Category Archives: Blogs

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!

 

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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Click here for full infographic

You may not be working as much as you think you are

It’s 10 p.m. at night and I’m watching The Bachelorette. It’s a silly show but I love it. During commercials, I’m checking work email, clearing out the junk and responding to a few inquiries I didn’t get to during the day.

If you’re like me, you feel like you’re working A LOT. Yet according to the 2016American Time Use Survey, full time workers only put in about 40 hours a week, which is only five minutes more a week than a decade ago.

So, we’re not actually working as much as we think we are…or something else is going on.

In this hyper-connected age, working hours might still be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but the hours to do work can stretch from midnight to midnight, with emails zipping through the ether at the convenience of the sender, but not necessarily the recipient, as noted by Nick Coltrain of the Coloradoan.

I tend to interval work, which means I switch from task to task at home and the office, taking care of personal responsibilities and work responsibilities as needed. If your workday is anything like mine, you might sit down in front of your computer screen to start a project and become distracted by a new email. Then, you might work for an hour, and take a quick break to check Facebook.

The switching between personal and business tasks at the workplace has become so habitual that some researchers believe Americans spend as much as two hours of an eight-hour workday doing non-work tasks, whether or not we realize it.  Of course, no one can work 8 hours straight without going crazy. We all need breaks.

I think what makes me feel like I’m working so much is that even when I am at home and not actually working, I still feel the tug of work on my brain. It’s that “always on” feeling that researchers say creates chronic stress and emotional exhaustion and makes us feel like we’re working more all the time.

In our desire for work/life balance, it’s just as difficult to know how much time we spend on leisure activities as work tasks, in part because of the increase in smartphone use. The American Time Use Survey shows Americans spend about five hours a day doing leisure activity, with television watching accounting for more than half of that time. However, many people are like me and watch television with their mobile devices in hand, sporadically checking work email.

When employers ask workers to manually track their work time, productivity improves, according to Fred Krieger, CEO of Scoro, a San Francisco productivity/project management software firm. If you really tracked the hours you worked for a week, how much do you think it would add up to? Do you consider multi-tasking — watching television and checking email to be work or leisure time? It’s kind of tricky, isn’t it? But if we can improve our productivity by tracking our time, it might be worth doing.

What do you think your time diary would reveal about how much you work?

Post Vacation Blues Are Real: Here’s what to do

 

worker on vacation

Vacation is crucial to work life balance. Yet, every time my family and I board a plane to return from vacation, I get a knot in my stomach. I love the restorative part of vacation, waking up to know I have no responsibilities and my only task is to figure out what enjoyable activity I will do each day. But vacation usually goes fast and then it’s time to return to reality.

I am fortunate to return to a career I enjoy. Many people hate their jobs, their bosses, their overall predicaments. I don’t. Yet, I dread going from the high of a vacation to the reality of a routine. I dread the post vacation blues.

So lately, I’ve been reading up on how to avoid post vacation blues, or even just end-of-summer blues. I have figured out a few things to do different this summer. Here is my plan and suggestions:

1. Know the benefit of a break. Whether you are job hunting, thinking of leaving your job or overwhelmed by your job, you need a break. Tell yourself it’s okay to take a vacation and it’s okay not to think about real life responsibilities for a short period of time.  Repeat after me: It’s okay to chill out!

2. Make a game plan for the return. Spend some time coming up with a list of things that you can do after you return that will challenge you intellectually or  physically. Those people who are constantly challenging themselves rarely appear to be depressed or negative, according to Andrew Griffiths and his blog on Inc.  I signed up for an online writing webinar a few days after my return from vacation this year. It gives me a learning opportunity to look forward to that I can fit into my workday.

3. Do more of the things you enjoy. If it’s spending time with your family you enjoy, figure out how to do more of it. If it’s exercising you enjoy, get up early and go bike riding twice a week. If you enjoy working, that’s a good thing, too. What aspects of your job do you like most and how can you do more of those things? Griffiths say some people have a hobby they enjoy like fishing or gardening but the last time they did it was 10 years ago.  The weeks following your vacation are the time to get back into something you enjoy doing. For me, I love reading. I just created a library of books on my iPad waiting to be read on a lounge chair on the beach over the upcoming weekends.

4. Ask someone “how can I help”? Commit to helping someone else either in your workplace, your business network,  your community, your children’s school. If you want to feel uplifted, there is no better way.

5. Get in the right frame of mind.  Sometimes we take ourselves far too seriously and focus on the piece of our lives that we find dull or difficult or exhausting.When you come back from vacation rested and happy, you can use that as motivation to re-examine your work life balance and your outlook. What are the things that made you happy on vacation — sleeping in, touring museums, taking hikes, eating at new restaurants? All those things can be done wherever you live. You just have to make the effort to do them.

6. Change up your routine.  During your first week back from vacation, take a new route to work, sit in a different chair at the dinner table or eat lunch with a different crowd. Small changes often are enough to renew our zest for life.

Vacations are fun because they offer a break from the tedium and familiarity of life, but if you’re miserable being at work or at home, you may want to consider making big changes to feel happier — or just start planning your next vacation!

Fitting Fitness into your Summer Schedule

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(Micaela Stavrinos works out on June 20. She is taking advantage of the longer daylight hours over the summer to attend an outdoor bootcamp. PATRICK FARRELL pfarrell@miamiherald.com)

 

 

All around me in sunny South Florida, I see people in shorts, bathing suits and tank tops. Summer is here and that means more of our bodies are exposed. For me, that's enough incentive to make an extra effort to exercise. Besides, summer brings more daylight hours to get out there and move our bodies. 

So where to begin? How do you motivate yourself and squeeze fitness into your busy life?

Fit it in your work day. Almost every day, Sergio Perez walks to the supermarket from his Miami office to grab lunch, trekking about a mile each way. While the heat can be intense in summer months, Perez, who works 50 to 60 hours a week in financial services, says the routine is the easiest way to squeeze fitness into his work life balance.

Do something you enjoy. Do you like bike riding? How about swimming? Find something you like to do and you will find yourself more motivated. It doesn't need to be grueling.  “It’s not about who works out the hardest or longest. It’s just about do something, most days of the week,” says Chira Cassel, co-founder and director of The Sacred Space Miami, a wellness center in Wynwood.

Do something small every day.  “A lot of women have life responsibilities and run into scheduling problems that make exercising more difficult,” says Tony Musto, director of fitness programs at the UHealth Fitness and Wellness Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “But all it really takes is moderate activity five days a week.
 
Make it convenient. The more convenient your exercise plan, the better chance your routine will stick. Micaela Stavrinos, an administrative assistant at the executive office of University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, used to go to a gym that took an hour to get to with traffic. Because of the hassle, she stopped exercising. Now, instead of heading home from work, Stavrinos uses the longer daylight hours of summer to go to a boot camp at a gym less than a mile from her downtown Miami office and home. Within a half-hour after leaving her office, she has shed work clothes for gym clothes and is running to the nearby stop sign with others in her fitness class. “There are days when I don’t want to go, but it’s close by and I push myself,” Stavrinos says.
 

Be consistent.  Consistency is key to reaching health and fitness goals. Countless studies show that having someone or something keep you accountable for completing a workout will increase your adherence, and your results. Even during summer, life or work easily can get in the way of our quest for the perfect beach body. Using a wearable fitness tracker like a Fitbit, a fitness app or personal trainer, or even meeting a buddy to exercise can increase your chance of sticking to a fitness plan. It’s really about whatever motivates you and keeps you consistent.

Make it social. I love meeting my friends at exercise class. It motivates me to first show up and then to give it my best. You can combine fitness with family time, too. Talk a walk or a swim with your kids at night. Another idea is to use summer to make your get-togethers active, says Chira Cassel of The Sacred Space Miami. Instead of a business lunch, have a walking or workout meeting. Instead of joining a friend dinner, take a yoga class together in the park: “It’s a nice change of pace to get people out of their comfort zone, and less sitting is better for the body.”

Do it in your workplace or with work buddies.  Some workplaces make exercise convenient and a bonding activity, particularly during summer when the work pace slows. At Kip Hunter Marketing in Fort Lauderdale, the account executives engage in friendly exercise competition using Fitbits and compare their steps weekly. At MBAF, an accounting firm, employees in the Coral Gables office go from their desks to bootcamp in the conference room on Monday nights. Attendance is up in summer. “We all encourage each other to go. It’s fun and easy,” says MBAF Marketing Director Wolfgang Pinther.

Mix it up. Varying your workout routine, and scheduling exercise on your calendar gives you a better chance of follow-through, says Raeah Braunschweiger, a health fitness specialist with the UHealth Fitness and Wellness Center in downtown Miami. She suggests trying new trends like barre fitness or belly-dancing: “Find something you find fun. People get stuck in a rut and then start to question why they are doing this.”
 
If you want to read more about Fitness After 40 or Fitting Fitness into Your Work Life Balance, I wrote two additional articles in the last week. 
 
Have a fit summer!

The Work/Life Balancing Act

Tragic death shows why work life balance is important

As a beer lover, my attention was immediately drawn to the recent headline in The Miami Herald:

Founding brewer for MIA Beer Company killed in car crash

I continued on to read the article:

A well-known brewer in Miami’s craft beer scene was killed in a car crash over the weekend.

Piero Rodriguez, one of MIA Beer Company’s founding brewers, was killed in an accident early Sunday, owner Eddie Leon confirmed. He was 34.

“We are completely devastated,” Leon said.

And then, there it was, the paragraph that stood out to me as a warning for anyone who thinks excessive work can't kill you:
 
Rodriguez had been working double shifts, Leon said, brewing in the morning and often tending bar at the brewery at night to make extra money. Friends feared it might have been exhaustion that forced him to lose control of his late-model Acura on Northwest 33rd Street at the tight curve in the 8900 block, just minutes down the street from the brewery. He struck a light pole, wasn’t wearing his seat belt and was ejected, according to police. He was pronounced dead at Kendall Regional Medical Center at 2 a.m. Sunday.

 

Clearly, the ironic part is that Piero was doing a job he loved – he was just doing it too much.

His friends and peers told The Miami Herald It was common to find him at the brewery doing the laborious, scrubbing tanks with punk rock blaring in the background while his son tagged along.

He was living the life he always wanted, his brother Ruy said, albeit cut far too short.

“People should be more positive,” Ruy said, “and pursue their dreams like he did.”

And there, right there, lies the fine line. While it is admirable to pursue your dream and do a job you love, everyone needs balance. Death by overwork is real and it can take your life in different ways. There are health reasons why work life balance is important and repercussions for thinking you can work a little longer or harder before taking time off. Over the years, I've written about people who have dropped dead of exhaustion right at their desks.

According to the Herald, the last thing Piero Rodriguez said as he left work late Saturday night was how much he was looking forward to spending Father’s Day with his young son.

He would never make it home.

That's a cautionary lesson for all of us. Sending my prayers to Piero's family….
 
 
 
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The Work/Life Balancing Act

Working mom takes on a challenge

 

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Like most working mothers, I try to juggle work and family as best as I can. Recently, I decided I want to finish my master’s degree that I started many years ago, before I had children. To do so, I learned I would have to take my Graduate Record Exam (GRE) again.

When I saw the GRE practice tests, my first reaction was HOLY MOLY! That was followed by, “No way can I pass this test!” The math problems involved formulas I haven’t seen for 30 years such as the circumference of a circle and the area of a rectangle. The test has algebra, word problems, geometry. I was completely intimidated. I worried how I would ever find the time and energy to re-learn math concepts.

When I sat down to study, I felt overwhelmed. When I took practice tests, my first time around I got almost every problem wrong. But I was committed. I started to look at the exam differently. I know I will never need to know the circumference of a circle or the volume of a cube after the test is over, but I was proving to myself that I had the ability to learn new things. For the last month, I have spend every spare moment learning how to do math problems and memorizing difficult vocabulary words.

Today I took the actual exam and it wasn’t as bad as I expected. Learning difficult material at 50 years old is one of the biggest challenges I have taken on. Yet, I’m so glad I did because I proved to myself I can handle a challenge.

If you’re thinking of taking on a challenge — academically, professionally, personally —  go for it. It’s a great sense of satisfaction knowing that personal development and work life balance are compatible.

What challenge will you take on before 2016 runs out?