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Friday, March 30, 2007

Tips for working new moms

I remember those days when I was well into my pregnancy and staying awake in front of my computer was a struggle. So I must admit, I like Erika Boom's premise for her new business, Belly & Kicks. Boom aims an exercise program at working moms to help them keep up stamina during and after their pregnancies. Boom says her program targets all muscle groups to ease the discomforts of pregnancy and make for an easier transition back to work.
Tips for working during pregnancy:
Make sure your work area is well ventilated.
Avoid hunching forward at your desk.
Avoid wearing high heels during the last weeks of pregnancy.
Keep an agenda, you mind tends to forget during pregnancy.

Tips for transitioning back to work:
Avoid high-impact movements
Keep hydrated.

The photo is Erika Boom working out with her client Vanessa Chartouni de la Serna. To learn more about Belly & Kicks in Miami, visit

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Miami woman competes for Disney dream job

When I graduated college, I wanted to be in Disney World's electrical parade. I thought it would be fun to ride on a float at night. So I say, go for it Deepa Patel of Miami! Deepa dreams of becoming a Fantasyland Princess-in-Waiting where she can reign supreme over Cinderella's castle. All she needs now are votes.
Deepa is one of the 100 finalists selected by Disney Parks and for chance to land a dream job for a day at Disneyland Resort in California. One full day of no dishes, no schedules, just walking around in a costume. A Harris Interactive survey shows most of us still hope to find our dream jobs. I guess that explains why so many people entered.
You can check out Deepa's video audition and others online at and vote for your favorite contestant to land a job as a Jungle Cruise Skipper, Haunted Mansion Butler or Maid, Pirate, Princess-in-Waiting or Disney Park Parade Performer. The winners get their dream job for a day in June.

Pay cuts at Circuit City, pathetic

Circuit City announces it will fire its better-paid workers and replace them with lower-paid new hires as soon as possible. With that news, the company's stock price rises. This is the harsh reality of the business world we live in today. Public companies value their workers only as long as their stock is up. Is is any wonder employees have little loyalty to their employers?
I have to wonder, how will Circuit City lure its new hires? How will it incentify them? Even a desperate low-wage worker might think twice about working for a company that will cut them loose if they rack up hours or start to earn too much. In a environment where many businesses are coming up with all kinds of ways to create employee loyalty, I predict the future is grim for Circuit City. To read the full story in today's Miami Herald, click here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

In favor of siestas

Most days, around 4 p.m. I find my eyes getting heavy. I need a nap.

But like most American workers, I pursue on. Studies show naps are good for us and improve our response time. They even lower our risk of heart disease. Let's face it though, they look bad. Can you imagine telling anyone in the business world that you took a nap? Not in our society which places a premium on productivity!
It appears the American, anti-nap sentiment is spreading to other countries, bolstered by the need for standardized business hours in a global economy. How crazy is it that now other countries are catching on to our culture of cramming too much into a day? And while it's bad enough that American workers are giving up naps, many of us give up sleep, too. Want to bet I'm not the only one toiling at my computer at midnight? Bring back the nap! Read Louisa Thomas piece of napping that originally appeared in the Los Angles Times by clicking here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The effect of day care

Today, the Diane Rehm show on NPR plunged into the fascinating results of National Institute of Health funded research. The most comprehensive study ever of the effect of childcare indicates that young children who spend large amounts of time in day care centers are more likely to misbehave, up to about age 12. It is a study prompted by the huge number of working parents who put children in day care at least 10 hours a week and wonder about its effect.
The study followed 1,300 families from the birth of their children in 1991. It tracked their early child care and later performance in school. It shows that keeping a preschooler in a day care center a year or more increased the likelihood that the child would become disruptive in class. But only slightly.
It also found the children who spent early years in high quality day care are more verbally astute, with higher vocabulary scores through elementary school.
What I found most interesting on Diane's show this morning was the comments by Joan Lombardi, former associate commissioner for Child Care, US Department of Health and Human Services, about the quality of day care. "It is the quality of care in day care or home that counts."
The sad and hard to believe fact: "There is no national standard to measure the quality of day care centers. There are no national efforts to train child care workers... and a lack of inspections," she points out.
The study cost $200 million and basically revealed what most already had assumed: quality makes a difference but even in quality centers there is a modest negative effect.
Mostly out of necessity, there are more parents getting up and going to work and more children than ever spending time in child care. About 4 million children currently are in center-based child care.
To me, it is mindboggling that there are there are no national policies to help working parents cope with child care issues - no parental leave, no paid sick leave.
"Transforming child care and promoting positive development for children should be a high's about time we paid attention to it," Lombardi told Diane. I couldn't agree more.
click here to hear the audio from Diane Rehm's show.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Are single women dumped on?

New census number reveal more women are single than married (51 percent). This new fact is getting lots of attention. Some women just don't want to get married: many in their 20s and 30s relish freedom and often are concentrating on building careers rather than families. But I can't help but wonder whether these women are dumped on in the workplace.
I often hear from my single female co-workers complain their boss assumes they are available to pick up the slack when news breaks last minute and someone needs to work overtime. Of course, single men complain about this as well. But when women put in overtime, it usually is less about an opportunity for advancement and more about getting the grunt work done.
Is a single childless woman's need to get to the gym as important as a working mother's need to get to daycare? With more women choosing to stay single or waiting longer to get married, it will be interesting to see how this dynamic plays out in the workplace and whether sheer numbers make a difference. The New York Times published an interested article on the census numbers, click here to read it.

Friday, March 23, 2007

What a perk!

Those lucky workers at Memorial Healthcare System! The company is footing the bill for its nearly 11,000 employees to take advantage of a concierge service, Errand Solutions of Chicago. Time-strapped workers no longer have to pick up their own dry cleaning or spend the morning home waiting for the plumber. Under the hospital system's deal with the concierge service, someone (they call them sanity savers) will be onsite full time at two of its hospitals and part time at the other two hospitals.
How great would that be to have someone take care of your car's oil change while you're at work?Frank Sacco, CEO of Memorial Healthcare System, says when surveying hospital workers, help with their to-do list was one of the perk's they most wanted, especially the nurses who typically work long shifts.
Apparently, this concierge trend has caught on. Errand Solutions says it has been offering its service to businesses for seven years. Memorial joins about 30 other hospital systems nationwide that Errand Solutions has as clients. I asked Nicole Norris of Errand Solutions for the most common request?
That depends on where you live, she said: In California, the concierges get requests for about 30 car washes a day. In other parts of the country, the most common requests are post office runs and help with sending out birthday party invites. (The photo above is Errand Solutions CEO Marsha McVicker, a smart woman!)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Do you lack privacy at work?

My co-workers can hear my conversations. If I field a call from a child who needs homework help or my husband who might be having a bad day, my co-workers know my business. But of course, I know about their personal lives, too. It turns those of us in offices are closer than we've every been - literally.
A new study shows are work spaces are shrinking and only about a third of workers have private offices. Today, the space allocated to an executive office is 241 square feet, down from 291 twenty years ago. That's lavish compared to today’s senior professional, who must make do with about 98 square feet, or the call center employee who is typically assigned around 50. Predictably, the vast majority of workers (like me) toil in cubicles (59 percent), while 7 percent work in open areas with no partitions, according to a study by the International Facility Management Association
What's the deal? It turns out our individual space has been squeezed to to help the common good: some parts of our offices have become bigger - the space for our conference, training and break out areas has increased more than 17 percent. “If we can’t meet in an individual workspace, whether open or private then we have to go somewhere,'' says Melodee Wagen, president of Workspace Strategies Inc. in Lexington, Mass.
With less privacy, you would think more workers would retreat to home offices or coffee shops. Many do. But the study shows there are more people than ever working from office buildings. So the question is how close is too close to work together?

Make things better for women

No matter how much I do, I always wish I could do more for other women who struggle to improve their lives. Here's my chance to make a change, and yours too: The Miami Women's Summit 2007. On May 12th at Miami-Dade College, Wolfson Campus more than a dozen women's groups will come together to encourage women in public leadership and help improve women's economic conditions in Miami-Dade County. The morning will be filled with speakers and breakout sessions. The afternoon is a call to action, a chance to help create a blueprint for improvement. The fee is minimal, $20. To learn more or to register, go to

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Should you get paid sick leave?

If you're sick keep your germs to yourself - at home. Right?
Tell that to a school bus driver or waiter who desperately needs the pay. The reality is people either are too stressed about work to stay home. Or, they can't afford to lose a day's pay. Unfortunately, it's the people who can least afford to lose a day's pay who have no paid sick leave. Nearly all managers (especially salaried managers) get paid sick leave.
Now, change is in the works. Legislation has been proposed both in D.C. and in our state of Florida. Both require employers with 15 or more workers to give some paid sick leave, possibly up to 7 days for full time employees. Will this hurt small businesses?
In response to my article in today's Miami Herald (click here to read it), Lenny Booth of Miami's B Screened with 24 employees writes: "It would be very difficult for me to run this business if I were to give employees 7 days sick leave with pay. Each of my employees is vital to the every day operation of the business. At present I give a minimum of 3 days sick leave and then some based upon the longevity of the employee. This policy has been very successful for us (with some flexibility based on emergencies). I would recommend the same policy for other employers who have somewhere near the number of employee that we have."
Your thoughts? Should employers of all sizes be required to give employees paid sick leave?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Look who's telecommuting

Wouldn't it be great to work from home, at least some of the time? If you work for the government, chances are much better for this kind of arrangement. A national survey of federal government and private-sector employees shows government workers are telecommuting more than those in the private sector. For every three government workers who telecommute only one worker in private business uses this arrangement.
The trend toward more government workers who telework h0lds true even in Miami-Dade County, which recently explored expanding the use of telecommuting options and flexible schedules for its employees.
The national survey by CDW Corp. shows federal agencies are allowing more workers to telecommute each year. Indeed, 44 of federal employee indicate that they have the option to telework – up 6 percent from 2006 – while just 15 percent of private-sector employee respondents have that option. To make it easier for government workers, 62 percent of Federal agencies now have written IT policies for telework in place compared to 46 percent last year.
“The private sector is lagging when it comes to allowing employees to telework,” said Ken Grimsley, vice president of strategic sales for CDW Corporation, a Fortune 500 technology provider.
Click to see the full survey results.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Are you a leader?

If you head a business in Florida, I encourage you to participate in an annual survey by Florida International University and The Commonwealth Institute. Last year's survey was packed with useful information on how woman leaders view the demands and satisfactions of their careers, their leadership styles and the future of the organizations they lead. A copy of Florida's women-led businesses, the report detailing the results of the 2006 survey, may be accessed by clicking here. The 2007 survey can be completed online by clicking here. Use this logon information: Username:executive, Password:leader2007

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Tip from a life coach

Deborah Cabrera-Piquant of Miami is a busy vice president of finance with a hectic family life. Here's a work/life balance tip given to her by business/ life coach Pat Morgan: Make a list of all those little things that annoy you and drain your energy -- a button missing on your favorite shirt, a scratch on your car that needs to be buffed. Then, get to them one at a time. Deborah is working on her list. Are you?

Balance Makeover revisited

A few weeks ago, I visited Pamela Fero. Pamela, a South Florida air traffic controller and mother of six, had allowed clutter to overtake her home. She needed professional help -- a Balance Makeover. I sent over professional organizer Diane Hatcher of Time-Savers Professional Organizing Services. Diane helped Pamela create a system for organizing her paper piles. Since my article first appeared in The Miami Herald on January 21 , Diane returned to Pamela's home to tackle the piles of toys:

  • Diane set the kids room up in zones so each had an area for their own toys.
  • She helped Pamela label each of the colored trays in the toy rack so the kids and the nanny place the toys back in the proper trays.
  • While sorting, the two women made a “move to another room” box so that Pamela would not have to leave the room every time they found something that didn't belong.
  • Diane suggested Pamela avoid using large, deep tubs because toys that end up towards the middle and the bottom, never get used.
Next, the two called in 1800GotJunk. “Packed to the gills” is how I describe this garage,'' says Albert Gutierrez, Miami franchise partner at 1800GotJunk. "Things were falling out once the door was opened.''
Gutierrez and his junk removal crew helped Pamela sort through items one by one. At the end of the day, Gutierrez hauled away two truckloads of stuff. "We swept, cleaned and tidied up,'' Gutierrez says. "We left the homeowners with a lot of space, and saying “WOW!”.
On March 3, the Wall Street Journal reported in The Million-Dollar Kid (free preview; subscription required for full article) that kids are super expensive. "The government says families in the top-third income bracket will spend $279,450 to raise a child born in 2005 through age 17 -- or about $16,000 a year. The government clearly hasn't been to some kids' birthday parties lately." (I loved the birthday party line!)
The Journal went on to recalculate the total cost of raising a child, estimating expenses ranging from about $800,000 to $1.6 million (in 2007 dollars) to feed, house, clothe, educate and entertain a child through the age of 17. The Journal says the high-end (the $1.6 million number)includes extras like private school, a nanny and a flat-screen TV set in a kid's bedroom. (Journal calculations found a decade's worth of Nike sneakers totals more than $1,000)
Parents will agree that kids are expensive, but who knew? My husband now has some real numbers to argue against having a fourth child. The reality of a child's expense really depends on your earnings and your child's interests and spending habits. For parents whose kids are passionate athletes, baseball equipment and travel expenses can pile on cost. The biggest expense, the Journal found, is education -- private school. Some parents will tell you it's a worthwhile expense. But then again, in my opinion, so is having kids.

Paid Sick Leave

Sad but true: Nearly half (57 million) of all private sector employees in the U.S. don’t even have one day of paid sick days and 94 million workers cannot use paid sick days to care for sick children. I've spoken with dozens of South Florida workers who force themselves to go to work with the flu or send kids to school sick because they can't afford to take a sick day and not get paid.

The good news is that there's a movement underway to change that. The Healthy Families Act Coalition is hosting a rally tomorrow, March 13, on Capitol Hill to demonstrate the need for paid sick days and raise awareness of the need for paid sick days legislation. Rally participants also will deliver tissue packs with stickers that say “Get Well Soon! Support the Healthy Families Act” to every Congressional office. To learn more about this, go to

Monday, March 12, 2007

Can you spell G-U-I-L-T?

This morning, my middle son was in his school's fourth grade spelling bee. Each time, he and his teammate went to the podium, my heart raced. All his classmates were gathered in the cafeteria cheering their team. I wanted him to win.
But just being at the Spelling Bee took tremendous effort on my part. I was late to work, the dog didn't get walked this morning and I had to take the other kids to school earlier than they would have liked. So, when my son's teammate misspelled a word in the final round, I was torn. I consoled him. Yet, a part of me felt relieved. One less demand on my time. Can you spell G-U-I-L-T!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The No A**hole rule

In my first job, I vividly recall my boss calling each one of us on his staff into his office to tell us we stank and would never have a career in journalism. Shortly after, most of us quit -- and went on to have careers in journalism.
So when I recently came across an excerpt from Robert Sutton's book, The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One, I thought about my old boss (He's no longer in journalism by the way). It was a risk to walk away from my first job, but I am glad I chose not to work for an asshole. In our efforts to achieve work/life balance and reduce our stress, who wouldn't want to work at a place with a "No Asshole" rule? (Wish they had one at The Miami Herald!)
Here is Sutton's advice for enforcing the No Asshole Rule:
*A few demeaning creeps can overwhelm the warm feelings generated by hordes of civilized people. Eliminate those folks who bring people down.
*Talking about the rule is nice, but following up on it is what really matters. If you can't enforce it, it's better to say nothing.
* The rule lives - or dies - in the little moments. Treat the person right in front of you, right now, in the right way. Help assholes recognize when they do their dirty work and show them how to change.
* Enforcing the No Asshole Rule isn't just management's job. Everyone in the organization must step in to enforce it when necessary.
*Embarrassment and pride are powerful motivators. In organization where the rule reigns, people who follow it are rewarded with respect. Those who violate it are confronted with public embarrassment.
* Look in the mirror. When have you been an asshole? If you make this mistake, admit you are an asshole and stay away from nasty people or places.
If you work in a place with an asshole, maybe it's time to do something about it! Click here for the full excerpt on Sutton's book in American Lawyer.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Productive Commuting

As much as I complain about the traffic between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, the commute represents rare alone time. I don't do the commute every day, but those days I do, I try to enjoy the downtime rather than stress about the traffic. The commute actually gives me time to return phone calls, listen to music and wind down so that I've left my workday behind when I walk into the chaos of a house full of kids.

On the days when I have a 10-minute drive home from my newspaper's Broward office, I am physically present -- capable of seasoning chicken and robotically asking how school went -- but the eyes are glazed and my mind is miles away(did I forget to respond to that e-mail from my editor?). For all the downside of a commute, the upside is the ability to transition -- to put some physical and mental space between office and home. More and more, I find I need that. Do you?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

How to get a family-friendly position

In the years that I have been writing about work/life balance, I have come across numerous really top-notch females that wanted to return to their career after having a baby, but did NOT want the hours associated with full-time work. I am one of these women. After my first child, I asked for a reduced schedule. But I professed every intention of coming back full time in the near future. After giving birth two more times, I already had proved I could be a valuable member of the paper's business staff on a part time schedule. Soon, my editors stopped asking me when I was planning to return full time.
So, when I read Suzanne Dupree Howe's blog post on counsel to counsel, it made me think what it may take to get a family-friendly position. Suzanne's post says these positions at law firms usually are found through back door methods. Suzanne, a legal recruiter, says she has placed and gotten offers for women with reduced work schedules. But the interview process is tricky.
"In order to successfully negotiate, these women had to interview as if they wanted a full-time position, then sit back and wait for an offer. Then once the offer was in hand, they negotiated their hours. Simply put, they had to make the firms believe they were indispensable before they showed all their cards," Suzanne says.
Do you believe the back door method works best when seeking a part-time job?

Monday, March 05, 2007

What is convenience worth?

Sometimes, especially on deadline days, I'm too wiped to arrive at my chaotic home and start cooking dinner. So, I stop at the Fresh Market near my office and pick up roasted chicken or turkey. This has become a convenient but expensive habit. But I think so many working parents can rationalize spending money for convenience. In his syndicated column this weekend, writer Jeff Opdyke said his wife wants him to pay more for a "non-stop" flight to Orlando for their trip to Disney World. He thinks the $2,400 additional cost for "non-stop" is outrageous. She thinks it's worth the money when traveling with kids.
Clearly, everyone has their own breakpoint. But regardless of your income, and even if you are frugal, it's likely you've spent more money at some point in time just for convenience. And to you, it's worth it.
Recently, I've begun using a dog groomer that comes to my home and grooms my dog in RV type vehicle in my driveway. She charges about $15 more than most groomers. To me, it's money well spent. If I didn't work, I wouldn't spend the money. But finding time to take the dog to the groomer, then fighting with her to get out of my car has become a chore that's too draining. To me, the convenience of having the Grooming Wag-In come to my home is worth the additional expense. Apparently, others do too. The woman who runs the business told me she is so booked up, she no longer takes new customers.
In the Opdyke case, I think $2,400 is outrageous for convenience. But I can say I understand why his wife wants to spend it. Where though, do you draw the line?