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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Ready for Labor Day, not for returning to work

Labor Day is the official end of the summer. Are you energized for the home stretch?
A new poll says most of you are not. You're bored, bored, bored at work. And, worse you're completely un-relaxed.
The survey conducted by DDI (Development Dimensions International) revealed some interesting findings on how most U.S. workers feel about work.
  • Although half of all U.S workers feel unmotivated about returning to work after Labor Day because of a lack of new challenges, when asked what career resolutions they would make after Labor Day, none of the respondents said they would ask their bosses for new and more interesting projects.
  • Males vs. Females: when making career resolutions, 12% of male respondents say they are determined to get a promotion after Labor Day and 18 percent are committed to participating in more professional development opportunities to fulfill that goal. However, none of the female respondents consider either of these as after-summer resolutions, ranking ‘looking for a new job’ and ‘focusing more on work’ as priorities.
  • The survey also revealed a work-life imbalance with sparse summer vacation time. Nearly a quarter of workers surveyed say they took no vacation and a total of 40% took zero to four days of vacation this past summer, leading 60% to report feeling un-relaxed.
I'm feeling a little spoiled after reading this poll. I took two weeks off this summer, feel totally relaxed and re-energized. I think it's fascinating though that most women are resolved to finding a new job, where men are focused n getting a promotion. What's going on out there? Are women burned out and giving up? Your thoughts please!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

When does she sleep?

I received an e-mail from a mom that exemplifies the craziness of this work/life balancing act. A female lawyer, mother of a 2-year-old, gave me a glimpse of what her day is like.
She works 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., has dinner with her family, works a few more hours from home, goes to sleep, wakes up at 3 a.m. with her son, spends a while trying to get him back to sleep and then wakes up at 6 a.m. to start all over again. I'm exhausted just thinking about her routine!!!!!
She writes: "My son is only two, and I don't think he'll remember my long days at work. When he is older maybe I'll cut back a little (you know…to 2200 hours a year instead of 2700). For now, I put great value on the time I do have, and if there is an emergency at work, you'll see the light of my laptop through my bedroom window and hear the tap-tap-tap of my keyboard when everyone is asleep. It's by far not perfect, but it is still a man's world, and for now, I manage to be the associate, the mom and the wife all in 24 hours a day."
I have to wonder, how long can this sleep-deprived mom can keep up this pace? How soon until she's tempted to quit and stay home? And will her choices be all or nothing?

The Price of 24/7 Convenience

Who among us hasn't appreciated the convenience of filling a prescription at 10 p.m or banking on a Saturday?
But have you ever stopped to think about the societal impact of our round-the-clock schedules on American families? Someone has to work those odd hours. Today, one in five Americans work mostly nonstandard hours and one-third of all employed Americans work weekends.
Harriet Presser, a University of Maryland professor, has studied the effect of 24/7 on families and says: "This trend is...making the home-time structure of the American family far more complex that we've acknowledged.'' Oddly enough, it is the huge increase of women in the workforce that has fed the demand for round-the-clock services that better suit their schedules. But the effect, she says, is split-shift parenting, lower quality of marriages, sleep deprivation and increased stress on families. Presser is pushing for a frank policy discussion of the issues she raises. Tell me your thoughts about the price of convenience.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Get ahead by going abroad?


I just learned of a new book that has me intrigued. Get Ahead By Going Abroad: A Woman's Guide to Fast-Track Career Success (Collins 2007) Going abroad is a subject of great interest where I live -- many companies in Miami have Latin American operations and look to send female executives to those countries.

Author Stacie N. Berdan says by working abroad early in their careers, women can then have much greater options as they rise up the ranks. In her book she includes interviews with more than 40 women who talk about their time overseas, their rise and their ability to balance and manage careers now. Berdan even suggests going abroad can lead to higher pay. I will definitely put this book on my shopping list. For more info, visit http://www.gettingaheadbygoingabroad.com/.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Hittting the glass ceiling, more like a labyrinth


A new report in the upcoming Sept. issue of Harvard Business Review puts an end to the glass ceiling myth.
"The glass ceiling metaphor is now more wrong than right," the article says. It's shameful that of the top highly paid executives at Fortune 500 companies, only 6 percent are women. Why is this? The article says it's because what confronts women in their professional endeavors is not a glass ceiling but a labyrinth -- obstacles that women run up against at every level even though the final goal is obtainable.
What are the obstacles?
* Prejudice. Men as a group still have higher wages and faster promotions. The scarcity of female corporate officers is the sum of discrimination at all ranks, not just as women approach the top.

*Resistance to women's leadership. People associate women and men with different traits. People are more resistant to women's influence and dominant behavior than to men's.

*Issues of leadership style. Female leaders often struggle to cultivate an appropriate and effective leadership style.

*Demands of family life. Women continue to be the ones who interrupt their careers, take more days off and work part time. As a result, they have fewer years of job experience and fewer hours of employment per year, which slows their progress and reduces their earnings.

*Underachievement in social capital. Overall, women have less time to socialize with colleagues and build professional networks.

But rather than just bellyache, the authors offer some suggestions for management intervention that works:
Challenge the long hours norm, reduce the subjectivity of performance evaluations, avoid a sole female member of any team (outnumbered, women tend to be ignored by the men), prepare women for line management with appropriately demanding assignments and allow employees who have significant parental responsibilities more time to prove themselves worthy of promotion.

"Labyrinths become infinitely more tractable when seen from above, the article says. I agree. However, it usually takes a visionary to see their own workplace from above. Are there enough visionaries out there? Do you work in a labyrinth?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Workaholic or hard worker?


Are you still at the office well past the dinner hour? Or are you home but on your laptop, eating potato chips and clacking on your keyboard?

This is the time of year everything swings into full gear -- work responsibilities, networking events and big projects. So here are some questions to ask yourself to figure out if you're a hard worker or a workaholic.

(Remember, it's OK to be excited about what you do for a living. It's a problem if you have no work/life balance!)

* Have your family or friends given up expecting you on time?
* Do you get impatient with people who have other priorities besides work?
* Is the future a constant worry for you even when things are going very well?
* Do you get irritated when people ask you to stop doing your work in order to do something else?
* Have your long hours hurt your family or other relationships?
* Do you think about your work while driving, falling asleep or when others are talking?
* Do you work or read e-mail during meals?


If you answered yes to most of these questions, you need to make some changes. Here are some suggestions I picked up from Columnist Penelope Trunk (author of the "Brazen Careerist") who writes in her blog about different ways to control the amount of time you spend at the office and free up time for other things.

* Find a mentor who is respected but doesn't work insane hours.
* Create something important for yourself outside of work
* Figure out what matters each day and spend your time on that.
*Concentrate on quality of work over quantity. People don’t lose a job for not working unpaid overtime, they lose a job for not performing well at the most important times.

If all else fails, there's always Workaholic's Anonymous.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Strategies for coping with back to school

As kids head back to school, I recently put a query out to readers, asking working parents to share their best tips for keeping themselves and their kids organized during the year. I highlighted some tips in my Miami Herald column. Here are a few more that I found useful:
Sandra Hermens has four kids. She buys them only white socks, all the same brand and size. "They share and there is no matching of socks to be done on laundry day."
Professional organizer Kristin Long recommends designating a space to do homework where supplies are nearby but a television or video game system are not too close. "Plan on having them study at a particular time each day to reduce the need for cramming.'' She also suggests a family calendar with each member's appointment or events written in a different color.
Busy mom Maria Juncadella keeps a To-Do list with items listed by priorities. "In the morning, after coffee, I look at my list and devise my plan of action to check-off all priority 1 items, most of priority 2s and a few 3s."
And here's a tip shared by Janet Grade, who works for the Miami-Dade school system. She says working parents often tell her they are too busy or too tired to help their children study or learn. As students head back to school, she encourages parents to take opportunities when driving, grocery shopping or walking the dog to add up prices, count stop signs or review for a test. ‘‘Parents who participate in education make a difference," she says.
Happy New School Year!

I need a wife

Earlier this month, The New York Times ran an article about women who want wives. The even have a term for it, "wive envy." Now that women have solidly earned their place in the work force, they still yearn for something men often have: wives.
''The thing I most want in life is a wife. I'm not kidding,'' said Joyce Lustbader, a research scientist at Columbia University, who has been married for 29 years. ''I work all day, sometimes seven days a week, and still have to go home and make dinner and have all those things to do around the house.''
The article says working women have noticed, correctly, that their male colleagues with wife support -- whether or not those wives are themselves working outside the home -- get further at work. And research supports their argument: it appears that marriage, at least marriage with children, bolsters a man's career but hinders a woman's.
Look around your workplace and you will see the effect of this playing out. I have double the personal to-dos on my daily list than my husband. Most women do. We are the ones organizing, juggling and filling our head space with the daily demands of family life. That leaves less time and energy to focus on the workplace tasks and, at times, even has women feeling resentful of their male colleagues or bosses. It's no wonder personal concierges and errand runners are becoming popular with women. Personally, I would love a wife, how about you?
Here's a link to the New York Times article, unfortunately it's in the paid archives.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Did you keep cool during hell week?

I made it! Today's start of school marks not only a new year but the end of hell week for working parents. It's that week after summer camp ends and before school starts when working parents scramble. Rather than open my wallet and cajole my part-time babysitter into working full-time, I took the week off.
Before long, I found myself the savior of all working mothers in my neighborhood. I traded a house full of kids for future chits to call in when I run into a child care emergencies. ( a ploy used by smart working moms!)
Some small business owners told me they bridged the gap by putting their kids to work, this works especially well in home offices. Those with tolerant bosses brought their kids to work. One mom told me last week was one of the most expensive for her family -- add childcare costs to back to school clothes and supplies and the bank account suffers. When the school bell rang today, that mom celebrated. So did I!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Men feel tied to jobs

Here's a quick snapshot of men's thoughts on their professional pursuits, according to a survey in the upcoming Sept. issue of Men's Health magazine.
Men feel more entitled to breaks during work hours because they are tethered to the office round the clock. A full 60 percent of men said they work 41 to 60 hours a week , while 82 percent said they take work-related calls after hours. But here's the interesting fact: 24 percent said they spend half the day or less actually working.
Among the survey's other results: Nearly 75 percent of men said they would prefer to work for a man rather than for a woman. One reader's explanation: "They die sooner."

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Help from Hillary


As far as employees go, we'll take any help we can get in balancing our work and personal lives. I feel for the spouses or relatives of wounded military members who are trying to earn a living and care for their loved ones. So I say, hooray for Hillary! (even if she may be attempting some pre-election posturing)

Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Christopher Dodd (D-CT) sponsored an amendment to a program that would extend job-protected unpaid family and medical leave for up to six months for the families of wounded military personnel. The Senate approved it a few days ago. Debra Ness of the National Partnership for Women & Families says, "This can make a real difference for military families under enormous stress." Ness points out: This would be the first ever expansion of the 14-year-old Family & Medical Leave Act. Ness is urging the House to approve a similar bill.

For more information: http://www.nationalpartnership.org/.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Laptops or landmarks?

Can it be true? Vacationing execs spend more time looking at laptops than landmarks. I've changed my whole way of thinking on this subject. Last summer, I gave my husband a hard time about bringing his laptop on vacation. This summer, I want him to bring it -- so I can use it to check my e-mail. Most of us find returning to an overflowing inbox overwhelming. So, why not clear e-mail a few times while you're away?
But the guy sitting next to me on a lounge chair at Disney's Blizzard Beach crossed the line. He was so busy with his Blackberry, he didn't notice his toddler had wandered over to me and started a whole conversation. Even after he finished checking his e-mail, his mind clearly was on work and not his daughter's where abouts. Is that really a family vacation?
There's a difference between checking in with work and being involved while on vacation. I like these tips from Dave Willmer of The Creative Group. Willmer's poll of 250 executives shows only 13 percent don't check in while on vacation.
*Spread the word about your vacation plans and use the out of office function
*Designate a point of contact and give the person clear instructions.
*Establish check in times and stick to those times.
*Unplug. Bringing your laptop or PDA is OK, taking it out of the hotel room is not.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

An unpaid day off -- cheap or a great perk?

Who doesn't want a day off work?
But what would you think if you boss urged you to take one -- with no pay?
That's just what has been going on at The Miami Herald. Yesterday, management sent out an e-mail offering to help us, the overworked employee, with our work/life balance issues.
Here's a summary of the e-mail: "The program offers full and part-time employees the opportunity to take an extra day of unpaid time off starting July 31 through the end of the year. All Days Off require written approval from your manager.
Here's the response from cubicles nearby: If we have vacation days and comp days that we can't even find time to take, what does an unpaid day off do for us? The skeptics then chimed in with this: "Is this just a way for the big guys to save a few bucks -- by urging us to take time off with no pay?
Okay, to be fair, some of my co-workers think this is a great perk if they need it some day. I feel that way as well. But one co-worker posed this question: What would they have done to us if we needed a day off and had none left to take?
Let me hear your thoughts on giving or taking unpaid time off.