Men have always dominated the workforce, winning out over the fairer sex in both wages earned and positions held. Sadly, this trend is continuing in the tech industry today.
Even though Google has often been called one of the best places to work, it doesn’t appear to be for women who make up just 30% of their total employees. That number dwindles further to only 17% in departments that are specifically focused on technology.
Women seem to be fighting an uphill battle, but they are still climbing the mountain. Let’s look at ten facts about women in the tech industry that show both positive and negative figures:
1. Women hold 51% of all professional occupations in the United States while only 26% of those are computer-related. While women are getting more white collar recognition, they aren’t gaining much ground in the tech arena.
2. The CIO (Chief Information Officer) position with Fortune 250 companies is 19% female, but of the Fortune 100 firms, only four have a women as their CEO. Women are present in these companies, but not many of them are seated in the president’s chair.
3. While women comprise only 7% of tech company founders, those led by women are have 12% higher revenues using 33% less capital. Those in top management roles are more successful than their male counterparts.
4. Further figures show that twice as many women are leaders in successful startups over those ventures that failed or are failing. Women at the top in the startup game are again more successful than men.
5. More than half (56%) of women in the technology industry leave midway (10-20 years) through their careers, but 22% of them go on to be self-employed in the same market. If you’re going to go out, then go out swinging.
6. Men and women software developers start out with similar pay, but men have a higher upper range and end up earning more in the long run. Perhaps that is their motivation for women exiting the venture to pursue their own interests.
7. The gender pay gap is less for computer programmers where women are down only 7%, but that is still better than some other professional occupations, where male lawyers earn 13% more and female accountants take home 24% less pay.
8. Ethnically speaking, the numbers are very dismal. In 2012, only 3% of our computing workforce were African-American women, 4% were Asian and only 1% of these females were Latino. Adding race into this equation makes it even more difficult for the placement of women into tech fields.
9. Even worse, these numbers are down from 2010 where 16% were African American, 9% Asian and 6% Latino. Let’s hope that 2013 and 2014 show more promise, but it is not looking good thus far.
10. Facebook is mirroring that of Google and the rest of our leaders in technology, with a tremendous lack of both women and minorities in their employment diversity data. The overwhelming majority of tech workers are either caucasian or asian men.
Even though these numbers are depressing, thinly veiled underneath is the fact that women are more successful than men in the business and tech worlds. Take a second look at items three and four to see why businessmen should be taking a hard look at these statistics. When leaving their tech positions, some women didn’t give up, they become self-employed instead, leaving their bosses behind and leading themselves down a better path.
About the Author: Megan Ritter is an online business journalist and entrepreneur with a background in social media marketing. In addition to having a passion for technology, she also enjoys writing about business communications, globalization and online branding. Connect with her on Twitter.
Human resources is the driving component in any organization. HR professionals deal with the day-to-day tasks of every aspect of every employee’s job, and the task list is endless. Job description, wages, pay scale, recruiting and hiring employees, union conflicts, the list goes on and on.
But with the advent of sophisticated software, tools and apps, HR is more efficient than ever before. Here are some of ways technology is contributing to HR growth and development:
Employee screening software
HR software has made it easier to choose qualified employees. Screening software can take a company’s list of potential employees and company requirements for a job and, by using complicated algorithms, is able to screen and sort through the list and end up with the best matches for your organization, both locally and globally.
Using mobile apps to track employees and the time they spend on their jobs is making the task much less time consuming for HR. There are now mobile apps to approve time cards, access pay stubs, track payments, and even check recruiting activity, all from an employer’s phone. Mobile apps can increase and improve interaction between employers and employees, in addition to giving senior management better and more direct access to the services needed for better decision making, reports the Society for Human Resources Management.
The cloud has completely changed the way companies store their data. With HR, this means not only being able to store and access data in a much larger capacity, but, if done correctly, having the ability to do so more securely.
Using game-playing techniques in business to motivate employees is fast becoming the norm. Mariott has developed an online game that gives users a chance to assume the responsibilities of hotel management, and then gives virtual rewards that make the hotel industry more appealing to those users. The game is an excellent recruiting tool and encourages users to demonstrate their abilities and ignite their interest in hospitality as a chosen career.
HR can also employ gamification to train newly hired employees, reports Wired. Instead of having to sit through lectures, new hires can play games that inform them of all the things a lecture would have given them, in addition to giving them ways to interact with other employees in the company they haven’t met.
Hiring someone face-to-face (or through a video screen) can produce better results than hiring an employee based on his resume, which is why video interviewing is perfect for HR. If an employer has almost decided on a potential employee, video interviewing can make or break that decision, notes U.S. News & World Report. HR employers can require potential employees to send in their resume and qualifications via a video recording. Most smartphones have amazing cameras, so the technology is accessible to most potential employees. Also, a video interview can be conducted from anywhere in the world; it is not necessary for an applicant to drive or fly to an potential employer’s office.
Indeed, technology has taken human resources into a world that never existed before. It makes completing necessary tasks not only more exciting and efficient, but helps companies hire employees that are the “cream of the crop” of the industry.
Even with the successful advent of technology into human resources, though, we would do well to remember that it cannot provide the human component. Can technology evolve enough to compensate for the lack of human component? Only time will tell.
About the Author: Lori Cline is a versatile freelance writer who covers a variety of topics. An accomplished and award-winning writer in various areas, she currently owns and operates a beauty, health, and wellness website and just released her first book. She lives with her daughter in the western United States.
“If you limit yourself to what’s comfortable, you deny yourself what’s possible.”
This week I’m at the 2014 New York State SHRM Conference in my hometown of Buffalo. At the time I’m writing this, we’re about three quarters of the way through the conference and have seen four of the five keynote speakers. As you’d expect, and as is typical of conferences such as these, the keynote speakers had numerous what we would call “tweetable moments” – tidbits of information that translate very easily into 140 or less character tweets. These are typically key ideas and calls to action, and if you search the #NYSHRM14 hashtag you’ll see many of them. But amid all of the ideas shared by the speakers, I keep coming back to the one above. This particular nugget came from Sunday night’s keynote Dan Thurmon, who entertained the crowd with his juggling and unicycling skills while encouraging us to live life “Off Balance on Purpose.”
I think this idea resonates so much with me because it’s something that is so easy to forget. We get comfortable. We tell ourselves that this comfort equals happiness. But does it? Is it happiness, or is it complacency? I was reminded of Robin Roberts in her keynote at SHRM National this year, when she encouraged attendees to be thankful and grateful for what we have, but never, ever get content; always ask yourself if you’re ready for something more, something bigger.
The danger when we get complacent is that we stop challenging ourselves. We convince ourselves it’s good enough. It’s easy. It’s routine. We’re happy. Right? Right?? Or are we really just complacent?
In our personal and professional lives, in the midst of the frenetic pace many of us maintain, sometimes it’s just easier to be content with where we are. Life’s pace can get tiring, and it becomes easy to say we don’t have the energy to push ourselves further. It’s too much effort. And besides, we’re happy. We have the right balance. But as Dan Thurmon reminded us, there is no such thing as sustainable perfect balance…and even if there was, it would get boring fast.
Are we happy? Is the illusion of balance really making us happy? Or again, is it simply complacency?
When we’re complacent, we stop learning, we stop growing… we stop bettering ourselves, our lives, our companies, our personal situations.
Are we actually ready for more? Do we deserve better?
Tuesday morning’s keynote Mark Murphy, author of “Hundred Percenters” aligned with this message by reminding us that “no great accomplishment happens within our comfort zone.” Great accomplishments are hard, require learning something new, and require pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone. We can’t accomplish anything worthwhile without effort, without pushing outside what we know and what we’re comfortable with, without stepping into a little uncertainty. I think that goes for each of us in both our personal and professional lives. Keynote speaker Jennifer McClure shared with us a personal story about how and why should “step out” – to face fears, uncertainty, and even naysayers and just go for it; to believe in ourselves and take risks to strive for bigger and better things.
Stepping out can be scary….but I think it’s worth it.
So I ask you, what are you ready to do? What are you going to change? What are you going to stop just accepting? As HR professionals. As business people. As humans.
How are you going to embrace possibility?
About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR has over 16 years of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, and learning & development, and currently works in talent management in the retail grocery industry. She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.
I often draw inspiration for posts from articles in Time Magazine. It’s fun at times to examine a trend or phenomenon in the world or popular culture and try to relate it back to human resources, business, or the workplace. In the past I’ve opined about women as breadwinners and mindfulness in the workplace to name a few. So when a recent issue of the magazine called “The Answers Issue” discussed the idea and ramifications of Big Data, I couldn’t resist.
Anyone who has spent even half a second following HR trends knows that Big Data is a hot topic. Big Data, for anyone who may not be aware, is essentially the multitude of information available through our digital activities and habits that can be harnessed to make predictions about what we might do next….on the consumer side which products we might be interested in buying, movies we might like to watch, songs we may want to download. Or in the case of human resources and recruiting, when we may be ready to make a job change based on social profile activities…even if we haven’t even realized it yet ourselves or taken any proactive job search steps.
The feature article in the Answers Issue, called “The Second Age of Reason” discussed information overload and how it is currently and will continue to make our lives better. How we’ve become so much more efficient based on the proliferation of information right at our fingertips…that answers to so many questions and the collective wisdom of millions are all within our reach, as long as our smartphone is within reach. Just as all of this data is available to companies to assist them in operating more efficiently, the answers at our fingertips can make more efficient and help us to make better, more informed decisions in a fraction of the time it used to. More data equals better answers, in theory.
But then the author warned of the downside of this kind of data efficiency. In discussing the marvel of modern dating apps and how they can make the whole process of dating more efficient…no awkward small talk with strangers at parties or bars, and algorithms that send seemingly great matches right to your phone…he also recognized that there was probably no algorithm in the world that would have matched him with his wife. Perhaps a little randomness and chance from time to time isn’t a bad thing?
So what does this have to do with HR?
We are working in an industry that, like much of the rest of the world, now has incredible technologies available to help us do our jobs better, faster, and with more precision than ever before. Predictive analytics solutions can help us better target potential candidates for our job openings, social recruiting technologies can help us source more (and better candidates), and all sorts of core HR and talent management technologies can help us track payroll, employee performance data, career development plans, or facilitate better employee collaboration and information sharing. And for the most part, this is a great thing. I love the possibilities that technology provides, and in fact I’m looking forward to once again attending the HR Technology Conference in a few weeks to hear about how other companies are utilizing the solutions available, the latest trends, and the exciting new developments in the space.
But, like the author of the Time article, I also offer this caution: in our haste to leverage the latest and greatest technologies to make us better HR professionals, let not forget that at the core we are human resource professionals. Let’s not become slaves to the technology to the point that we forget that we are dealing with people. And those people are complex, and don’t always fit nicely into an algorithm. Maybe the best candidate for a job isn’t the one that your ATS delivers to you, maybe it’s a friend of a coworker – someone who on the surface has relatively little direct experience, but upon further investigation, has some of the skills, is trainable, and is an amazing cultural fit. And the answers or advice to give to an employee whose performance is suffering due to a complicated personal situation….that’s probably not found in a tech solution either.
I think the key to remember is to use technology to help us make better decisions, but not rely solely on it.
Maybe that’s why Tinder as a dating app is so popular. It doesn’t rely on a complicated algorithm. It doesn’t use twenty five factors of compatibility yet at the same time ignore human chemistry. It simply matches people by a few limited criteria and simple proximity….and then lets the humans do the rest. The technology facilitates the process of meeting…but relies on the complex human personality and spirit to determine success.
Let’s not forget that HR pros.
See you at HR Tech!
About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR has over 16 years of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, and learning & development, and currently works in talent management in the retail grocery industry. She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.
It’s been said before that the problem with expecting Common Sense from others is that common sense just isn’t that common. It’s kind of a judgmental statement, right? It almost implies that there are general “rules” for life we should be following but most of us aren’t. What’s worse is that there are a lot of people out there who like to put HR down by saying “It’s just Common sense”. For those of us who actually work in HR, we know how untrue and unfair that statement is.
Forget about common sense, let’s talk about “HR Sense”. I often get the chance to chat with people looking to break into HR and sometimes I am surprised by what they think HR entails. It makes me wonder, is HR sense something you are born with, or is it something that you develop over time? Now, some things you obviously can’t know without experience and study. No one instinctively knows how to handle FMLA or navigate payroll. But what about the less technical aspects of the job?
Can you teach someone how to be empathetic and approachable while simultaneously being firm and direct? How about staying calm under the pressure of a workplace emergency or assisting an injured employee? Can you learn the level of professionalism HR truly requires?
Important questions all. But ultimately, those aren’t the questions we need to be asking. Instead, ask anyone who has worked in HR for a while: What keeps you in the profession? What excites you about what you do? I can almost guarantee that the HR Pros who truly love what they do will make the answer clear.
A lot of people think they can do HR. It’s just “common sense,” right? Which is why you can’t focus on why someone wants to get into HR; you have to find out why they’ve stayed and how they’ve been successful. Only then can you discern how a person’s natural talents meld beautifully with the skills only experience and education can develop and hone over time.
So the answer is: HR sense is both something you are born with and something you learn. A person’s natural HR sense is what helps them take an interest in HR and lead an individual to learn more and improve upon their abilities. For example, a natural willingness to communicate effectively and professionally can lead someone to take a business writing class or join Toastmasters. It’s the ability to know what you need to improve upon and being willing to try. This is what makes HR sense something both innate and learned.
So for all you aspiring HR pros out there, don’t give up. Trust your instincts but be willing to work on your skills. It’ll not only make you a better HR Pro, it’ll help you maintain your passion for HR for a long time to come.
As many companies and individuals face possible obsolescence or at a minimum becoming stale in their service offerings, their approach to their market, or perhaps in their own passions for how they are contributing, the concept of ‘reinvention’ is becoming more and more prevalent. Though this concept is certainly not new, this term has become a mainstay in our present vocabulary. Blame it on the Baby Boomers, who are seeking career longevity amidst the onslaught of the millennials and the ‘Gen X and Y’ populations. Regardless of the catalyst, reframing ourselves and our offerings – or perhaps just reframing the way we look at our companies and our own personal careers, has always been the key to survival.
Over the years, I have watched many mediocre business professionals carve out very successful careers by their ability to parlay their approach into attractive and ultimately lucrative options. No, these individuals are not the smartest nor the most successful in their prior roles, yet they honed the knack of marketing themselves. They have mastered the ability to show (and in most cases virtually create from nothing) a multi-faceted face – both in ‘real life’ and via social media – which puts forth the image they wish to create. Today’s social media enables these ambitious ones to paint the picture they wish to paint, associate with those they wish to align themselves online (primarily for the purpose of self-promotion), and to show only the sides they wish to show. It is a fascinating phenomenon. Of course, as my father has always taught me: “If you see it, everyone else probably sees it, too”. Thus, these social media mirages are indeed, just that. So, if one does want to ‘change the frame’ on their careers – and do so authentically and anchored in reality versus ‘social media hype’ – how does a person get started? If a person wants to ‘reinvent’ their focus areas for contribution, or perhaps even their lives – how do they this?!
As mentioned before, it is not luck (in which I am personally not a believer) or plain smarts or even hard work that most commonly leads to uber success (success, by the way, as defined by the individual). Ultimately I believe it is our intentions fed by our energy – consistently and genuinely – which will lead to our success. So, what are a few initial steps we can take to harness our intentions and ‘change our frame’ as we build our ‘second or third acts’?
1. Know where you are today AND determine where you want to go NEXT.
While working with Dr. Noel Tichy over the past few decades in our transformational leadership work, we utilize a process which undoubtedly is one of the most impactful exercises for organizations to experience. It is the process of discerning ‘Our current state’ (facing the harsh reality of where we find ourselves today) and then, defining and projecting ‘Our desired state’, which is where we ultimately want to go. We can use this process for individuals just as we do for companies and organizations. The objective is to look in the mirror and determine – are we doing what we REALLY want to do? Are we good at what we are doing? Are we aligned as individuals, or if we are part of a team – is the team aligned around where we want to go? If not – that is the first awakening. We must determine where we are AND where we want to go.
One last and critical note on this – the ‘where I want to go’ does not have to be the FINAL destination. So many times, we think and think AND think…..which leads to ‘analysis paralyses’!! Nothing in this world is permanent; so your next step will probably not be your ‘last step’. Make the move. Forward momentum is how we determine if the direction is the ultimate ‘right’ direction!
2. Parlay your Gifts into the Market
This can be a tough step. Just because you love what you do AND you are good at it does NOT mean that anyone will want to buy it! What NEED are you filling? What is it that YOU offer that makes you different? Who are your potential clients….or hiring audiences? Learning how to take what we ‘do’ and apply it to a void in the market is a critical success factor. AND, remember, what folks wanted to buy 5 years ago is not what they will want to buy today….unless it has been modified for the market.
3. Creativity coupled with Agility is Key
We have to hone the ability to ‘think outside and inside the box’. It is hard to do this in solitary confinement! So – we need to build our posse of partners to help us. Retired executives, leadership coaches, prior professors, supportive customers, and even competitive business colleagues. Each will have a perspective or insights to offer. We have to be willing to ask for help – and to hear the brutal, honest truth. Does the market value what I bring? Is my approach outdated? Do my clients want more – or different – services from me? What do I NOT know – that I need to know – to truly thrive and survive in the market today? We have to be open to the answers….as hearing them and then ignoring them – does nothing! We need to hear (and listen) to the market and then be creative and AGILE in how we meet them where they are.
4. Build a game plan and be FOCUSED.
Every business has a game plan (and if they don’t – they will not be around for long!). Every one of us, for our careers, needs a game plan, too. Sure – it will change – yet, to not have any sense of where we want to go and HOW we are going to get there – results in mere folly. We need to lay out specific steps on how we are going to accomplish specific goals. Too many times, we become insular in our focus – meaning that we focus on stuff that will not REALLY move the dial. We need to determine where we want to go, what we want to contribute and THEN determine how we are going to get there. Then, become ruthlessly focused on these steps…..the other stuff is just noise.
5. Hang tight.
This is easy to say; yet, this is where the weak are separated from the strong. We have to exercise our muscles so that we do not give up too easily. As any company, organization, or individual introduces new approaches, new products and services, or a ‘new face’ to their markets and constituents – immediate acceptance and ‘manna from Heaven’ is not guaranteed.
There is always going to be a phase of education to the market; then a phase of ‘differentiation and selling’ and then – if we are diligent – we will secure our first proving ground. This may be a new job in our new field or a new customer for our new service offering or a product extension in an existing market. Yet, what I know for sure is that it will probably NOT come about instantly AND it will not happen without sweat equity. Yet, when we do ‘win’, our expended effort just makes our success that much sweeter.
My final thoughts are: we need to stop comparing this new chapter with the old chapter – good or bad. There is no comparison, thankfully. We (and the organizations for which we work) are a compilation of all our experiences, and this new chapter will be a completely new life in many ways. That concept can be quite liberating when we allow ourselves to embrace it. We need to simply embrace progress not perfection. Keep the forward momentum. Stay open. Be receptive to even what may appear to be an opportunity which is out of your wheel house. If you are attracted to it, explore what about the role turns you on. There is a reason – of this I am certain. Our intuition and inner voice does not lie. Ever. So listen to it. AND remember that nothing is permanent.
About the Author: Kristin Kaufman is founder of Alignment, Inc.™, formed in 2007 to help individuals, corporations, boards of directors and non-profits find alignment within themselves and their organizations. A prolific writer, Kristin’s first book, Is This Seat Taken?, centers on her global experiences seeding her journey toward alignment. The book is scheduled for release in November 2011. Kristin is on Twitter as @KristinKaufman.
Telecommuting Provides More Options for Getting Things Done At Work (Even When You’re Not In The Office)
We live in a mobile world. Technology has changed the definition of “workplace,” enabling us to be effective and productive wherever we are (home, airport, waiting rooms, etc.). Flexible workplaces are more popular than ever before and as the lines between business and personal life continue to blur, telecommuting offers a solution to help workers balance (and sometimes juggle) their work and personal lives. Virtual work arrangements can be a game-changer for us, empowering us to have both a successful professional career and a happy personal life.
Benefits of Telecommuting
Eighty percent of U.S. knowledge workers are employed by companies that have a telecommuting or virtual work arrangement program in place, according to a recent teleworking survey, commissioned by my company, PGi. Telecommuting is rapidly becoming one of the most attractive benefits a company can offer, and research indicates 80 percent of employees consider telecommuting to be a job perk.
As employers continue to realize the business value of teleworking and the importance of work-life balance, workers are gaining more control and flexibility over scheduling. Flexible hours enable busy professionals to work early in the morning or late at night, allowing more time to go to a doctor’s appointment or tend to children’s special events. For me, virtual work enables the flexibility to take care of my dogs, Jesse and Jasper, when a sitter isn’t available and maintain my multi-tasking excellence. I can take care of my mom in her home when needed, and still not miss a single meeting, even with our global HR team in their own time zones. And, cutting out the distractions of the office just one day per week helps me clear out email clutter, focus on completing tasks and take advantage of a change in scenery to spark strategic or creative thought processes.
The virtual workplace not only affords more balance, but also allows us to spend more time on ourselves. Workers report that telecommuting reduces stress levels and improves morale. Imagine having enough flexibility to have time to prepare a healthy meal or participate in fitness or recreational activities not easily accessible to the traditional 9-to-5 crowd!
Finding the Right Fit
Telecommuting is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Everyone’s situation is unique, and the key to building an efficient, productive workforce is to identify not only the unique needs of an employee, but also those of the team. For businesses, placing the wrong work style or preferences in a virtual workplace role can prove challenging for both the employee and the team. By understanding the personalities of your workforce, the employer and employees can enjoy many or all the benefits of telecommuting: improved productivity, better morale and reduced stress and cost.
Employers should consider several situations when starting or expanding virtual work arrangements. For example, does the worker have a back-up plan in case the Internet crashes at home? Are their mobile devices adequate for what is needed? As important as technologies, personality is another important factor to consider when making arrangements for virtual workers. At PGi, we have identified seven telecommuting personalities and the leadership tactics, tools and technologies for success in virtual roles. Whether you manage or work with the “24/7 worker,” the “multitasker,” or any of the other five personalities, there are many techniques you can use to help virtual teams collaborate and achieve success from anywhere.
Business today is conducted virtually anywhere at any time, opening new options for workers to successfully manage their work and personal lives. While navigating the waters of flexible work arrangements, remember the different personalities and needs of remote workers so you can help them experience the advantages of telecommuting. If time is the most valuable resource we have, we must find ways to use it as efficiently as possible to bring productivity and growth into our businesses.
About the author: Alison Sheehan leads PGi’s global human resources management, a team of HR professionals that provides support and services to over 2,100 PGi associates worldwide. With employees in 35 states in the U.S. and 25 countries around the globe, PGi’s HR strategies for talent acquisition, development, management, and rewards rely on virtual collaboration and workplaces for their success.
Not that long ago I attended a social function with a mix of friends, acquaintances and professional colleagues. Not so formal an event that it required cocktail attire, it was also not something as loose-hipped and free-flowing as a tailgate party.
At one stage as I was exiting a conversational grouping I felt the need, as people do, to provide an explanation as to why I was extricating myself from the conversation. So I opened my mouth and said “Excuse me; I need to find the little girl’s room.”
As soon as the words left my mouth I wanted to slap the shit out of myself.
Little girls’s room? Really? Did I truly just say that? Had I just infantilized and downgraded every woman present?
But then I got thinking. Perhaps, like many other things, we can take the social stigma associated with the phrase “little girl’s room” and use it to claim our power.
Look…most every man is terrified of the ladies room; to them it’s a mysterious wonderland filled with fainting couches, powder puffs, and baskets overflowing with free feminine hygiene products. Pondering the possibilities of what happens in this sanctum is as perplexing to them as the female reproductive system itself.
But maybe we have an opportunity to turn this enigmatic porcelain-and-tiled bastion into a venue of power. I say we take a stand – in office buildings and corporate offices around the globe – and begin hanging out in the ladies room. Let’s schedule meetings in there. Insist that a small conference table be set up in the lounge area; replacing the circa-1989 tweed couch that was provided as a resting spot for the menstruating gals.
We could rule the world if we insisted on conducting all our business in the ladies room. No boys allowed. Girls only.
The good old boys in the C-Suite won’t invite you to the annual golf outing? Screw ‘em; YOU get to hang out in the LADIES ROOM!
About the Author: With 25 years of HR Management experience, Robin Schooling, SPHR, has worked in a variety of industries. In 2013, after serving as VPHR with a Louisiana based organization, she left corporate HR to open up Silver Zebras, LLC, an HR Consulting firm. She blogs at HRSchoolhouse and you can follow her on twitter at @RobinSchooling where, on football weekends, you can read all her #whodat tweets.
Achieving successful work-life balance can very often seem like mission impossible. Busy work schedules often dictate lives of most people so much so that your personal time gets affected and can become limited. For many of us we don’t even realise that we are not finding the time for ourselves and this can have an impact on us, mentally and within your overall health.
You are probably thinking that it is easier said than done, which is correct. We all have different lives, schedules and responsibilities – from the young professional working extra hours to secure the promotion, to becoming a senior manager who has mouths to feed and KPI’s to secure. Nevertheless we can all try and dedicate some valuable ‘me’ time for ourselves in order to see some great improvements when it comes to our work-life balance.
Incorporating any one of these seven tips listed below will bring you a step closer to achieving a healthy work life balance you so desire:
Introduce Skype meetings
Important business meetings can require a lot of travel, which could equate to multiple days away from home and the office. Today’s technology has made it possible for you to reach clients that are states and even countries away, all from the comfort of your home or office. Skype and conference calls are both ideal ways to communicating with clients, whilst saving you and your business time and hassle of travelling.
If a business trip is a must then using Skype would allow you keeping in touch with your colleagues back in the office and maintaining office relationships. Even more you will also find Skype reducing your business’s travel costs, meaning the money could then be invested elsewhere.
Treat yourself regularly
Treating yourself regularly is really important for your sanity and health. Choosing to do something you enjoy will make you feel more grounded and relaxed. Allow yourself a 30 minute window each day where you do something for yourself. Things you truly enjoy, such as read a book, have a bath or cook a nice meal.
If you are a busy city worker, go into the local salon and treat yourself to an express facial. Alternatively you could always have a girl’s night in a nice restaurant or have a date night with your partner. These easy things will definitely make you feel happier and more relaxed.
Work from home
If you have a lunchtime client meeting you must attend, consider traveling to the venue from your home, as commuting directly will be help you cut down on travel costs. Another benefit of the many innovative technologies we have today is the ability to share documents and other information online. This allows you the great opportunity of working from home, yet still be connected to your office. Therefore, by utilizing this tool, you can cut down on the days you have to go into the office. This will also help you out on days when you are not able to make it into the office due to weather or child care, and will become a perfect solution to being able to access all your documents.
Set realistic expectations
It is a good idea to set your expectations for your life reasonably. For example, it is a realistic goal to aim to climb the ladder at work, become a good cook and keep your home running efficiently. However, it is not realistic to be working 70 + hours a week, whilst becoming a gourmet chef and keeping your home spotless – it just won’t happen. Therefore, to avoid becoming discouraged, it is smart to set manageable goals and not expecting yourself accomplishing superhuman tasks.
Remember you are just a human and it is not a crime to ask for help!
Be willing to alter your definition of success
Different stages of life call for different definitions of success. For example, if you have young children, you can feel successful if you get your kids off to day-care, get yourself to work on time and get at least a portion of your duties accomplished on any given day. However, if you don’t have children, of course you can expect more from yourself in regards to your job and your personal goals. In other words, your definition of success will likely change throughout various stages of your life, and that is okay.
Exercise on lunch break
According to John Ratey, Harvard Medical School psychiatrist, exercise is the best thing you could do for you brain in regards to learning, memory and mood. Since exercising also leads to a fit body, incorporating it into your working day just makes sense. If you are not lucky enough to have a gym in your office building then fear not. Most fitness suites offer express classes during lunch times that are high intensity workouts lasting 30 minutes. If you would rather prefer a low impact workout, then try going for a swim.
Getting up and moving, somewhere away from your computer, will give you some fresh air during a hectic day, allowing you to concentrate, which will lead to a more productive workday.
Make sure your career choice fits your strengths
For whatever reason, many people end up in a career that is completely wrong for them. A person who hates numbers ends up working at a bank, or a person who doesn’t care for children has a career as a teacher. This career choice just doesn’t make sense. Therefore, if you have ever felt like your career choice just doesn’t match your strengths or personality, do something about it and find a career that fits you better.
If it is impossible due to financial reasons, consider utilizing your personality and skills taking part in volunteering activities outside of work. Helping others will allow you utilizing your gifts and give you a sense of greater purpose as you will be giving back to others.
By following the seven tips listed above, you will be on your way to a healthier work-life balance. Be careful not to set your goals too high, just half an hour to an hour a day can really make a difference.
About the Author: As a young entrepreneur and business blogger, Lucinda Smith has developed a passion for helping small and medium sized businesses grow. She likes to particularly focus on using technology and software solutions to save businesses time and money. She also contributes to the DNS managed print services blog.
Most professional women I consult with feel guilty about taking time off work for a variety of reasons. Some of the ones I hear most often are:
“I have so many responsibilities in my job that if I take time off it just means that when I return I have to work a mass amount of hours to get caught up. It makes the time away seem like it’s not even worth it. I end up feeling punished for being away.”
“I don’t want time away from work to hurt my reputation, jeopardize my position or impair my promotional opportunities. I’ve worked too hard to be perceived as not entirely committed or reliable.”
“I love being productive and informed. It feels like when I’m away from work for more than a day or two, I lose out on knowing what’s going on and it makes me feel out of the loop and out of control.”
“I need to save all of my time for the ‘in case of emergency’ or ‘sick parent/kid’ situations.” (Note: most of us need a cushion of time on the books for unforeseen emergencies, but saving all of your time isn’t healthy.)
The problem with this rationale is that we short change ourselves, our careers, and in the long run even our employer. If we neglect to balance our time at work by taking time off, we risk diminishing returns for ourselves and our organization. Here are a few things to consider:
- Stepping away from the day-to-day activities of the job gives your mind an opportunity to dream, create and innovate, providing fresh new ideas for how to tackle your responsibilities when you return.
- Women need to view their jobs from multiple perspectives. Vacation and relaxation is a vantage point that can give a person a whole new sense of self (both professionally and personally).
- Burnout occurs when there is too much of any one thing in a person’s life. All work and no real play contribute to an inability to see beyond the next task at hand. It creates an unhealthy cycle of reactionary behavior (too much work – not enough time – not enough energy – more backed up work, repeat).
- A temporary hiatus from the job is not just a nice-to-have, it’s essential to take time away from work to give your brain and body a break:
-Research shows that being constantly under pressure floods the brain with stress hormones, wearing down the high performance brain function that needs to occur at work to maximize our jobs and performance.
- Recent studies have reaffirmed that leisure time, including vacations, contributed to higher positive emotional levels, better coping skills, less depression and lower blood pressure.
- Women who reported that they vacationed less than once every two years were more likely to suffer from significant episodes of stress than those who took vacations at least twice a year.
So what can a dedicated, hard-driving business woman do?
Simply put, start small. Work your way into taking your vacation time by:
- Try 2 hour vacation slots in the early morning, extended lunches or late afternoons.
- Take half days during lower volume times (e.g. Thursdays and Fridays).
- Build up to extended weekends (Mondays and Fridays).
- Use vacation around the holidays or slow work cycles, when others are out too and business processes slow down a bit.
- Take time off to volunteer with charitable organizations (you likely won’t back out of the commitment and you’ll feel good about yourself for having helped others out).
- If you’re afraid to go cold turkey, then limit yourself to staying connected to your email/phone for certain periods of time while you’re out. Check in every morning and afternoon if you need to, but give yourself the rest of the day to disconnect.
- When you get back in the office, pause long enough to acknowledge that even though there may be additional short term stress, the office survived and so did you.
Set your sights to build up to big:
- Reserve time on the books in advance. Do whatever you can to force yourself to take the time off – buy the plane/train ticket far in advance, book a non-refundable hotel stay, create commitments to friends and family so there is an expectation of follow through.
- If you can’t disconnect on your own, consider visiting a place that has limited technology reception so you are forced to really take the time away, to power off and enjoy. It will reinforce for your body and mind that time away is actually advantageous to your mental health.
- Invite friends and family to your home or city for visits in order to obligate yourself to spend time away from work with additional people you care about (yes, there are so many people at work that we care deeply about, the time off is often for the others that we unintentionally neglect spending quality time with).
- During your time off do activities that really make you happy and excited, or peaceful and rested. This will make the time away seem worth it.
- Anticipate the break from work and routine. Allow yourself to really look forward to the day(s) off. The anticipation will help your brain get accustomed to the idea that time away is fun and healthy.
- Understand that it comes down to this: what you mentally project about your work and time away is a strong component of what becomes your reality. Your personal perception of what you deserve is part of what you will project to your employer. Keep in mind that it’s appropriate to use the time that your employer gave to you as a benefit. Take the time and use it as an investment in your overall health and an investment in your professional self.
The final, and maybe most important piece, is to remember to put it all into perspective. At the end of our lives while many will be satisfied to have had a successful career, our most important reflections will most likely be on the big ticket items: the way we lived, the people we touched, the adventures we had, the friends and family we loved. Spending all of our time at a desk or wired up to others won’t afford us the experiences we need to minimize regret and to feel great about the lives we’ve led.
About the Author: Amanda Andrade is the Chief People Officer for Veterans United Home Loans – Fortune magazine’s 21st best medium workplace and one the fastest growing companies in the United States according to INC magazine. Amanda has led human resource organizations in both public and private sectors. She also has a doctorate in Environment and Behavior, focusing on highly profitable, employee-centric work environments. Connect with Amanda on Google+.