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Monday, December 31, 2007

Remember the life side of work/life balance


With the kids off school and most of working America in vacation mode, it's the first time in months I have truly enjoyed the life side of work/life balance.


No deadlines. No school projects. No soccer games. No hurriedly prepared dinners. For the last week, my family doesn't have a schedule and we actually have to time have fun. How rare has it become for most American workers to truly have time for fun? I, for one, want more fun.


For the new year, I'm following an action plan I found on a website called coping.org. It suggests we keep a list of fun activities and write down with whom we want to do them. Make sure to include a few that don't require a lot of time or money. I'm putting eating pizza on the beach at least one evening a month on my list. What are you putting on yours?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Work/life balance in the new year

I'm supposed to work a part-time schedule. But with so much change in my industry, it's getting much harder to keep my work hours from stretching later each day. Full time workers in most industries also tell me they find their work hours getting longer. I just read that 50 percent of Americans will vow better work/life balance in the new year. I myself vow to strive for work/life balance, even as I take on new challenges at work.

So how do all of us make this resolution stick? Here are some tips that I plan to try:

* Take advantage of the benefits your company offers. “More companies are devising ways to help their employees achieve a healthy work-life balance, from telecommuting, to on-site fitness programs and more. Take advantage of these programs and if necessary talk with your employer to tailor these benefits for you.

* Set the Bar Appropriately – A goal that looks intimating from the start will probably never be accomplished. Instead of planning to never work on vacation, set a resolution to limit the time spent checking email to 15 minutes per day.

* Make Daily Reminders – Jot down your daily successes and failures; use failures as suggestions for improvement. I think this will help me feel like I accomplish something even on a part-time schedule.

For more tips on workplace goals, check out Beyond.com.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve, are you working?

I'm at work on Christmas Eve and I've discovered it's a great day to be at the office. I am spending more on a babysitter than I am earning today but I am getting a lot done. It's quiet. There are no phone interruptions. Everyone who is here is in a good mood. We're not in the malls and we're feeling so productive.

The best part is that I've come across a great blog just as I'm forming my must-do list for 2008. Check out the list of 50 Nerdy Things To Do Before You Die. (I particularly like number 16. But I’m still laughing over number 5 and 6.) Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Holiday tip

I want to pass on a great tip from a professional organizer/time management expert: "For a clutter free holiday just remember: If you don’t know what you are going to use it for and where you are going to put it, don’t buy it!"
This comes from Diane Hatcher is the author of Don't Agonize, Organize Your Office Now! and owner of
Time-Savers Professional Organizing Services, Inc.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Gender Gap and the holidays

What a great crack up piece by Dave Barry today about the gender gap during the holidays. Dave insists women complain about all the stuff they have to do and claims they inflict stress on themselves that men just don't have.

"On any given day during the holidays, my wife wraps more presents than I have wrapped in my entire life." As a wife, I must say Dave makes a valid point.

We do inflict stress on ourselves -- it's part of the insane notion that we must do it all --- PERFECTLY. Let's face it, how many men really care about buying presents for their child's teacher and wrapping it with sparkly bows.

I enjoy complaining to my husband about how much is on my to-do list. Most women do. So just go along with our insanity. Tell us how great we are for "doing it all" We're not blaming you for what you don't do, we're seeking some appreciation!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Covering up for a sick kid


A working mother myself, I spot the signs of other working moms desperately trying to keep their kid's child care routine in place -- even if they come down with a little bug of some sort.


Last night, a friend insisted her child had recovered from his sore throat and fever and was feeling better. That miraculous recovery will allow him to come to my house after school today, allowing her to work later. As much as I wanted to poke holes in her logic, I have to confess, I've been there!


I have friends that will outright admit to hiding their kids cold symptoms by giving their kid decongestant and sending them to school.


That's why I found an entry in the working moms against guilt blog so interesting. The author works from home and makes her own hours -- a working mother's dream job. A few weeks ago, her daughter came down with pinkeye and had to be taken out of preschool and the sitter's for a couple of days. Right around this time, mom also came up against a tight client deadline. She found her ability to work evenings and naptimes allowed her to meet the deadline (and do it well) while staying home with her daughter.


Few women have that flexibility or control over their work situation. But most of us want it. It makes me wonder why more companies don't realize allowing an employee to work from home when needed makes a BIG difference. Do you think we're making any progress in this area?

Monday, December 17, 2007

No party? How old is boss?

Saturday night I went to an office holiday party. It was well attended and a lot of fun. On the way home, my husband noted that as much as employees complain, they like and expect a holiday celebration.

I found it interesting when I read an article this morning that said baby boomers -- the group that is graying and most often in charge -- are the bosses least likely to throw a holiday party, according to a newly released survey by American Express. One consultant said boomers are just fed up with people coming to the party and complaining. Younger bosses are more likely to consider bonuses this year, according to the survey.

According to a poll of large companies, only 85 percent are throwing parties this year -- the third lowest rate of business parties in the 19 years that Battalia Winston International has been conducting the survey.

At the party this weekend, a group of us were discussing how nice it would be to get a bonus instead of a party. But my husband insisted that although his company gives bonuses, employees still want and expect some type of party.

If your boss decided against a party this year, let me hear from you. Was it okay with you? Would you rather have cash or a gift than a holiday party?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Why do employees leave? Stress.

Stress is the number one reason workers quit, says a new study by Watson Wyatt. But it's not even on the list of the top five reasons employers give for losing workers. Does that surprise you?



What's even more interesting is that very few employers offer stress management programs. Kathie Lingle, director of WorldAtWork says, "It would make business sense for employers to start offering them, but they need to go beyond yoga and massage to actually delve into work processes and culture to figure out potential causes of pressure."


What's causing worker stress? Kathy thinks it may be lack of supervisor support, inadequate feedback and workload or scheduling issues. So the question today is, "What's causing your stress at work?'' and "Does your boss have a clue?"














My neighbor left his high powered job a year ago, and still hasn't returned to the workforce. I see him shuttling kids around, puttering in his yard, and looking much younger for his age than most working men. Not sure how he's making ends meet but he sure looks good.




Wednesday, December 12, 2007

This mom hates science projects

The bags under my eyes today are a result of my daughter's science project. By the time our kids reach middle school, most parents have realized our children's science projects become a huge item on our to-do list. There's no way around it. The web is filled with frantic moms looking for tips, advice, ideas and help with their kids science projects. Do teachers realize this?

In my house, the scramble to buy materials and see these projects to fruition, while trying to do my outside-the-home job, has led to lack of sleep and arguments. But I know I'm not alone. For most parents, science projects are a nightmare. I've bumped into lots of worn out working parents over the last few weeks in Michael's at night buying supplies and cursing both their kids and the teachers who assign these projects. I have come to realize my negotiation skills and creativity help somewhat to prepare me for surviving these projects -- but not enough!

I'm amazed at how many "how to" websites there are about science project aimed at parents. (Here's a good one, by the way, just click) I'm rethinking the gifts I give my friends when they give birth. Forget the Dr. Spock book. I think a guide to surviving science projects would make a much better gift. Do you agree? Have any of you found a magic formula for balancing work and your child's science project?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Win or sleep?


Yesterday, one of the nation's top trial lawyers visited with our business staff at The Miami Herald. He gave us a glimpse into his work/life balance and his expectations for others at his firm.

What amused us is the mantra Boies poses his legal team during a trial: Do you want to win or do you want to sleep?

Boies, knows young associates want more flexibility and work/life balance. But he says his law firm, Boies, Schiller & Flexner, just can't give it to them. During trial there are times his legal team is expected to work intensely for 70 hours a week or more until the trial is over. For Boies there's only one answer to the win or sleep question? "Losing really sucks,'' Boies said.
Boies, known best for his representation of Al Gore during the Florida election recount, goes to bed at 10 p.m. and wakes up at 6 a.m. to ensure he's well rested and quick on his feet in front of a jury. Although Boies works through weekends and concentrates intensely on his case until his trial ends, he says, afterward he'll usually turn off his phone and take some time off to travel -- if he doesn't have another trial. Next year, he has four big trials on his agenda.

Boies says he doesn't knock the lawyers that want 9 to 5 jobs. "But you can't try big , important, life-changing cases unless there are periods when you can work intensely."

I bet there are others in a variety of professions who live by Boies' win or sleep mantra. Do you?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Saturday Night Fever, 30 years later


I was in middle school when Saturday Night Fever became a break out hit. It ignited a craze for dancing and music, made John Travolta a huge sensation, and holds a memorable place in history for me and lots of others. But an article than ran in my paper this weekend made me think about the movie differently.


Have you ever really thought about the movie's message? The article suggests that Saturday Night Fever is as relevant as ever and deems it a serous portrait of American life. Just like Tony Manero (a young working class ethnic) who was determined to dance himself out of a dead end job ( he worked at a paint store), so is most of America -- 30 years later. In the movie, disco dancing was Tony's escape from his bleak world. Today, we have American Idol, America's Got Talent and So You Think You Can Dance. We have TV bachelorettes and apprentices.


The article's author, Bruce Schulman, calls the movie -- a road map to income inequality, ethnic racial politics and the lure of celebrity. He says we should heed the lessons of the young man in polyester.


I look around my community and I see those same concerns. We're a community of low-wage workers in dead-end jobs who struggle to be middle class. And while our melting pot of residents try to balance work and life, pay health care costs and rising gas prices, they too dream of a big break. But the reality is, like Tony, we're all just working on Stayin Alive.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Working from home, successfully?

Today I am working from home. As much as I try to concentrate on writing, out of the corner of my eye, I see laundry that needs to be folded, mail that needs to be sorted and gifts that need to be wrapped. It's making me anxious. I think that's why I go to the office most days, even when I could work from home.

I wonder how so many people successfully work from home full time. It may be that I'm at a disadvantage because my home office is a desk in my bedroom. But in looking at some other blogs, I've discovered there are many entrepreneurs out there who are doing this work from home thing and making good money. I particularly like the entry on a work from home blog I discovered about making income from blogging, turning hobbies into profit, and even writing ebooks for profit.

If you goal in the new year is to shed corporate life to earn money from the comfort of home (and maybe even tackle your laundry on your lunch break), I say go for it. What's stopping you? Just watch out for work at home scams.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Working parents beware of January

Don't get me wrong, I love vacation days with my kids. And I realize that school is not meant to be daycare. But if you've looked at the Miami-Dade and Broward public school calendar for January, it's downright frightening and a threat to our work/life balance. Here's a link to the calendar.
What you should know is that your kids will have eight days off in January. (8 days!) For parents who work full-time, it can be tough to find short-term supervision for school-age children. And, older children will argue to be left home alone, which sometimes can really disrupt your workday.
Even though my employer usually has on-site holiday camps, most don't. It may be difficult to take time off so early in the year, especially when you've just taken holiday vacation. This is the time to befriend a non-working mom and cut a deal. Or work out an arrangement with your spouse to each take some time off. I've noticed some after-care providers at the public schools are offering special camps. How do you manage your kids time off, when you don't have any?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

New babysitter site, got to love it!

I just received a press release today and had to share it with anyone with kids who is struggling for work/life balance.
I can't vouch for this site but I love the concept. Here's what the release says: Care.com is the new go-to site for all things child care!
It's a new website that provides city-by-city care services (from babysitters to tutors to pet sitters) by zip code, making it easier than ever for families to find child care help. Apparently, the site operators conduct background checks so parents can feel confident in their child care choices.
The release says it's free for child care providers and babysitters to be part of the directory. And featured child care providers within the site provide additional information ranging from qualifications and certifications to current availability and rates.
I checked it for babysitters in my zip code and brought up about a dozen women ages 20 to 55. Most looked like they had babysitting experience. Looks like this site might be a real life saver!

Giving without going broke

It's a classic office etiquette dilemma: to give or not to give a gift to the boss, a co-worker, a helpful receptionist. On one hand, this is a great time to score points. On the other hand, you really don't want to go broke, especially when you have family gifts to buy.
Remember, the most important thing is to make your co-worker, boss , assistant feel special or appreciated. And that doesn't necessarily require a lot of money.
* This may sound corny but I tried it and it works: bake something, or have a friend bake something -- present it during that 3 o'clock lull when everyone needs a sugar rush. My specialty is chocolate covered pretzels, always a hit!
* While a gift certificate to a restaurant is nice, words go a long way. A card with a personal note will be the part of they gift they most appreciate.
* Order lunch in, your treat. (Their favorite food) It says something about the effort you make for them.
* Consider going in as a group for the boss' gift. Pass an envelope around with a note about what the money will be used for and everyone chips in what they want. No need to embarrass that co-worker trying to pay off a student loan by requiring a specific donation.
* For anyone you work with a gadget, paperweight, calendar, picture frame, pen and pencil set, or book are useful low cost gifts.

What if you receive an unforeseen gift? Do you reciprocate? " There are several viewpoints on this:
I think you could," says Deborah Brown-Volkman, a career coach in East Moriches, N.Y., and author of the forthcoming book "How to Feel Great at Work Everyday."
Dr. Randall Hansen , Founder of Quintessential Careers, writes: "Don't feel pressure to run out and buy a gift for the boss or a co-worker if he or she gives you one. But do send a thank-you note acknowledging the gift and expressing your gratitude.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Definition of sick day?

You're feeling kind of spent this time of year. Maybe you need a day off to put your house in order. Must you be sick to take a sick day?
Experts say it depends on who you work for and how they view sick time. Workplace author Carrie Mason-Draffen says because federal laws don't require sick days, individual companies set their own policies.
*Some companies will fire you for calling in sick and then being spotted in a shopping mall or at a baseball game. They expect you to use your sick days only when you are too sick to work.
* Some companies have given up trying to police employees' use of sick time. They are generous with their sick policies and consider sick days as flexible time to use for personal needs.
* Some companies even make you forfeit your sick days if you don't use them. But remember excellent attendance and honesty may be rewarded with promotions and wage increases.
Bottom line, be smart when calling in sick and think about how you boss or customer is going to react!