Unlimited Vakay Pays!

Posted on: Thursday, January 19th, 2012
Posted in: HR FYI, Blog | Leave a comment

Economic times are tough.  So if an employer offered unlimited vacation time, don’t you think the shop would run on empty?  Heck, no:  Few Americans use the modest vacation time they already receive.  So why assume abuse?  One Joe Reynolds of Red Frog Events has turned the tide on vacation policy (as part of the “World’s Best Benefits Package”), and his company is going swimmingly.

  • USA:  Land of the Fried, Home of the Slaves

Survey sez:  Only 38% of Americans take all their vacation time.  The average worker takes only 14 days, and leaves 4 on the table.  That equals $67 billion in “profit” for the employers.  And 72% of the vacationers check in at least occasionally.

You can say what you want about France.  But they do know how to party; the average Frenchie takes 35 of their alloted 37 days.  Vive la France!

  • Red Frog Grows by Leaps and Bounds

Mr. Reynolds, as the story goes, grew his $45 million event company from a $5,000 investment—while prioritizing worker performance and loyalty.  His workers can run away all they want or need to.  And instead of exploitating his kindness, his people are

unflinchingly focused and devoted to our mission.”

He’s getting attention, of course, including the Chicago Tribune’s Best Workplace award.  Best of all for this boss man:  The vacation policy has such recruiting power that for every opening, he gets 750 applicants.

Mr. Reynolds claims to work hard—100 hours per week.  But when he wrote his recent story for, he just happened to to be on vacation.  On an island:

Watching surfers and sipping a delicious Hawaiian brew.”

Like we said:  He’s turned the tide on vacation and things are going swimmingly.  Maybe the only vacation abuse happening these days is UNDER-use.

So take Joe’s advice:  Take your vacations!  You’ll do better work.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Young Women Burning Bright—and Out

Posted on: Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011
Posted in: HR FYI, Blog | Leave a comment

It’s a woman’s world these days.  They’ve won the majority in college (if not Congress), and now hold 53% of the entry-level jobs in corporate America.  Good for them.  And good for men—who’ve ruled the roost long enough, yet have hardly pushed for a “liberation” from restrictive role-playing.

But, according to Larissa Faw, a Forbes contributor who “writes about workplace trends impacting Milennial women,” young women are paying a hefty price for their success.  They’re stressed out.  Exhausted.  And questioning what it’s all about.  In short—and a host of studies backs this up—they’re largely unhappy.

  • A story that sparks responses

Soon after the original article appeared, thousands of women in question lit up the internets with their rants and retorts; here are a choice few.  Cue up Peggy Lee’s depressing song, “Is That All There Is?”

Maybe you “Millennial Women” never did learn how to make your bed after you slept in it….”

When my male friends get home at the end of the day, they have left their work at the office. For my female friends (and myself included) we have trouble detaching from what is going on in the office even when we are not there. The stress of work often becomes all consuming.”

We want to be good workers, good daughters, girlfriends, volunteers, wives, granddaughters, friends, and be “good girls.” This is too much stress for any person to handle, and many of us are turning to anti-depressants, alcohol and shopping to forget our pain.”

We now have the ability to live many lives in our one, and maybe that causes some burnout here and there.”

Men have a better support structure. Women tend to take competition personally and oftentimes hold a grudge or seek revenge, whereas men can shrug off a competitive loss and are raised to be ‘tough’ and ‘aggressive.’”

As a male, I’ve often wondered when women might officially gain the edge—as they have in many circles—but also, what’s so appealing about all that power and responsibility?  You could fill a cemetary with the men I’ve known who died early due to hard work, neglected health, and overall imbalance.

One likes to think that women know how to juggle better—and have entered the world of success and stress more voluntarily.  But research from Captivate Network finds that men are more likely to take work-day breaks, go for a walk, and go out to lunch—and they are 35% more likely to take breaks “just to relax.”

  • Bring on golfing, fishing, and career breaks

Ironically, the career-break movement appeals to women at about a three-to-one rate, at least according to what little research is available.  Maybe they plan for burnout better?  Maybe they see a career as a prolonged journey?  Maybe they forgot to take up sanity breaks like golf, fishing, and man-cave dwelling along the way?

Sadly, job frustration everywhere seems be hitting new highs, with no relief in sight.  Retail workers are revolting about having to work bizarre hours on Thanksgiving and Black Friday.  The Occupy Movement suggests that many folks are mad as hell.  And employees fail to use vacation days by the millions.

Yet just ask anyone who can’t find a job:  Work stress beats the hell out of bankruptcy.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Failure to Sail: A Generation Tethered?

Posted on: Thursday, April 7th, 2011
Posted in: HR FYI, Blog | Leave a comment

P101074938% are unemployed.  12% live at home with their parents.  No, we’re not talking about some faraway third world nation, but rather, 20-somethings right here in the USA.

  • So much for free-market freedom

As usual, most blame the stupid economy; it’s a lousy job market for many folks, but especially for newbies.  Others also note that doting parents and the Entitled Generation have combined to bring this on.  You can read all about it in this article–and books like “Emptying the Nest” and the forthcoming “The Accordion Family.”

It’s a shame, really.  Back in the day, only the lucky or gifted had a silver-spoon job awaiting them after graduation.  But eventually, most 20-somethings not only found a career, but had a decent chance of stockpiling some experience and cash.  That’s a great idea—before the McMansion, family, and even fatigue come along.

  • The gap year becomes the void years

But perhaps the saddest thing about this lost sense of opportunity is just that:  The lost sense of opportunity.  In Europe and elsewhere, it’s common for youth to take a Gap Year—to travel, to live abroad, to volunteer or nanny or whatnot.

That’s brilliant stuff, and almost guaranteed to cultivate one’s sense of independence and individuality.  The opposite end of the scale?  Moving back in with the parents, to the house you grew out of some years ago.

My .02 worth to these awkward youth?

Break Away!  Join the Peace Corp or a similar group.  Go teach English in Asia.  Go help the Haitians or try being a camp counselor or become a busker in Brazil.”

But it’s not so easy, no doubt.  We can only hope that the careers arrive for the frustrated millions, so that one day a career break might be possible, too.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Break Away from Work—Briefly!

Posted on: Tuesday, March 1st, 2011
Posted in: HR FYI, Blog | 2 comments

DSC_0124During the work day, how often do we nag ourselves,

Stop drifting!  Focus!  Finish!”

Plenty, probably, since distractions never cease—whether from digitalia, peers, phones, or cravings.  Well, relax.  A recent academic paper states that little breaks actually help—not hinder—productivity.

  • Attention ain’t endless

A University of Illinois professor’s studies found that, among other things, students’ attention fades at 20 minutes.  But what about students who received diversions?  Their focus lasted longer.  As Professor Alejandro Lleras, who conducted the research, puts it,

It’s important to create an environment where it’s OK to take small breaks.”

This might be good news—since this teacher finds that students are more distracted than ever.  As one fellow instructor recently told me, “ALL kids have A.D.D. these days.”  Seems like it sometimes.  Yet maybe with frequent pauses, we can all get more done than when we duct-tape ourselves to our desk.

  • Get off your butt?

Instead of cruising from one screen stimulus to another, though, why not get off your butt?  Why not go for a short walk?  Why not water the plants, file the pile, eat a fun lunch, or shovel some snow?

Which reminds me…There’s still white stuff to push around here.  And this screen is draining my energy.

Time for a break!  YEE-ha!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Typical Job Stint? Just 5 Years

Posted on: Tuesday, February 8th, 2011
Posted in: HR FYI, Blog | 5 comments

P1010346Like this tractor, most of us will keep running and working for a long, long time.  Like this tractor, we need to take a break (brake?) now and then.

Yes, just about everyone will have gaps between jobs—whether you like it or not.  Let’s do the math:

The average job tenure is now 5 years; most folks will work about 50 years; that’s about 10 career break opportunities between gigs!

When presented with the idea of a BreakAway, most folks’ first response is, “Oh, I could never do that!”  And yet, isn’t it likely to happen at some point?

If you don’t find your career break, maybe it will find you.  With so many jobs and so little free time, we can only hope.

It pays to be ready.

Survey sez…

  • 5.2 Median number of years that full-time workers stay in their jobs (in 2010).
  • 5.1 Median job tenure for women in 2010, an increase from 4.2 years in 1983.
  • 5.3 Median job tenure for men in 2010, a drop from 5.9 years in 1983.

Employee Benefit Research Institute

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Sabbaticals? No! Stop the Growth!

Posted on: Wednesday, December 15th, 2010
Posted in: HR FYI, Blog | Leave a comment

P3030012Why do politicians thrust themselves into worlds that work just fine without them?  Why do Republicans—who claim to favor unintrusive, small government—keep interfering without invitation?  The latest instance is taking place in my home state, Iowa, where elected geniuses are threatening professors’ pursuit of improvement.

Never mind that, as part of budget consciousness, Iowa has reduced its sabbaticals by half over the last two years.  Never mind that it costs only $422,283—for replacement teachers—per year.  Heck, that doesn’t even buy enough attack ads to throw an election.

Never mind that, according to the Regents, that modest sabbatical investment last year yielded $5.2 million in grants.  Wouldn’t you be in favor of an opportunity to increase your money ten-fold while upgrading your employees’ skills?

Nonetheless, a handful of pols have had it with spending money on University-sponsored research and study.  They’ve declared a verbal war on the Regents—dubbing them “arrogant” for approving 95 requested sabbaticals at the three state university.

So naturally, they’ve threatened that the Regents could be “punished” for their vote.  By that they probably mean fired—and then replaced by like nonthinking “leaders.”    But that’s only the beginning.

  • Speaking of “arrogant”…

When the obstreperous elephants flap their wings and jaws, it sounds something like this:

Why should the taxpayers of Iowa be paying to basically give these folks a year off from teaching?”

asks incoming House Speaker Kraig Paulsen (whose party just won power in November).

Clearly, Mr. Paulsen fails to value education—and the university system of three impressive schools that countless Iowans have created over the decades.  His ignorance and desire to micro-manage apparently run so deep that he can’t consider that sabbaticals are a time for research, writing, collaboration, and innovation.

In fact, in 2009, according to the Associated Press, Iowa professors on sabbatical “published 147 research articles, created and updated nearly 100 classes, and submitted 50 grant applications.”

Oh and by the way, the new term—no doubt to pacify prying politicians—is “Professsional Development Assignnments.”

  • Open your minds, Republicans

Some say sabbaticals can work wonders—thanks to the grants, new students (who seek out new, cutting-edge courses), and attention to the schools who still innovate.  And it goes without saying that recruiting and retention matter, and the best teachers are going to seek out the campuses that care about growth.

  • Personal growth?  Career growth?  Intellectual growth?

Perhaps those things don’t matter in these terrible times.  Not in Louisiana, where Republican governor Bobby Jindal is cutting higher-ed budgets in hopes that Louisiana’s universities might decrease sabbaticals and “force professors to actually spend more time in the classrooms teaching and interacting with students.”

Maybe not in Wisconsin too, where incoming Republicans are demanding to know how much sabbaticals cost and whether they’re valid or vacations.  Kent State cancelled them too, but then reinstated them (after the faculty made some noise)—but with tighter monitoring.

  • The last word…

Closed-minded lawmakers who thrive on negativity won’t listen, but thank goodness for people like John Curtis, of the American Association of University Professors, who calmly suggests:

the whole purpose of sabbatical is to allow faculty members to do research, to engage in understanding new developments in their discipline and then to bring all of that back to their teaching.”

Teaching.  Remember when that was a priority?  It seems that a lot of politicians have a lot to learn.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Slow Down & Live

Posted on: Wednesday, July 14th, 2010
Posted in: HR FYI, Blog | Leave a comment

DSC_079526% of Americans say they find happiness and fulfillment in their job.

11% feel their job is mostly a drain on their energy and happiness.

60% feel their job primarily serves to provide income so they can enjoy other aspects of their lives. 

Well, well, well.  All is not so well with America’s work force.  Seems like only about ¼ of us actually “like” our jobs.  That’s sad. 

Yet maybe the 60% who work to live (you might say)—rather than live to work—are onto something, if:

  • They manage to maximize time and energy devoted to “other aspects” of their lives.
  • They don’t give up completely, and still believe in better outcomes and career dreams.
  • They avoid letting the work-for-pay-only attitude depress the rest of their outlook.
  • They shun too many long days and weeks, and take their vacations.

This mindset about work can “work” if it enables us to embrace other priorities—sabbaticals, family time, community involvement, relationships and me-time–that make us more whole and complete people.  In fact, I believe we’ll ultimately contribute far more to the world if we are able to disengage from our jobs enough to engage in life in this way.  What do you think?

SOURCE:  Healthy Cos. International

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

EU: Vacationing a Basic Human Right

Posted on: Wednesday, May 12th, 2010
Posted in: HR FYI, Blog | 2 comments

itsunriseIt’s old news that Americans get way less vakay than our Euro rellies.  But check this:  A new EU program would subsidize vacation travel for residents who need a break—including the elderly, 18-25 year olds, and families in difficult situations.  Disabled or up in your years?  The EU would pay for your guide. 

  • Read fine print before flying

Of course, a few caveats apply:  Travel must stay within Europe; the program won’t take full effect until 2013; and those in charge may require you to take your break during shoulder seasons or nudge you toward destinations that that need warm bodies.  The EU also hopes to encourage more Euro-unity by sending northerners south, and vice versa. 

So maybe there is no free vacation.  But at least they’re promoting down time  Heck, The EU already requires member nations to provide four weeks off, while some nations opt for more.  (France takes six, ooh la la!) 

  • US time-off laws still lousy

In the US, vacation is not a right—basic, human, or otherwise.  Employers need not give you a day off.  And of course, the majority of employees don’t use all their vacation days anyway. 

Would the USA be a more productive, healthier, happier place to live and work if everyone got to BreakAway now and then? That’s an obvious yes. 

So call your congresspeople!  Go on strike!  But don’t expect change fast, at least not while employees are hugging their desks and assembly lines during this recession—scared about job security, to say nothing of pay and benefits. 

Ergo, take care of yourself.  Retire now and then.  You’ll make more of your life—and probably your income—in the long run.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

KPMG’s “Flexible Futures” Works!

Posted on: Tuesday, January 12th, 2010
Posted in: HR FYI, Blog | Leave a comment

DSC_0135Sabbatical fans have watched with wide eyes as global mammoth KPMG/Britain hit hard times, sought solutions beyond firing, and found success

Their “Flexible Futures” concept offered TIME in exchange for money.  And 80% of the target employees took advantage of one of the options.  Yessssss!

Standing O to all involved:  To KPMG for its compassionate efforts to keep staff employed; to the workers who found a way to trade money for time (what a gift!); and to the families that no doubt made some sacrifices to adjust to the new budget and schedule.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Yuck: 48% of US Workers Lack Paid Sick Days

Posted on: Tuesday, December 1st, 2009
Posted in: HR FYI, Blog | Leave a comment

DSC_0032Here’s yet another reason most people can’t manage a modest BreakAway: Nearly half don’t even get paid sick days. It’s no wonder flus and colds spread like wildfire. We can only hope that someday, sick days will be mandatory by law—and that meanwhile our workforce remains upright. 

Here are some other sickening facts: 

  • Nearly four out of five low wage workers receive no paid sick leave.
  • Only 16% of part-time employees get paid sick days.
  • Only 60% of full-time workers can take a sick day with pay.  

Get the rest of the facts here from the government’s mouth.

To heck with the healthcare debate—let’s do something about keeping our population well by encouraging ill people to stay home, where they belong.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email