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?
 
 
Carla

(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

                                                 Ideal

 

 

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

                                       Trapeze

 

 

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? 

March 13, 2015

Would you want a work life do-over? Hitting a milestone birthday

  50

This weekend I hit a huge milestone in life. I’m turning 50! 

That sounds old, doesn’t it?

Turning 50 marks a shift – physically and emotionally: My back aches a little. My flexibility is not what it was just a decade ago. My children are growing up, my parents are growing old and my home is getting emptier.

On the up side, I’m alive, healthy, working and happily married.

I look around and I see people accomplishing amazing feats in their later years of life. They are starting businesses, mentoring young professionals and advancing in their companies. They are traveling, taking up new hobbies and enjoying their romantic relationships in ways they didn’t have time for while raising their young children or that they put off for later.

Seeing others embrace their senior years has inspired me. When I recently read this week about Patrick Pichette, the 52-year old CFO of Google, who unexpectedly said he was retiring to get to the fun stuff he kept putting off for later in life, I understood where he was coming from.

Like most people my age, I have more wrinkles than I did a few years ago. I’m not going to lie, that bothers me.  But I also have a lot more confidence, direction and a new appreciation for the people in my life. 

After 50 years, I know now that fun and happiness are ageless. Betty While sure looks like she’s having a great time! At 64, Diana Nyad became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a protective cage, fulfilling her longtime dream -- and she's has lots more on her bucket list.

When I look at my peers, I see how easy it can be to get caught up in our Inboxes, our social media accounts, our work projects, and let the stress of our jobs overwhelm us. With half a century behind me, I’m beginning to realize life is too short to waste time being stressed or unsure of our priorities.

I ask myself: If offered a do over, would I take it? The answer is no. 

By now, I also have learned that life is not fair, that awful things happen to wonderful people and sometimes even courage and will power aren’t enough to defeat the odds. It’s that perspective that makes work life balance worth striving to obtain!

 

When I blow out the candles on my birthday cake, I will appreciate the blessings in my life and look forward to the great years ahead. There are no do-overs but there are all kinds of opportunities for 50 years olds who are open to taking them. That will be me, and if you’re creeping up on 50 -- or hitting another milestone in your life --  I hope it will be you too.

 

February 16, 2015

Stressed at the office? How to use mindfulness at work

Today I'm enjoying a day off for President's Day. I plan to stay in the moment with my kids, enjoy the beautiful South Florida weather and make the most of the day because it's so easy to let the stress of work take over our lives.

My guest blogger today provides some great insight into staying in the moment through a practice called mindfulness, giving us tips on how to use it in the workplace to stay zen instead of stressed. Charles A. Francis is the author of Mindfulness Meditation Made Simple: Your Guide to Finding True Inner Peace (Paradigm Press), and co-founder and director of the Mindfulness Meditation Institute. He also leads workshops and mindfulness meditation retreats through his company, MindfulnessMeditationInstitute.org.

These are simple techniques he shares but they can make a big difference in how we feel about work life balance.

Charles A FrancisHeadshot

4 Ways Mindfulness Can Beat Workplace Stress -- It’s as Easy as Taking a Walk

Workplace stress is an epidemic. The World Health Organization calls it a leading health problem in the United States. Stress takes a toll on productivity, memory, and concentration, and can trigger health, mental and emotional problems, turning a day at the office into an anxiety-ridden routine. But employees can break that pattern by practicing Mindfulness, even for a mere ten minutes, just a few times a week. It’s as simple as changing the way one breathes, walks, listens, and talks.

Mindfulness is a 2,500-year-old practice that trains the mind to become calm and focused. Based on straightforward techniques, it doesn’t take years to master. Employees can practice it during the most basic activities at work. Not only will it quiet the mind and improve performance and concentration, it has a great effect on office dynamics as well.

Here are four simple tips for beating workplace stress:

Take a breath.

Mindful Breathing slows down those racing thoughts and moments of agitation. It can be done anywhere, at anytime. First, stop what you’re doing. Then, take three to five breaths. As you take each breath, pay close attention, shutting out thoughts of anything else. Focus on the feeling of the air you’re breathing in and breathing out.  Count each breath. It will put you back in the moment, but in much calmer state.

Go for a walk.

We walk way more than we think we do, even at work. Practice Mindful Walking, and every walk you take is a chance to get calm and centered. Heading to the water cooler? As you walk, focus on each step, shutting out the rest of the world. Focus on the way your foot falls, and on the time it takes. Do this for three to ten steps, counting as you walk and being deeply aware of each step. And slow down: by slowing down your body, you force your mind to follow.

Listen closely.

Stephen Covey once said, "Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply." Deep Listening radically improves communication as we learn to focus on the conversation, instead of being distracted by second-guessing or getting a word in edgewise. First, start by looking into other people’s eyes as they’re talking. Pay close attention to what they’re saying. Fight the temptation to let your mind wander. By showing sincere interest in what the other person is saying, you’re also doing wonders for the relationship.

Choose words carefully.

The consequences of saying something thoughtless or regretful can be profound in the work environment. Mindful Speech is a way to choose the words that can create harmony instead. When responding to what someone’s just said, take a moment to reconsider the words you’ve chosen. Ask yourself: Are my words too reactive? Are they going to worsen an already tense situation? Try to choose words that are respectful, and kind. Just like Deep Listening, Mindful Speech can help heal the stressful workplace, replacing tension with transformation.

 

 

October 13, 2014

Workplace support important when breast cancer is a personal cause

This month, pink is everywhere. And that's a good thing. 

Look around your neighborhood and you will find all kinds of businesses supporting breast cancer awareness or sponsoring events to raise money for the cause. When there's a personal connection to the disease, those efforts take on new meaning. 

Throughout October, Scott Collins’ employees are wearing pink shirts in support of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month as they disperse across South Florida. Scott's wife, Lori, is battling breast cancer. At the end of the month, Affordable Window Cleaning Co. in Davie will donate a percentage of its profits to For The Gift of Hope, a South Florida foundation that helps local breast cancer patients with financial needs.

“I want to support my wife in every way I can,” Scott says. “My crew understands that.”

Some owners, like Scott, start small, asking employees to wear pink clothing or ribbons and to get involved in fund-raisers. Others, like Rocco Mangel of the popular Rocco’s Tacos, rally customers in a bigger way. Mangel raised $32,000 last year from an October promotion in which a portion of Tuesday night proceeds at all five restaurants went to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. (Rocco’s girlfriend’s mother, whom he is close to, is now fighting her second battle with the disease.)

The efforts of both represent more than just fund-raisers or awareness events. For spouses and family members of breast cancer patients, these are a way to ease heartache or show solidarity. Some small-business owners gain emotional support from signing up employees for local Race for the Cure teams.

Some take other approaches. Oscar Padilla says the annual cut-a-thon his Kendall salon helps him feel like a doer. A decade ago, Padilla said, he was “devastated” when his mother died of breast cancer. The memories of her rapid decline still sting, he says. “Anything I can do to spread awareness is gratifying.”

Every October, Padilla turns his Kairos Hair Salon pink for the month and donates 10 percent of sales from services and products to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. On Oct. 19, his 10 stylists will participate in a cut-a-thon with raffle prizes donated by neighboring vendors; “They see how important it is to me to give others the potential to survive.” The last three cut-a-thons raised about $3,000 each.

Breast cancer remains the leading cancer killer among women ages 20 to 59; more than 1.4 million cases are diagnosed annually worldwide. It is a life-changing event with repercussions that extend beyond the disease and treatment, and affect those who act as a support system.

If you see a business in your area supporting breast cancer, chances are high there's a personal connection. If you're an employee or customer who is asked to donate time or money, think about how much that support means.
 
Sherri Martens-Curtis, whose mother/business partner died of breast cancer, says she gets purpose from passionate colleagues and friends who participate in her fund-raisers and the knowledge that the money helps promote early detection: “For those of us with a personal connection, it’s that true collaboration that makes a difference.”
 

Scott collins

THINKING PINK: The wife of Scott Collins, above right, is being treated for breast cancer. Collins, owner of Affordable Window Cleaning, and employees wear pink in October, and some profits will aid The Gift of Hope.WALTER MICHOT/MIAMI HERALD STAFF



August 07, 2014

The business of work life balance

In my 12 years of writing about work life balance, I have watched it become a giant industry, and I would venture to say it is only going to get bigger. All of us are struggling to create boundaries with technology making that an increasing challenge.

I thought it was time to highlight the industry's evolution. Where do you think the industry is headed?

BY CINDY KRISCHER GOODMAN
BALANCEGAL@GMAIL.COM
At Perry Elllis corporate offices, a group of employees are gathered in the company conference room, stretching into various poses and and taking deep breaths. At the front of the room, a yoga teacher from Green Monkey gives instruction. In the increasing struggle for zen, yoga businesses like Green Monkey have discovered opportunity: a demand for restoring balance to stressed out workers.

The work/life balance industry now encompasses venders and consultants who make money selling services to employers increasingly concerned with wellness, engagement, morale and productivity. Workplace wellness alone has become a nearly $2 billion industry, projected to hit $2.9 billion by by 2016, according to a study by consultants IBIS World.

Newer to the scene are service providers who appeal to individuals — working mothers and fathers or stressed-out leaders — looking to take tasks off their plate, bring order to their lives or create easier ways to work remotely. The category includes personal shoppers and trainers, virtual assistants, meditation leaders, elder care consultants and life coaches.

What has changed most in the evolution of the industry is widespread acknowledgment that work/life balance is not a problem just for women or a concern that is going to be solved — but rather an ongoing challenge. “The recognition has made work/life balance the subject du jour,” says Jim Bird, founder of WorkLifeBalance.com. “It’s something people look at when considering a job or deciding whether to take a promotion and it’s probably the No. 1 reason people quit their jobs.”

Fueling the focus on work/life issues is research. Quantifying stress, distraction, perks, engagement and productivity has become a business in itself, with academics and consulting firms spitting out surveys on the factors behind dissatisfaction and turnover.

Inevitably the research points out one crucial finding: Employees are struggling more than ever before with the demands on their time. Though many companies remain reluctant to hire large numbers of new employees and beef up salaries, almost all large employers now survey employees on job satisfaction and work/life balance. Using results, the company typically goes on to provide some benefit to alleviate work/life friction and improve productivity.

“From an employer perspective, it’s no longer just about helping employees,” explains Rose Stanley, a work/life practice leader at WorkatWork, a nonprofit HR association for organizations focused on strategies to attract and retain a productive workforce. “It’s about tying it back into business strategy.”

Case in point: An estimated one million workers miss work each day because of stress, costing companies an estimated $602 per employee per year, according to HeathAdvocate.com.

Providers such as Bright Horizons Family Solutions are catering to employer demand. Twenty-eight years ago, when Bright Horizons CEO Dave Lissy approached a Fortune 500 company to offer on-site childcare to employees, the HR director’s first reaction was to ask why, he says. Today, “why “ is obvious and that same employer company now uses Bright Horizons Family Solutions also to provide employees with back-up elder care, elder care case management, sick-child care and other work life benefits such as college or educational advising.

“The core issue of child care remains a challenge for companies and their workers,” Lissy says. “What has changed is an acknowledgment of other key life-stage issues that cause the same friction. Companies now show more of an appetite to address those multiple issues.”

Bright Horizons, now a public company based in Watertown, Mass., has close to 1,000 corporate clients; in 2013, it grossed $1.2 billion in revenue. Lissy predicts even more growth. “Time is on our side. Those organizations who don't offer help with work/life concerns will be behind in a world where human capital is the competitive advantage.”

Emerging from the recession, employers are hiring vendors to structure flexibility programs as a tool for innovation rather than just as a benefit. They are tapping stress-reduction experts as a way to increase productivity.

Atlanta-based WorkLifeBalance.com is an 8-year-old company that sells training programs on time management, stress management and work/life balance, both online and on site. CEO Jim Bird said his company has seen an increasing interest from employers, not only of white-collar but also of blue-collar workers, who want to re-engage employees by helping them help themselves. “They are doing it for bottom line reasons,” he says.

Service providers who sell directly to individuals are finding success with a variety of approaches. In South Florida, for instance, Green Monkey has built its meditation/yoga business on the motto “Live in Balance,” targeting stress out workers of all ages and both genders. In six years, it has grown from one studio to three. It also has attracted more than 20 corporate clients with its on-site yoga programs.

Elizabeth King has found a niche in work/life conferences targeted at businesswomen. A licensed psychotherapist, King was running International Holistic Center in Fort Lauderdale when she noticed an increase in women suffering from adrenal fatigue. “They were stressed out and overwhelmed.”

Her answer: Suits, Stilettos and Lipstick, an annual conference in Fort Lauderdale addressing such concerns as making time for romance, health and spirituality. The event draws about 500 women. Her third conference, slated for Sept. 12, will focus on coping skills. “I want to help women build their careers without sacrificing their health and identities,” she says.

Of course, as the industry booms, new “consultants” are following the money. Some, such as life coaches and meditation instructors, may not have training or certification.

“Don’t fall prey to people who are not trained professionals,” King warns. “Work/life balance is a growing business, but if people are selective and ask the questions, only those vendors with experience and credentials will survive.”

April 15, 2014

Foods that help you de-stress? Who knew?

It's tax day and that might have some of you stressed out. But of course, we're always stressed.

Last week, I spoke at a luncheon and asked how many people in the audience had experienced stress in the last week -- to the point where they said out loud, or in their heads, "I'm so stressed!"

Almost everyone raised their hands. Including me. We have so many things that we're balancing that most of us feel close to the breaking point on any given day. 

So, I read with interest an article in The Miami Herald this morning that said there are foods that contain nutrients that nourish the adrenal glands, which produce cortisol and adrenaline, our stress hormones. 

Nutritionist/Dietician Sheah Rarback lists a few of the many nutrients important for healthy adrenals.

•  Vitamin C. The body’s highest level of vitamin C is found in the adrenal glands. Like all nutrients, vitamin C has multiple functions. In addition to adrenal support, vitamin C is a potent antioxidant, critical for wound healing and collagen production, and necessary for serotonin production. Great vitamin C foods are bell peppers, papayas, citrus foods, broccoli, pineapple and Brussels sprouts.

•  Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5). This might not sound familiar, but as a structural component of Coenyme A, B5 is vital for the proper functioning of the adrenal glands. Best foods for B5 are shiitake and crimini mushrooms, avocados, sweet potatos and lentils.

•  Omega 3 fatty acids. Best known for their anti-inflammatory benefits, omega 3 fatty acids also slow down the adrenal activation elicited by mental stress. Flaxseed, walnuts, sardines, salmon and soybeans are all rich in omega 3 fatty acids.

•  Magnesium. The stress that produces cortisol also produces the adrenaline that increases heart rate, blood pressure and muscle contraction. These reactions use up magnesium. Dark greens, beans, nuts and quinoa are terrific sources for maintaining adequate magnesium intake.

Sheah says it can be tasty to support the adrenals. A spinach salad with bell peppers, orange slices, sautéed shiitakes, avocado, walnuts, quinoa and olive oil vinaigrette beautifully supplies every important nutrient.

So, if you're feeling stressed. Here's permission to eat. Just stay away from the vending machine!

April 08, 2014

The secret weapon behind work life balance

We all  struggle for work life balance, but most of us don’t realize that sometimes the path towards achieving might be something so simple.

Some of the most successful people I know are sharing their secret weapon for remaining strong and finding balance. 

 

One of them is Donna Shalala. By her own admission, Donna Shalala is a workaholic. She is the president of University of Miami and has a resume that anyone would find impressive -- accomplished scholar, teacher and administrator. Her jobs titles include a stint working for President Bill Clinton as secretary of health and human services. While Donna doesn't have kids, she does take care of her elderly mother and oversees thousands of employees. Last week, I was at a luncheon in which Donna was asked about work life balance. 
 
The secret weapon, she says, is a good night's sleep. "The biggest mistakes I've made in my career happened because I was overtired," she told more than 400 women at a lunch sponsored by The Commonwealth Institute South Florida.
 
Coincidentally, or maybe not, Arianna Huffington, cofounder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, also is on a campaign to advocate for a good night's sleep. Her personal wake-up call came in the form of a broken cheekbone and a nasty gash over her eye -- the result of a fall brought on by exhaustion and lack of sleep. She wondered, "is this really what success feels like?"
 
 
Instead of bragging about our sleep deficits or how busy we are, Arianna urges us to shut our eyes and see the big picture: We can sleep our way to increased productivity and happiness — and smarter decision-making. The first step, she says, is getting 30 minutes more sleep a night.
 
So, there you go! Two powerful women are telling you that sleep is key to good decisions and our well being. If you're giving up sleep to get more done, it's time to change that habit. Arianna says sleep deprived women will learn the hard way the value of sleep as she did, especially when trying to see the big picture in business. 
 
As someone who is guilty of giving up sleep, I'm going to change my habits. I hope you will, too.