Work/Life Balance

It’s Time for Time Off, Workers Say

Despite economic conditions and expert predictions that people may be wary of taking time off work this summer, our latest poll found that this year, workers are indeed planning time away from the job.

In fact, 77% of over 1,100 respondents said that they planned to take some time off from work this year.

When asked “What are your thoughts on taking a vacation this year?” 42% of respondents said they plan to take time off work to travel, 35% said they plan to take time off work because they need time away from the office, 18% said they are not planning to take time off work because they can’t afford it, and only 5% said they are not planning to take time off work because of concerns over job security.

Are you planning time off work this year? If so, what are your plans? Share your fun vacation and relaxation tips in the comments section.

And, if you know you need a break but are looking for some inspiration, check out our post on inexpensive vacation ideas.

In this Recession, Are You Planning a Vacation from Work?

It’s that time of year when people traditionally start making summer vacation plans. But the annual summer vacation has taken a hit as the recession has worn on. Last year, reports showed that consumers were already buckling down by planning to save money in lieu of taking a vacation.

But, experts say that as economic woes have continued to increase stress levels over the past year, this year, more people may feel the need to take a break from work and spend time with family or friends.

Want to share your specific thoughts on taking a vacation in this recession? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section of this post!

Your Life: Take Control (of What You Can)

Balancing the deadlines, workloads, and relationships of life can be difficult enough when the rubber hits the road. Add in worries and fears – about job security or the nation’s economy – and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. While many of the concerns you face on a daily basis are beyond your control, managing the things you can control will help you feel secure, focused, and ready to face life’s challenges – both big and small.

If you feel like your life is a circus and you’re worried that something’s going to give in your balancing act, concentrate on controlling what you can and choose to worry less about what you can’t. Here are five things you can take control of today to help ease your stress.

Priorities. Create task lists – one for home and one for work. Write down the things you need to accomplish and prioritize each list. Make sure to check off your tasks as you complete them, and you’ll soon realize how much you have actually accomplished. 

Clutter. Organize and clean your workspace and home environment to create an atmosphere that fosters clear thinking. When your space is free of clutter, you’ll be able to focus on the tasks at hand or just unwind from the stresses you face.

Personal Health. Make healthy lifestyle choices by exercising, eating well, and getting enough sleep. The benefits of managing your health are endless and will help give you the energy, focus, and overall wellness you need to keep pace with the demands of the day.

Goals. Make a list of goals you want to accomplish – from minor to lofty – and write them down by order of importance. Break each goal into steps, and mark off accomplishments as you complete them. This will help you gain the momentum you need to achieve your ambitions.

Attitude. Make the decision to have an optimistic outlook and a positive attitude no matter what your circumstances, and you won’t be defeated by challenges that arise. Instead, you’ll be more productive, focused, and ready to take on those challenges.  

Be the ring leader of your circus. Take control of the things you can and you’ll be in the perfect position to enjoy the show.

Mandatory Days Off Without Pay – Vacation or Layoff?

Current economic conditions are affecting everyone and forcing some companies to make tough decisions regarding their employees. While a number of companies have had no choice but to lay off their staff or make drastic budget cuts in recent months, other companies have explored unique options to retain their employees while still trying to keep their businesses alive.

Some companies have begun instituting furloughs. According to Wikipedia, a furlough is a temporary leave of absence from employment, whether voluntary or involuntary. Other businesses have resorted to mandatory furloughs, requiring employees to take off a certain number of days per month or year – without pay – to avoid laying off their employees.

If your company chose to institute mandatory unpaid furlough days, would you be grateful that you still had a job and take the opportunity to do something for yourself during your time off? Or would you be frustrated that you were forced to take unpaid vacation days? Let us know by voting in our poll below.

Come On Get Happy: Use Music to Produce Positive Thinking

Good Mood Music Monday morning blues were tough enough before the recession, but in our economic situation, facing the work week with the energy, enthusiasm, and motivation you need can be difficult.

Moods are contagious. According to a recent study, people who work together share their moods – within two hours of being around each other. So, why not make sure the mood you share is a positive one? This will improve workplace relationships, enhance your work environment, and boost productivity. Plus, chances are your employer will notice your upbeat attitude and its impact – so why not strive for a great mood every day?

If you’re having trouble starting the day off right, take your cue from history and motivate yourself through music. A Los Angeles Times article, How Song, Dance and Movies Bailed Us Out of the Depression, discusses the impact the arts, like swing, jazz, and big bands, had on the depression. “The engine of the arts in the ‘30s was not escapism, as we sometime imagine, but speed, energy, and movement at a time of economic stagnation and social malaise.”

Now, studies show that music impacts reasoning skills, the cardiovascular system, and moods. So, tap in to the power of positive music and create a play list that motivates you. Listen to it at work, in your car, or at home, and you’ll improve your mood and the moods of those around you.

Not sure what songs to add to your play list? Here are 10 recommendations to boost your mood no matter what your musical taste is.

1. Powder Your Face With Sunshine – Dean Martin
2. Pennies from Heaven – Louis Prima
3. Here Comes the Sun – The Beatles
4. Get Happy – Rufus Wainwright
5. I Feel Good – James Brown
6. Walking on Sunshine – Katrina and the Waves
7. I Can See Clearly Now – Johnny Nash
8. Brighter than Sunshine – Aqualung
9. Beautiful Day – U2
10. Feels Like Today – Rascal Flatts

As Dean Martin sings in Powder Your Face with Sunshine, “The future’s brighter when hearts are lighter.” So, whether you want to listen to Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger or Queen’s We Will Rock You every day this week, you can improve your mood with music and impact your team – and your company – with the power of positive thinking!

Have a song that improves your mood? Add it to our comments section below.

One Small Change: Instant Workplace Happiness

Research shows that happiness boosts workplace productivity and improves health, so companies have a vested interest in the happiness of their employees. But, because Americans spend most of their time at work – an average of 2,080 hours a year – every employee has a vested interest in their own happiness.

Factors like leadership, salary, benefits, and sense of purpose can improve happiness in the workplace, but they can not produce happiness, and are not factors completely within your control.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” So when you feel unhappy at work, take control and decide to find the silver lining in your current circumstances. Make the choice to have a positive outlook, no matter what. Chances are, you will instantly feel happier.

Having trouble looking on the bright side?  Try these five techniques the next time your outlook’s gloomy:

1. Make a list of three positive things in your life and post it at your workstation. Refer to it when you need a pick-me-up.

2. Make someone else happy. Mark Twain wrote, “The best way to cheer yourself up is to cheer somebody else up.” Do something to make someone’s day, and it just might make yours.

3. Take a walk in the sunshine to change your scenery. A change of scenery can help change your perception.

4. Change your stance. Hold your head up high in every circumstance and you will see more clearly.

5. Focus on something that brings you joy. Read a book, play a sport, or volunteer in your community to refocus your outlook on something positive.

Tell us how you improve your outlook in our comments section below.

Inexpensive Vacation Ideas to Help You Refuel for Work

With spring in bloom and summer on the horizon, a relaxing vacation may be the perfect way to spend a few days unwinding, relieving stress, and re-energizing. But with a pressing workload and financial stresses, a vacation may seem impossible.

Taking regular vacations can improve workplace productivity, lower stress levels, and boost your overall health. So, before you skip out on a much needed, well-deserved vacation, consider these inexpensive ways to get away and refuel.

Go camping. Enjoy the great outdoors, and take a break from work by camping at a nearby lake or state park. If you don’t have a tent or other necessary camping gear, ask a friend if you can borrow theirs or check with local sports and outdoor stores like REI to rent equipment. Activities like hiking, rock climbing, or even just setting up camp can help release built up stress. Don’t forget about traditions like campfire stories and s‘mores to build or renew relationships with family and friends without breaking your budget.

Take a road trip. Pack up the car, turn up the music, and hit the open road for an adventure. Now that gas prices are not sky-high, a road trip is an affordable option. Travel with friends to split the cost of gas and hotels. Visit nearby cities or states, small town diners, and historic sites along the way. The feeling of possibility and excitement that comes with a road trip can provide the energy and focus you need when you return to work.

Enjoy a “staycation.” “Staycations” are an economical alternative to travel without the stress of packing. If going out of town is not possible, consider taking a few days off work to explore your own town or city. Relaxing by a pool, visiting museums and restaurants, or spending the day at the park could be just the thing you need for rest and relaxation.

Vacations don’t have to be expensive, exotic, or even long, but the benefits of a change of place – and pace – can positively impact your outlook and give you the boost you need to rock your career.

Have you taken a break from work? Where did you go to refuel? Share your ideas on inexpensive vacation plans in our comments section below.