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Friday, November 30, 2007

Holiday shopping at work, employers are watching

We spend so much time at work these days, who can't resist sneaking some holiday shopping in from the comforts of our desktop? (During lunch hour and break time of course)

As online shopping kicks into high gear for the holidays, a new CareerBuilder survey reveals how much time workers spend online holiday shopping and how many employers monitor online activity.
Key findings include:
--30% of workers holiday shop online at work
--Half of employers monitor workers' online activities
--71% of hiring managers say Internet use at work for non-work related
activities negatively impacts productivity,

--Nearly a quarter (24 percent) of workers who holiday shop online
expect to spend two or more hours doing so this year.

It appears bosses understand our work/life struggles this time of year. "Employers tend to be more lenient around the holidays – in fact only two
percent say they have fired an employee for holiday shopping online," said
Rosemary Haefner, Vice President of Human Resources at

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tips for Navigating the Office Holiday Party

My co-workers and I had a great laugh yesterday when we read aloud these tips for navigating the office holiday party. We particularly enjoyed the top two tips. Enjoy!

Tis the Season to Avoid Making a Fool of Yourself at the Office Holiday Party
by Stephanie Losee and Helaine Olen, the authors of Office Mate

1. Don't indicate your interest in a colleague at the office Holiday party.
An average happy hour on an average Friday night when the work gang heads to a bar together is a much better time. The entire firm isn't present. And if you're rejected, you can leave.
2. That goes double for your boss. No, triple.
Your boss is there to relax with colleagues, not fend off requests for raises or juicy assignments or-heaven forbid-advances from a subordinate who has decided the time is right to reveal a long-simmering crush.
3. Don't dress sexy.
There's no conceivable benefit to showing more flesh than you would on any other day. Dress up; don't wear a neckline that's, well, down.
4. Know your booze limit.
Getting looped at the office Holiday party lends itself to certain behaviors. Meaning misbehaviors. Who wants to worry about what people are thinking come Monday morning?
5. Don't view the office Holiday party as a free date with your office mate.
If you're dating someone at the office, don't take the holiday party as an opportunity to go out on the town together for free. Talk to your colleagues. Smile at your boss. Make small conversation. Don't dance together.
6. No PDA on the dance floor.
Making out in full view of your colleagues and your boss is too juvenile for words. Don't go there.
7. Mingle with people other than the members of your usual office gang.
If there is one professional or personal objective you can accomplish at the office holiday party, it's to take advantage of the opportunity to chat with someone new. Maybe you'll meet a future partner. At the very least, you'll expand your professional network.
8. Don't go home with a co-worker.
Your career is at stake here. The office is a great place to meet your partner in life. Not a sex partner of the one-night variety.
9. Remember that you are still at work even though the scenery has changed. Act like the professional you are and be on your best behavior. The office Holiday party is no less a work event than the meeting you attended at 3pm.
10. Don't be the last one to leave. Be an adult. Dress beautifully but demurely, stop drinking after you've downed half of whatever someone hands you when you walk in the door. Don't close down the place.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

We're ready for holiday parties

As much as employees like to complain, we love holiday parties. The economy may be slowing but we still want to party. And our bosses are obliging. Party providers believe that, so far at least, merriment is eclipsing the economic negatives this holiday season.
The good news is that more businesses plan to hold holiday parties this year. About 90 percent plan to do so, compared with 79 percent last year, said Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. in its annual party survey. Nearly 40 percent of those companies even plan to boost their party budgets.
‘‘Companies may be throwing caution to the wind in anticipation of a slowdown in 2008," said the company's chief executive, John A. Challenger.
But some event planners say more companies are turning to in-house parties. I kind of like in-house parties in-house -- those potluck meals that get you talking to a co-worker you may have only grunted at in the past. This year, The Herald turned its potluck holiday lunch into a Top Chef contest (should be fun!) I think most employees are okay with a casual thanks-for-a-good-job-this-year kind of get together, rather than a formal shindig -- as long as they are made to feel appreciated. Do you agree?

Monday, November 26, 2007

You Tube Goes Corporate

Great piece in Forbes Magazine on corporations using videos to cut through the distractions of office life and boost morale. It turns out we love videos -- at home and at work.
The article mentions that Nestle asked five marketing team to produce short videos that would showcase their business savvy and creativity. They showed the videos at its annual marketing summit and captivated the crowd. Now, Nestle is considering launching a video series featuring former interns for use in recruiting.
Another big corporation, Gensler, has its own TV channel called GTV. Colleagues interview each other and publicize new projects. The company calls it an in-house hit with 2,900 employees tuning in on their PCs.
Most of us in the media business know that videos online are THE future of news delivery. People watch videos on their computer screens throughout the day, from their cubicles and their bedrooms. For most of us, the appeal is the common Joe gets to be a star. Would corporate involvement kill the appeal? I say, not if employees have control of the footage. Your thoughts?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

BlackBerry addicts at my table

Recently at a business lunch, I looked around my table and noticed everyone on their BlackBerries. I wondered out loud whether my companions were missing out on the moment, an opportunity to bond with the people around them and focus on what the speaker had to say.
One of my lunch companions called it a necessary tradeoff. "Checking it during lunch and clearing the e-mail I can respond to quickly saves me staying later at work," says Raquel Alderman, marketing director of The Miami Herald.
Yet, Raquel also said she recently found it shocking when another manager called a meeting, and then reviewed e-mails on his BlackBerry while others were talking. "Watching him, I saw myself and it does come across as rude."
In our 24/7 world all messages are deemed critical, but the reality is most are not. Most e-mails can wait at least an hour. As my editor, Lisa, suggests, maybe it's not about being addicted to BlackBerries but more about our need to multi-task. Try putting your BlackBerry out of sight at your next business meeting or lunch. It just might be good for your focus, and your career.

Monday, November 19, 2007

What do you do for fun?

When you're not at work, what do you do for fun? Big changes in the answer to this question from just three years ago.
Topping the list of favorite activities are reading, TV watching and spending time with friends and family. Even as more of us tune in to Grey's Anatomy, Harris Interactive reports while we're still watching lots of TV, we're not doing it as much as we did a few years ago. Instead, we're on our computers more.
And, while we feel like we're a nation of overworked robots, Harris found the number of hours people spent working (including housekeeping and studying) dropped from a median of 50 hours in 2004 to a median of 45 hours this year. This is the first time it has been this low since 1975 when it was at 43 hours. Harris polled about 1,000 people. Can its findings be accurate? My editor insists they are not.
"I don't know anyone that says they're working less," he said.
I feel the same way. It's not like people have tons more time for leisure. But maybe, we're wrong. Are you working less and having more fun? Do you agree with the findings of the Harris Poll?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Get Paid What You're Worth

Gas prices have shot up. Housing is a fortune. And now, the holidays will tug at our budgets. But for one woman I recently met, seeking a raise wasn't only about her need to earn more, it was about earning what she's worth.
Pam, a banker, suspected she was underpaid. Couple that with the fact that her son goes to an expensive school and she realized she no longer could stay quiet.
So, here's how she handled it:
* Research. She re-read her last evaluation to figure out how she looked within eyes of the people in her organization.
* Do an online salary search. She looked at what other businesses in her industry were paying for her skills.
* Check out job postings within your own organization. She looked for job openings at her bank, even in other offices. She answered those postings, and asked about expectations and salary.
* Take your research to the boss. Pam told her boss she needed to earn more and was willing to take on more responsibility. She presented him the salaries for jobs that require the skills she has.
* Don't give an ultimatum, just present the facts. Pam emphasized what she brings to the table and why she was undervalued. Her boss gave her some additional responsibility and an $18,000 raise.
Pam told me this story when I met her at a NetWeaving program put on by the United Way Women's Leadership. Great group. Amazing program! A topic is posed to the women who break into group discussion. The topic was "What was your biggest obstacle in the last week and how did you overcome it?" I loved the way Pam tackled an concern that trips up so many women. Let me hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Great tip from working mom

Last week, I soaked up some great advice from women executives at an event sponsored by Burger King Corp. One of the best tips came from Elsie Romero, mother of 2 daughters and general counsel for Restaurant Services Inc. in Miami (the purchasing agent for Burger King)

Elsie, an attorney, has that can-do attitude. When her oldest daughter entered first grade, she realized, doing it all (school, activities, homework and a career) was going to be tricky. She wanted some help without feeling guilty for asking. So she reached out to other parents in her daughter's class, some who work, others who don't. She suggested, "How about we take some pressure off and help each other - with no baggage attached?'' Then she sent out an e-mail, "I'm driving my daughter to Suzie's birthday party this weekend, let me know if any of you want me to take your child."

Elsie says the others quickly reciprocated, offering to take her daughter to the upcoming Girl Scout meeting or soccer practice. Now, her oldest is in sixth grade and the group still shares the driving, "We all have time constraints and have figured out a way to help each other," she says, "It gives us all some breathing room."

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Indulge in a Vocation Vacation

Feeling out of balance? Maybe wishing you had a different job? You've gotta love this idea: vocation vacations.
Before committing to a new career, Vocation Vacations gives you a chance to test-drive a dream job without having to quit your day job. While on vacation, you get an insider's view of what it is like to own a winery, be fashion buyer or professional photographer, or run a bed and breakfast. There are more than 130 vocation types to choose for an immersion experience. As part of the deal, you get one to three days with an expert mentor. I can't vouch for the experience, but I love the concept. See

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Do women take more sick days than men?

Blogger Elena Centor writes: The latest research does little to calm the gender wars in Corporate America because it finds that all women--regardless of marital status,age, or whether they have children, take more sick days then their male colleagues. American researchers are scratching their heads trying to attribute why women in the U.S. take more sick days. They have no solid explanation.

Elena writes, ""Maybe its our philosophy about sick days. It's like seeing the very expensive pair of shoes you've been coveting all season on deep discount and walking away without buying them. Who would do that?
If a company has factored in your sick days into their bottom line calculations, why shouldn't you take the time you are entitled to?

Good point Elena.

On the other hand, Monster blogger Bryan is dreading the onset of flu season as he anticipates that over the next few months, sneezing and hacking coworkers will continue to come to the office. (are these mostly men?) Bryan feels knowingly bringing flu germs into the workplace is both dumb and inconsiderate.

I wonder if with men, it's an ego issue. You know, they want to think they are too important to miss a day of work. What are your thoughts?

Monday, November 05, 2007

The dinner scramble made easier

My life just got easier. Mr. Food No-Fuss Meals has opened a new Davie locale close to home. For working parents trying to scramble to get dinner on the table, this concept is awesome. The basic idea is you book a session(usually a two-hour window), and go to the store to assemble a bunch of home-cooked meals. The recipes and ingredients are those of the popular syndicated TV personality Mr. Food (Art Ginsburg). You can leave out any ingredients your family loathes ( maybe green olives?). Then, you head home with assembled meals in freezable containers that you can stick in the freezer and pull out to cook as you want to use them. The directions are right there on a label.

For me, this is a godsend. I'm often scrambling to figure out what I'm going to make and whether I have all the ingredients I need. This cuts way back on brain clutter.

On my visit to the new Davie location (It's in the Tower Shops on University Drive) I brought with me Miami Herald marketing manager Raquel Alderman, also a working mom (see photo). The two of us drank some complementary wine, sampled some dinner and dessert items and prepared a few meals. We schmoozed with a few other working moms who were assembling meals for their families. What I love about this Davie store is that it has a KidZone for parents who want to bring their young kids with them. It also has a hanging out area with a couch for unwinding after you prepare your meals. The Davie Mr. Food No-Fuss Meals is a franchise location owned by former American Express executives Larry Styron and Richard DiLapi. The two are convinced the store will be successful because "everyone is strapped for time these days.''

Meanwhile, this meal assembly concept is taking off across America and in South Florida. There are new Mr. Food No-Fuss Meals opening in Fort Lauderdale and Pembroke Pines. Dream Dinners, a similar concept, has local locations in Pinecrest and Sunrise.

To register for a session at a Mr. Food location, click here.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Andy Reid struggles with work/life balance

In a culture where the success of a father is measured by the money he accumulates, it was no surprise a few years ago when Stan Van Gundy's resignation as Miami Heat coach was met with skepticism. Van Gundy wanted to spend more time with his family.

Now, Andy Reid is on the hot seat for neglecting his family in pursuit of football fame as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles coach. Reid insisted he will not resign Friday, a day after a judge sentenced Reid's two sons to prison and likened his home to a "drug emporium."

This work/life balance stuff is tough, men too are finding out. A high-paying time, demanding job often means sacrifice and in the pursuit of a flashy Superbowl rings, it often is a coach's family that pays the price. Look around in the world of sports: Joe Gibbs has family meals tape-recorded and sent to the office so he can catch up on whatever he's missing. Tony Dungy, who preaches work/life balance, has had his bumps too. In December 2005, his 18-year-old son, James, committed suicide.

Still, Dungy believes whenever the priorities of coaches or players lean too heavily toward work, they need confidants to help them regain perspective. Where is Reid's confidant?

Reid has been called one of the most successful coaches in NFL history. But in the game of life, there's a whole different definition of success.