October 9, 2014

Office Lust: Home Edition

I've written before about the trials and tribulations of working from home. However, these photos compiled by Design*Sponge have me whimsically thinking of how productive my genius would have been had I only worked in such gorgeous surroundings!

Courtesy of Olga Naiman and Design*Sponge.

Courtesy of  Fresh Home.

Courtesy of Country Living.
Courtesy of Cecilies Lykke.
 For more dreamy home office spaces, head over to Design*Sponge!

September 25, 2014

Finding a Meaningful Career

Philosopher and writer Alan Watts is famous for asking "What would you like to do if money were no object?" At first glance, it appears a tough question. But is it? I inherently know what I want to do on my day off from work, for example. Lay around, read a book, go on a hike, get errands done. That lists grows quickly, because I know that there are no strings attached. I can do whatever I want to do during my "free" time, without worrying about what my boss thinks, what my coworkers are doing and what time the workday ends. Is it really so different when it comes to a career or profession? [NB: if you scoff at this notion, this would be a good time to pause and watch the video link above.]
Why are we brainwashed to think that meaning and happiness have an inverse relation to prosperity? A better question might be, what is stopping our generation from changing that notion?
The more jobs I had after college, the more I learned exactly which situations I work best in, what structures I need to succeed and which types of challenges and opportunities must be present for me to feel satisfied. That took several false starts, lots of frustration, tons of trials and error and most importantly, TIME. My best advice to those starting out is to be patient! Follow your gut. Surround yourself with diversity in every sense of the word. And never be afraid to try a new path when the one you are on isn't working for you.
Failure is a harsh word, but for me, it is the root explanation of why I make better decisions now than I did when I was younger. The New York Times did a great piece on this topic, aptly titled "Following Your Bliss, Right Off a Cliff". Give it a read, both for the psychology behind failure and the opportunities that it provides those that persevere.
Yes, yes all these important life lessons take time. But hey, that is the one constant that all of us have. What we choose to do with our time is as individual to us as our fingerprints.

July 17, 2014

Defining Success: Pay vs. Meaning

Recently, the company PayScale (NB: a great website for assessing salaries when job-hunting) compared and contrasted median pay and job satisfaction for more than 450 careers. The authors looked at the following categories:
  • % High Job Satisfaction
  • % High Job Stress
  • Typical Educational Level
  • Gender Breakdown
  • Job Level
... just to name a few. With their data, they created an amazing interactive chart, which you can play with at this link

Interactive chart and full report at PayScale

Here are a few of their findings: the two least-meaningful job categories are food preparation/service and legal, probably not surprising considering how difficult the work is. For high pay and high job fulfillment, head straight to the medical field, since both well-paid health practitioners (doctors and surgeons) and lower-paid healthcare workers (nurses and technicians) ranked high in overall satisfaction and salaries. 

I have written before about my own life mission to find Sanity with a Side of Paycheck. This chart explains why that motto is easier said than done! It can be extremely challenging to find financial security and career contentment simultaneously. However, as I made my way through different jobs, different sectors and different stages of the professional pyramid, I found that each career change led me to better fit with my lifestyle. And when one factor was lacking, I compensated for it by working extra jobs, volunteering, cultivating desirable work skills and expanding my network of contacts. 

Finding the holy grail takes a mix of determination, goal setting, patience and persistence.  But speaking from experience, it does exist! 

May 8, 2014

Vacation: Ready, Plan, Go!

My friends and coworkers know thatI love to travel, but I am starting to suspect that they think I am a closeted trust fund baby or possibly, Gordon Gekko in disguise. Why, you ask?

I am always planning international vacations.

Here are a few tips that I use to satisfy my exorbitant travel whims:
1. Think long-term.
I am able to travel to far-flung places, because I plan trips waaaaay in advance. I am talking years here. Time gives you the benefit to search for cheaper plane tickets, earn points or miles on credit cards, find deals on hotels and vacation rentals, learn more about your destination, reach out to locals for advice and ultimately, take longer vacations. Look at the calendar and pick a date that realistically represents the size of trip you would like to take. The first step is always the hardest, but once I commit to a date, the motivation to plan and save comes easy.
2. Enjoy the planning.
Read this. It is all true.
3. Save where it counts.
I work for a non-profit and, unfortunately, do not have a money tree in my backyard. Saving is hard, no matter which approach you take. I find that weighing everyday choices with travel goals in mind is the best way to turn a little into a lot. So, I make it a game: Starbucks on the way to work or café crème at a sidewalk café? Date night here or date night in [insert chic global city]. Netflix subscription or museum pass? Beer at the local bar or a rum punch on the beach? Splurging at Whole Foods or exploring a quaint outdoors market? Pretty quickly, you will realize that purchasing a thing in the here and now does not compare to investing in an experience later.
5. Don't play hooky.
I will go out on a limb here and guess that most of you do not hail from Austria, Brazil or France. These fine countries mandate that employers provide an average of 34 days of paid leave every year. What is the helpless American worker to do? Hoard your vacation days! Do you really want to take off work, because it's Spring and the weather is nice? Because you don't want to deal with your boss on Monday morning? Because you have writer's block and cannot face your deadline? NO! If you are a wanderluster like me, you would rather enjoy an island holiday, a stroll down a boulevard in Paris or do pretty much any activity in a foreign destination rather than one in your present location. Keep that in mind next time the idea to raid your vacation balance pops into mind.
6. Au revoir, adios, sayonara
The grand adventure you have always coveted is possible! It only boils down to motivation and a commitment to make it happen. A few little sacrifices add up to major benefits and they are all worth it!

May 6, 2014

Have a Happy Day; It's Good for You

Today's infographic is brought to you by I Love Charts, a dreamy website for graphic nerds, and Mother Nature Network

View larger image at Mother Nature Network

Bonus tip: whistle this three times to cure all that ails you.

April 29, 2014

Put Down that Phone (or Else!)

One of my favorite work- and labor-related journalists is Lucy Mangan, a writer for The Guardian newspaper, BBC and, most recently, blogging for CollinsDictionary.com (It is a blog about words. Very funny words.) She is fabulously clever and sharp-tongued, but never misses an opportunity to make the audience laugh, even when covering serious issues. Her take on the move by French union leaders to prohibit the using mobile phones for work after punching out at the end of the day is no exception. 

You may already be familiar with notoriety of labor unions in France: they are the usual suspects when it comes to boycotts, picketing and protests in the news. Regardless of sector, they are far more influential than the unions we are accustomed to here in the United States. It is organized labor that brings about a month-long hiatus every August, when the population flees to Bali and Ibiza and tourists are left wondering who will make their baguettes. (Who me? Envious? Never!) Similarly, French employees work fewer hours than their US counterparts, enjoy drastically increased maternal and paternal benefits and many other "quality of life" perks. 

The latest jewel in the crown of French unions is an agreement to protect tech industry workers from the bane of my existence annoyance of after-hours, work-related calls and e-mails. As described by Ms. Mangan, under the terms of the agreement, "employees will also have to resist the temptation to look at work-related material on their computers or smartphones - or any other kind of malevolent intrusion into the time they have been nationally mandated to spend on whatever the French call la dolce vita." Simply put, bosses will have to limit communications strictly to the hours of 9-5. Or 10-5, or 11-5 or whenever the French normally arrive at the office. 

I tease, of course, but this new law points to important underlying questions about work-life balance. For example, to whom does time belong? Does it belong to employers, who conduct business around-the-clock in order to compete globally, increase profits and thereby, salaries? Or does it belong to employees, who cannot be expected to invest the same amount of hours as a business owner? Furthermore, how do the trends of hours worked compare to stagnant wages over time? In today's modern era, are office workers paid to be on-call, like doctors, mafia consigliore and tow-truck operators?

Just some food for thought as you see your Blackberry light up and consider answering one last e-mail from "The Man" before calling it a night.

February 20, 2014

Dash of Green

Do you have office plants? I have a few (mostly) living plants in mine: a Christmas cactus, a primrose and two orchids that only bloom when there is an alignment of at least three planets.

Courtesy of Daniella Witte. See more at her blog!
I envy the those with a jungle-y office, but also don't have time for the constant misting and repotting when they get scraggly. Data from from the EPA and NASA might change this lazy habit though: indoor plants are an effective, affordable solution to poor indoor air quality. Whether at home or in a large office building, a wide range of irritants can negatively affect the air while you're working, including off-gassing from plastics or furniture, toxins from printers, wall paint, mold and chemical cleaning agents.

Courtesy of Design*Sponge. See more of this plant-filled office on the D*S website!
Here are a few recommendations to spruce up your office and your oxygen intake: aloe vera, English ivy, money plant (couldn't hurt to add this one), peace lily (ditto), spider plant and rubber plant. For more air cleansing plants, check out Yoganonymous and Elephant Journal.

Courtesy of MindBodyGreen. They have indoor plant recommendations here!