Tag Archive for: work-life balance

In a time of remote work, remote school, and social distancing, how you communicate with your co-workers is extremely important. Hard conversations with co-workers can cause a certain level of uneasiness. It can often be difficult to know how and when to approach a certain topic or situation. Thanks to COVID-19, stress levels for many working remotely (I’m in that boat), parents uncertain about school (Hey, that’s my boat, too!), and those who have continued to report to work amid a pandemic (that’s my wife’s boat) have been elevated. Some of these “boats” often seem like “sinking ships,” and a lack of or unclear communication can be the iceberg that takes the ship down. 

So how do we approach these tough conversations when we are not all present in the same place? 

First and foremost, we need to identify the issues that we are having

  • Do you feel like someone has unrealistic expectations of you? 
  • Do you have unrealistic expectations of or resentment toward co-workers? 
  • Are you overworked or under-worked? 
  • Do you feel that your co-workers are not sensitive to your particular situation? 
  • Do you feel like others are not carrying the same workload as you? 

All of these can lead to unnecessary stress, and the solution for many of them is communication and clarity.

  1. Pick the right timeHow and when we communicate can be just as important as what we communicate. We want to be cognizant of the setting of these hard conversations with co-workers. We may not have the ability to be face-to-face so we need to take extra precautions to ensure we are able to talk whether over the phone or via video. Choose a time that is convenient for all involved parties and sensitive to everyone’s schedules. Make sure you are not stressed, tired, or hungry. ☆ Also, remove distractions as much as possible. (Silence your phone and set it aside. Turn off notifications on your computer or tablet.)
  2. Ask questions and listen. There could be a simple misunderstanding or lack of feeling heard. Listen to your co-workers and ask questions. Be sure you are expressing your perspective clearly and without assumptions. Lack of clarity can lead to many misunderstandings within the workplace, and this time of working remotely can greatly affect clarity. In the words of Stephen Covey, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
  3. Be intentional with your conversation. Identify what the issue is and stay on topic. It’s easy to get sidetracked, but the focus must be on addressing the root of the conflict and resolving it.
  4. Don’t assume. As stated earlier, ask clarifying questions. (I am not a mind reader, and I am sure you are not either.)
  5. Choose your words wisely. Express what you are feeling, but avoid doing so harshly. Think through what you want to say. (Something I had to learn was to pause, breathe, and think before I respond or say something that could be harsh.)
  6. Don’t forget the positive. Even difficult conversations have room to share the positive. Praising the work or contribution of team members may be more important now than ever.
  7. Seek a resolution. Work together to resolve the root of the problem or conflict. Come up with a solution collectively. Compromise may be needed, but you will be stronger as a team if you can resolve the issue, learn from the situation, and move forward together.

I have heard it said that we are not all in the same boat but we are all in the same ocean. We each have different circumstances and stresses that affect our relationships. Don’t let your relationships suffer because of misunderstandings, unspoken expectations, and unresolved issues. You have the ability to navigate difficult conversations with co-workers and come out stronger. Difficult times often produce immense growth.

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Do you feel overwhelmed in your life?

Can you remember the last time that you had a huge belly laugh?

When was the last time you stopped and had some fun?

You may have heard the saying, “Desperate times call for desperate measures.” I submit that desperate times call for FUN MEASURES. When our life gets hectic and busy we often forgo fun and play. The National Institute for Play (NIP) believes that play can dramatically transform our personal health, our relationships, and the education we provide our children. 

Additionally, the University of Denver’s Center for Marital and Family Studies finds that the amount of fun couples have together is the strongest factor in understanding overall marital happiness. The more you invest in fun, friendship and being there for your partner, the happier the relationship will be over time. The correlation between fun and marital happiness is high and significant.

Here are 5 ways to have more fun in your life…

  1. Make it a priority. When something is a priority, we make room for it in our lives. We place it on the calendar. If it has to be rescheduled, we quickly do so. Fun should be one of those things. It brings emotional, physical, and relational benefits to your life which include boosting the immune system, fostering empathy and promoting a sense of belonging and community. 
  2. Discover what you enjoy doing, even if others don’t feel the same way about it. That’s ok! This time is about enhancing your life, not a time to keep up with Joneses. If you like trivia, find a live trivia game. If you like puzzles, get the biggest one and go for it.
  3. Be creative and adventurous. Having fun doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Try something that you have always wanted to do like going paddleboarding or kayaking with a group of friends. Start an herb garden for your window. 
  4. Share fun with friends and family. Once you have found what you enjoy doing, then it’s easy to find what you can enjoy with friends and family. It could be taking a family hike in a park, having breakfast for dinner with friends or making cookies for first responders. Whatever it is, do what you find fun—and it may even bring joy to others.
  5. Become a Fun Ambassador. Now that you and your family have recognized the power of fun, pass it on to others. Sharing the positive impact of spending time with friends and family encourages others to do the same—it’s CONTAGIOUS

★ Having fun is not a one-time endeavor. It is an attitude and opportunity for enjoyment to flow through all aspects of your life. Get out your planner now. Schedule some playtime for the next week—a minimum of 15 minutes per day.

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I’m with you on this, but approaching your boss about continuing to work from home can be a tricky conversation to navigate! Let’s put our heads together and see if we can come up with a way to pitch our idea to the boss!

Many people are probably excited about the prospect of getting back to the office. Maybe they have little ones at home that make it hard to get work done during the quarantine. Maybe being put into the teacher-parent-employee role has been a struggle. Some people just like the office and the camaraderie or the hard distinction between work and home. COVID-19 and quarantine have been extra hard for them.

Then there are people like us. We’ve got our routines down. Our “maximum productivity zones” don’t necessarily match up with a 9-5 schedule. We’ve seen the benefits of integrating work life and family life, being able to take a walk around the block to think through a work assignment, and still be around the house and available to connect with family, too. We’re comfortable working with the team and having meetings via Zoom or the phone. And let’s be real—we are probably working more than eight hours a day and/or definitely getting more than eight hours of work done. Continuing to work from home seems like a Win/Win for everybody!

How To Have This Conversation With Your Boss

  • Remember that your boss is the boss. Have a humble demeanor. See my blog post here.
  • After seeing working remotely in action, your boss might be more open to you working from home, but there are times the boss might want the team to be in the same room. Acknowledge that and show that you are flexible.
  • Emphasize the specific ways that working from home has helped you be more productive, focused and creative, BUT…
  • Don’t be afraid to express how this has also benefited your family and your overall health and happiness. (Your boss knows that family problems and things like stress, anxiety and depression affect your work performance.)
  • Try suggesting a “trial period” so your boss can gauge how it is working out.
  • Understand and be prepared for the possibility that the answer might be, “No.”

How To Prepare For The Transition Back To The Office

  • Don’t wait to start mentally preparing and thinking through the practical things that will be affected by this transition. It was a significant shift to working from home and it will be a significant shift back to the office. 
  • If you were doing a lot of your work late at night or early in the morning, consider shifting your work routine now. Get your mind and body ready for 9 to 5.
  • Think through how this transition will affect your family. Have a family meeting to talk through how family schedules and routines will change. Your kids have also adapted to you being home during the day. They will need time and help to adjust. 
  • Be creative and intentional to find new ways to keep the things going that have helped your family grow stronger and be more connected. 9 to 5 doesn’t have to make your family less connected.

Best of luck to you, fellow worker who prefers to work from home!

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We are a nation of millions, but Cigna Health Insurance recently released a national survey that reveals we are a lonely nation. 

According to the survey of more than 20,000 U.S. adults:

  • Nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone or left out.
  • One in 4 Americans rarely or never feel as though people really understand them.
  • Two in 5 Americans sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful and that they are isolated from others.
  • One in 5 people report they rarely or never feel close to people or feel like there are people they can talk to.
  • Americans who live with others are less likely to be lonely compared to those who live alone. However, this does not apply to single parents/guardians – even though they live with children, they are more likely to be lonely.
  • Only a little more than half of Americans have meaningful in-person social interactions on a daily basis, such as having an extended conversation with a friend or spending quality time with family.
  • Generation Z (adults ages 18-22) is the loneliest generation and claims to be in worse health than older generations.
  • Social media use alone is not a predictor of loneliness. Respondents defined as very heavy users of social media and those who never use social media have similar loneliness scores.

Even though there are more ways than ever before to connect with others, the struggle to feel connected is very real and can not only lead to emotional issues, but physical ones as well.

According to David M. Cordani, president and CEO of Cigna, this lack of human connection ultimately leads to a lack of vitality. 

The good news is that this study reinforces that we are social creatures made for relationship and that communities matter. Less-lonely people are more likely to have regular, meaningful, in-person interactions and are in good overall physical and mental health. They have also achieved balance in daily activities, are employed and have good relationships with their coworkers. 

More specifically, the survey showed that getting the right balance of sleep, work, socializing with friends, family and “me time” is connected to lower loneliness scores. However, balance is critical, as those who get too little or too much of these activities have higher loneliness scores.

Here are some details:

  • Sleep: Those who say they sleep just the right amount have lower loneliness scores.
  • Spending time with family: Those who spend more or less time than desired with their family are on par with one another when it comes to experiencing feelings of loneliness.
  • Physical activity: People who say they get just the right amount of exercise are considerably less likely to be lonely. 
  • The workplace: Those who say they work just the right amount are least likely to be lonelyloneliness score of those who work more than desired increases by just over three points, while those who work less than desired showed a 6-point increase in loneliness. 

If you are one of the millions feeling trapped by loneliness, here are five strategies for overcoming it.

  • Put down the technology. While gaming and social media make you think you are connecting with people, your brain knows otherwise. 
  • Make a move. When you are lonely, it is easy to tell yourself nobody wants to be around you anyway. If you are breathing, you are meant to be in relationship with others. Making the first move toward relationships with others can often be the most difficult. 
  • Be intentional about putting yourself in situations where you can have human interaction and create relationships. It could be a class, a recreational hiking club or something else. Think about things you enjoy doing. Find others who are doing that thing and join them.
  • Know the difference in being lonely and spending time by yourself. Quiet time to rejuvenate and get your head together is healthy. Spending all of your time alone and away from people is not.
  • Find a way to help others, minimize your time alone and utilize your talents in the community.Volunteer at a local food bank, pet shelter or other nonprofit. 

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When it comes to being a working mom, things can get kind of crazy. Some days it feels nonstop. You move from changing diapers and cleaning up messes to taking conference calls and looking over balance sheets.

Plenty of moms have felt the angst of believing they don’t measure up as a mom or businesswoman. Jennifer Fleiss, co-founder of Rent the Runway and current CEO and co-founder of Code 8, is no exception. And she definitely has some thoughts about it.

“I think we all have to cut ourselves a little slack and realize that we probably aren’t going to have a perfect balance,” says Fleiss. “No one is perfect. We all have to figure out what works in our particular circumstance, which might mean shaving off a little bit on each end.”

Fleiss confesses that she is her own toughest critic as a working mom.

“As a mom, I definitely feel the tug of guilt when I miss drop-offs, reading class books, cooking for bake sales, planning birthday parties and making lunches,” Fleiss says. “However, I think my husband and I have been able to work out a system that works well for our family.”

When it came down to figuring out what worked, Fleiss understood the importance of having home, work and school nearby in order to save commute time. Additionally, both she and her husband intentionally try to only travel once a month, and syncing schedules helps them avoid being out of town at the same time.

“I think one of the most powerful things that has come out of this is empowering my husband,” Fleiss asserts.

“He bears a huge amount of the responsibilities in our home, which is what keeps me sane – and he is awesome at it. Our children (6, 3 and 1) have strong relationships with both of us, which I believe is a very good thing. And, I have learned not to go behind him and rearrange the dishwasher, or get bent out of shape when something is missing from the diaper bag. In the scheme of things those aren’t worth the time and energy.”

Fleiss contends that in some strange way, being a businesswoman has made her a better mom.

“In the midst of the craziness, you learn not to sweat the small stuff,” Fleiss shares. “I don’t get flustered like I used to. And I am more thoughtful when I respond to my family and others. I think I have learned to decipher between vitally important things that are a really big deal and those that are smaller deals. What falls in the tyranny of the urgent category.”

When it comes to her best working mom hacks, Fleiss offers the following:

  • Wear ear plugs at night (so your husband hears the kids wake up first).
  • Dance parties count as workouts.
  • Going for a run with your husband equals date/catch-up time as a couple.
  • If you get organized the night before, it keeps mornings less chaotic.
  • Have hard-boiled eggs and bananas always at the ready.
  • Choose your battles.
  • Push-ups with kids on your back is a great workout, and it’s fun for the kids.

“What I have learned about myself is that success isn’t just about business for me. It is about being able to enjoy and appreciate every aspect of my life,” Fleiss says.

Fleiss learned from her own mother that balance is the key to enjoying both worlds.

“‘Why not do both?’ was something my mother often said to me, encouraging me to go after every opportunity and find a way to fit everything into my life to create fullness and composite happiness. She also constantly reminded me to slow down, smile and enjoy life.”

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!

Most CEOs know that a satisfied workforce yields higher productivity. They also know that retaining employees is better and more cost-effective than dealing with turnover issues like recruitment and training. But do they know that many employees are conflicted about the time they spend at work versus with family?

When a national survey by the Families and Work Institute asked what factors were very important in taking a job, 60 percent of respondents cited “effect on personal/family life.”

Yet the big question still looms: “If we become more family-friendly, will it hurt the bottom line?” Perhaps the better question is, “How does not being family-friendly affect the bottom line?”

CEOs and upper level managers may want to explore these findings from the survey of almost 1,000 working fathers. Updating the Organization Man: An Examination of Involved Fathering in the Workplace was published in the February 2015 Academy of Management Perspectives. It found that fathers who spend more time with their children on a typical day are more satisfied with their jobs and less likely to want to leave their organizations. These men also experience less work-family conflict and greater work-family enrichment.

The survey also revealed that the more hours men devote to their children, the less central their careers are to their identities. This might create some anxiety for management.  However, the study’s authors found that involved fathering is not just good for workers. It’s also good for the companies via its positive association with a fathers’ job satisfaction, commitment to their work and lowered intentions to quit.

Previous work/life balance studies show that women experience more on-the-job conflict when they devote more time to their children. Why does spending time with their children equate with good job results for men, but increased conflict for women? The authors surmise that working fathers experience ambiguity around their fathering identity. However, they do not seem to experience threat to their work identities in the same way that mothers do. Perhaps men don’t experience the same level of guilt that working mothers feel. And it’s possible that men don’t view caring for children as a source of stress.

Additionally, on a scale of 1 (not important) to 5 (extremely important), study participants rated the most important aspects of being a good father this way:

  • Providing love and emotional support received an average rating of 4.6.
  • Providing discipline and financial security each received a 4.0.
  • Participating in day-to-day childcare tasks received an average rating of 3.9.

The study’s authors challenge employers to recognize the changes in how men view their roles. Many of today’s fathers desire to be more than the traditional organization men. As men transition from a narrow definition of fatherhood to one that embraces work and family, they must find a happy medium between the two. Doing meaningful work and living meaningful lives enhances their effectiveness, both as workers and caregivers.

It’s encouraging to see from this study that fathers truly see the benefits of being there. Plus, when a company’s bottom line is stronger, imagine the positive impact this has on a man’s family.

For more on parenting, click here.

Couples Who Work Together

You can learn a lot from living and working together.

Did you know that 1.4 million married couples in the United States not only live together, but work together, too?

Robin and Michael McKenna ran the family business together for 10 years in Savannah, Georgia.

“My husband was working in corporate America,” says Mrs. McKenna. “We realized that we could either move around with his job or move to Savannah and help his father run the family business. We decided it would be fun to work together and it would allow our children to grow up close to at least one set of grandparents.”

You may think, “I could never do that,” or “Don’t you get tired of being around each other so much?” or “How do you work together without killing each other?” The McKennas actually enjoyed working together.

“At one point, we moved into office space where my husband and I each had our own office,” McKenna says. “One of our employees said, ‘I don’t know why you all have separate offices. You are always together.’ We laughed, but that’s the way we work. It wasn’t complicated for us to figure out how to work well together. I think we might be the exception to the rule; we actually like hanging wallpaper together.”

Working together taught the McKennas some valuable lessons that strengthened their marriage.

“It definitely takes teamwork,” McKenna says. “We listed everything that needed to be done and got busy checking things off the list. There is no place for ‘that’s not my responsibility,’ when you are running a business together. We did not take each other for granted and I think that is huge.

“Don’t sweat the small stuff. We learned early on that you can’t always be the one that is right and it was important to value each other’s opinions. Even though we spent a lot of time together during the day, it was still important to spend time together as a family in the evening. We ate dinner as a family every night and when the kids were old enough, they worked with us in the store.”

They sold the family business, but after more than 40 years of marriage, they still work on projects together.

“We are best friends and we have fun together,” McKenna says. “We entered into marriage committed to a lifetime together so we spent our time and energy focused on making our relationship work. Learning how to be together all the time and running a business together brought us closer as a team. Even though things didn’t always go the way I or we wanted them to, that’s life. We got over it and moved on.”

The McKennas have great memories from their decade of working together. Most importantly, they discovered how to appreciate what they each bring to their “team.” This realization, tempered with patience, love and understanding, keeps couples together and builds a stronger marriage foundation.

How to Be a Family-Friendly Workplace

Higher productivity and a better bottom line – it's worth the effort.

If you were a CEO or business owner, how could you help increase productivity, improve your bottom line and decrease employee turnover? You might think it all boils down to money. But what if the answer was a simple one? You can help your employees lead more fulfilling lives and be better family members by being a family-friendly workplace.

The Sloan Center for Aging at Boston College studied this topic. Ninety percent of workers said that workplace flexibility moderately or greatly contributes to their quality of life. And, a study of IBM employees suggests that telecommuting workers find it easier to balance work and family life.

Studies show that a family-friendly workplace is a key to higher productivity and a better bottom line.

In October 2016, Working Mother magazine released its annual 100 Best Companies list. The magazine asked these companies why they invested in work-life benefits such as on-site child care, flex time, job sharing and telecommuting. The answer was, “It benefits the bottom line.”

More companies are seeing the advantage of these practices. However, only a small percentage of U.S. companies have family-friendly policies in their benefits package. Some companies cite cost as a reason for not doing so.

Professors from Stanford, the University of Munich and the London School of Economics investigated to see if family-friendly workplace practices are worth the money. The result? Family-friendly firms saw an impact in areas such as employee retention, and healthier attitudes and behaviors. Interestingly, the amount of money spent equaled the financial benefit derived from these policies. According to the researchers, family-friendly workplace practices may not increase profits, but they at least pay for themselves.

There’s a downside to NOT adopting family-friendly workplace policies.

The Business Case for Work-Family Programs reports that employees who experience work-family conflict are three times more likely to think about quitting their jobs than those who do not have that conflict. And according to Working Mother magazine, turnover from work-family issues costs companies about three times the job’s annual salary for an executive or managerial position. The cost is one and a half times the salary for line positions. Hidden expenses such as delays and training time also affect the bottom line.

You can take steps to make your company more family-friendly.

When implementing these policies, make sure you communicate with and include workers at all business levels.

  • Offer child care in the workplace and encourage both parents to utilize it. Employee child care centers allow workers to be near their children during the day.
  • Offer flex-scheduling so parents can participate more in their child’s schooling, doctor appointments, social activities, etc. Giving employees more control over when and where they do their jobs is an important element of reducing the work-family conflict. It allows the employee to feel better about his or her job because it is not taking away from family time.
  • Develop family-friendly policies for both parents that cover arrangements for the birth of children or a family illness.
  • Survey employees to assess their needs. This provides a clearer picture of what families need and cuts down on wasted time and energy creating unneeded programs.

If you’re interested in making it easier for employees to succeed at work and at home, it may be time to examine your organization’s work-life effectiveness.

Other blogs:

Involved Fathers Are Good for the Workplace

Why Soft Skills Matter in the Workplace