HR FYI

ReWorking: 4-day Workweek Making Some Steps

Posted on: Monday, August 8th, 2022
Posted in: HR FYI, Sabbatical Shuffle, Work/Life Hacking | Leave a comment

Can you even imagine how a reduction in work hours would pep up employees?

As BreakAway’s ReWorking series continues to examine how US working norms transform in a (post?) pandemic world, today we look at how the 32-hour week has been gaining a smidgen of traction. This news comes courtesy of NerdWallet, probably the best financial advice source out there.

Just ask any FA; they’ll direct you away from their firm’s website and send you straight to the $ Nerds!

  • A Cali bill, a nonprofit foundation, + employer test kitchens

The 4-day week has its cheerleaders. In California, the legislature recently kicked it around, and likely will again. Elsewhere, nonprofit 4 Day Week Global promotes the concept out of Oxford University—and has launched some pilot programs with courageous companies worldwide. And when surveyed, 92% of US employees respond they support the idea, with 79% believing it would help their mental health, while 82% even claim it would make them more productive.

  • But oh, the obstacles…

Yet the questions fly around like irksome flies in August. Most of them are obvious, and might make any CEO lose his lunch…

• What would customers and clients think—would service & sales suffer?

• Who would tend to your emails/texts/zooms/meetings?

• How could this work in a 24/7 plugged-in world?

• Would the time reduction = a pay reduction? If so, who wants that?

• Might this mean 4 10-hour workdays, and how would daycare and other support systems feel? (And could the dog hold its pee/poop?)

  • As always, alternatives abound

NerdWallet and the experts quoted are quick to point toward ways to get some relief if the #32 still lacks magic. Of course, we’ve been preaching about them here for years. But for the sake of reminders, consider these common-sense salves: Take extended weekend BreakAways; try meeting-less Fridays; schedule time periods that are telepressure-free; prioritize at least a few hours a day that are completely work-unplugged.

Will the 4-day week become a thing? Probably not in our lifetime. And yet, I know many folks who have made similar custom arrangements—because they have the power to call shots, they are in family-intense years, or just have a savvy and collegial employer. They offer role-model inspiration and hope.

Year-round 3-day weekends, everyone? Keep the drum thumping and, as always…

Keep the faith.

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FAST CO.: Interviewers Should Lighten up on Career Breaks

Posted on: Wednesday, April 20th, 2022
Posted in: HR FYI, Work/Life Hacking | Leave a comment


Work is important, and sometimes sweet. But bosses-to-be need to recognize that savvy employees need Big Breaks too—whether to handle life’s adversity or to savor some serendipity.

Earlier this week, FC published (what some might call) a paradigm-shifting article, “What’s Behind the Employment Gap?” They outline 14 approaches from 14 HR mavens about how to approach discussing career breaks in an interviewee’s resume—and the interviews that follow.

While short on overall analysis, the loud-and-clear upshot is that times have changed. Major league. The pandemic shook up the work world in unpredictable and unprecedented ways. But the Great Resignation that is sweeping the career world seems to have shifted much of the balance of power away from the Big Shots and into the ready arms of the Real People.

Here are some highlights shared by these HR authorities…

• “PTO may be a sign of maturity.” (2 words: Thank you!) {8 more words: Maybe working nonstop for 45 years is not!}

• A perspective boss may be curious and appreciate a way to address the gap, but, as one pundit puts it, “It truly isn’t any of my business.”

• Maybe time off now is the norm, not the exception. Brilliant: Have you heard about raising children? Is there any engaged parent who hasn’t needed time to make that arduous adjustment? Did you know that in Europe both new parents may get up to 6 months off? Are you aware that our sluggish congress someday may legally mandate Family Leave?

• Give them the benefit of the doubt. And while you’re at it, “Find out what they gained from the experience.”

• Don’t label it a shortfall. In fact, why not, “Frame it as an opportunity for learning and growth.”

• And finally…Consider the candidate’s maturity level. “No personal path or career path is straight.” LIFE happens. And that includes illness, family concerns, having kids, and making hard decisions. As one writer asserts, it would be easy to see taking career breaks as, frankly, ant-woman…since moms (and dads, right?) often must make tough choices about family versus career.

Conspicuously missing: Discussion of travel as the reason for a…BreakAway! Hmmmmm. We’ve much to say about that. But for now, let’s just embrace the miraculous victory that this quick-read article represents.

High 5s to Fast Company. 14 of their Executive Board Members, in fact. Who knew gnarly experiences like Covid-19, sheltering in place, and locking down offices would play out so poetically? (Well, some of us have been patiently waiting for WHATEVER might move the chains.)

As this site often states: You CAN have it all…just not all at once.

Keep the faith. 

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Co’s Bending Toward Sabbaticals as Post-Pandy Perk

Posted on: Thursday, April 7th, 2022
Posted in: HR FYI, Sabbatical Shuffle | Leave a comment

If buildings can bend, like these in NYC, then bosses can too when it’s time to encourage employee BreakAways. 

Honestly, the flurry of sabbatical and career-break ink of late has been dizzying. At some point in history, we may look back at this workplace moment as not only one of the most challenging, but also innovative when it comes to employee empowerment.

Credit the pandemic—which for 2+ years has plundered work norms while somehow most of the economy kept afloat anyway. But that only began the reinvention; the Great Resignation somehow inspired millions of workers to quit their jobs and rethink work/life priorities entirely. And atop all that, younger people are less loyal. Older people are burning out. Offices suddenly seem more, oh, optional!

  • Flex, yes, but I want my FREEDOM too!

CBS Chicago reported a few days ago about trends in workplaces—newsworthy indeed as companies scramble to put Humpty-Dumpty back together. Flex work makes most headlines, but what does that mean? 1 day at the office? 4? That drama plays out daily now in offices everywhere

Pet stipends are also making some people purr—when your employer picks up the tab (and someone else picks up the doo-doo) to take your dog to the park while you’re at the cube farm. Transportation reimbursement (usually for mass transit) is gaining steam, as is education assistance. And a 4-day work week—already common in some countries for pre-pandemic reasons—is getting serious consideration in the US and again worldwide.

  • But the big score: The Sabbatical

CBS Chicago may not be the WSJ or The Economist in reach and influence. But when media everywhere are reporting on our BreakAway concept routinely, well, that’s Big News in itself. As a Northwestern professor put it, people want, “natural breaks, creative breaks.”

Funnily enough, that’s what this website has been preaching since 2008. Especially the “natural piece” (go somewhere! get outside! seek adventure!)…and the “creative” detail (recharge your ideas; use your hands; try something new).

If you’re going back to work-work, make it WORK for you. Now’s a good time to introduce the Powers that Be to the powers of offering employees worthwhile and feel-good perks. Atop the wish list are more vacation days, more unplugged times, and more SABBATICALS!

The Bosses at the top will love the improved morale, recruiting, and retention. And they’ll thank you. Later. Trust me!

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ReWorking: LinkedIn Okays Career Breaks!

Posted on: Sunday, March 20th, 2022
Posted in: HR FYI, Sabbatical Shuffle, SoulTrain, Work/Life Hacking | One comment

Employers allegedly want neat, linear work histories. But most lives, especially those well-lived, more resemble a beautiful stack of abstract experiences.

Monster-networking SM site LinkedIn shocked the world on March 1 by suddenly—and finally—including career breaks as a viable way to describe the times that you were doing other things than working for MSFT (who owns LinkedIn). While most people would question the actual significance of LI, this is still both shocking and outstanding news.

LI even offers 13 options to describe your BreakAway, such as travel (yes!), bereavement, and caregiving. We’ll see if they add more over time, like joining the Great Resignation. Meanwhile, LI reports that “51% of hirers say they are more likely to contact a candidate that provides context about their career break.”

This development feels about, oh, 55 years late. But we rejoice in small victories—and this may represent a paradigm shift of sorts. So go ahead, be honest and update your profiles, y’all. BreakAway has always insisted that any employer worth working for will embrace people with interesting and well-rounded lives. Maybe the Linky world is catching up…

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ReWorking: WSJ Touts Sabbaticals as Pandy Burnout Cure

Posted on: Thursday, February 10th, 2022
Posted in: HR FYI, Sabbatical Shuffle, Work/Life Hacking | Leave a comment

For many, of late, life’s a b*tch—not a beach. The lucky ones get a sponsored BreakAway.

Last month, the Wall Street Journal published, “Sabbaticals are a Power Move in the Burnout Era,” and offered stats and stories about our repurposed passion. While millions of employees are joining The Great Resignation, for all kinds of reasons, author Katherine Bindley paints a prettier picture of people exploring national parks, reviving a home office, and renting a tranquil lake retreat.

  • Working harder than ever 

Contrary to many a bossman’s opinion, research proves that employees are putting in more hours than ever—even before Covid ravaged the workplace. Pile on unexpected stressors like concocting a home office, mastering the ways of remote collaboration, and tending to (sometimes sick) family and in-your-face chores and you get…BURNOUT!

Is it any wonder that morale is in the pits? That people are unhappy about the economy, politics, and, well, just about everything? We all feel like we need a vacation—if only the corporation acquiesced and the airlines functioned and the resorts were staffed and ready!

  • Still only offered to the privileged few

The sabbatical surge is great news, right? Yes, but unfortunately, companies that offer such remains stuck at an unimpressive 5%. And most of those employers have a long process—and line—while the package and duration can mean anything from unpaid for 3 weeks to fully paid for several months.

Still, when WSJ talks, people listen. And we can be sure that millions of readers practically spilled their coffee when perusing this article, thinking, “That sounds pretty damn good right about now!”

BreakAway thanks the ever-savvy Wall Street Journal and the helpful people at The Sabbatical Project for promoting our favorite movement.

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Citigroup Proclaims Sabbaticals Pay!

Posted on: Monday, January 4th, 2021
Posted in: HR FYI, Sabbatical Shuffle | Leave a comment

  • Citibank avoids too much moss in the office by granting employee sabbaticals.

A recent Bloomberg Opinion piece has attracted ample attention by outlining Citigroup’s generous policy of offering 12-week sabbaticals to employees after 5 years of employment. Writer Sarah Green Carmichael uses the program as a springboard for both promoting time off and debunking fears about its harm to careers.

  • The problem with unused vacation

As we’ve discussed often at BreakAway, America enjoys being one of the richest countries, but is one of the poorest when it’s time to enjoy a good vacation. We get less. And we don’t even use what we’re given. The average worker earns 23 days off per year but actually takes only 17 of them. That amounts to billions of unused R&R-days!

Carmichael refers to abundant research that shows things like that people who use more vacation are actually more likely to get raises and promotions. Like: co-workers typically appreciate an absent co-worker’s contribution more when they are away and thus unable to pull their weight. Like: managers usually can’t tell the difference between those who slave away 80 hours/week to those who are faking it.

  • Problems persist with parenthood breaks

Maternity leave, in our great country, produces fuzzier outcomes. Several studies show that recent mothers make less money, are less likely to get promoted, and (if job searching) are less likely to get hired—due to lingering stigma that mothers will be less committed and capable. Paternal leave remains even more frowned upon. 

  • Money is “renewable,” while time is “finite”

No thanks to C-19, sabbaticals may suffer as workers covet their jobs and employers fiercely protect all bottom lines. Still, in the big picture, COVID also reminds us that we never know what may kill us, or when. Meanwhile, a career BreakAway not only won’t kill you, it will make you a more worldly, gratified person and employee. 

Op-eds and studies aside, Breakaway guarantees that a sabbatical will most certainly change your life!

Money is the ultimate renewable resource … But time is fleeting and finite. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

 

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11 Reasons Why COVID Is OK

Posted on: Thursday, November 19th, 2020
Posted in: HR FYI, Rants & Roadkill, Sabbatical Shuffle, SoulTrain, Unplugging | Leave a comment
  • C-19 is serious. But so is coping. Here’s a light-hearted look at ways to get through the day…

You know me: Always the optometrist. So I just can’t help but clearly see the silver lining of our murky pandemic Reality. Oh sure, the arguments are thinner than the cheapo TP we all hoarded from Sam’s Club.  But we also need alternatives to gloom-scrolling. And chintzy TP is better than none at all!

So, if you’ll pardon this overdose on Pollyanna pills, please consider… 

  • 11 Reasons Why COVID Is OK 

1. OVER-CROWDED EATERIES ARE OUTRE’. Remember wandering a cool neighborhood looking for food and fun? Recall being unable to get in the door—any door? And who can forget fighting for a drink at the popular pub or monster truck rally? Sometimes the crowds were part of the entertainment, but other times just heinous. And I’m also okay with…

2. $16 HOUSE WINES ARE CORKED UP. And BTW that’s a glass, not a bottle—and sometimes a paltry pour. I do love tasting red wine and seeing new places. But price creep (on all sorts of treats and experiences) taking a breather? That’s okay too.

3. THE ELECTION STAYED SO MELLOW. You think I’m joking? I’m not! Ya sure, this year’s politics were more repugnant than turds in a hot tub. But absent COVID? We’d have likely seen crowds and destruction that would have put this strife to the pale.

4. STAY-CATION IS SURGING. (Quirky coincidence with pandemic #s?) But seriously, even we travel buffs know that there’s no place like homestead. If folks are giving their abode some TLC and finding R&R in their oft-empty McMansions, that’s a soulful win-win.

5. HOME SCHOOLING IS IN SESSION. This one’s a stretch; many families are challenged and many students (40% in St. Paul) are struggling. On the upside, though, families are more involved than before with their kids’ education. A new appreciation for teachers has blossomed. And we are forced to re-think education and the outsized role of screens in learning.

6. “I’M SO BUSY’ HAS TAKEN A BREAK. You know these people: They’re so busy telling you how busy they are that, well, you hardly manage conversation at all. And it’s true: We have become a bafflingly busy culture. Too busy? Maybe. It might do some rat-racers good to take a cool-down lap.

7. WE ARE RE-WORKING THE WORKPLACE. While always in flux, there still must be billions of people who are working 9-to-5-plus and jamming up the freeways for hours on end. If more freedom and flexibility is a side-effect of the pandemic, many employees will be grateful.

8. STOCKS AND REAL ESTATE ARE BOOMING. So far, anyway, mostly. Of course, that only benefits those who have such holdings—and (as the Armchair Economist noted in these pages) the haves truly are getting richer. But for now, it’s okay—versus the alternatives.

9. WE’RE LEARNING SOME NEW VOCABULARY. Did you know that America’s vocab is shrinking faster than your Thanksgiving guest list? It’s true. So let’s be thankful that C-19 has upped our usage of fine words like asymptomatic, antibodies, and pod—while politics made slang out of vitriol, discord, and narcissistic. Quiz Tuesday!

10. POST-PANDEMIC, WE WILL APPRECIATE BREAKAWAYS EVEN MORE! Here in MN, we live by warped mantras like…The sooner winter happens, the sooner summer comes back! But it’s true! And someday, someday, we WILL get to travel again—whether to a family gathering, the cabin, or a coveted dream vacation.

11. MUSIC. When your mind is racing or you’re otherwise about to go completely bat-shit, play music. With your own instruments, or whatever you call your stereo. Turn it up. Let it bathe your blues and blast your brain.

After (God knows how) many months of quarantine, we’ll enjoy travel—and restaurants and parties and schools and mask-free living—more than ever. So in the meantime, let us try to find gratitude for the things that still bring comfort, and the fact that, yep, it could be worse.

Keep the faith.

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BITN: Gap Years, Resume Gaps, & Killer Perks

Posted on: Monday, November 2nd, 2020
Posted in: HR FYI, Sabbatical Shuffle, BITN, Wily Mktg | Leave a comment

  • Pandemic lemonade: Take time off

An FA group out of SF is encouraging their Gen-X clients to consider a shift into Gap-Year mode during these helter-skelter times. Yep, the Advisory Group of San Francisco proclaims to their 40-something investors that, “midlife is now even more intense.” And that research shows that age 47 trends to be the low point in the lifetime happiness curve. So…why not? A 16-p guide is available for the asking.

Midlife is now even more intense

AGSF also mentions “gas pedal risk,” that go-go faster-faster feeling that can happen when life brings maxed-out demands like kid-rearing, peak career loads, and … so much more. Nice idea, a mid-life gap year. BreakAway applauds and of course advocates exactly that (your children will thank you!) along with gap years (or months) most anytime throughout this “one wild and precious life.”

  • Um, about those lost years…

Okay, back to work! Last summer, MoneyTalksNews ran an article about a common theme that continues to grow in attention: How to explain gaps in resumes. The challenge thickens given that many firms essentially have robots that screen resumes via “tracking sytems.” Said bots may flag and dislike breaks! (After all, robots never rest.)

So what to do? The author suggests being upfront and giving a reason for the gap in both cover letter and resume, as research suggests that approach alone can up the odds of your info making it past the bot-bouncer by 60%. Mention any training and networking you’ve done. And of course, keep the focus on your key skills and talents.

At BreakAway, we fearlessly ask: Hey, doesn’t everybody need (and deserve) a pause now and then? Or are we really supposed to work from age 22 to 67 with nary a pit stop during the rat race? Besides, people who take time to raise children, help family, and travel curiously are just plain more well-rounded and worldly.

  • Best workplaces serve up juicy bennies

Comparably is a savvy site “Comparing Employers, Brands, and Salaries.” A recent and impressive post lauds 11 companies that offer innovative perks to keep employees content, motivated, and loyal! 2020 and its shifting work realities make such bonuses particularly useful and no doubt appreciated.

Examples include a home-office stipend, mental-health help with easy access, debt-free degrees, and (my favorite) virtual happy hours with at-home drink delivery during the pandemic.

All great, but what about FREE time? Here you go—just some of the ways that innovative employers are keeping their staffers savvy and sane…

·      Unlimited paid time off

·      Extended holiday weekends

·      Company-wide recharge days

·      1 mental-health day per month

·      Summer Fridays off

·      One-month sabbaticals after three years service

One month off after three years? If that doesn’t make recruiting and retention easier, we’re out of ideas! As countless prospective employees are likely saying…Sign me up!

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America’s REAL Divide Is $$$$

Posted on: Monday, October 12th, 2020
Posted in: HR FYI, Rants & Roadkill, Spendology | One comment

GUEST POST: Today’s thoughts come from our old mentor and friend, The Armchair Economist. It’s been a while, so we’re honored he’s back. His resume and accolades would not fit on our pages—nor even the internet. So we again welcome his incomparable expertise and vital voice for this treatise on the challenges of BreakAways in current economic conditions.

  • America’s Haves Vs. Have-Nots Is Now in Stark Black-and-White

As Submitted by The Armchair Economist

My friends! I cannot sit back in silence on my luxurious llama leather recliner sipping Louis XIII Cognac while brushing up on my John Locke any longer. Please pay attention. Or a revolution like we’ve never seen since the 1770s may be an inevitable consequence.

Consider our record unemployment. Government aid in the trillions. Lavish bailouts for corporations, airlines, and most any big-ish business that knows how to play the game and liquor up lobbyists. A few honest syndicates sheepishly returned their mega millions. But most kept the cash despite often churning profits, perhaps chuckling between griping about government over-reach and lazy laborers accepting handouts rather than “gittin’ back to work,” even if it also might mean gittin’ sick.

Generalizations? Perhaps. But maybe not. And with those dispiriting variables as our backdrop, the Armchair Economist is displeased to announce that…

  • The wealth gap is bigger than ever before

According to my friends at the Fed (WE can’t make this stuff up), the pandemic-downturn has actually helped the haves—because they are unable to spend lavishly in their beloved parlors, country clubs, restaurants, and opera houses. Sadly, their diminished patronage equates to lost livelihoods for millions of waiters, chamber maids, and pedicurists.

(Oh, and many investments like the stock market and real estate are doing swimmingly, thank you very much.)

  • Need proof of the disparity?

The top 1% now holds a record high 40% of US assets

The bottom 50% now shares a record low 2% of the nation’s wealth

Inequality will likely worsen as more workers lose jobs while the affluent keep raking it in yet cannot resume their conspicuous-consumption, jet-set ways

  • So how does that hit home?

1 in 3 Americans are having a tough time paying basic living expenses

~10 million are behind or at risk of making their mortgage or rent

1 in 4 adults expect someone in their household to have less $ over the next month

So my friends, please don’t underestimate the dire consequences of these inequities. This holiday season may make Mr. Scrooge’s bleak fable look lush. Homeless villages may come to resemble India’s slums, not just tents in parks. Beggars on corners may battle over worthy intersections.

  • Who cares?

But who cares? That’s an intellectually, if immorally, puzzling question. And that’s what troubles this scholar and embarrassingly successful capitalist…who DOES care. And will vote. And will donate bazillions to the kindly causes that try to fight back against SuperTanker FilthyRich. But we need more than that—more resources, more action, more…fair and balanced humanity.

After all, for example, my very close personal friend Kirk, your Curator and Host here at BreakAway, simply wants everyone to get healthful, meaningful, time off. To take care of their loved ones. To get out of town—or tent. And to see the world (or a slice of it), whatever that may mean to the individualist, as allowed and affordable and safe. Everyone wins—even the proverbial property owners whose profits may depend on those of lower class (caste?) having coinage with which to splurge on simple pleasures.

Any alternative could get ugly. And who wants to experience unrest (what an understatement!) and stupid plundering if the working class can’t afford proper anger management courses while the rich and classless keep getting richer?

  • In conclusion…

Here’s the hardest part: There’s enough for everyone. At least in this land (is your land, is my land). Unless the greedy build even bigger walls than that one Mexico kindly built for us. And refuse to share their many toys, like so many spoilt brats.

That sounds like no fun, for anyone. Let’s hope we’re BIGGER…than that. All of us. And that the 1% with 40% realizes the slimy slope between lucky success and greedy narcissism. Otherwise, well, the tea may get dumped in the harbor. And frankly, it’s already dirty.

The economy—and possibly CIVILization as we know it—are in the imbalance.

As Mr. Horsted would say, and I try to repeat as my mantra, “Keep the faith.”

“Those least able to shoulder the burden have been the hardest hit.”

— Jerome Powell, Federal Reserve Chairman

* * * * * SOURCES ARE ONGOING BUT HEREIN INCLUDE…

The Fed

Census Bureau Weekly Pulse Survey 

https://www.ajc.com/news/nation-world/us-household-wealth-hits-record-even-as-economy-struggles/XSYAV7HE3BBI5NCLIAXRYTYBAU/

https://www.startribune.com/median-households-made-gains-but-the-large-wealth-gap-remained-data-show/572569632/

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FOTOFRIDAY: Vacations & Odd Ducks

Posted on: Monday, August 3rd, 2020
Posted in: HR FYI, Unplugging, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

FF is late this week. Because the Crew has been on vacation. Nothing exotic, not long enough, but…away. Most people dream about getting away and things, but the sad fact remains that more than half of US workers’ vakay days go unused. It’s the Odd Duck who actually takes care, takes advantage, and takes off for some frolic and fun.

In this picture, you can see what happens to that Odd Duck. Co-workers attack and ostracize. They splash water on your visions of work/life balance. They quack behind your back and peck at your beak because they are jealous you might find bliss and pissed that your absence may increase their work load.

You, meanwhile, may be a closet territorialist—afraid that ditching the job may result in lost opportunity, a back-breaking backlog, or the realization that you really aren’t essential anyway. Yes, it’s complicated. All the more reason to step away for some fresh perspective. (Just don’t think too much. Watch waves and ducks.)

We’ve been carping about this since at least 2009. And yes, the pandemic complicates time off, as it does everything. But maybe the unprecedented stress and uncertainty of these times makes getting AWAY and UNPLUGGING more important than ever! Because hanging with that white duck and the other curious and revitalizing experiences of this BreakAway did much to calm my turbulent waters. For now, anyhow.

Keep the faith.

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