Tag Archives: rules

How to make your own work life balance rules

Lifework
A few nights ago, I reached on my nightstand for my iPad to shoot off an email before I went to sleep. By doing that, I completely broke my own rule about using mobile devices into my bedroom. I made the rule because I want my bedroom to be a sanctuary, a place I go to wind down, de-stress and restore my strength. When I think about work in my bedroom, I feel like I have nowhere to escape, no sense of work life balance.

Have you ever made a work life balance rule for yourself? Was it something like…. I'm not going to stay at the office past 6 p.m.! I'm not going to work on Saturdays! I'm not going to talk about work during dinner!

If you haven't, maybe it's time. What change big or small would make a difference in your life?

What do you feel you need more of in your life — time with your family, a good night sleep, weekend down time?

Now, make a rule that will improve that aspect of your life. Put it in positive terms such as….I am going to leave my office by 6 to enjoy more evening time with my kids.

Enforcing your rule is the crucial piece. So, how are you going to go about making work life balance changes that stick?

First, you need to have your rule visible. Put a reminder somewhere where you are going to see it at the time you most need it.  In my example, I should have a sticky note on the cover of my iPad that reminds me not to bring it into my bedroom. For you, that reminder may be an alarm on your phone that alerts you to leave the office at 6, or maybe a sticky note near the dinner table reminding you to discuss uplifting, non-work topics during your meal.

Next, enlist help. Encourage a co-worker or your spouse to remind you of your new rule. I told my husband to remind me of my no tech use in the bedroom rule in case I slip up.

Use technology to your advantage. There are ways to turn off your alerts outside of work hours or auto-responders that say "I may not respond to this email prior to Monday."

Lastly, don't give up. Things happen that could cause you to break your rule every now and then. If you break your rule, like I did, tell yourself it's a temporary setback and you are going to do better. You want to aim for big-picture, long-term improvement to your work life balance.

Having some set rules for balancing your life can help you prioritize and prepare for curveballs that come your way. Try your best to limit the exceptions and follow the work-life balance rules you have set for yourself. Once you find this happy balance of work and personal time you will be more fulfilled in your career and a much more happier friend and family member.

 

The Work/Life Balancing Act

Should You Hit “Send” at midnight? The unwritten rules of email

 

                                    Bed

 

It's close to midnight and I'm still awake. Not only that, but I've broken all my own rules about logging on late at night. The house is quiet, everyone but me is asleep and I'm feeling extremely productive. Maybe that coffee I drank after dinner wasn't decaf like I thought it was.

I have just composed a response to an email I was trying to get to all day. But now, I'm faced with a dilemma. Do I send it?  On one hand, if I do, I can go to sleep knowing it's off my plate. On the other hand, it may look odd to the receiver that I'm working at midnight. It may even look like I have no work life balance.

SendUgh….what to do? What are the rules, anyway?

Recently, I spoke on a panel to an audience of PR professionals (mostly women). The topic of late night email came up. Most of the audience admitted to getting back on their computers after dinner or after their kids are in bed — at least a few nights a week. Some of them admitted, they too struggle with the etiquette of late night email.

According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, one in two workers in the information technology, financial services, sales, and professional and business services sectors — industries that historically keep traditional 9 to 5 work hours — check or respond to work emails outside of work. Let's add journalist and publicist to that list. Heck, let's add teachers, lawyers, doctors, business executives and most other professions.

However, there are people who don't believe in taking work home. Some get annoyed by late-night work email and look down on the sender. These people want clear boundaries between work and home and they don't appreciate others who break those boundaries. My husband believes sending late night emails creates an impression you're disorganized. 

I noticed working mothers tend to be okay with sending emails in the evening hours. They understand that "doing it all" might mean sending an email at 10, 11 or even midnight.

In a recent column, Sue Shellenbarger at the WSJ pointed out that your boundary style and tolerance for late night email may depend on the kind of job you hold or your life stage. She noted that some people celebrate the option to log on at night as freedom, a sign of success in balancing home and work. For others, it feels like the opposite of freedom—a burdensome intrusion on their home life.

A banking executive told me she often composes late night emails but waits until the morning to hit send. I think her approach may be the way to go. I see 11 p.m. as the cutoff time to hit send. After that time, I am going to take the banker's approach and wait until the morning.

To be clear, I don't think anyone should expect a response to an email sent after 7 p.m.  But others will disagree. Some clients, co-workers and bosses expect a quick response, regardless of the time the email is sent. Unfortunately, this "always on" attitude is the direction business is going.

What are your thoughts on late night email? Do you think there's a reason or hard stop time to hold back on hitting send? Are you put off when someone sends you a late night email?

 

The Work/Life Balancing Act

Too connected? Why you need vacation rules

                         Vacation

Earlier this week, I left a message on an accountant's voicemail asking him to call me about an article I am working on. He called me back within a few hours. Well into our conversation, he mentioned he was on vacation. It was at that point that I could hear his wife in the background and she was noticeably agitated. I suggested he call me back when he returned from vacation. When we hung up, I had a feeling he was in big trouble.

Staying connected to work may make traveling less stressful for you, but it can become annoying to people who are with you on vacation. One of my friends recently told me it was while on vacation that she realized her marriage had hit rock bottom. She couldn't get her husband off his phone long enough to do anything romantic.

My suggestion for anyone traveling with a friend, spouse, or partner is to set vacation rules. My husband and I realized years ago setting rules was key to a better vacation. I agree to let my husband check in with his office every morning. He spends about an hour on his laptop checking email and returning calls. I usually check my email less often while on vacation but I tend to do it in the late afternoons when everyone is unwinding before dinner. We each get about an hour a day without guilt. The rule also is that we leave our phones behind when we do a family activity.

Today it has become increasingly easy to integrate work and travel — regardless of where you are vacationing. There are more hotels and cafes that offer Wi-Fi, and more mobile devices with the same functionality as desktop PCs. But that ease of connection makes being on the same page of your travel companion more important than ever. 

When the goal of a vacation is to reconnect with friends or family, it can be frustrating when your travel partner sends a different message. Your stressful interaction with work can affect those who are traveling with you. My neighbor says while on his vacation, it completely unnerved him to watch his wife's reaction to an incoming work-related email as she lounged by the pool. "We're supposed to be on vacation relaxing, and I can see that something at the office didn't go her way. It not only stresses her out, it stressed me out, too."

Companions who are with someone who resists disconnecting say they find themselves torn between bringing their vacation partner in the present and coming across as a nag. Most of us only have a week a year when we can spend solid uninterrupted time with our spouse or kids. Don't they deserve to experience us enjoying time with them?

The solution may be agreeing upfront on how, when and where work check-ins will fit into a vacation schedule. Logging on and sending emails before others awake or during rest periods in the hotel room may be palatable. Missing a mid-day, zip-line excursion or interrupting pool time to make a work call may not be okay. Setting vacation rules may require respect for your companion’s work demands and it may take compromise.

Some business owners and professionals say checking in briefly allows them to relax more. It prevents them from a stressful return to work. That's understandable. But remember, the goal is to use your vacation to come back to the office and your home life happier than before you left. If setting vacation rules ahead of time is what it takes to make that happen, why not give it try?

 

The Work/Life Balancing Act

Should you break unwritten rules in the workplace?

In my previous newsroom, there was an unwritten rule that no one could park in the covered parking area unless they were an top level executive. Yet, the parking spots there were plentiful. One day, a friend of mine decided to break the unwritten rule and park there. No one said a word and she enjoyed getting into her nice cool car after work.

It's odd how unwritten workplace rules get started.

This morning, I read an article in The Denver Post about unwritten workplace rules. It noted that some have been universally followed for generations – things like pay your dues, don't go over your boss' head and stay off the executive elevator.

The article went on to say that Millennials, the generation currently entering the workforce in large numbers, are seriously upsetting those conventions: They have taken a confidence into their jobs because they are digital natives and are used to knowing more about technology than their teachers and parents. 

"The workforce of the future doesn't get the unwritten rules of hierarchy," said Seth Mattison, founder of FutureSight Labs.

Mattison offered an anecdote shared by the chief executive of a distribution company with $ 4 billion a year in sales after a new crop of interns started. He was deluged by a steady stream of 22-year-olds rolling into his office asking to meet for coffee.

Reading that made me wonder if all of us, regardless of our generation, should break some of the unwritten rules. The only reason I began writing about work life balance was because I broke the unwritten rule of staying in the newsroom hierarchy and brought the idea of a work life balance column more than a decade ago to the publisher of the newspaper.

Sometimes, breaking unwritten rules pays off. Sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes the risk is worth taking the chance. Millennials, more often, are taking that chance. For example, they believe age isn't a factor in who generates great ideas. They are willing to break unwritten rules to make their ideas heard, often going right to the top to get their ideas recognized quickly. 

That attitude should be embraced by all of us. 

Mattison says breaking unwritten rules successfully comes from earning small wins that build credibility. In other words, prove yourself first.

I've found the key to fulfilling work life balance often comes from proposing ideas that may seem, on the surface, to break the rules. In my experience, breaking unwritten rules can be a good thing — if done smartly after you've earned some respect.

The Work/Life Balancing Act

The rules of business etiquette have changed: How to avoid a blunder

Lately, I've had a few business lunches and I noticed something on a regular basis: people have their cellphones out during lunch. They even pick them up while in the middle of a conversation and answer a text or surf the web. I might have been offended in the past, but it just seems so normal today.

The rules of business etiquette are changing. 

Today, in my Miami Herald column, I was able to take my etiquette questions to Miss Manners, whose real name is Judith Martin. I'd love to hear your thoughts on what you consider rude in the modern workplace.

In business, manners still matter

 

 
 
  Etiquette and Protocol Consultant Maryline Coirin runs the Miami Protocol Centre. Coirin says it's bad etiquette to have your phone on the table during a business lunch.
Etiquette and Protocol Consultant Maryline Coirin runs the Miami Protocol Centre. Coirin says it's bad etiquette to have your phone on the table during a business lunch. AL DIAZ/MIAMI HERALD STAFF

 

By CINDY KRISCHER GOODMAN

While recently lunching with lawyers, I noticed that some mobile devices were out on the table. It prompted me to raise an etiquette question to the attorneys: Is it bad manners to keep your cellphone out during lunch or completely acceptable?

Today’s workplace etiquette is tricky, and most of us still are trying to figure out the rules. Between relaxed dress codes, use of technology and blurred boundaries, navigating the crucial distinctions between professional and social courtesies has become complicated.

Once I put the question out there, each of the lawyers chimed in with differing views. Some cited possible family emergencies as a reason to keep the phone in sight; others cited client expectations of quick response. Overall, the consensus was that putting your cell on the table and checking it during the meal is acceptable when lunching with colleagues or friends, not with clients or potential customers.

“Workplace etiquette does change and adjust,” says nationally syndicated etiquette columnist Judith Martin, also known as Miss Manners. Martin has partnered with her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, to help us navigate the new workplace etiquette pitfalls in her new book, Miss Manners Minds Your Business. They will appear at the Miami Book Fair International on Sunday.

“Today, some of the etiquette rules are different. Others just are disobeyed more flagrantly,” she explained to me.

Because the rules change over time, many of us don’t intend to offend. Yet, there are high costs with even seemingly inconsequential actions: Our etiquette breaches create bad impressions with clients, ruin job prospects or cause us setbacks in our careers.

Young workers often step into a minefield on the job after years of parents and teachers encouraging them to “be themselves,” Martin explains. At work, they might interpret that to mean posting their emotions on social networks, neglecting to wash the coffee pot or writing an email in text speak. “When entering the business world, you need to learn to be someone else. It is called having a professional identity,” she says.

For all workers, staying professional even as the workplace becomes more casual requires reading cues. You don’t want to address the boss by his first name if the rest of the staff calls him Mr. Smith. Marc Cenedella, CEO and founder of TheLadders.com, an online marketplace for $ 100,000-plus jobs, warns that in every office – even those with a collegial culture — there exists an invisible line between professional and unprofessional behavior. A survey by TheLadders.com found managers often draw the line at cussing at work, wearing revealing clothing and having repeated loud personal conversations. A Ladders survey found 36 percent of U.S. bosses have issued a formal warning, and 6 percent have fired an employee for swearing, deeming a foul mouth the most punishable of all workplace faux pas.

Most workers will confirm that the big slips that create most resentment arise from our being more distracted than ever by technology. Leslie Harris says she was aghast when her physician took a call on his cellphone while examining her. “I could hear the conversation and I’m pretty sure he was speaking to a friend,” says Harris, a marketing executive. She since has found another physician.

Of course, the smartphone addict typically doesn’t think he or she is being rude by staring at a screen or zipping off an email during a team meeting or one-on-one interaction, and may actually consider himself being responsive to customers’ needs in real time.

Miss Manners says that’s no excuse: “Not paying attention to human beings who are there to be with you is rude.” Sometimes, prefacing a meeting by announcing you are expecting an urgent call helps buffer the interpretation of bad manners. Regardless, she says, “You are sending the message that the person or people you are with are not worth your attention.”

In a survey conducted earlier this year, 64 percent of 1,718 chief information officers said higher use of mobile gadgets has led to more breaches in workplace etiquette over the last three years. That’s up from 51 percent who said the same thing in a survey conducted three years ago by Robert Half Finance & Accounting staffing firm.

In a business setting, if you can’t give others your full attention, don’t go to the meeting or shut your door, Martin advises. Greenberg Traurig business litigator Michele Stocker recently found a client upset when she didn’t answer repeated calls on her cell in a two-hour span. Stocker explained that it would be bad manners to not give the client she was with her full attention during a legal proceeding. “When I ask, ‘how would you like it if I took a call during a meeting with you?’ they admitted they would be offended and said that I made a fair point.”

Most of us strive to be responsive, but we are entitled to a peaceful private life. That may mean delaying an email response or returning a call. Answering in up to 24 hours is acceptable, etiquette experts say.

Maryline Coirin, a Miami business etiquette consultant, says most of the questions she gets involve dining. Even today, the old business luncheon still is an expected part of a successful professional life — and rife with land mines. “When you sit down at the dining table, everything you do is being judged,” she says.

If you salt your food before you taste it, you could be viewed as impulsive. If you hold your wine glass by the stem, you would be considered well cultured, Coirin explains. In agreement with Miss Manners, Coirin says one of the most important dining etiquette rules is to keep your phone in your pocket or purse, even if you are just peeking at the time. “During a meal, it has no business being out or on the table,” she convincingly asserts.

When confronting a colleague about an etiquette blunder, ask him or her to view the actions from other people’s perspective, suggest experts.

“Were you aware that your loud personal conversations are distracting your co-workers?” You might even suggest other ways of handling a situation.

Experts say most workers don’t intentionally want to be rude to their co-workers and office hierarchies typically reward those who use common courtesy. Martin says she sees a positive in the evolution of etiquette: “Tolerance for bad behavior has disappeared.”

 

 Click here to find out about Miss Manner's appearance at the Miami Book Fair International

 

The Work/Life Balancing Act