All posts by Cindy Goodman

Cindy is a national columnist who can help you with the daily struggle to find career and personal fulfillment. She offers creative solutions and new strategies for juggling work and play, career and family. As a mother of three and veteran journalist, she brings her personal experience to the work/life balancing act.

Flexibility: an ideal Mother’s Day gift

One night I walked into my home after work and my two young children were asleep for the night. I had left when they were sleeping and returned when they were sleeping. Although I loved my job, I considered quitting. Instead, I asked my manager for a reduced schedule. I got what I wanted but from that point on, I was shoved into a different category at work, someone who had received an accommodation.

Twenty years ago, that was the definition of flexibility, an accommodation for a working mom. Today, flexibility is much more than an accommodation. It is THE one thing that can make the difference in a working mother’s life and smart employers make it a critical component of their corporate culture.

Mothers who don’t have flexibility struggle every day with holding jobs and raising their children, and often quit when they are unable to sort out the conflicts. There is no substitute for being able to come in later or leave earlier to handle a childcare responsibility.

Recently, I asked the CEO of a real estate company how she balances her job, her community involvement on two non-profit boards, and her two children. She scoffed and told me not to ask her that question. “I have flexibility. I have help at home. It’s people who don’t have flexibility like my assistant who really deserves to be asked that question.”

These days, flexibility could be coming into work a little earlier and leaving a little earlier to make it to the daycare on time. It could be working from home in the morning to avoid rush hour, or working from home once a week. It could be taking a longer lunch to go to a parent/teacher conference. Or leaving the office on time to have dinner with the family and finishing up work later in the evening. Those who have flexibility will tell you it’s what they love most about their jobs.

One Mother’s Day, I wrote a front page article about single mothers in Miami Dade who were living on the poverty line. One of the mothers I featured barely spoke English, had no car, and worked two jobs. She would wake up at 5 a.m. walk her son to school, work in a restaurant, walk a mile to pick her son up from school, walk home and then walk to a second job in a laundromat where she would work until midnight.  One day, her son was receiving an award at school. She felt such pride and desperately wanted to be there to see him get it, but she couldn’t afford to have her pay docked if she took time off.  Her plight tugged at my heartstrings when I realized how fortunate I was as a working mother to be able to take an hour off work to see my son receive an award at school.

Through that Mother’s Day story and dozens of others, I have seen firsthand that there are many women who want better lives and work tirelessly to get them. They are more than willing to work hard and be loyal employees. All they need is a little flexibility from their employer to make their work life balance fall into place.

There has been a long list of studies trumpeting the virtues of flexible working – benefits for the employee and employer. Fortunately, some employers “get it.”  When possible, they are embedding flexibility into their culture and encouraging managers to allow it at all levels — even with the minimum wage workers.  My wishes for Mother’s Day are that women who need flexibility receive it so they can be the best employees and the best mothers they can be.

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

A good boss encourages fitness

Corp wellness

I have always been envious of people who work for companies with onsite gyms. However, I was most impressed when the facility director told me most managers at the hospital encourage their employees to exercise during their workdays. In fact, the managers are evaluated on how actively they promote wellness in their departments, she told me. How great would that be to have a boss who is cool with a little longer lunch if it means coming back with a clear focus?

My husband spends his lunch hour at the gym near his office. Because he is a manager, his example has encouraged others at his company to exercise at lunch time, too. Like most other office dynamics, even fitness starts at the top. For all of the time and money businesses spent on corporate wellness, it seems pretty straightforward that the biggest enticement is a manager who believes in fitness and leads his team by example.

Boss

Most of us know that exercise is important for our physical and mental health. The challenge is finding the time for it when we are struggle with work life balance. When I’m stressed and overwhelmed, exercise is the first thing to go. But if I had a role model at work, someone who took fitness breaks even during the most stressful times and encouraged me to do so, I think it would change my mindset.

So am I saying that it’s my boss’ job to motivate me to exercise? No, that’s not exactly what I’m saying. Instead, I’m saying that those people in a position to lead by example or influence others to embrace fitness, should make a conscious effort to do so — the payoff will be huge in terms of productivity.

Look around your office around 4 p.m. Who is hitting the snack machine or grabbing another cup of coffee and who seems to have the stamina to make it through the afternoon? I bet the person who worked out at lunchtime is the one with stamina. I bet the boss who worked out is a lot more patient with his team. I bet the overweight boss who hasn’t exercised in a year is not the one who employees will go the extra mile to please.

Researchers have found that people who exercised regularly were more confident they could handle tough tasks. They felt better prepared for the challenges of the interaction of their work and home life and were less likely to be stressed at work. As researchers put it, “an hour of exercise creates a feeling that lasts well beyond that hour spent at the gym.”

We definitely are seeing more of an emphasis from employers on wellness in the workplace. Now, if we can get more managers to offer some flexibility around exercise routines and be supportive of wellness efforts, I think more of us would embrace a workout when we feel stressed. In the end, everyone benefits. With that conclusion, I’m heading to the gym!

How to cope with job stress

 

 

 

 

On any given day, ask a friend, a co-worker or just about anyone the question, “how’s it going?” and the response is likely to be…

Busy!

Exhausted!

Got a lot going on!

Most of us live our lives always on, rushing from home to work to our kids’ soccer games, to the gym. We’re stressed. We’re overloaded. We’re piling up tasks that need to get done in great numbers than hours in a day.

But what if the opposite were true. What if someone asked us “how’s it going and we answered…

I’m so relaxed!

I’m feeling so peaceful!

Not much going on with me!

That’s sounds so boring, doesn’t it? In a way, we like to be stressed. We like the idea that we have full lives. My happiest days are those in which I wake up feeling a little bit stressed about what I need to accomplish, meet my work deadline, and allow myself the evening to spend with my family.

The key is to find the level of stress on a regular basis that we can tolerate  without harming our mental and physical health. It’s kind of like figuring our stress sweet spot — the happy middle, where we’re living in a way that makes us feel busy, but also happy and fulfilled. To do that, we need to feel like we’re thriving, rather than just trying to survive the day.

So you might be wondering how to accomplish the quest of allowing yourself to experience “good stress” without totally becoming overwhelmed by bad stress.

One way to go about it is to choose activities in your life that make you feel good, happy, and excited about life. It’s also a good idea to cut out as many activities as you can that drain you, or lead to experience chronic stress.

Another tactic is to change your perception of some of the stressors in your life by thinking like an optimist. Get into the habit of looking at stressful situations as personal challenges and the tension you would normally feel about those stressors may lessen or even turn into excitement. Getting dinner on the table during the school/work week is a stressor for me…so I’m going to figure out how to make it seem fun instead of stressful.

We can all agree that an unreasonable boss, unfair expectations at work, or an unhappy home life can create chronic stress that takes a toll. That’s the kind of bad stress that we need to handle more aggressively. But the day to day stress that takes out of our comfort zones and keeps us feeling alive and excited about life is okay. Our kids, our friends, our activities, our parents…they give us a lot to juggle — and a lot to appreciate.  Start seeing some stress as a good thing and be prepared for next time someone asks you “how’s it going?” I’ve got my answer ready.

Whose career suffers when childcare emergencies arise? Usually the mother

 

 

Last week, I sat in an office waiting to be called in for an annual parent teacher conference and checking my watch. My son is doing well in school so the conference was called purely for administrators to check off boxes. The longer I sat, the more anxious I felt about the work I should be finishing and the deadlines approaching.

I pictured my husband in his office, being productive, and I stewed.

Over our years of raising children, as child care needs have cropped up, my husband and I have negotiated who would handle them. The negotiations often turn into arguments over who has more on their plate, more flexibility at work, and inevitably, whose salary is more critical to our household income.

More often, the negotiations (arguments) end when I agree to “take one for the team.” Some days, I resent it.

My working mother friends in households with two employed parents tell me they, too, struggle with sharing family responsibilities 50-50. A teacher friend told me she has used up her allotted days off staying home with her sick son who has been battling bronchitis off and on almost the entire school year. Her husband claims his boss will dock him pay if he misses a day of work. She’s worried she is about to lose her position as grade leader. Being there for a child and living up to the demands of bosses and clients is no easy feat for a mom or dad. Although men are taking on more childcare responsibility, women still “take one for the team” more often.

Lately, I’ve been surprised at how much this inequality bothers men in supervisory roles.  A male friend who manages a radio station recently complained about a mother on his staff who has had to leave early several times in the last few weeks to handle childcare emergencies. “Why doesn’t her husband take a turn?” he asked me. “Yeah, why doesn’t he?” I responded, wondering if this situation would make my friend any more likely to pitch in with childcare emergencies in his household.

Unfortunately, when mothers take time off to handle childcare needs too frequently, they are viewed as uncommitted to their jobs or not serious about their careers. It is the reason more mothers are looking carefully at flexibility in our workplaces and resources our employers provide such as paid sick leave.

So, I’m wonder what your thoughts are on taking one for the team. Is this something you argue about with your significant other? How do you think who handles childcare needs should be decided? Do you take one for the team more often than your spouse and end up resenting it?

How to Close a Gender Gap: Let Employees Control Their Schedules – The New York Times

Source: How to Close a Gender Gap: Let Employees Control Their Schedules – The New York Times

I have been fortunate a good part of my career to have flexibility in my schedule. It is the only way I have been able to balance work and family and keep my passion for writing. I strongly believe letting employees control their work schedules would help close the gender gap. What are your thoughts? Do you feel more women would stay in their jobs and advance in their careers if they had flexibility?

Miami Herald CEO Roundtable: Long hours at the office? CEOS describe how the avoid burnout | Miami Herald

This week’s question to the Miami Herald CEO Roundtable: What kind of work hours do you keep? How do you avoid burnout?

Source: Miami Herald CEO Roundtable: Long hours at the office? CEOS describe how the avoid burnout | Miami Herald

 

 

I found this response particularly enlightening on avoiding burnout.

“I  keep a healthy diet, drink at least a glass of wine every day, I exercise, I spend time getting inspired and I spend time traveling.”

Adelee Cabrera, Regional Director, Starr Catering Group

 

I like the idea of making time in your schedule to get inspired. How many of you make time for that? Do you think that’s a luxury that few people indulge?  How do you avoid burnout?

 


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/biz-monday/article140894118.html#storylink=cpy

How to Like Your Job Again

 

A few days ago, I was talking with daughter about choosing a career. I explained to her that I feel fortunate to enjoy what I do for a living. But that doesn’t mean I have liked every job I have held.

Let’s face it, many American workers are in the right profession, just the wrong job. Or they are in jobs they used to be enthused about, but just aren’t that into it anymore. When most of us spend more time at work than at home, it really makes a difference when we like what we’re doing, rather than dread going to work.

“What do you do if you’re in a job that you’re not happy in?” my daughter asked me.

“That depends,” I replied.

I went on to explain to her that there are ways to find more satisfaction from your job – whether or not it’s your dream job. I outlined some ideas:

  • Brainstorm what you like about your job, what you don’t like, what tasks make you feel motivated.
  • Make a plan for how you might improve your job situation. The plan could include expanding on the things you currently enjoy about your job. Or, it could include moving to a different department, taking on a task that requires stretching your skills, or seeking a different manager who challenges you in a rewarding way.
  • Make small changes such as participating in different meetings, or volunteering to take on a new client or new responsibility. Before you know it your job could begin to tilt in a different direction.

“If you try to like your job again and just can’t make it work, then it’s time to move on,” I explained to my daughter. “But when you do move on, know what aspect of the job you enjoy so you make the smartest move possible.”

And then, I told my daughter something I might not have said a decade ago. I told her that workers today are leaving jobs, even leaving professions, all the time and while it often works out well for them, I cautioned her about jumping too fast. I suggested taking a different approach with an existing job first. “It’s really worth a try to shift your job description into something that’s more enjoyable.”

At one point, I was burned out on the beat I was assigned. I asked my editor to change my beat from covering one industry to writing about work life balance. It was the best move I have ever made and I think it shows it is possible to figure out how to like your existing job more rather than changing jobs.

My daughter nodded and I think she heard me, or at least I hope she did.

I am sure there are other examples out there like mine. If you have shifted your job description and made an existing job more enjoyable, please share your experience. I believe it’s doable but would love to hear from others!

 

Staying Late at the Office? How to Leave Work On Time

 

One evening at the office, I had packed my laptop, slung my purse over my shoulder and stood up from my chair to head home. At that moment, a co-worker sauntered over to my desk asking for help on a project.  I noticed earlier in the day, she had been chatting away with another co-worker and had wasted about an hour shooting the breeze. Now, she was stuck staying late at the office and if I helped her, I would be, too.

Most of us find it is hard to leave work on time.  A quick peek at email before heading out the door can turn into a half-hour delay. And then there are those last minute requests that push us into overtime. Sometimes, it’s our inability to prioritize that causes us to stay late at the office finishing something we could have done earlier.

Whatever the reason you’re leaving late, it’s possible to do a better job getting out of work on time. Here’s how to make it happen:

Ramp up communication. I often have scrambled out the door way past the time I was supposed to stop working. One year, I resolved to leave by 6 p.m., which required starting my day promptly. I talked to my manager about my plan. By doing so, rather than just trying to bolt when no one was looking, I got his buy in. He understood my goals and changed his habits of making late afternoon requests. Managers, customers and co-workers become less likely to drop to-dos on your lap toward the end of the day when you establish a pattern of leaving on time and communicate your schedule.

Understand the consequences. Many times, I have spent double the amount I should on something because I started it when I was tired. Research shows working longer hours doesn’t contribute to higher productivity. In studying a variety of research, the Harvard Business Review found working more than 40 hours a week could make some workers less productive, put them at risk for making mistakes, and create the appearance of poor time-management skills.

Plan your day before arriving at work. I have learned the hard way it’s easy to get distracted by email, social media or talking to co-workers during the day. If you want to leave after eight hours, you need to be efficient within those hours. Rather than go with the flow of the workday, know what you need to get done when you walk in the door. When you plan your workday before you arrive, you should make a psychological commitment to that departure time. Some days may not go as planned. Many will.

Give yourself a 20-minute window for departure. If you wait until 6 p.m. to start packing up, you likely will get delayed by distractions. Once you’ve set your departure time, block out the 20 minutes prior to that time on your calendar to clean up any last daily details.

With some change in habit, you can actually get out the door on time. Of course, you have to believe it is possible — and resolve to make it happen.

For more, read my Miami Herald column on leaving work on time.

If you resolved to leave work on time in 2017, how are things going? Please share your experiences/frustrations/successes below!

How to handle being tired at work

 

Tired

 

This morning I woke up in the pitch dark. I looked outside wanted to go back to bed. My clock said it was time to wake up but my body did not agree. Ugh… Daylight Savings Time just robbed us of an hour of precious, glorious sleep.

Today, I’m dragging myself around sleep deprived. The worst part is some experts say this groggy jet lacked feeling could last all week.

Yep, that’s right…we might be exhausted ALL WEEK.

The worst part is that many people already were exhausted.  Losing an hour of sleep will mean an already tired workforce will be working on even less shut-eye, says Anna Kwok, vice president for Accountemps in Fort Lauderdale, an accounting staffing agency. A study from staffing firm Accountemps found 74% of professionals admitted to already being tired at work, with nearly one-third saying they’re short on sleep very often.

When we’re tired at work, we’re less focused, more grumpy and stand more of a chance of making stupid mistakes. In the Accountemps survey one really tired respondent admitted to deleting a project that took 1,000 hours to put together. Another admitted to falling asleep in front of the boss during a presentation. So embarrassing!

Some people are lucky enough to work at companies, like Ben & Jerry’s, Google and Zappos, that  encourage napping on the job to promote psychological and professional benefits. I bet those nap rooms are going to be busy today!

The rest of us have to find some other way to fight that tired feeling. Here are some ideas:

  • Take occasional breaks. Get away from your desk and walk around the office.
  • Resist cravings for junk food. Instead, keep healthy snacks around to give you stamina
  • Stay hydrated. It is a key factor in staying awake. Try putting ice in your water bottle; the cold water will keep you lively and alert.
  • Work reasonable hours. This is not the week for launching new all-encompassing projects. Staying late while you get adjusted to the time change can lead to mistakes.
  • Sit up. Slouching can lead to fatigue.
  • Use eyedrops. Splashing a couple drops in your eyes will make you feel more refreshed
  • Tug on your earlobes. Yes, this sounded crazy to me, too, when I heard it. But because of acupoints on your ears, this is a way to get the brain going. Worth a try.

(If you need them, there are more ideas at popsugar.com)

As you reach for another cup of coffee today, be patient with yourself. It may take a few days to get your body clock back on track. In the meantime, I’m going to go to bed earlier tonight and I’m going to try to follow Taylor Swift’s advice  and  “shake It off.”

 

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