Saturday, June 28, 2008

DIY Summer Camp

Later this week my nephew is coming to spend a couple of days with me. My brother and his wife who both work full-time put together a patch-work child care plan for him this summer that includes several summer camps, time with me and time-off on their part.

Many parents struggle with summer child care and find their options often inconvenient and expensive. Some parents are finding a solution on their own. I caught an article yesterday on DIY summer camps (here). The article discussed three moms who cooperatively set up three weeks of summer camp. Each mom took all of the kids for one week and planned some themed activities. The article didn't mention if these were working moms or not, but if they were, they essentially found three weeks of care with little cost and only one week of vacation time used.

I did some searching online, and it turns out this isn't a new idea. There are several sites out there with ideas on how to structure a week such as the article here.

I like the idea, but it isn't really an easy fix. You would need to find other like-minded parents that are willing to make the effort. It also requires some planning and creativity. But, with the cost of summer camp going up, it might be a great strategy to keep your kids busy and get a chance to do something fun with them.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Staying Fit

This morning I went with a friend to do a weight-lifting class at her gym. I belong to a gym as well, but thought I would try something new. It was a good class, I will feel it more tomorrow I am sure. I don't think I will change gyms though. This one is a good twenty minute drive from my house, and all of the classes are one hour long.

I belong to a Contours Express gym which is a ladies gym that offers a circuit workout. They use real weights so you can adjust each station to your ability. I like it mostly because it is fast. The gym is about two minutes from my house, and the workout takes about 1/2 hour.

When my son was born and I hadn't figured out a good work/life arrangement, working out was the first thing I gave up in my busy schedule. I thought of it as a luxury of time that I couldn't afford. But, instead of making me less stressed, I found myself more stressed and full of anxiety.

I don't know the science of it, but I have been told working out is important to staying mentally healthy. Apparently a good workout releases just the right kind of chemicals to keep you feeling good. And I believe it. I have found that if I don't take the time to work out at least a few times a week, my stress and anxiety levels go up.

So instead of a luxury, I now see staying fit as a requirement. And the fact that I stay enough in shape that my clothes always fit helps too!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Cost of Not Working

So I am just a few weeks into my "summer off" and have determined one suprising fact: I am spending more money! When you aren't off busy working every day, you have a lot more time on your hands and that time provides lots of opportunities to spend money.

Much of the spending has been on fun things like vacation. We've also met friends out for lunch and we've done some activities such as going to the zoo. Some spending has been on the house. When you are in your house more, you tend to notice lots of things that need fixed.

If I am going to survive the summer without going broke, I am going to have to focus on activities and entertainment that don't cost money. I also should try to be a bit more thrifty, maybe take some time to cut coupons or look out for sales.

I have come across a couple of activities that are free in the summer. At, you can get coupons for free bowling. And, the Regal Entertainment Group provides free morning movies at many of their theaters, check it out here. Other ideas?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Free College Courses at MIT

One of the challenges in moving forward in your career is finding the time and money to further your education. Often as you develop more expertise, you can negotiate for more flexibility in your work.

An advanced degree may often be necessary, but sometimes, you just need to advance your knowledge. MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) offers you the opportunity to do just that. MIT has an open course website that gives you the opportunity to take one of hundreds online courses from MIT. The courses are from MIT faculty and allow you to work through the materials at your own pace.

Obviously it is not the same quality experience as actually taking the college course for credit. You don't receive feedback from the professor on your work, and you can't ask questions. But, you have the opportunity to explore the course content.

You don't get the credit, but you can get the knowledge. You can list courses you have taken on your resume, and apply the knowledge at your job. Or, you could just find a course or two that you find interesting.

Check out MIT's offerings:

Monday, June 16, 2008

Father's Day

We spent the day traveling back from our family vacation, so unfortunately, my husband didn't get to enjoy too much of the day.

Came across a brief, but interesting article about dads and flexible work. Some surveys/research indicates that more dads are looking for flexibility in order to spend more time with their kids.

However, dads sometimes face even more obstacles than moms when it comes to negotiating flexibility. A stigma still exists in many organizations when it comes to work/family balance for men. Often, men who want to spend more time with their families are perceived as uncommitted to their careers.

For example, one dad I spoke to when doing research for my book told me his boss told him to record his time off after the birth of his child as 'vacation' instead of 'family leave' so that others 'wouldn't get the wrong idea' about his committment to the company.

The good news is that as more dads join moms in requesting flexible work options, more employers will see the value in offering them.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Family Vacation

I'm off on a family vacation this week. Yes, I probably should have left my laptop at home, but I am actually teaching an online class right now so I needed to bring it along. That said, it has come in handy several times looking for the nearest grocery store or spa.

My in-laws rented a house on a beach in Florida and this is definitely the way to go for a family vacation involving young children. We have an incredible view of the ocean, a private pool and we really don't have a reason to leave. We actually haven't left the house at all except for the aforementioned grocery and spa.

The kids can come in and out of the house as needed, no need to trek up to a hotel room to search for forgotten goggles. We have the place to ourselves, so we don't have to be concerned about a crying baby or fueding siblings disturbing a neighbor. It is really all about just relaxing. I've actually even made it about half way through a trashy novel.

We haven't taken too many vacations with the kids because we always think about what a hassle it will be. But the reality is, once you get where you are going, it turns out to be a pretty good idea.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Price of Gas

As gas prices continue to rise, workplace flexiblity becomes an even more attractive perk for employees. With prices projected to hit $5 a gallon this summer, someone with a 20 minute commute could be spending roughly $2500 per year on gas to travel to work.

Companies can help employees save on gas by offering some flexibilty. Shift to four, ten hour days and you eliminate a day of commuting each week, saving $500. Work from home two days a week and you could save $1000.

One HR Manager I spoke with earlier this week said her company felt they needed to give employees flexibility to save on gas costs. Otherwise, a majority of the employee's annual pay increase would just go to gas money.

So in addition to creating better work/life harmony, you can sell your flexible work arrangement as a socially responsible thing to do for your company.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Employer's Perspective

I attended a conference today for Human Resources (HR) executives where they addressed current trends and challenges in managing employees. I faciliated a discussion on flexible work and had the opportunity to learn about what kind of flexibility some companies offer, and some of the challenges that employers face.

All of the HR executives were very interested in offering flexible work for a variety of reasons. They all clearly understood that flexible work is something that employees want, and that offering flexible work could improve employee recruitment and retention.

But, they were not all convinced that it could work. The main concern shared by all in the group was accountability. They were concerned about whether or not employees working in an alternate arrangement were really getting their work done.

Many said managers were at such a loss on how to manage workers in a flexible work arrangement, and that they preferred that workers stay on a traditional schedule. But as I asked the group, do you really know employees are working just because they are at their desks? Is an employee sitting at at desk really working, or are they playing computer games? Or talking on the phone? Or just staring off into space?

The key to making a flexible work arrangement work is to have clear measurements of productivity. How can you show your boss that you are productive while working at home? The easier you can make it for your boss to know that you are working hard whether you are working early in the day or at home, the more likely your boss will appreciate that you are getting your job done. And that is what your company cares about.