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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Reader response

Here's some reader response to the effect of rising gas costs on work/life balance. It's from the marketing director of Tri-Rail.

Hi Cindy,

Your article on people changing their patterns due to the high cost of commuting couldn’t come at a better time for us. This week, we increased service by 33%, going from 30 to 40 trains a day. Workers can commute for as little as $60 a month if their companies are members of our Employer Discount Program. That tariff also includes free transfers to the county buses and Metrorail. Weekend fares are as low as $2 to ride all day Saturday or Sunday. Hopefully, more commuters will begin to consider public transportation as an alternative to the high cost of driving.

Bonnie Arnold
Director of Marketing
South Florida Regional
Transportation Authority / Tri-Rail

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Is the higher cost of living changing your work/life balance?

Is the rising cost of gas affecting more than just your wallet and lifestyle?
Some of my co-workers who commute to Miami are working from our Broward office a few days a week to save money on gas, and to ease their stress from the commute. A few people I interviewed this week have taken a second job or asked to work overtime.
I find myself spending $50 a week on gas. Though I can work from home, I don't do it very often because I like being part of a newsroom and bouncing ideas off my colleagues. But as the cost of gas rises, I'm starting to wonder if I should work from home more to make my part time salary pay off. I just read an article that says the American middle-class family are working harder just to break even. Those of us here in South Florida, where housing and insurance costs are through the roof, can relate. How are you dealing?

Monday, March 27, 2006

Struggling to get dinner on the table?

For those of you struggling to get dinner on the table, I find Mr. Food No-Fuss Meals to be a huge help. Here's some incentive to check it out: Mr. Food No-Fuss Meals in Coral Springs is celebrating its first anniversary in South Florida by offering $25 off. If you live a distance away, it might be worth the trip on a weekend. The concept is this: you book a session and pick out meals from a menu. When you get there, you prepare a bunch of meals adapting them for your family -- less onions, more cheese, etc. You leave with a load of prepared meals with cooking instructions on them and pop them in your freezer.
So, when you get home tired and crabby, you have the meal ready to cook in a oven tin. I have been to the Coral Springs location twice and brought home about 10 meals. I have yet to make a Mr. Food meal that my family didn't like. (That says a lot!) Here's the link for more info.

Struggling to get dinner on the table?

Friday, March 24, 2006

Need some help juggling?

Overwhelmed with all those mundane tasks that make a working mom's to-do list read like a grocery list? I just happened upon an article in USA weekend magazine about a new trend in concierge services for working parents. Apparently, malls are offering concierge services that will pick out birthday gifts for you kids' friends. Kiddie Concierge in Alexandria, Va. will arrange play dates, research the best ballet classes and pick up your child from day care for about $20 an hour. Some employers even are footing the bill for concierge services. I'm planning to hunt for these services in South Florida. In the meantime, I'm off to Toys R Us to buy yet another gift for my son to take to a kids' birthday. And yes, I have discovered buying in bulk.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Stuck in a rut at work?

My column this week in The Miami Herald tackles what to do if you're stuck in a rut at work. Here's a tidbit not included in the column that was offered up by Larry Blum, managing partner of Rachlin Cohen & Holtz, a Miami accounting firm. Change who you hang out with, Blum says. Hanging out with people who are enthusiastic about their jobs can be contagious. Maybe there's something they are doing that you can emulate.
Listen to my own experience trying to emerge from a rut at work. You may need to install the free RealMedia Player.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Perks in the works for new grads?

Maybe I graduated at the wrong time. It looks like new college grads will be able to demand more perks from their soon-to-be employers.
A study out this week by Challenger, Gray & Christmas says this year’s 1.4 million college graduates will probably enjoy the best entry-level job market since the collapse in 2001.
"Some employers are already dreaming up perks to attract the best talent. Those graduating with degrees in business, engineering, computer science, education and health care should find a relatively welcoming job market,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a nationwide outplacement and consulting firm. Several fields will see increased starting salaries.
Challenger says employers are going to give hiring priority to graduates who have had internships and hands-on experience or to those who have at least proved that they are adept at learning and adjusting quickly.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Don't miss a great conference!

Here's your chance to rub elbows with the CEO of Diners Club or Build-A-Bear Workshop: the annual Office Depot Success Strategies Conference on Mar. 26-28. It is one of my favorite conferences because it attracts an amazing group of about 1,500 businesswomen from all over the country. There are speakers, breakout sessions and panel discussions. I always enjoy the incredible energy at this conference. It is a major 3-day networking event. I am looking forward to the panel on Mar. 28 on CEO strategies for building the work and life you want. Lily Tomlin is the keynote speaker on Sunday night. Past speakers have included Barbara Walters and Hillary Clinton. It's not cheap ($499) but I think anyone who has attended in prior years will tell you it is worth the registration fee. This year, the conference moves to a new venue, the Westin Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, FL.

Friday, March 17, 2006

A CEO's view of work/life balance

I just interviewed Maxine Clark, founder and chairman of Build-A-Bear Workshop, a retail chain with more than 200 stores. Clark took the concept of stuffing, dressing and sewing a teddy bear and turned it into a $350 million business traded publicly on the New York Stock Exchange.
Clark had this to say about work/life balance:
''I do what I love and love what I do so it’s not work. I love being in the retail business. I love to shop. I love consumer behavior. I so much love what do everyday that work is not work, not for me.''
You have to admire someone who enjoys her life!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Should all businesses give employees paid sick leave?

A global study by a McGill University professor discovered parents around the world leave sick kids home alone. The reason: they don't received paid sick leave and often must choose between earning a day's wages or staying home to care for their child. Efforts are underway in the United States to pass a federal law that would require business to give employees one-week of paid sick leave. I think even small businesses can afford it. The cost of not offering it and having employees come to work sick or spend their day worrying about their child home alone seems like it would be higher. What do you think?

Here's the column that ran on March 15:

Monday, March 13, 2006

Do you need a reverse mentor?

In my Balancing Act column in The Miami Herald, I wrote of a trend called reverse mentoring. It seems 40-, 50- and 60-somethings realize they need to tap into the tech savvy and workplace attitude of 20-somethings. So, instead of the traditional mentor arrangements, those of us smart enough to know we need to stay current are having informal chats and spontaneous meetings with our younger colleagues. After the column appeared in the paper, I received lots of feedback from colleagues who want me to know they no longer feel any shame in tapping into the expertise of those who are younger.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

How to change a company culture?

Interesting discussion today in The Miami Herald's newsroom panel on work/life balance. How do you change a culture where walking out the door at a decent hour is considered leaving early? The business editors met on the subject last week and decided they would each get a night to leave early without any guilt. Some working moms said they have just learned to walk out at 6:30 p.m. and not care about what people say or think of them. A copy editor says his night shift actually keeps his hours under control. By working at night, he can control his hours rather than tyical editors who work long days that extend into the evening. The real question raised by the younger people in this newsroom, can we be journalists and still have an outside life?

How to change a company culture?

Monday, March 06, 2006

Wondering when you're going to do all those errands?

What working mom doesn't have an intimidating to-do list. Maybe that's why I'm intrigued with a website I just came across, It's an errand running and concierge service that companies hire to help their employees. The concept is keep your employees focused on work and hire us to run their errands for them. They even offer services like taking your car for an oil change. The company is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and services business accounts nationwide. I'm not sure how far their reach extends. What a great concept!