that a new position be in close proximity of their home or where they have childcare, Gonzalez says. Lately, he has been getting more rejections from job candidates who don’t want to drive the distance — even with the promise of a higher salary. “Employees now have choices, and they will turn down an amazing job because the commute is out of what they consider comfortable.”
It wasn’t primarily the distance or time that led Susan Greene to change jobs — it was the stress and toll on her health. She had been commuting an hour each way for her job as marketing director of a law firm. Two weeks ago, Greene took a new job as chief marketing officer for The Beacon Council, about 10 minutes from home. “It’s liberating,” she says. “I can make dinner plans. I am so much happier.”
One women I spoke with says the tradeoffs are worth it. She tries to shake off the stress before she walks into her office.   Angela Foskolos told me she added about two hours of driving to her day when she took on a new position with her company, a currency exchange near the Miami International Airport. Foskolos said her cross-counties commute is a tradeoff for a higher salary and additional experience, but mostly she endures it because she likes her co-workers: “Everyone is in an upbeat mood, and the environment is positive. It makes me happier to do the drive.”
A lot of managing the daily commute comes down to making compromises — in terms of limiting where you take a job, what kind of job you take, what neighborhood you live in and the nearby schools, and which partner in a dual-income household sacrifices personal time. “For some of us, commuting to our jobs is just a normal way of working,” South Florida commuter Lynn Holtsberg says.
How does the commute affect your work life balance? As the economy rebounds, are you considering a job closer to home?

(Above: Carla Vertesch was able to work out an arrangement to leave her television production job earlier, allowing her more time for her commute to pick her children up from aftercare. The Vertesch family owns CertaPro Painters of Central Miami and counts on Carla's income as their family business gets off the ground.)


April 27, 2015

The ideal worker is ruining our lives




The idea worker is not me and it likely isn't you.

The ideal worker doesn't take parental leave when a child is born. He or she has no need for family-friendly policies like flexible schedule, part-time work or telecommuting. The ideal worker doesn't need to find babysitters, deal with school closures or worry about child-care responsibilities.

The ideal worker, freed from all home duties, devotes himself completely to the workplace. He or she is a face-time warrior, the first one in in the morning and the last to leave at night. He or she is rarely sick, doesn't take vacation and is willing to hop on a plane whenever needed. The ideal worker will answer email at 3 a.m. or pull an all nighter if asked. He is the guy who works endless hours, even if it cost him or her their health or family. 

In her book, Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play when No One Has Time, Brigid Schulte brilliantly points Overwhelmed-TPBookshot-250x372out that the notion of the ideal worker wields immense power in the American workplace. "We are  programmed to emulate him at all costs, or at least feel the sting of not measuring up," she notes.

Here we are in the 21st Century, one in which most women and men work and most have some kind of home responsibilities. Yet, as Brigid points out in her book ( a must read!) most of us are being penalized because we can't meet the expectations of the ideal worker. 

This outdated notion of the ideal worker is a big reason why some education mothers disappear from the workplace and why some men hate their jobs. "Fathers are stigmatized when they seek to deviate from the ideal worker," Brigid writes. That leaves men with children faced with a sharp choice -- either they choose not to be equal partners at home or they choose to be equal partners and hurt their careers, she writes. 

What's it going to take to zap this longtime definition of the ideal worker?

That's a loaded question because with fast emerging technologies, the ideal worker is now expected to be on call and ready to roll all day, every day, all the time. Even worse, people who work for ideal worker managers sleep less than those who have flexible managers and are at great risk for heart disease, Brigid points out.

"No matter how much you do, how hard you work, how much you sacrifice, how devoted you are, you can never attain the ideal," Brigid convincingly argues.

So, here we are raising our kids, trying to please our customers and bosses, working crazy hours, and still, the workplace demands more. We are stressed. We are exhausted. We are on an unfulfilling search for happiness and we need a new definition of the ideal worker. NOW.

My definition of the ideal worker is someone who gives work his or her full attention while at the office and refuels once he or she leaves. My definition includes working parents who take their vacations, fathers who take their children to school or meet with their teachers, and singles who take time to do activities they find enjoyable. Under my definition, the ideal worker doesn't necessarily work less, he workers smarter and more innovatively.

If the outdated notion of the ideal worker is ruining your life, causing you to be overwhelmed and unsure of whether you can ever please everyone on the job and at home, it's time to work toward change. We can make the new definition stick, we just need to acknowledge it needs changing and get the movement started. 

April 16, 2015

Take a pause, Get in flow, Learn to play




Have you ever heard of flow? Let me describe it to you....

Picture yourself on a surfboard, riding a wave. You are living in the moment, utterly absorbed in the feel of the board on the water, the sound of the wave and the splash of the ocean on your face.  Time seems to fall away. You are tired, but you barely notice. According to Steven Kotler, what you are experiencing in that moment is known as flow, a state of complete immersion in an activity. 

When you're in flow, your attention is focused and you are capable of amazing things,  every action flows effortlessly and innovation gets amplified. 

Flow experiences can occur in different ways for different people. A writer might experience this when working on a novel and the pages seem to write themselves. A basketball player might experience it when he gets into the zone, undergoes a loss of self-consciousness and focuses only on his shot from center court.

Flow states are now known to optimize performance, enhance creativity, drive innovation, accelerate learning and amplify memory.

The happiest people have flow. I don't have flow. I have stress. I am walking around with a to-do list that never gets shorter and I'm always thinking about ten things at the same time.

But I can get flow and so can you.

I bet you're thinking, "How in the world would I do that?" That's what I was thinking when I heard Steven Kotler speak about flow earlier this week at Human Capital Media's  Chief Learning Officer Symposium in Miami. Steven wrote  the book "The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance and says we can tap flow at work, home, or skiing down a mountain.

Here are a few of Steven's suggestions for triggering flow: Choose your own challenges, Put yourself in an unpredictable environment, stretch yourself just slightly greater than your skill set, embrace solitude, be aware of your senses, engage in serious concentration.

After hearing Kotler speak, I wandered into a nearby room at the conference to hear Yogi Roth talk about finding your inner grit. Roth, calls himself an Aventure-preneur (don't you love that title!) From Roth, I learned that I don't pause enough to think about my personal style, my vision, my theme and my philosophy.  I want to pause more, and think about these things. I want inner grit.

To get it, Roth says I must make sure how I describe myself, how my best friend describes me and how my mentor describe me are the same. I will start working on that...

Thanks Yogi, good stuff to know.

Most important, from Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time and the final speaker at the conference, I learned that I don't take enough time to play. When is the last time you jumped on a trampoline, glided through air on a swing or climbed a tree? For me, it's been way too long ago. So, if I want work life balance and a less stressful life, I must learn to play. I like the idea of playing more, don't you? At Patagonia,  managers have their meetings while hiking mountains and people take time in the afternoons to surf with co-workers. I love that concept -- play at work.

Do you know that in some parts of the country  there are women's play groups? Yes, these women get together weekly for playdates for a fun activity -- they trapeze, rock climb and bike ride. How cool is that!

Clearly, I have a few things to work on if I want to up my game. 

What are your thoughts on flow, grit, and play? If you have tapped into flow or found a way to fit play into your day, I want to hear from you. How do you make these concepts a reality?