June 13, 2012

Father son businesses: Two different views of work life balance

Do you have the same work ethic as your parents? What would they say if you asked them that question?

As the founder of A.D.A. Engineering in Miami, Alberto Argudin has always put in long hours. Tweleve years ago, his son joined the firm and now oversees construction management. Alberto doesn't how and why his son delegates, supervises, and works a reasonable work day.

Son says: "The older generation had to struggle more than we had to. That doesn’t mean we don’t struggle as well. Our work ethic is there, but due to technology we can do the same amount more efficiently and quicker than in the past." 

Fathers and sons seem like the ultimate pairing for business success -- unless they butt heads and create workplace tension. Today, it's more challenging than ever for father and sons with the generational differences that exist. So, for Father's Day, I decided to look at few father son business teams who make it work.

 

The Miami Herald

Two generations learn to work together

By Cindy Krischer Goodman
balancegal@gmail.com

   Patrick Range, right, and his son, Patrick Range Jr, at their family Range Funeral Home, located at 5727 NW 17th Ave.
Peter Andrew Bosch / Miami Herald Staff
  Patrick Range, right, and his son, Patrick Range Jr, at their family Range Funeral Home, located at 5727 NW 17th Ave.
When David Grossman decided the family surgical practice needed a website, his father resisted. “He just thinks differently and couldn’t see the benefits.” But David pressed on. He showed his dad how the website could help patients access forms, learn about possible complications and share experiences. “Now, he sees that it’s an important component of our medical practice.”

Such generational differences are happening in workplaces across the country, but in father-son businesses, the stakes are high. Despite a turbulent few years, family businesses remain a substantial force in the national and global economies. But keeping the business in the family takes the ability to work through assumptions, expectations and differences. The fact is, only one-third of family-owned businesses survive to the second generation.

For fathers and sons, the dynamics are complex. “The level of emotion that exists in a father and son business can be profound,” says Drew Mendoza, managing principal of The Family Business Consulting Group in Chicago.

Today’s Gen X sons think differently than their boomer dads. They bring technology skills and innovation to most workplaces, along with a desire for work-life balance. While dads still bring experience and passion, many struggle to understand a mindset where productivity doesn’t necessarily mean facetime. Even more, the relationship between fathers and sons who work together today tends to differ from the past: many consider themselves partners rather than mentor-mentee.

As the country gets ready to celebrate Father’s Day, many fathers and sons still dream of working side by side. Those who do it successfully offer insight and inspiration.

Patrick Range Jr. has been working alongside his father for the past five years. He gave up a prestigious position as a lawyer at Greenberg Traurig after his grandmother passed away in 2006 — “too much for my dad to run the business alone. I felt a responsibility to take an active role.” The company, started by his grandfather, runs three funeral homes serving the black communities of Miami-Dade County.

Patrick Jr., 35, says he has a different perspective than his 72-year-old dad: “I understand the younger generation and what their needs are.” Just last week, he helped a young woman plan a memorial service for her father. “She was not interested in having a traditional service with the deceased present.”

Initially, Patrick says his dad pushed back when he brought a different perspective to the decades old funeral business. “It’s taken some adjustment on both of our parts but we’ve learned when to back off and when to push. I think it’s benefitted the business.”

Patrick says a huge challenge has been the struggle for work-life balance. This is an area where he has pushed hard to change his father’s mindset: “I’ve encourage him to realize you do not have to be at your desk to function in an efficient manner. I’ve even forced him to take off one day a week.”

Read more.

 


 

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/06/12/v-print/2846370/two-generations-learn-to-work.html#storylink=cpy

 

June 11, 2012

Robin Roberts' setback shows work life balance is a matter of attitude

Robin

(Robin Roberts (C) gives a thumbs up as she discusses her medical condition with Diane Sawyer (L) and Sally Ann Roberts on ABC's ''Good Morning America'' program in this handout photo released June 11, 2012.)Credit: Reuters/Ida Mae Astute/ABC/Handout

 

What would you do if you were just about to score a big career coup and learned your health was in jeopardy? Would you forget all about work and just concentrate on your health?

The very day she was about to score a big career coup, an interview with President Obama, Good Morning America host Robin Roberts learned she has a rare blood and bone-marrow disorder called MDS.

This morning, Roberts made her diagnosis public and told GMA viewers that she will undergo a bone marrow transplant. Roberts said the disease was once called preleukemia, and is a complication from the treatment she received to beat breast cancer in 2007.

Roberts has no intention of taking it easy. She has decided to continue on at work, receive treatment, share her diagnosis with the world and believe completely that she will beat this health concern.

She told viewers: "The combination of landing the biggest interview of my career and having a drill in my back reminds me that God only gives us what we can handle and that it helps to have a good sense of humor when we run smack into the absurdity of life.

Bottom line she said: "I’ve been living with this diagnosis for awhile and will continue to anchor GMA.  I love what I do and the people with whom I do it.  Along with my faith, family and friends, all of you at ABC News give me the motivation and energy to face this challenge."

Lots of viewers took the news hard and some wrote in telling Robin to give up her job and focus completely on her health. Clearly, this is the kind of work life balance decision that takes lots of mulling over. It can have a huge impact on one's welfare. 

I'm a lot like Robin. I love what I do for a living and part of getting better, for me, would mean continuing to work. So, I completely understand Robin's decision, her attitude, her public announcement. Robin told viewers "I crave normalcy."

What would you do if you received this kind of diagnosis? Would you continue to go to work? Would you make it public in your workplace? Would everything you did at work seem insignificant? 

Click here to see the video of Robin making her announcement

 

June 08, 2012

Summer is here and working parents are panicked

I survived another school year!! Wahoo!

The last few weeks of the school year seemed like an endurance test. Between awards ceremonies, graduation parties and buying teacher gifts, it took all my balancing skills to juggle my workload and home responsibilities.

Now, I'm beat and the next work life balance challenge awaits.

Inevitably this time of year, the conversation among working parents is "What are your kids doing this summer?"

For moms like me, who only have it partially figured out, the question can incite a mild panic attack.

Summer typically is the most challenging and expensive time of year for parents who need child care Summercamp
coverage to match their work hours. One smart Miami mom whose tapped into parental panic is Karen Meister. She runs Camp Experts & Teen Summers. I've used Karen to help me cut through the summer camp clutter and figure out which one best suits my kid. Karen doesn't charge parents. She gets paid by the camps.

If you're in panic mode, there are other places to turn to as well.

*Your city's parks and recreation department is a place to start for free camps.

* MomsMiami has a great summer survival guide and most big cities have similar mom sites that offer guides as well. There are national camp search guides at go camp and

* Check out museums. Not only do they have great summer camp programs, they offer volunteer opportunities for teens.

* Consider online courses. High school students in Florida must take an online course to graduate. I'm having my son take a course on Florida Virtual School over the summer. There are courses for kids in K-12.

* Bringing your child to work may be an option if they are old enough to be helpful. Don't be afraid to ask. All your boss can do is say no.

* If your company has a flex policy, now may be the time to use it. According to Office Team, Seventy-five percent of human resources managers said their company offers flexible schedules during the summer.

* If you have a teen, some employers are hiring. A new jobs report says summer jobs for teens has soared to its highest level in six years. Encourage your child to get out there and job hunt.

Good luck working parents!

 

 

 

June 06, 2012

Married to the job, and lovin it

I was listening to a radio interview with Bravo's Andy Cohen when the host asked him if he was seeing anyone right now. Cohen laughed and said he just didn't have time to date. "I'm happily married to my job," he replied. 

That made me think about work life balance and singles. Some singles are so dedicated to their jobs that they are unable to invest the time a relationship often needs to stay strong. I really don't see anything wrong with that as long as the person feels fulfilled. 

But I wanted to explore the topic and find out how fulfilled those who are married to their jobs are and whether romantic relationships are totally out of the question. I tackled the topic in my Miami Herald Work Life Balancing Act column.

Do you feel that being completely devoted to your job is enough to feel fulfilled?

 


The Miami Herald

It’s OK to be happily married to your job, these workers say

By Cindy Krischer Goodman
balancegal@gmail.com

   Sheryl Cattell, director of online marketing for Cross Country Home Services in Sunrise, says she is happily married to her job.
Sheryl Cattell, director of online marketing for Cross Country Home Services in Sunrise, says she is happily married to her job.
Sheryl Cattell, an online marketing director, says her passion for her work is so intense she is often still at her desk at midnight. “I just go into a zone and literally have no idea of space and time.” With such single-minded focus, Cattell says personal relationships have been challenging. “Most partners are jealous when you love your job that much.”

As the country moves into summer wedding season, an increasing number of singles say they are happily married to their jobs. On television, American Idol host Ryan Seacrest and Bravo’s Andy Cohen are high-profile examples, two single entertainment/media mavens who devote most of their waking hours to their careers.

As of 2011, there are 101 million people in the United States over the age of 18 who are single, up from 83 million a decade ago, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s America’s Families and Living Arrangements survey. Of the singletons, 62 percent of them have never been married and about 2 million of them earn more than $75,000 a year.

Research often cites the ideal worker as someone who is perpetually available, has no outside responsibilities or interests, rarely gets sick, and prioritizes work above all else. Barbara Teszler, 26 and single, says that describes her 100 percent and she’s OK with it. “I’m totally a workaholic. I’d much rather be doing something I’m insanely passionate about for 80 hours a week than getting off at 5 like Fred Flintstone and doing something I didn’t enjoy.”

Teszler started a Los Angeles public relations firm six months ago. She wants a social life and relationships, but work gets top priority. “The last couple of guys I’ve seen have accused me of being cold. They thought I didn’t show as much interest in them as I did my job. I’m not going to apologize for that. My business is my baby, and that has to come first.”

Entrepreneurs are among the most likely to report being married to their jobs. “They feel the 24/7 pull to get it right,” says Todd Dewett, a professor of management at Wright State University, who wrote The Little Black Book of Leadership. “For many of them, being successful at work is fulfilling but it’s never stress free.”

To maintain a romantic relationship, Dewett says, overachieving professionals must have an understanding spouse or partner. “One of the top reasons relationships have trouble is one person puts their job first. For it to work, you’ve got to have a partner who is absolutely supportive.”

Miami relationship expert Bari Lyman says making a relationship work when you’re married to your job often requires a new mindset. “If finding true love is a priority, you have to make the time and space to meet someone.” Then, to sustain a relationship you need communication, maybe even an agreement that emphasizes quality time together rather than quantity, says Lyman, founder of MeettoMarry.com. “What’s important is to find someone who shares your vision of work-life balance.”

Read more....

 

 



 

May 31, 2012

Whether or not to work for free, that is the question

Free

Should you or shouldn't you work for free? It's a question you almost certainly will face at some point in your career. Sometimes the answer is yes.

I just interviewed a plastic surgeon who told me when he's at a party or in the men's room, he regularly gets asked for free advice No big deal, he says. Sometimes, giving out free advice results in a client. But then he also gets asked by friends to do nips and tucks for free. He's had to make a rule -- no freebies, no exceptions. 

When is working for free a good idea? 

You may have to face the decision to work for free early in your career when deciding if you want to take an unpaid internship. Or, the dilemma may come later in your career when you must decide whether to take on a project that means more work hours and no additional pay. Of course, it most commonly comes when you own a business and are asked to provide your services for free.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

1. WIll it pay off in the long run?

I just asked someone to make a DVD montage for me for free. It was actually for my child's school. She did an amazing job and said she enjoyed it. I know I can send lots of paying business her way. So, doing it for free was probably a good choice for her. It almost certainly was a path to payment.

2. Who is asking?

Blogger Penelope Trunk  says  you should consider whether the person asking is well connected and could send business your way. "If you do a good job, they are likely to pay you for the next one—or recommend that someone else pay you. Either way, you’ll get paid," Trunk says.

3. Will it build your resume?

You might not get paid for what you do, but taking an unpaid internship or more managerial responsibility without a raise can pay off later when you are able to use the experience on your resume. Penelope says, "When you start working for free, you need to have a very clear idea of how you are going to describe this work in your resume." 

4. Will you be learning new skills or exposing yourself to new experiences?

Unpaid work for personal growth is a tradeoff some people are willing to make. I recently offered to host a panel discussion on work life balance at a TV station. I didn't get paid but I did learn more about how television journalism works and met some amazing women.  I consider it a win-win.

5. Have you done the gut test?

At the end of the day, you must ask yourself whether you will hate yourself for saying yes to working for free. Most of the time, you know the answer in your gut.

 

May 30, 2012

Is dinner the new mid-day break?

Do you have a bite to eat with your spouse, maybe tuck the kids into bed, and then head right back to your laptop?

Has dinner become the new mid-day break? I think it has and I'm not sure it's a good thing. I often work at night. Part of it is the workload, the other part is I'm taking advantage of flexibility to use daylight for other personal activities and night time for quiet writing time.

But when I'm toiling away on my comptuer at night, I notice Twitter is on fire and emails are coming in non-stop.

I'm not sure what started this new work pattern. Some say technology. Others say competition and the recession.

Why do you think more Americans are working in the evening and is it good or bad for our work life balance?


The Miami Herald

There’s no end to workday

By Cindy Krischer Goodman
balancegal@gmail.com

   Mario Contreras, 32, owns 27 Charley’s Grilled Subs. He says he uses his evening hours to connect with people all over the country and the world who are designing and building his new restaurants. “I find you just can’t clock out anymore.”
 
 
Mario Contreras, 32, owns 27 Charley’s Grilled Subs. He says he uses his evening hours to connect with people all over the country and the world who are designing and building his new restaurants. “I find you just can’t clock out anymore.”
For Mario Contreras, putting in eight hours at the office is just the beginning of his workday. After he eats with his kids and puts them to bed, Contreras heads over to his laptop and shoots off emails or resolves a concern with his construction crew. The night might end hours later when he finally slips into bed.

Contreras, the 32-year-old owner of 27 Charley’s Grilled Subs, says as he opens new restaurant locations worldwide his workload stretches as does his work hours. In the evening, he connects with people all over the country and the world who are designing and building his new restaurants. “I find you just can’t clock out anymore.”

Today, only 11 percent of professionals globally say they have accomplished all the tasks they planned to do by the end of an average workday, according to a study by LinkedIn. It’s no wonder then that many workers find business is creeping into the evening hours and more of us now consider dinner simply a midday break.

The smartphone, the laptop and the tablet allow us to be more connected than ever before, and that makes it oh so tempting to reconnect with work from home at night. Workplace experts are grappling with whether we are burning the midnight oil by need or by choice and if we can sustain this pace.

“Today, jobs are more precious and the economy has driven that home,” says Tim Geisert, chief marketing officer for Kenexa, a global recruiting and leadership development firm. “That has made people more willing to put in discretionary effort.”

Geisert says he is one of those workers who put in evening hours. “Technology is an enabler. I’ll spend my quiet evening time catching up on what didn’t get done that day and trying to get ahead for the following day.”

Some late-nighters say it’s daytime distractions that lead to evening hours — the meetings, the phone calls, the people who barge into your cubicle. “Nighttime is my think time. I save emails that take more thought and do that at night,” Geisert explains. “I find online conversations at night are more fruitful.”

Valerie Mitrani and Julie Lambert, co-directors of educational services at the Center for the Advancement of Jewish Education in Miami, say working more effectively during the day may help your workload from invading your personal time at night. The pair, trained in Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, recently spoke at the Jewish Women’s Foundation of Broward County and advised scrutinizing and prioritizing our work habits to do tasks that are both urgent and important.

Flexibility and connectivity factor into this new work pattern, too. Mitrani says she is one of millions of Americans who took on more job responsibilities in the past few years as organizations cut back staff.

“Fortunately, with technology, everyone can work on their own time frame,” she says. “I’d rather get home at 4:30, do homework and eat dinner, and then be more productive for another hour at night, rather than staying later, fighting traffic to get home and missing out on time with my kids.”

Of course, the ease of working at night may have turned it into a habit that may need to be curbed.

Read more....

 

 

May 23, 2012

How to tame your inner control freak

Control-freak

I never thought of myself as a control freak -- until this week.

I am in charge of the end-of-the-year graduation activities at my child's school and I want to do everything myself because I know it will get done right. BUT, I just don't have the time to do it all --unless I give up sleep, entirely.

So, I need to delegate and trust. I'm not good at that, are you?

Last Friday, when I attended the Women's Success Summit, Nell Merlino, founder of Make Mine A Million Dollar Business and Count Me In, spoke about taming your inner control freak. She didn't exactly use those terms. But I read between the lines and realized what she was saying. Nell has been behind a giant, nationwide effort to help women business owners reach $1 million in revenue. This is no easy task since she says that most women business owners earn less than $50,000.

From what she's seen, Nell says you can ONLY grow your business to as much as $250,000 in revenue by doing everything yourself. If you want to get bigger, you MUST hire help.

Nell believes that almost every business owner should let go of their inner control freak and hire people who can do the things he or she isn't good at.

"Sleeping less and drinking more coffee is not a business growth strategy," she said. Wow, how true is that!!

Most of us think to manage it all, we have to keep it all on the table. "Change that thinking," she says. "Make it a bigger table." Controlling our inner control freak applies whether you are an owner or employee --there's always something you can hand off to someone who can do it better.

Nells points out that when you hire people, you can make different decisions, mostly because you've expanded your ability to get things done. "The best way to grow is by building a team who are good at what you are not. That’s how you create an extraordinary enterprise," she says.

She advises convincing yourself you can delegate, you can be a boss. "People don’t talk enough about how much fun it is to be the boss," Nell says.

Now, going forward, she suggests these steps:

1. Set a financial goal. Once you pick a number, you will need to work backwards. Understand what you charge and your profit margin. Figure out how you can actually reach that goal. "Once you put it on paper, you can see exactly what you need to do. It’s eye opening."

2.Think about how you can start to work with others and colloborate to make your product or services available to more people.

3. Figure out what areas you're not handling as well as you should. Hire or barter with someone to take over those tasks. 

If you do these things, Nell says you expand your vision for what you can accomplish.

Think about it, are you limiting yourself by being a control freak?  

IMG_0503
Nell Merlino signing books at the Women's Sucess Summit in Miami

May 04, 2012

Caregiving and work life balance: how to help your employee stay sane

Caregiver

When my 100 year old grandmother lived nearby and needed supervision, I felt stressed all the time. Working and taking care of an elderly relative is SO exhausting.

Did you know that between 30 and 35 percent of all U.S. workers report that they are currently providing care to an aging parent or disabled family member? About 11 percent of working caregivers will take a leave of absence and 10 percent will leave their jobs. Employers that can help their employees manage the stress of caregiver responsibilities and find balance have a lot to gain

                                 

Blanca CeballosToday, my guest blogger Blanca Ceballos who offers suggestion for how employers can  help their workers balance work and caregiving. Blanca is Manager of the Caregiver Resource Center atUnited HomeCare. United HomeCare has designed The Working Caregiver Assistance Program to provide employees who are caring for a parent or other loved one with information and support. Blanca can be reached at bceballos@unitedhomecare.com.

 

Caregivers face daily challenges as they juggle work schedules, parenting responsibilities, and personal lives while also caring for an aging or disabled family member. High blood pressure, weight gain, and depression are just some of the common health conditions family caregivers may experience.

I talked with one woman whose mother had Alzheimer’s disease. Several months after her mother moved in with her family, the caregiver learned that her cholesterol had risen dramatically and she had gained weight. The woman realized she was no longer exercising and was turning to comfort foods to help cope with the stress. She also no longer slept well, waking up several times a night to check on her mom.

 This caregiver’s situation is not unique. Employers will have to face the facts: between 30 to 35 percent of all U.S. workers are family caregivers, putting them into a special class of employees – the working caregiver. At one time or another, most of these employees have to make some adjustments to their work life to accommodate their caregiving responsibilities.

By addressing the unique needs of working caregivers through worksite wellness programs, employers can improve the health and wellness of their staff and also yield bottom line savings through reduced absenteeism and lost productivity.

 

Here’s how:

 

  • Look for signs of caregiver stress among employees and reach out to them. Caregivers who are struggling to manage all their responsibilities at home and at work may show signs of fatigue, increased absenteeism or depression. But sometimes they will be reluctant to discuss family caregiving issues in a work setting. By reaching out to them, employers can initiate a dialogue that may help employees understand that they are not alone and there are community resources that may be of help.

 

  • Become an information resource for employees with caregiving responsibilities. Employers are in an excellent position to help employees simply by making available good information. Invite experts to come in and talk on the subject of caring for an elderly or disabled family member. Some organizations, including United HomeCare, offer free seminars to help caregivers learn more about managing their responsibilities, provide basic caregiving tips, and also share information on community resources and support groups. 

 

  • Educate employees about home care services they can obtain with flex care plans. Many employees who participate in flex care plans may not realize that some home care services for a dependent parent or other family member may be paid from flex care plans. Human Resources professionals can help communicate this information to employees and the conditions that must be met to qualify.

 

Helping working caregivers is a win-win situation. 

 

April 27, 2012

Making Healthy Lifestyle Choices When Struggling with Work-Life Balance

Last night, I hit a work life balance low.

I realized this low point when my family was eating store-brand lasagna and it was still partially frozen. I yelled at them to eat it anyway. The desire is there on my part to serve healthy meals and encourage exercise. I buy produce from an organic buying club. I try to buy organic meats and poultry. I make lots of veggies with dinner. But then, a night like last night comes along when I'm shuttling kids in different directions and I enter desperation mode. When that happens, I'm always mad at myself for not being better organized. We can all be more health and environmental conscious if we plan for it.

That's why I'm particularly excited to introduce my guest blogger today. Carrie Wells, huppiemama@gmail.com,  is a wife, mother of two, and educational consultant. She founded her website Huppie Mama  in 2010 to share information regarding natural living and child development. Below is her take on a welcome topic:

 

Carrie

Making Natural, Healthy Lifestyle Choices When Struggling with Work-Life Balance

 Prior to having children, I was the type of woman who worked full-time, went to school full-time, and had a part-time job. Somehow I still managed to get a healthy dinner on the table for my husband and me each night.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I made the decision to leave my full-time position and be a work-at-home mom, eventually balancing two part-time jobs while parenting two children, a toddler and an infant. As an educator and daughter of a stay-at-home mom, it was so important for me to be there for my children. I wanted to help them reach each early milestone and be there to celebrate all of those special moments.

I also desired to teach them to be environmentally-conscious, healthy individuals. Because I do work from home, our funds are limited, which contributes to my desire to choose reusable and sustainable products. Some of the decisions we made for our family required little-to-no additional effort or planning, like recycling, shopping with reusable bags, and buying eco-friendly household cleaners. Some of them involved a true commitment to natural living, like breastfeeding both of our children, using cloth diapers, and cooking wholesome, balanced meals daily.

Now, I don’t expect everyone to ditch their comfy homes in suburbia and opt for a more rural setting where they can grow their own local produce and milk their own cows. That’s certainly not a choice I have made for my family, but I do admire those who have. I present to you some simple things to keep in mind so that you can live a more natural lifestyle, with an emphasis on health and environmental-consciousness:

  • Shop locally for food as often as possible. The recent surge of farmer’s markets and smaller grocery stores in South Florida makes it so much easier to shop for locally-harvested produce and meats, locally-caught fish, and specialty products like honey and oils. Plan your meals for the week on Sunday so that you don’t have to struggle daily to pull something together. Incorporate seasonal ingredients to maximize flavors and freshness.

 

  • When buying toys for your children, try to get the most ‘bang for your buck.’ Consider purchasing toys made of sustainable materials, like wood, metal, and cotton. Also, think about how long a child will be able to use the toy from a developmental standpoint, thus reducing the waste when the toy is no longer useful to your family. Remember, too, that toys made of durable materials make great donations to local charities.

 

  • Check your community’s recycling program. My community collects cardboard, paper, metals, plastics, and glass. Large grocery stores often have recycling bins at the front of the store to collect plastic bags and foam packages. You have to throw your trash away somewhere, so making the choice to recycle is such an easy one.

 

  • Opt for reusable versions of products. This could include cloth diapers instead of disposables, cloth kitchen towels instead of paper towels, reusable shopping bags instead of plastic or paper bags, and reusable water bottles instead of disposable water bottles. While some of these may require additional up-front costs and effort to clean them, you also don’t have to worry about running out and having to purchase them last minute.

 

  • Set aside meaningful time to get outdoors with your family. We are so fortunate in South Florida to have beautiful parks, amazing beaches, and warm weather year-round. Take advantage of this by planning outdoor play dates with friends, picnics with your children, and maybe even some time for gardening in your own backyard. Your family will treasure these special times together!

 

Between raising a family, working to earn an income, and running a household, life can be challenging! However, each day, we are asked to make choices. When there is a healthier, more natural option that requires little to no additional effort, that choice should be an easy one. Remember, if we model positive natural practices for our children, they will learn to do the same when they are independent.

 

 

April 23, 2012

When the office walls come down: Can you handle lack of privacy?

Open workspace


One day, I was typing away on my keyboard when I got the call that makes a working mother cringe. My kids were having a fight and one of them wanted me to referee -- from my office cubicle. An open newsroom isn't the most private place to do that and everyone could hear exactly how I was handling the situation.

"You let your brother use your computer for the next half hour," I screamed at my daughter. I remember a single reporter sitting nearby who gave me that I'm-never-having-kids look. I hated the lack of privacy.

Yet, I enjoyed the upside of the office layout. It benefitted me when a co-worker overheard my efforts to find a source for a story I had been working on, and chimed in with the perfect person.

Now the open workspace concept is spreading beyond newsrooms making the semi-privacy of the office cubical a nostalgic dream. Companies like Burger King and U.S. Foods are tearing down the walls in favor of communal workspace. About 70 percent of workers now work in open-plan offices and more companies are considering it, according to a recent news article.

The goal is to increase collaboration among workers and managers. 

Last week Jill Granat, general counsel of Burger King, said when new owners took over her company, one of the first changes was to knock down the walls. "At first your workers will hate it. Then they'll love it," Granat said. She said the arrangement has made her much more productive. She holds fewer meetings, sends fewer emails and can make quicker decision. If you want to ask someone a question, you can tell right away if they're at their desk and just ask them, she said. 

But Granat also admitted her privacy is gone. That can be huge for working parents.

When the walls are low  and the team clustered together, everyone can see what you eat for lunch, when you get up to go to the restroom. They can hear what you say to your spouse and what tone you use. It can seriously affect your work life balance if you feel uncomfortable speaking to your child care provider with your boss overhearing your conversation.

Is workplace privacy a thing of the past? We already have seen our employers monitoring our emails and use of social media. Now, with this trend, should we just get used to having less privacy at work? We we resort to stealth measures...I bet there are a lot of workers sneaking outside to make personal phone calls. Doesn't that cause lost productivity?

Readers, what do you think about the walls coming down? Does this type of workspace make you more productive? Does it weed out the slackers, especially those who cause you to work later? Is the trade off, lack of privacy, worth the benefits?