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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Finding balance while traveling


On the road and feeling you need more balance in your life? Check out this new website called BusinessBalance.com. It's a website created by Embassy Suites Hotels and designed to help business travelers figure out how to eat better, get a good night sleep, fit exercise into their travel schedules and reduce stress by navigating airports better. There also are tips for where to go to goof off.


"Our website acknowledges that people aren't able to stick to their standard routine when traveling," says John Lee, a vice president with Embassy Suites Hotels. The site has practical information on wrinkle-free packing but it also has wellness suggestions for how to care for your body and soul on the road. "It's how to stay sane on the road," Lee says.

Stressed? Stay away from checkout lines

A new study shows the average American woman could lose 4.1 lbs a year simply from resisting the urge to purchase impulse items such as chocolate candies, salty snacks, and soda once they are in the checkout line, according to a new study from IHL Consulting Group. These are just the kind of foods I grab at the checkout line when I'm stressed or trying to fit too much into my day and don't have time for a healthy meal. Junk-on-the-go, isn't that the side effect of our 24/7 days?



Men do the checkout grab, too. The study shows American men could lose 3.1 pounds from resisting the urge to buy junk items at checkout. The worst at this is men under the age of 25 years old whose caloric impulse buys cause them to consume enough calories each year for an additional eight more pounds.

I plan to take the advice of the experts. Instead of heading for the checkout line next time I'm stressed or time-pressed, I'll opt for the self-checkout. The study shows impulse purchases among women drop 32.1 percent and men 16.7 percent when self-checkout is used because those counters aren't as merchandised.

Are you guilty of skipping meals because you get too busy and filling up on junk instead? Is your new year's resolution to stop doing this working? Many working people hit the drugstore or supermarket on the way home from work. That makes you vulnerable to the checkout line grab. Have you come up with creative solutions?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Making time for friends

So research shows we have fewer friends and spend less time with them than 20 years ago. I put the research to the test and found out Karen Echols, COO of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, bonds with girlfriends through Ladies Night Out. Each month Echols asks a different hostess to invite the group to their home and decide what food will be served. Echols says they women talk about range of topics and try to stay upbeat. Some women have splintered off and formed more intimate subgroups. Echols says her husband Bill uses the night to get together with his friends. "I think it's as important as working out."






John Cardillo, a Miami Internet entrepreneur, logs lots of work hours and travel miles. But he, too, makes time for friends. As a member of The Havana Club in downtown Miami, Cardillo drops by frequently to smoke a cigar and shoot the breeze with buddies. He also takes motorcycle trips with his pals. Cardillo believes making time for friends is good for his health. "It's my way of decompressing," he says.



Here are a few tips on making time for friends from friendship coach Jan Yager

* Plan a lunch date or coffee break and while catching up schedule your next get together.

* If you live far away, schedule vacations together, or even a day trip.

* Make a movie night each month and invite a different friend each time.

* Volunteer together.



Yager acknowledges it may take extra effort the busier we get but she considers it a good investment for the future when you have more time on your hands. I've decided I'm going to make more effort to make time for friends. Do you feel you get more from friendships than from relationships with a significant other or family members?

It's Tuesday, get to work

If you are at work right now, you should know this --- Tuesday is the most productive day of the week, so get cranking!

A recent Accountemps survey of 150 senior executives from the nation’s 1,000 largest companies found that 57% favored Tuesday as their most productive day. Monday is the catchup day after the weekend and a common day for meetings. It was no surprise that Friday was considered the least productive day of the week (we have the weekend on our minds) “Many view Tuesday as an opportunity to focus their efforts and establish momentum for the rest of the week,”said Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps

Meanwhile, Accountemps, a temporary staffing firm for accounting, finance and bookkeeping, offers suggestions to keep productive throughout the week:
–Spend 10 to 15 minutes to plan and prioritize your tasks for the day.
–Cluster tasks that require similar effort or resources so you’re not switching gears often.
–Designate a time to check e-mails so you’re not easily distracted.
–Take short breaks throughout the day so you remain refreshed.
_ Don’t put off working on unpleasant or overwhelming assignments. Overcome procrastination by breaking a project into smaller tasks.

Tuesday is my deadline day so it happens to be my most productive. Let me know what you think of this study. Has today been your most productive day?

Monday, February 25, 2008

More workplaces kid friendly?

Good news for working moms and dads. More than three in five companies have made policy changes to better accommodate working parents, according to a recent Office Team survey.

Indeed, 62 percent of employees polled said their company has made changes in workplace policy to better accommodate working parents in the past five years. It's not just the big guys who are making changes. "For smaller firms that may not have as much flexibility in adjusting salaries as larger organizations, offering these types of benefits can level the playing field,” says Diane Domeyer, executive director of OfficeTeam. “

I'm hoping employers continue in this direction. But I think that these policies will be just that -- policies -- as the economy sours and businesses need to do more with less. Do you think businesses will continue to do more to accommodate working parents, or will we go in the opposite direction as business owners feel the heat on their bottom lines?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Is Lipstick Jungle make believe?

Last Friday, my friend Beth and I had planned to have lunch. But between deadlines and school pick ups, we had a "relaxing" 10 minute lunch together eating takeout in front of a deli. So when I watch the new breed of TV shows (Lipstick Jungle, Cashmere Mafia and Big Shots) they makes me wonder: How do these execs at the top of their game have time to pal around with friends on a regular basis?



Lipstick Jungle, which appears the biggest hit of the bunch, is about three women who have risen to the tops of their chosen professions while remaining good friends/confidantes/advisors. While these shows are supposed to be soapy primetime fun, they spark a certain disbelief about how much time friends get in the work-life balance equation. In Big Shots, the four men run big companies, have spouses or girlfriends, and still have time to pal around on the links or at the sauna a few times a week.



When Nataly at Work it Mom.com asks on her blog how often working moms went out during an average month with friends the answers ranged from not at all to once a week. Which leaves me to wonder, is the Lipstick Jungle make believe? Or are these execs just better at keeping up with friends than most business people trying to do it all?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A year off-- Is it your fantasy?




Would you completely freak out if you were financially able to take a year off work and do nothing? Does getting out of the rat race for that long scare you about your chances of getting back in? How would you respond if someone asked you what you did for a living?

Yesterday, I chatted with Lynne Wines, CEO the South Florida division of CNL Bank. After a long career as a banker(previously Colonial Bank's president and CEO for commercial banking in South Florida), Wines took 14 months off -- to do nothing. No running from meeting to meeting, no overbooked schedule and mounds of email to clear, no pressing
Wines says it took a while to unwind -- to allow herself to do nothing. She traveled, read books mid-day in a lounge chair in her backyard, did some volunteer work. She says it did feel odd to fill out forms that asked for her profession or respond to the cocktail party question: what do you do? Her answer, "I'm a banker." She took a full year off before she started to job hunt.

Wines, looked relaxed, and has re-entered the workforce (right back at the top) with new enthusiasm. She recommends everyone take a year off if they can swing it: "It's the best gift you can give yourself."


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

When you need time off

Let's say you need time off for medical reasons or to take care of grandma. You will need to know about planned changes to the Family & Medical Leave Act of 1993. That's the federal law that provides workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year to have or adopt a child, recover from a serious illness or care for an immediate family member.



Labor lawyer Mark Zelek at Morgan Lewis& Bockius in Miami, explains the proposed changes to FMLA made by the U.S. Department of Labor on Feb. 11. Labor officials say the regulations, which they want to implement by the end of the year, would make the law more user friendly for companies and employees.
What the changes mean to you depends on whether you’re an employer or an employee.

  • Workers taking time off (intermittently or irregularly) for a chronic medical condition for the first time will be required to treat an FMLA absence like any other absence from work. In non-emergency situations, advance notice will be required using the company’s normal call-in policies.


  • Workers who want time off for serious health conditions will need two visits to a health care provider within a month of the condition's onset. Employers will be able to contact medical providers directly to get clarifications and to check the authenticity of the employee’s documentation.


  • Workers with illnesses lasting an unknown period will have to get medical certification of their condition every year.


  • Employers will not be able to charge FMLA time to employees who come back to work but can only do "light" duty.


  • The Labor Dept. must quickly put into effect a new law granting as much as 26 weeks of FMLA leave to care for an injured or ill military member.

Do you think these changes are in your best interest? If you want to give your comments, you have until April 11. The Labor Department hopes to issue final regulations by the end of the year. Submit comments by clicking here.

Democratic congressional leaders oppose regulatory changes to the employee leave law, but it’s not clear whether they will try to block them. To read more, click here.

Are workers stressed to death?

Scary news: the suicide rate for men and women ages 45 to 54 has risen 20 percent in the last decade, far outpacing changes in nearly every other age group, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

In an article today in the New York Times, health writer Patricia Cohen attempts to figure out why we're seeing this increase in mid-life suicide. She writes: "For health experts, it is like discovering the wreckage of a plane crash without finding the black box that recorded flight data just before the aircraft went down." The guesses range from lack of counseling for this age group to skyrocketing use and abuse of prescription drugs to the growing pressures of modern life.

I spoke about the trend with organization pychologist Ken Siegel. He points out this this age group is in their prime working years. "If suicide is the pinnacle of destructive coping with stress, this study is really alarming.''

What do you think of this trend? Should employers do more to help employees manage stress and depression?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Looking for balancing during a job search

I am one of those workers who consider work/life balance as important as compensation when considering a job offer. But I had worked a few years before bringing up the topic with my boss. It appears, I'm a dinosaur.

Today, job seekers want to know about work-life balance before they sign on. According to a new Hudson survey, nearly a third (29 percent) of U.S. workers now consider work-life balance and flexibility to be the most important factor in considering job offers.

"Money will always be important to people, but in this age of Internet powered remote access where there are so many virtual options, employees place a much higher premium on flexible work arrangements," said Robert Morgan, co-president of Recruitment and Talent Management, Hudson.

This study also confirmed what most of us know -- the job we fill often differs from the polished version presented during an interview -- especially when there's a promise of flexibility. Hudson found one in five (20 percent) workers said that the position they accepted did not quite match up with the job they heard about during their interview.

Have you brought up the topic of work-life balance during a job interview? What was the reaction?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Two views on who is the boss

Lots of reaction to an article I wrote yesterday on female high wage earners. Many men whose wife or girlfriend makes more complained that these women don't have mutual respect. They also feel that these women can be overbearing. My editor, Terence Shepherd, feels these men are practically screaming out that their spouse feels she owns them: "Shut up honey and change the baby's diaper, or I'll take the keys to the BMW from you.''

Women responded completely opposite. Some feel that men are too sensitive about earning less. One woman said her boyfriend dumped her because she made twice his salary and he felt emasculated.

I'm left realizing there is a lot of resentment out there. It's only going to get worse unless couples communicate because women are forecasted to outearn their man in half of all households by 2025. Are you in this type of relationship. What do you feel is the key to making it work?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Things to do with wasted time

I hate to waste time. Last Friday, I sat waiting for the doctor long after I finished reading the newspaper I had brought. I went nuts just sitting there being a time waster. So when I saw some tips in my Inbox from Jason Womack, a motivational coach, I printed them out and decided I will put them to use. And, I will share them with you, with a little of my own ideas included.

Jason writes, "You may not always be able to avoid cancellations, delays and other people running late, but with a bit of preparation, you can get even more done when life doesn't go exactly as planned."

1. Write Cards - Jason says he keeps a few cards with stamped envelopes inside my briefcase. I can write 3 cards on the plane before my flight even takes off! If you're wondering what to write, set your mind on gratitude. (I'm going to keep the cards in my car to use while in carpool lines)

2. Get to know your Gear. Transform your cell phone into a productivity tool that supports you instead of distracts you. Update your phone's contact list by going through the menu of most recent calls. Create speed dials for numbers you use frequently. Add names and numbers from loose business cards you are still carrying around. Learn how to set alarms & timers.
Set unique ring tones for people who call you most often. (I'm going to start by finding my cell phone manual)


3. Keep Learning: Most people believe that learning is what you do in your personal time, and reading during business hours is prohibited. To overcome this stigma, rip out magazine articles and keep a "To Read" folder with you. Keep just the pages you want to read, this cuts down on all of the paperwork you'll carry around.

4. Keep Learning - Part 2: Use your iPod to listen to university courses and business lectures . A few of Jason's favorite podcasts are: POP!Tech, TEDTalks, Harvard's HBR Idea Cast and The Economist. You can access The Miami Herald's weekly business podcast on our webpage.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Who buys the roses on Valentine's Day?

Who is buying the roses this Valentine's Day? That might be a subject of negotiation in more households this year, especially as more women continue to out-earn their man.

This week, I interviewed about a dozen high-earning women. Here are some of their thoughts on how they make their business and marriages work.

Christina Noelle of MCZ Development, mother of two, travels between Miami and Chicago to oversee operations of her company. Her husband, a salesman, left the workforce -- at least for now -- to care for their young children. Noelle says, she and her longtime husband make it work by being respectful of each other. "You have to talk a lot. None of it is easy. Everything is a negotiaton...who does the laundry, who picks up the kids, who drops off the dry cleaning.''

Julie Neitzel, president of Miami's GenSpring Family Offices: on Valentine's Day married 25 years, had this to say: "You have to be partners, every has to give a little. " Neitzel who at times has had an intense travel schedule says when her husband needs to pick up more he does, when she is in town, she does her share. Neitzel points out that work/life balance is tough for everyone and that at any time, job situations can change. "It's not easy for anyone man or woman these days. You do the best you can and be prepared to regroup."

Here's the link to my TV on appearance, talking about female breadwinners.

A Valentine Tradition: Overhyping Office Romance

I happened upon a blog this morning that put my thoughts into words.

There are minor workplace issues and there are major workplace issues. And then there are blown-out-of-proportion workplace issues—like romance in the office, a topic that inevitably surfaces around Valentine’s Day. John Hollan writes: I understand the news hook of Valentine’s Day, but really, is this a hot, burning issue for any workplace in America?

Like Hollan, I have received at least a dozen press releases on the latest Valentine’s Day survey, poll or expert advice that is supposed to show why office romances are good, bad or problematic.

Last week, Sue Shellenbarger of The Wall Street Journal told us that the office has replaced college as the top marital hunting ground. Young people are waiting longer to get married and some are meeting their spouses at work. By now, most people know that dating the boss is a bad idea. We don't need cupid to remind us of that. But I don't see dating a colleague as a new and huge workplace problem, do you?

Monday, February 11, 2008

work/balance workshop this week


Mark your calendars, there is a work/life balance workshop coming up. The National Association of Women Business Owners is hosting a luncheon titled The Art of Balancing for Women: Myth or Reality? The brochure says speaker Dr. Sandra Coiffman-Yohros, a psychologist, will give tips and techniques for managing various worlds more effectively.


The luncheon is Thursday at noon at Courtyard By Marriott at 200 S.E. 2nd Ave. in downtown Miami. (cost is $40 for non-members). RSVP at rsvp@nawbomiami.org. I hope to interview Dr. Coiffman-Yohros for this blog and pass along some tips. Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Where are your kids after school?

For me, the afternoon hours when my kids get home from school are nuts (and that's with my kids supervised). I shutter when my friends and co-workers tell me how crazy and difficult it can get for teens after school without supervision. That's why I can understand the hysteria about the proposed federal budget cut in funding for afterschool care.

Here is what's going on: This week, President Bush released a budget proposal to cut the popular 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative from the $1.1 billion to $800 million. The effect is it would deny afterschool programs to some 300,000 students, according to the Afterschool Alliance.


"With millions of children unsupervised after school, funding for these programs should go up, not down, says Jodi Grant, executive director of Afterschool Alliance." If Congress agrees to the President’s devastating proposal, millions of children and families that need quality afterschool programs will lose." To read more about this visit http://www.afterschoolalliance.org/. Do you think there are adequate afterschool programs in your neighborhood?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Layoffs loom, so do new jobs

I'm starting to get newsletters and press releases predicting mass layoffs in 2008. According to CareerProtection.com, a company that helps employees negotiate severance deals or retirement packages, job cuts by major corporations will accelerate in 2008. The New York-based firm says it “has been inundated this month with telephone calls from employees at Bear Stearns, Chrysler, Citigroup, Covidien Healthcare, Ford, GM, Indy Mac and Sprint Nextel, [which] have announced plans for reductions-in-force in January.”


That's the bad news. But don't feel like you're stuck in your dead-end job with no prospects. Small-business owners are poised to add jobs. According to the Alternative Board, a Westminster, Colorado-based firm that provides advisory services, about 57 percent of the nation’s small businesses plan to hire more people in 2008. Less than 4 percent expect to downsize. Small firms also expect big things in 2008: Nearly 73 percent envision greater profitability, and 61 percent will increase their capital spending. That's good news for South Florida, where our local economy is made up mostly of small business. To read more about this trend in Workforce Management.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Will employers be flexible?

Remember the days when accounting firms used to be tough places for women to move up and for men to get any kind of flexibility? Today, Grant Thornton, announced it ranked as the top accounting firms for work/life balance in a survey of about 1,200 accounting educators from 173 universities. The firm has formal flexible work arrangements and a workplace culture that encourages them.

Expect more of these formal flexible work policies going forward, says Kathie Lingle, director of the Alliance for Work/Life Progress. Lingle cites three reasons: First, companies offering flex arrangements on an individual basis, run the risk of being accused of favoritism. Second, by having formal policies and tracking who uses them, an organization can measure results. (Are workers as productive?) Third, these formal policies usually are accompanied by training programs and guidelines to make them effective.

Lingle says in recession when there's less money to go around, companies can offer flexiblity which costs them zero but gives them an uptick in morale. Click here to read Kathie's blog.


A Fort Lauderdale law firm, WardKim, recently wrote me on this subject. Here are some ways that partners Jay Kim and Greg Ward say they have made their Fort Lauderdale law firm WardKim more flexible.

  • Most law firms rigorously pursue hourly billing requirements for attorneys and paralegals. We view our billable structure as goals rather than a requirement.

  • We recognize that employees have a variety of legitimate reasons for needing personal time. We are generally very accommodating to our employees’ schedules, even when they request last-minute changes.

  • Most law firms monitor and limit staff usage of the Internet. We expect our employees to exercise good judgment regarding the use of the Internet for personal reasons and don't limit their usuage as long as they do their work.

  • We decided not to create a calendar of fixed events. Rather, we meet with our team members on a regular basis to discuss what types of office events they would enjoy. Everyone welcomes this spontaneity.

  • We work hard to ensure our employees are comfortable approaching the senior members of our firm. We back this up by delivering on our promise to keep our minds open and find newer and better ways to run our firm to ensure everyone’s job satisfaction.


"In today’s competitive corporate environment where it’s increasingly difficult to hire and retain high-quality employees, law firms that establish a corporate culture of flexibility will help ensure greater employee satisfaction and position themselves for greater long-term success," says partner Greg Ward.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Ease your morning routine


Do you feel like you can barely find your shoes in the mornings- let alone pull together a stylish outfit and get out the door fast?

I just read a great book that has helped me with the crazy morning routine of a working mom. It is called Ready To Wear, by Mary Lou Andre, a nationally recognized wardrobe consultant. Mary Lou outlines a five-step approach to re-organizing your entire wardrobe. The biggest tips I gleamed is to organize my closet by outfits (and to shop that way as well). The author even suggests hanging accessories with the outfits in your closet. I started using some of what I learned in the book and has become much easier to bolt out the front door each morning ( and to figure out what items I have nothing to match). Check out Mary Lou's website for some tips and pass along any you have to share.