Tag Archives: reality

More work but we’re happy: the new work life balance reality

 

          Happy-employee-group

 

 

A strange phenomenon is going on in workplaces. We are walking around, smartphones in hand (sometimes even in bed when we sleep), complaining about how much we're working, and yet — we're happy in our jobs and have no intention of leaving them.

What the heck is going on? Have we settled comfortably into a new reality?

Here is what new research reveals:  We are putting in more than 8-hour days, working on weekends at least once a month, eating lunch at our desks, and working after hours to complete work we didn’t finish during the day.

Even with our heavier workloads, the majority of employees (85 percent) said they are happy at work and motivated to become future managers. These are the findings of a new Workplace Index study of about 2,600 workers in the United States and Canada conducted by Staples Advantage, the business-to-business division of Staples, Inc.

"Workers have accepted that work is no longer 9 to 5," says Dan Schawbel, founder of WorkplaceTrends.com, a research and advisory membership service for HR professionals.  "They might have to answer an email after 11 p.m. I think people have adjusted to the new reality."

So, why exactly are we working so much — and at all hours? 

More than 30 percent of employees participating in the research say the driving force behind the "always on" work culture is the need to complete work they don't have time to do during the day, followed by a desire to get ahead on their work for the following day.  One in five employees said they spend at least two hours a day in meetings and just as many report the meetings are inefficient (a possible reason we're taking work home?).

While we've accepted the new reality of work life blend, how can we be happier? Here are suggestions given in the Staples Advantage findings.

– Flexibility is key to happiness at work. So true. When I talk to employees I notice the happiest workers have flexibility. In the Staples Advantage research,  37 percent of employees say that if employers provide more flexibility it would increase their happiness.

-Office perks are important too. Employees want simple things like break time to refresh or an onsite gym.

-Improving technology would make a difference. Employees say more advanced technology helps them be more creative and better at their jobs.

-Providing better office design is key as well. Employees thrive in offices with high-ceilings, lots of windows, lounge areas and a laid-out break room designed to promote collaboration and rest.

In a definite sign that workers have accepted the new reality of our heavier workloads, few are planning job changes. Only 19 percent said they expect to make a job change in the next year and money was the top reason.

Schawbel says the research confirms that workers are doing more with less on shorter time frames, and have accepted the 24/7 work philosophy — if it comes with flexibility.  But he wonders if there will be a point where burnt out employees will push back, especially because the study found about a third of employees consider work life balance the leader contributor of loyalty.

Have you accepted the new reality that 9 to 5 workdays have disappeared? Despite a heavier workload, would you say you are happy in your job?

 

The Work/Life Balancing Act

How to bring your idea to reality

 

 

When I ushered in the new year, I came up with an idea for a book I wanted to write, a business I wanted to start and an app I wanted to launch. Now, I am eating a turkey feast and realizing I have not focused on turning any of them into reality.

This Thanksgiving, I’m going to step back, look at all I am grateful for, and ponder the ideas I had wanted to pursue in 2014. With one month left in the year, I plan to ask myself some tough questions about where I have gotten stuck and what I can do to move at least one idea into action.

A friend of mine says she, too, has stalled while trying to move an idea forward. She wants to add an ancillary service that could help her pet-sitting business become more profitable. But like me, she has become bogged down in the daily struggle of balancing work and family.

Recognizing we all need help bringing our ideas to reality, I have turned to experts to share their best methods for follow through. These tips appeared today in my Miami Herald column.

 

 

Missy #5

(Above: Anne Louise "Missy" Carricarte, author of Power Wishing: Visualization Technology for Manifesting, at her appearance at the Miami Book Fair International)

▪ Do your research. Wifredo Fernandez has seen dozens of ideas come to fruition as co-founder of The LAB Miami and now as founding director of CREATE Miami, a venture incubator and accelerator at Miami Dade College. Fernandez tells entrepreneurs to propose their idea to at least 100 potential customers and even ask for feedback on how to improve on it.

 Let passion drive the idea: The pivotal shift from idea to reality happens once you find yourself unable to think about anything else but solving the problem. “The specific idea may change, but if you’re passionate and focused, your drive to solve the problem will push you to execute,” Fernandez says. 

 

▪ Believe in the idea. Most people fail in pushing forward an idea because the unexpected challenges become more than they think they can handle. If you want to be successful, “stage the day,” says Anne Louise “Missy” Carricarte, entrepreneur and author of Power Wishing: Visualization Technology for Manifesting. Take a moment before you step out of bed to think about what you want to accomplish and plan your intention for how it will happen.

▪ Continue with what works. With a month left in 2014, consider what you have done already to move an idea forward, rather than what remains unfinished. “That can shift the outcome,” Carricarte says. If you have moved an idea forward 10 percent, look at how you accomplished it, rather than at the 90 percent you haven’t achieved. “Build on what’s working,” she says.

▪ Tap your network. Whether an idea involves starting something new or building on something that exists, look at who you know that can help you convert it to reality. When Kim Weiss got an idea to package her photos of sunsets into a book, she enlisted her boyfriend to write the accompanying haikus and a publisher friend helped to get it into print. “There are people you surround yourself with who can help you realize your dream,” says the author of Sunrise, Sunset: 52 Weeks of Awe and Gratitude. “Everyone has a network they can tap.”

▪ Stay strong, focused. Shark Tank fans know successfully converting an idea into a reality is a marathon, not a sprint. Real work life conflicts will arise, as will naysayers. “The only way to get over disappointment, frustration or distraction is to get to work on your idea,” says Janet Burrowayauthor of plays, poetry, children’s books, eight novels and two textbooks. “It’s easy to terrify yourself into inactivity.” Burroway believes the longer an idea rumbles around in your brain, the less likely you are to act on it. When she has an idea for a book, she says she puts anything that pops into her head down on paper. From there, she allows her creativity to expand.

▪ Do something now. Rather than wait for the next calendar year, or for when you have more time or money, “take some sort of action today towards making your idea happen,” says Dave Lorenzo, founder of Miami’s Valtimax Consulting. “Even if you proceed in the wrong direction and make a mistake, you can take quick corrective action.” As a business owner, Lorenzo says he carries a notebook and jots down ideas all the time. Some morph into newer ideas and go through twists and turns before he brings them to life. Remember, he says, “The idea is not dead until you decide it is.”

What stops you from moving forward with ideas? Money? Time? Fear? Do you see yourself taking the first step toward moving an idea to reality by year end?
 

The Work/Life Balancing Act

The new reality: Male caregivers for aging parents

As the nation celebrated Father's Day, I wanted to write a twist on the articles we read all the time about more men taking bigger roles in the lives of their children. Yes, men are struggling with work life balance and work and family conflict. However, I saw a trend in men taking care of their aging parents. Although I focused my column today on men taking their dads, plenty of men are caregivers for their mom, too. Expect to see more men needing accommodations at work to pull off this balancing act. 

 

 

Flexible work schedules help men who care for parents

John Shoendorf, a CPA, takes a walk with his dad, Harold, along the dock behind Harold's apartment in Coral Gables on June 10, 2013. PATRICK FARRELL / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

By Cindy Krischer Goodman

Juan Erman Gonzalez was showing his clothing patterns to a customer when his cellphone buzzed. It was his mother telling him that his father had another fender bender. Gonzalez excused himself to his agitated client and zipped off to persuade dad to give up driving.

That was three years ago.

Today, Gonzalez ‘s dad, 85, resides in an assisted-living facility. The younger Gonzalez and his brother, Guillermo, deliver him special meals, spends a few hours by his side and mows the lawn of the home Dad refuses to sell. Just when he thinks the care arrangements are working smoothly, something will change and require his attention.

Gonzalez says he’s lucky; as a freelance clothing pattern designer, he’s usually able to fit work around his caregiving schedule. “Sometimes I am able to work a complete week, sometimes not.”

Gonzalez is among an increasing number of men caring for aging parents — especially fathers — and experiencing the work/life conflicts this new dynamic brings. While men are less likely to help Dad in the shower or to get dressed, they are stepping in to hire and fire doctors, drive Pop to the grocery store and manage finances. “They are doing things they never expected to do for their dads,” says Gary Barg, CEO and editor in chief of Caregiver Media Group.

Because more male caregivers work full time, many report that overseeing Dad’s care has required they modify their work schedules, leave early, take time off or turn down overtime. According to a study published in 2009 by the National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with the AARP, one out of three caregivers — about 14.5 million — are men. “I think it’s clear that the demands on men as well as women are going to increase in terms of family care,” Barg said.

John Schoendorf, a Miami forensic accountant and only child whose mother died at 40, has been transitioning into the caregiver role for the past two years, and has become closer with his dad. “My father has comfortably brought me into the loop of his financial and medical world.”

Still, Shoendorf has had to change his late-night working habits and rearrange his work hours to go with his 86-year-old father, Harold, on doctors’ appointments. “I have had to remember family is more important than work. That’s harder to do sometimes than others.”

While male caregivers like Schoendorf deal with the same issues as their female counterparts, they also face distinctive challenges. They are more likely to use paid assistance for their loved ones’ personal care. They tend to travel farther or spend more time organizing care from a distance, and they are more hesitant to let a boss or co-worker know about their role as a caregiver, according to the AARP. In fact, men feel challenged by the perception that their need for time off or flexibility to care for Dad will be seen as a lack of commitment to their job.

“We try to get male caregivers to understand they have taken on a new job role,” Barg says. “They have become CEO of Caring for my Loved One Inc. and that takes a time commitment.”

Sons often find their new role is an emotional and logistical roller coaster. Carlos Ramirez, a Miami healthcare consultant, has been caring for his 80-year-old father since his sister recently died from breast cancer. His father, who suffers from diabetes, now relies on Ramirez to make medical decisions that recently included the amputation of a toe. “On a typical week, I’ll make him appointments, go with him on appointments and follow up with doctors.”

Ramirez often needs to exercise the flexibility his career as a consultant provides. “Some specialists only see patients certain days of the week or do procedures certain days.” He finds himself in an ongoing tussle over how much of his father’s care he can personally take on.

Experts say getting ahead of an aging father’s needs makes the balancing act easier — but often doesn’t happen. Men are more likely to ignore the mental or physical decline and believe a father who says he’s fine — until it reaches a crisis, says Amy Seigel, director of Advocare Care Management in South Florida. “When a father says he’s fine, a son goes back to his childhood and he is still that guy’s son.”

Seigel, who runs a geriatric care management company, often gets the call from a concerned son miles away from Dad when a situation spirals out of control. “They are panicked because they are at work and having trouble managing the medical and emotion needs of a parent who lives in another city or state.”

Recently, she heard from a New York surgeon who called in between operations. He had called to check on his dad in a hospital in South Florida but was disconnected several times. “I can’t keep leaving my job and getting on a plane because Dad fell in Florida,” he exasperatedly told Seigel.

Such struggles are what led Seigel to launch her South Florida business. “We become the eyes and ears for these adult children who need help with overseeing the medical, physical and mental health needs of a parent.”

Whether from a distance or nearby, Seigel says managing the care of an aging parent is an emotional period for adult children when roles change. “It’s a chance to mend any differences and build a bond. It can be a nice, rewarding experience.”

Gonzalez and his father have had a strained relationship for many years. But now, as he spends time with Dad and shares caretaking with his brother, he sees himself as a role model for his children, 26 and 19. “It’s important for me to show my children there’s respect for the elderly. Even though I have worked out a system of professional care, it doesn’t mean I drop my father off and abandon him. I’m showing my kids that you be there for family.”

Even with busy work schedules, caregivers can be there for a parent by calling at the same time every day, says Steven Huberman, dean of the Touro College Graduate School of Social Work. Huberman also advises reluctant male caregivers to use personal days, ask for flexibility and inquire about elder care benefits, particular if they become aware of their father’s deteriorating condition. “It may seem like a burden, but I recommend they savor the moment.”

 

The Work/Life Balancing Act

Older men will make workplace flexibility and work life balance a reality

 

Thank you Sheryl Sandberg. Thank you Anne Marie Slaughter. You have brought the conversation of work life balance back into public discussion. But let's face it women, for all our years of talking about work life balance, flexibility and having it all, we really haven't made any huge progress.

I think that soon will change.

I think it will change because older men will make it happen. 

Just the other day, I was talking to Miami law partner in his late 60s who excitedly was telling me all about the summer home he was building in the mountains. I asked him whether he was going to take the summer off work. "Oh no," he said, "I'll just bring my laptop, my cell phone and I'll work from my cabin." This came just days after another senior partner told me he wasn't retiring but instead scaling back his schedule to work from home in the mornings.

Historically, men have been excluded overtly and subtly from the work life conversation. Tanvi Gautam,  managing partner at Global People Tree wrote this for Forbes.com: "The assumption remains that “real” men (single or married) don’t need/want work-life integration. They work long, hard hours and miss meals with family, skip social events, so they can rise to the top of the corporate ladder, if need be at the expense of all else."

For the last decade, women and Millennials have struggled to get organizations to realize that flexibility is needed. Yet, male boomers — the ones who have resisted giving flexibility to others — are going to be the ones who make it happen. For them, it's about to get personal.

They are law firm founders, senior executives and chairmen of the boards. But as they age, they still will want their name on the masthead and to share their expertise. They just won't want the 10 to 12 hour days anymore. They will seek the ability to work from home a few days a week or from a vacation home. They will want to pull back from the extreme schedules they worked in the past, and make a gradual transition into retirement, even managing to get organizations to lift or delay mandatory retirement age.

Currently, just 13 percent of Americans are ages 65 and older. By 2030, 18 percent of the nation will be at least that age, according to Pew Research Center projections. The typical Boomer believes that old age doesn’t begin until 72, and the majority of Boomers report feeling more spry than their age would imply.

These senior male leaders will push for flexibility for their own personal use and they will get it because they have the clout and connections that women and younger workers lacked. And when the policies change to accommodate them, the women and Millennials will benefit, too. And that's how and when the workplace and policies will evolve.

For now, the rest of us just need to do our best to make our work and life fit together, and then "lean in" and wait for change to happen. It will happen. I see it on the horizon.

The Work/Life Balancing Act

High school reunions: the ultimate work life balance reality check

Hsreunion

Last weekend, I mingled with people I hadn't seen in 30 years at my high school reunion. One of the first questions we asked: "What have you been up to for the last 30 years?" 

Just spitting out an answer to that question made me realize this was one of those milestones that encourages you to take inventory of your life and search for clarity. What have I been doing? Am I happy?

I've kept in touch with many of my high school friends and seeing them again made me go back to my roots and think about what I was like as a teen and whether I had followed the path I set out on decades ago. I am in a happy place, but I can tell you I never intended on having children. Somewhere along the way, I re-shifted my priorities. I'm glad I did. 

A few of my friends who attended the reunion admitted to me they are not happy with their work life balance — they work too much, have neglected their health or want to relocate closer to family. I urged them to make a change. The experience inspired my Miami Herald column this week.

 

The Miami Herald

Don’t wait for a reunion to do a life priority check

By Cindy Krischer Goodman

There are about 70 of us crowding onto the dance floor, trying to squeeze together for a group photo. It seems almost as quickly as the flash that follows that 30 years have gone by. High school reunions are one of those milestones in life that cause you to take stock of who you have become and what you’ve done with your life.

Are you happy? Have you taken care of yourself? Did you make the most out of your career opportunities? It is the ultimate work-life balance reality check.

My Miami Coral Park Senior High graduating class of more than 700 has had its fair share of success stories — big name baseball players, top surgeons, corporate executives, grade school principals. We’ve seen our share of deaths, sickness and divorce. Many of us, from humble upbringings and immigrant parents, have gone on to seek higher education or made our way through the school of hard knocks to earn a good living and raise families.

We have gone from high school grads to mid-career professionals. Talking to my former classmates made me reflect on my changing priorities over three decades. Heading to college and into my career, I had no intention of having a family and considered being a writer my top priority. I had done that, until I realized I wanted more in my life.

I wonder how many times in my former classmates’ lives they have taken stock at work and home and hit the refresh button. Until a crisis hits, many of us never really confront the critical issues of life. We get too busy to ask ourselves if we’re fulfilled and balanced. What I realized from this opportunity to reflect is that all of us should regularly evaluate. We all feel challenged day to day about the best use of our time. But are the things that matter most getting the time you want to give them? If not, do something about it.

Coincidentally, just days before the reunion, I was discussing Stephen Covey’s book First Things First with several dozen female professionals at a book club meeting of Women Executive Leadership. Covey, an organizational guru who recently died at age 79, was a big believer that everyone should craft a personal mission statement to guide them through life. To make it empowering, the statement should encompass a lifetime balance of personal, family, work and community. The mission statement, he says in his book, becomes the primary factor that influences every moment of choice.

When discussing First Things First, we debated whether a mission statement needs to be updated throughout life. One woman felt strongly that it should. The 40-something staffing professional shared that she recently hit the refresh button on her priorities. She loves her job but it requires long hours. She has become painfully aware that her days with her teenage son at home are dwindling. But her focus on those roles had been preventing her from giving attention to her health and she had gained weight over many years. Recently, she began to wake up at 5 a.m. and exercise before the start of the day. She is losing weight and has more energy.

At the reunion, I heard lots of talk about making it a new priority to look and feel good. One friend told me he began seeing a company-sponsored nutritionist six months ago and already had lost 40 pounds. Another told me he had refocused on his health and changed jobs after suffering heart concerns from work-related stress.

Along with encouraging balance and priorities, Covey believes in leaving a legacy. Of course, each of us has a personal interpretation of what that means.

Thirty years after high school, many in my class, including myself, are beginning to ponder whether we’ve made the contribution we want to make at home, work and in our community. We are beginning to figure out that legacy is what gives meaning to what we do every day and energizes us. It’s what we might want to consider when we’re caught up in our Inbox at all hours doing the urgent but not necessarily the important.

As a mother of teenagers, I now know my legacy isn’t only my contribution, it’s about rising above my daily to-do list and influencing my children to create their legacy, too.

It’s the personal aspect of our lives that really struck me in the conversations with my former classmates. While the career paths they took hold some interest, the conversation almost always centers on where we live, who we keep in touch with, and what kind of person we’ve become.

When the flashes stopped and the group photo was captured for posterity, the 70 of us rather reluctantly walked away from the dance floor, back to the smaller gatherings around the room, and eventually back to our harried lives. I wonder how our priorities will have reshuffled when we all meet again.

 


 

The Work/Life Balancing Act