Work/Life Balance

Call in Well – Take a Vacation Day

day offI played hooky from work yesterday. It was a planned event, weeks in the making.

Coming up with the excuse to call in with was a challenge. My favorite was “I am stuck in the blood pressure machine down at Wal-Mart and the paramedics are on the way.”

I didn’t use an excuse. After writing yesterday’s post, I opted to tell the truth. I needed a mental recovery day.

Well that, and it’s best not to lie to your boss, your coworkers or your clients because they’ll probably be the ones you’ll run into on the golf course or while you’re walking down the street in shorts and flip flops when you’re supposed to be in bed with the flu.

I told my team at work exactly what I was doing – taking a family health day. Every year before school starts my oldest (and only school-aged) daughter and I have a full day of play – Just like Ferris Bueller and his friends.

My work was covered, and the department and the company operated just fine without me for one day. This is important because taking a vacation day should not cause undue hardship on your co-workers.

Father and daughter went to breakfast, then to an amusement park, lunch and then the movies. We enjoyed every moment. I didn’t think about to-do lists, deadlines or meetings. Instead I reconnected with my childhood, when being a kid meant just having fun, hanging out and playing together. My daughter felt important (she planned the day) and by bedtime I felt rejuvenated and ready to face work on Friday.

Have you taken a vacation or personal wellness day recently? Or are you more prone to calling in sick or coming up with an elaborate excuse? Either way, I’d like to hear your story.

Where Are All the Magic Lamps?

I want to own a new H3, but I drive a five-year-old Chrysler.

My wife wants me to cook lobster tonight, but I’m picking up pizza.

My youngest daughter wants to go to the beach, but tomorrow she will see the sea lion show at the zoo.

More often than not, your ideal situation does not match up with reality. It’s certainly evident in a survey recently conducted by the Pew Research Center.

Only 21% of mothers with children under 18 say full-time work is their ideal situation, while 60% of working moms say part-time employment is their preference.

The desire of mothers with minor children to work full-time appears to be waning. In 1997, 32% desired to work full-time with 48% longing for part-time employment.

Although there’s a 12% shift in the past decade toward moms working fewer hours, 70% of mothers with kids under 18 are employed outside of the home, according to the U.S. Labor Department. And, of those moms in the workforce, 75% are employed full time and 25% work part time.

After years of giving 100% at home and 100% on the job, working moms are clearly seeking a better work-life balance.

In an interview conducted by the Associated Press, Cary Funk, a Pew researcher on the survey, said the trend reflected women’s latest thoughts on the ideal arrangement for their children. “I don’t think it means people are going to give up their jobs,” she said. “It’s more of an expression of the difficulties of combining responsibilities at work and home.”

What have been your experiences with juggling work and family responsibilities? To read more about work-life balance check out these blogs:  On Balance (Washington Post) and The Juggle (Wall Street Journal).

American Idle

Teenagers aren’t working hard for the money this summer.

Only 49% of teens age 16 to 19 were working in June – the lowest in the 70 years the U.S. Labor Department has kept records. That was down from 52% in June 2006 and below the 60% in the labor force in June 2000.

That’s a significant decline – 11% in seven years. What’s happened to today’s youth? The answer might surprise you.

Today’s teenagers are studying. Yes, studying.

Nearly 38% of teens ages 16 to 19 were enrolled in summer school or college courses instead of working, according to the Labor Department. They are investing in their future earning potential by dedicating 12-months a year to their education.

This is a change from 20 years ago when only 12% of working-age teenagers were spending their summer months studying.

My own experiences as a teenager in the late 1980s included balancing both work and school. Every summer after I graduated from high school I took two community college classes. Plus, as an 18- and 19-year old, I had a job working 30 hours a week so I could sock away as much money as possible for school in the fall.

Those were some of the best days of my life. The combination of balancing school, work and play taught me some important lessons regarding prioritization, and time management. Somehow I think today’s teens who are opting out of the summer workforce might be missing out on some of life’s important lessons.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation (Hours)

There’s a lot of discussion right now about work/life balance. Especially during the summer, when family vacations and relaxing getaways are most popular, the issue becomes particularly hot. People want to spend time relaxing, getting away from the grind, but that isn’t always possible.

Small business owners and entrepreneurs often find work and life colliding during vacation time. Steven Fisher at Startup Spark recently wrote a post about how its critical for entrepreneurs to find time to really get away from the pressures of work. We’ve also written about work/life balance for small business owners and tips for how to take a vacation.

But taking work with them on vacation isn’t just an issue for business owners. Eager workers often find themselves logging in to their e-mail or working on projects from home or the beach. Many others are putting time into their own projects and working on vacation.

Ryan Healy’s post “When working on vacation isn’t work” on Brazen Careerist shares his views as a twentysomething on work, personal time and vacation. He says that for him, he “works” on his own ideas while on vacation because its something he enjoys doing and wants to pursue in his personal time.

Do you feel it’s possible to truly unplug from work and enjoy your time off? Do you think how someone spends their vacation time depends more on their personality, line of work, generation or employer?

Even though you may not take vacation time on the Fourth of July since it’s a national holiday, what will you be doing with your time?

Career Overload: Making Time for Your Life

Do you have dinner with your family every night? It seems like family dinners, time with friends and actually balancing work and life have gone the way of the Beaver Cleaver. It’s so rare, in fact, that when someone actually makes family a priority, it makes national news headlines.

That’s right – a man named Cameron Stracher decided that for one year he would be at home every night for dinner with his family. He wrote a blog – dinnerwithdad.com – and a book, Dinner with Dad, all about the experience. His story has been featured in USA Today and other major papers. All because he chose to make time for his family – and share about it.

Do you ever feel like making time for your friends and family is so much effort, it might be a newsworthy event if it actually happened?