November 18, 2015

Finding Work Life Balance And Hating It




The other day I met a friend for lunch. She is finally in a job that has normal work hours, one that allows her to make lunch plans and have dinner with her family. She no feels exhausted or has a high level of responsibility at work. But she is miserable.

"I miss feeling excited about going to work every day," she told me. "I found work life balance, but I thought I would enjoy it more."

My conversation with my friend replayed in my mind this morning when I read a Huuffington blog post by Erin Blaskie. In the post Erin writes that after being a entrepreneur for 12 years, she burned out and thought that more balance was the answer. So, she decided she would concentrate on a year of self care. What she discovered when she scaled back in her business to a more manageable size, was that being less than all in made her miserable.

In her post she writes: "Stepping out of my craft, to focus on everything but work, created a hole in my soul where my business used to be. It created a void and I filled it with negative behaviors." She describes those behaviors as experiencing envy at what her colleagues were doing and questioning everything she had done in her business for the last 12 years. Even though she was able to take nights and weekends off, she was not happy. 

"The truth was, I wanted my business, my purpose and my passion back, " she writes. Erin says she began to ramp up again in her business and felt happier. "When you've found your calling, work fuels your life and your life fuels your work."

What Erin and my friend have come to realize is that work life balance will look different to everyone and sometimes when you do find balance, it doesn't look like the balance that everyone else says it should.

Erin said it well: Look for the version of work/life balance that is going to work for you.

I often hear from readers and friends who have tipped the scale one way or the other between work or life -- and they are happy. Balance doesn't have to be an equilibrium. Remember there will be times in our lives when responsibilities require we spend more time caring for family or our own needs. And, there will be times when we need or want to devote more attention to work. Work life balance means making choices that are best for us and not those choices we think we are supposed to make.



November 12, 2015

Would You Take Your Parents to Work?


(Fiorella, a design coordinator at Stantec, and her parents, Angel and Marlene)



For the last few years, parents have taken then daughters and sons with them to work to give them a glimpse at what their work day is like. Indeed, Take Your Child to Work Day has become well celebrated nationwide.

Three years ago, LinkedIn started Bring Your Parents Day after finding about a third of parents don't understand what their children do for work. That's kind of a big deal when about a third of all millennials still live with their parents

I admit that at first I thought the whole thing was a little ridiculous...I wondered if this was just another extension of over-involved parenting. But I have learned a little more about what the day is about and have changed my mind. 

Last Thursday, Stantec in Miami, an engineering, architecture and interior design firm, invited its employees to bring their parents with them to work for the day. 

Architect and Senior Principal Jon Cardello of Stantec in Miami gave them a tour and answered questions. “Stantec recognizes that parent support plays an important role in employee job satisfaction. When parents visit their children’s place of employment, they will better understand their child’s profession and encourage their workplace goals,” Cardello said.

Fiorella Mavares, 28, lives at home and often works long days and late nights as a design coordinator at Stantec. She brought her parents with her to the office to give them a feel for what she does and why she's challenged with work life balance.

"They saw everyone working and meetings going first they were a little overwhelmed, but they liked it," Fiorella says. "It helped them understand why I stay late so much and the level of difficulty of stuff we do."

Fiorella says she took her parents with her to an internal meeting for a project her firm is working on in Wynwood. "They sat there and they realized, it's not only artsy stuff we're doing, there are legal issues and zoning codes and technical stuff we're involved with as well.

Both of Fiorella's parents work. Dad works as a realtor and mom as a mortgage broker. Still, Fiorella says spending time at her office made them more supportive and proud of what she does for a living. 

Last year more than 50 businesses opened their doors to more than 20,000 parents. I wonder whether it made any difference -- or further reinforced why some of us are miserable in our jobs.

Whether you bring your child, your parent or even your spouse with you to work for the day, seeing you in your work environment, meeting the people you work with and experiencing the challenges you encounter can help to build an understanding. The truth is we all need to feel supported by the people when live with. 

What do you think your family member would learn about your work day by coming to your workplace? Is it anything they don't already know?

November 05, 2015

Is there a such thing as work life balance?



At least once a week, someone will tell me they don't believe in work life balance. This week it was Maryam Banikarim, global chief marketing officer of Hyatt Hotels Corp., a risk taking, change maker with two teenagers at home.

When I began my conversation with Maryam, one of the first things she said to me was:  "I don't believe in work life balance."

Then, she added:  "I think we juggle lots of different things, and make different tradeoffs at different times in our lives so we never really have balance." Balance implies there is an equilibrium, she told me. "At different times something gives. I recognize family is important, but there are moments when I make a different decision because something is urgent at work."

In other words, Maryam believes what I do. That balance isn't about a moment in time but rather about the big picture in life. It's about fast forwarding to when you turn 100 and you ask yourself, "Was my life fulfilling?"

Yet, balance is something all of us chase. And we should.

For her new job with Hyatt, Maryam has relocated her family to Chicago. For now, her work and home lives both present a challenge, particularly with her son and daughter in high school. "Kids need different things at different times. When they get older, your presence is required in a different way," she explained to me and I agreed.

Maryam says in the first few months of her new job, she tried not to travel for work while her husband and children acclimated. "It's a challenge when you move your family for your work. You have to be empathetic to the people who are part of your journey."

Opportunities to make purposeful change at companies have always presented themselves to Maryam who says she uses this motto to guide her career decisions. "You only live once so I want to have left the world in a better place than I found it." 

Maryam made her recent leap into hospitality after working in the media industry, book publishing, consulting and sales. Her prior job was the chief marketing officer at Gannett Co.  She says jumping into a new industry is easier than one might think.  “You just have to have confidence your skills will translate."

Throughout her career, Maryam has held leadership roles and navigated through common challenges many women in executive positions face. Now as Hyatt’s CMO, she is responsible for bringing the company’s brands and experiences to life while initiating innovation around the guest experience and driving growth. Her main task has become differentiating Hyatt’s nine brands in the hospitality marketplace.

“When you come from the outside you look at things from a different lens. You might see different opportunities,” she said. “But it’s a combination of the view from outside, plus the expertise of those who know the business coming together that help you see a new path forward.”

Her secret to leadership: "You need to have people around you who have different backgrounds ... people who aren’t afraid to voice their opinions.”

As a leader, she has no qualms about voicing her opinions -- or taking risks.

Because she grew up in Iran during turbulent times, Maryam says she has a higher risk tolerance than most people and excels at ushering companies through purpose-driven change. For her, an ideal job is one where she can learn and have significant impact. She once told a former boss: “I will work hard while I’m here, but if there is nothing new to learn I will have to find another job.”

As a mother, Banikarim offers her teens this advice: “Pick something you care about, something you really want to do because you will end up spending a lot of time at work.” 

So do you agree with Maryam about work life balance? Do you think there are times when the scale needs to tip one way -- or the other  -- toward work and a personal life?  Can you be successful in your career and as a parent?

November 04, 2015

Couples, Money and Work Life to blend all three




When I decided to go part time when my children were young, my husband and I sat down and talked about how the loss of income would affect our household. I knew the schedule would make our lives easier, but I also hated giving up half my salary and becoming more dependent on my husband to support our family. 

Conversations about money and work are common in households across the country. Or, at least they should be. 

Instead, couples seem to be communicating less and hiding more from their significant others -- particularly as people work longer hours or get married later and have their own credit and debt. Indeed, Fidelity Investments found that 72 percent of the couples surveyed believed they communicate well. But four in 10 of the pairs didn’t know how much their partner earned, and one in five admitted to hiding some of their finances from their significant other.

As today's workers struggle with work life balance, there are more financial questions that they face (Is this job worth the time demands? Should I start my own business? Should I ask for a reduced schedule? Should I demand a raise? Should the breadwinner have more say over spending?)
I tackled the topic in my Miami Herald column today and in it I shared a piece of advice from Jeff Motske, a financial adviser and author of A Couple’s Guide to Financial Compatibility.  Jeff suggested couples have a financial date night once a month. He isn't advocating you show up with bank statements or a paycheck stub. He simply says sit down together in a stress free environment and talk about income and expenses, goals and dreams, work hours and income. Jeff says financial date night helps to get couples on the same page and reduce arguments that can destroy a marriage.
Experts say it's okay to have separate accounts and it's okay to have splurge money and it's even okay to keep pouring money into a business rather than taking a salary ---as long as you and your partner are open about it and communicate with each other. With bank statements now digital and online access to accounts, it's easier than ever to keep money secrets. But is it worth it?
Repeatedly, money is mentioned as the top source of arguments in marriage. Yet, all healthy marriages have disagreements over money, So, it seems well worth the effort to make a financial date night and get concerns out in the open. I'm planning mine, are you?


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.

November 02, 2015

A Work Life Balance Must: Always Have a Plan B


Last week I was lounging comfortably on a couch in Starbucks, drinking coffee with Dr. Heidi Chumley Executive Dean of the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine. During our conversation, Dean Chumley said something so brilliant I had to share it.

I asked Dean Chumley about the what she feels she has done right on her ascension to upper administration and her plunge into motherhood. Not only is Chumley dean of a medical school and an Executive MBA student, she also has five children. Her husband holds an equally weighty job as vice president of education for Broward Health.

Chumley didn't skip a beat with her answer:  "I always have a Plan B."

Oh, how I have learned that to be true!  If there's one safety net that can keep a working parent from a deep plunge into work life disaster, it's having a Plan B.  "Time time to figure out your Plan B is not when you're having a crisis," Chumley told me. She's so right!

I recently read an interview with Ilene Gordon, CEO of Ingredion who talked about having a Plan B in business. Her comments apply to home life as well. Gordon said:  "We need to always be prepared for the possibility that things may not go according to plan. You should always have something to fall back on when things go wrong, or you'll have a hard time making it to the top. "

Gordon took it a step further: "Don't just have a Plan B, have other people readily available to help you execute it when the time comes."  

I have learned that a Plan B looks different at various stages of parenthood, work and life. But I completely agree with both women that having a Plan B is absolutely critical for work life balance. Here is what it involves:

Assembling your village: Before I had children, my desk was situated near a new mother who recently had given birth to her third child. At least once a week, the woman was called by the daycare to pick up her sick baby. She had no one else to pitch in and never asked her spouse to take a turn. After two months, the women, a really talented reporter, quit. The experience was enough to make me aware that I needed to create my village before giving birth. I lined up family members, and backup babysitters to ensure that I was prepared for childcare emergencies. Throughout years of balancing work and family, I added to my village by courting neighbors and other parents to pitch in with childcare when work emergencies cropped up.

Exercising flexibility: This crucial component of having a Plan B comes after proving yourself a hard worker. Even jobs like elementary school teacher can provide the flexibility to come in late or leave early if you have a good reputation and an understanding boss. More jobs than ever can be done at different hours, or from home. You need to figure out how you can use flexibility before a work life conflict arises.

Trading favors: My best advice to working parents is stockpile favors. When your boss calls a last minute meeting and your child is waiting to be picked up from dance class, you may need to ask another parent whose daughter is in the same class to help out. Being a parent who does favors for others goes a long way when you need one back. 

Including your children: As soon as your children are old enough to walk and talk, they are ready to be part of your Plan B. An older child can help out with a younger child, especially when the older child starts to drive. A middle schooler can call friends and ask for a ride to soccer practice when a parent runs late. The key is to include your children in helping you prepare by empowering them to find solutions in advance.

Being okay with delegating: To be successful at juggling, you need to identify people at work who have your back when you need it. Simply put: You can’t be the micro manager. You have to be able to get things done through others, particularly when you can't be there to do them yourself. Decide ahead of time who those people are and establish a give and take relationship.

Do you have your Plan B in place? If not, now's a great time to figure it out. 

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?

October 26, 2015

Want work life balance? Consider one of these jobs

Do you wish you had a better work life balance? Most people do. 

So where do you turn to get a job that won’t leave you working 24/7?  Glassdoor set out to that figure that out.

They surveyed a range of people and had them rate their jobs on a scale of one to five, five being the most satisfied and came up with 25 Best Jobs for Work-Life Balance. This list was compiled based entirely on employee feedback from 60,000 reviews shared on Glassdoor. 

Check out the complete results:

1. Data Scientist

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 4.2
  • Salary: $114,808
  • Number of Job Openings: 1,315

2. SEO Manager

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 4.1
  • Salary: $45,720
  • Number of Job Openings: 338

3. Talent Acquisition Specialist

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 4.0
  • Salary: $63,504
  • Number of Job Openings: 1,171

4. Social Media Manager

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 4.0
  • Salary: $40,000
  • Number of Job Openings: 661

5. Substitute Teacher

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.9
  • Salary: $24,380
  • Number of Job Openings: 590

6. Recruiting Coordinator

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.9
  • Salary: $44,700
  • Number of Job Openings: 446

7. UX Designer

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.9
  • Salary: $91,440
  • Number of Job Openings: 338

8. Digital Marketing Manager

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.9
  • Salary: $70,052
  • Number of Job Openings: 640

9. Marketing Assistant

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.8
  • Salary: $32,512
  • Number of Job Openings: 384

10. Web Developer

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.8
  • Salary: $66,040
  • Number of Job Openings: 2,117

11. Risk Analyst

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.8
  • Salary: $69,088
  • Number of Job Openings: 208

12. Civil Engineer

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.8
  • Salary: $65,532
  • Number of Job Openings: 809

13. Client Manager

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.8
  • Salary: $71,120
  • Number of Job Openings: 503

14. Instructional Designer

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.8
  • Salary: $66,040
  • Number of Job Openings: 782

15. Marketing Analyst

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.8
  • Salary: $60,000
  • Number of Job Openings: 341

16. Software QA Engineer

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.8
  • Salary: $91,440
  • Number of Job Openings: 457

17. Web Designer

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.8
  • Salary: $53,848
  • Number of Job Openings: 500

18. Research Technician

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.8
  • Salary: $36,525
  • Number of Job Openings: 299

19. Program Analyst

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.7
  • Salary: $71,120
  • Number of Job Openings: 524

20. Data Analyst

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.7
  • Salary: $58,928
  • Number of Job Openings: 1,954

21. Content Manager

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.7
  • Salary: $60,960
  • Number of Job Openings: 409

22. Solutions Engineer

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.7
  • Salary: $92,456
  • Number of Job Openings: 652

23. Lab Assistant

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.7
  • Salary: $27,550
  • Number of Job Openings: 779

24. Software Developer

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.7
  • Salary: $80,000
  • Number of Job Openings: 3,330

25. Front End Developer

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.7
  • Salary: $75,000
  • Number of Job Openings: 1337


If you would ask me for my list, I would tell you that any job where you have flexibility to make your own hours and earn decent income would be considered worth pursuing. That would include writers, bookkeepers, personal trainers, virtual teachers and sales representatives.  

What’s the work-life balance like for your job? Would you consider a career change for better work life balance?

October 13, 2015

It's the small work life balance victories that count

This morning I went to the grocery store at 7:30 a.m. That's a big deal for someone who hates mornings. I was surprised how good it felt to get something checked off my to do list so early in the day. The store was quiet and easy to navigate -- no wait at the deli or the check out line.

For me, that's a small victory in my struggle to get more done.

I don't know about you but I have a running to do list at all times. I have begun to keep it electronically on my mobile devices. Some days, I look at it and feel overwhelmed. I know I'm supposed to tackle items based on their priority level, but there is something really satisfying about a completing a task that just needs to get done.

So often, the discussion of work life balance centers on big issues-- disconnecting from the office, choosing between priorities, finding caregiving solutions and negotiating flexibility. These are important issues that affect how we fit our work and home lives together. They affect our career choices and our happiness. They are the reason people quit jobs, have fewer children, give up promotions and move closer to family. 

But sometimes work life balance is about a small change or tweak that brings harmony or zen to our overscheduled, busy lives. Maybe it's my imagination, but starting out today by feeling like I accomplished something has set my whole day in a positive direction. Sometimes, we just need to give ourselves a high five for the small fix or solution that eases our struggle to juggle the competing demands on our time.

Maybe we aim to reach the top of our organizations, maybe we don't. Maybe we want families, maybe we don't. Regardless, most of us want a life outside of our careers and we want to enjoy it. So let's celebrate the small victories on our path to happiness. Whatever you've done today to move in that direction, here's your high 5!


October 07, 2015

Are Millennial Moms Cooler than I am?



I am talking to 34-year-old Shannon O'Reilly-Fearn while her twin daughters are asleep. She tells me by phone that she was completely overwhelmed when she found out she was having twins. Now, wants to help other mothers of multiples, which is why she founded her business TwinLove Concierge.

So far, Shannon has been running her two-year-old company for about a year and put every penny she has earned back into it. That doesn't concern her at all. The more we talk, I learn that Shannon is tech savvy and well networked. She knows just where to go online to talk to other mothers of multiples. She has even used social media to find young moms in other cities to help her expand her business and spread her concept -- classes and consultations for expecting mothers of twins, triplets and other multiples.

Not only is she networked, Shannon is fearless and wants to create a company with a mission to help others. She represents the mindset of millennial moms, one I admire. I have my talents, but Shannon is WAY cooler than me when it comes to understanding how to market her business online and where to go to find her target audience.

Watch out employers, Shannon is the manager you want on your team, finding niches and bringing innovative ideas to your organization. But the Shannons out there, moms born after 1980, don't want to work for you if they can be home with their kids earning income AND fit their lives and their work together on their own terms.

In her new book, Millennial Moms: 202 Facts Marketers Need To Know To Build Brands and Drive Sales,  Maria Bailey, marketing expert and author, say there are an estimated 13 million millennial moms Millennialmoms_cover
in the U.S., only about a third of the 42 million millennial women, which means their true impact of millennial moms has yet to be felt.

 “To be competitive, businesses need these women who know how to build online relationships and understand the way millennials are communicating,” Bailey says.

In my Miami Herald column today, I delve into more of the ways millennial moms are different. To me, the most important way is mindset. These moms expect help from their spouse. They expect to balance work and family. They expect to earn income even while home with their kids. They expect to have online relationships with other moms and they expect to try new ideas out, even if the ideas don't work they way they originally expected.
If businesses want to hire and keep these talented women, they are going to need to do something different than they have done the last decade. They are going to need to go online to recruit these women, create enticing career paths, and engage with them on their unique terms. 
It's going to get interesting, but I see big changes ahead for the next generation of mothers in the workplace. It's about time!