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Showing posts from April, 2010

Going Down? Elevators Are Hurting Employee Productivity

Office workers have some pretty big gripes about the buildings they work in, according to a new IBM "Smarter Buildings" survey.

IBM surveyed 6,486 workers recently in 16 U.S. cities. Around one-third surveyed think their office building is "environmentally friendly" but 65% want their office updated to be more "green."

My favorite part of the survey asked employees how their buildings waste their time and affect their productivity. Employees see elevators as a big problem: The IBM study concludes U.S. workers have spent 125 years (?) over the last 12 months either waiting for or riding on elevators. One-quarter of those surveyed said the elevators in their buildings tend to work in unison, meaning the elevators tend to arrive together leaving some elevators empty and forcing other employees to wait longer for one to arrive. Ain't it the truth, too. You've been served, elevator manufacturers!

The survey also found workers in Los Angeles are happiest w…

Are You Ready to Stamp Out Hunger?

Saturday, May 8th is Stamp Out Hunger Day, an annual event where the U.S. Postal Service accepts non-perishable food items that it will sort and donate to local food banks.

This year marks the event's 18th year, and it's never been more important given recent U.S. hunger statistics that have ballooned with the unemployment rate.

The U.S. Postal Service is making it easy for us to do something that will make a huge difference to a large number of people. So be a good guy (or gal) and leave a bag of groceries near your mailbox for your mail person to pick up during his or her rounds next Saturday. This is a great event for companies to participate in, too.

Check out the official website for more information.

Thursday Thoughts: Afghan Gaga

I'm on a Lady Gaga kick lately. Apparently, so are U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan because a group of them put together their own video to Gaga's "Telephone" that's pretty funny (especially after the 1:38 mark).

I like the truck bumpers shaped like telephone receivers. Our servicemen and women in Afghanistan have among the most stressful jobs on earth, so it's great to see them be able to relax and have some fun. Thanks for your service to our nation.

Work that beat, guys!

Great Recession Creates Nation of Pill Poppers

We're living in stressful, desperate times. As they say, desperate times require desperate measures.

Anti-depressants have been an increasing popular "measure" over the last few years as people find themselves either overworked, underemployed or unemployed. Welcome to the Great Recession, where you can be stressed out of your mind over having too much work to do, too little work to do or no work at all. There's no happy medium right now. Maybe it's not a coincidence that "recession" and "depression" rhyme?

Now Psych Central has ranked the top 10 pharmaceuticals in terms of recent popularity. Not surprisingly, its data reveal that people are medicating themselves quite heavily. Prescriptions for the anti-anxiety drug Xanax grew 29% between 2005 and 2009, while prescriptions for anti-anxiety and panic attack medication Ativan grew 36% during the same time period.

Prescriptions for depression medication Cymbalta grew a whopping 237% (!) between 200…

Want To Keep Women On Staff? Then Do The Right Thing

A new study from the Simmons School of Management in Boston finds women are more likely to stay with employers they perceive as doing the right thing and contributing to society.

In fact, more than three-fourths of the women surveyed said that being able to make "a positive impact on society" and "expressing and acting in line with my values" is important to them.

The survey also revealed that women who think their employer is socially responsible tend to have higher job satisfaction and are less inclined to quit. They're also more likely to promote the employer off the clock. The problem is, a majority of the women surveyed (65%) said they don't really know what their employers are doing in terms of social responsibility -- e.g., efforts to be helpful outside the company. Ruh-roh.

Maybe that's why 65% of the women surveyed have not participated in their companies' social responsibility efforts. Aren't they being asked to? Are they paying lip serv…

Wednesday Warblings: Stairway to Heaving

Well, I guess the escalator saves some energy for the Stairmaster.

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Finance & Insurance Workers Haven't Been Hurting For Extra Pay

Amid the debate over financial reform comes new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that shows the supplemental pay of finance and insurance workers -- that is, their overtime pay, bonuses and extra pay earned for working less-attractive hours such as nights and weekends -- comprised nearly 7% (6.9%) of their gross earnings between 2006 and 2009.

Supplemental pay for the rest of the service sector averaged 3.3% between 2006 and 2009. That's less than half of what financial and insurance workers received.

The jobs with the lowest levels of supplemental pay between 2006-09 were accommodation and food services (1.3%), social assistance (0.7%) and last but not least, educational services (0.5%).

Message: Go into insurance or finance instead of teaching if you want better supplemental pay. But go into teaching if you want to make a positive difference in the world. There's always a trade off, isn't there?

You can get supplemental pay figures for a variety of other service job…

Waste Management's Contract Talks Stink

If you watch TV, you may have seen (or seen ads for) the CBS show "Undercover Boss," where a major CEO goes undercover at his or her own company and works alongside rank-and-file employees.

"Undercover Boss" is a Hollywood-produced island of workplace bliss in these tough times when management can seem aloof, uncaring and ruthless. Essentially it's a positive and priceless PR move for the company.

One episode featured the company Waste Management and touching scenes such as this one where company President Larry O'Donnell unmasks his real identity and rewards the workers for their service:

You won't, however, watch a scene in which the company conducts its less-than-heartwarming union contract negotiations.

Waste Management and the Teamsters Local 174 in Seattle have been trying to come to terms on a new 5-year-contract. It looks like a tentative agreement has just been reached, but not before it started getting ugly:
The announcement came just hours after…

Oregon's Bad Romance

A male a cappella group at my alma mater, the University of Oregon, does its own take on Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance." The vocals are good, and they did an awesome job copying Lady Gaga's choreography. Too funny.

They performed this routine in the EMU Fishbowl, a student cafeteria in the student union building and the site of the cafeteria scenes in the movie "Animal House." The cafeteria pretty much looks the same as it did when John Belushi did his "I'm a zit! Get it?" routine.

Go Ducks!

And here's the "I'm a zit! Get it?" scene:

Arbor Day: How Does Your State Rate?

Friday is Arbor Day, a national day to plant trees and beautify your town or city.

You've probably driven through a city that has a prominent "Tree City USA" sign, or you live in one. But how does a city become a "Tree City" in the first place? Well, it has to meet four requirements. First, it needs to start a city Tree Board or department. Second, it needs to have a tree care ordinance. Third, it needs to have a community forest program with an annual budget of at least $2 per capita. Fourth, it needs to make an Arbor Day proclamation and observance. In other words, these cities take tree planning -- planting trees, taking good care of them, then planting even more of them -- very seriously.

So how does your state rate on the tree friendliness scale? The Arbor Day Foundation knows. Here are some interesting tidbits from its 2008 report:

In 2008, there were 3,402 Tree Cities in the United States. In 1976, only 42 towns were designated as Tree Cities;

More than 138…

Happy Birthday, Workplace Diva!

One year ago this week I looked at my dwindling workload (thanks, Great Recession!) and knew I needed to put my excess writing energies somewhere. Writing Post-It Notes to myself and annoying friends and family with forwarded joke emails wasn't cutting it. A writer without an outlet is like an aging Hollywood celebrity after too much plastic surgery: a pathetic sight.

So I decided to take a chance and start a blog. Sure, I was five years late to the party but better late than never, right? I prefer to think I was fashionably late. Luckily, Blogger made it very easy to set up Workplace Diva and I was off and running. One year later I'm still at it. I'm having a lot of fun.

So I guess Workplace Diva is a toddler now. It's learning to walk and talk. It's going through random drawers and getting into everything. Pretty soon it will enter the "terrible twos" where it asserts its independence and throws tantrums. Boy, I can't wait for that!

Actually, the tod…

Monday Workplace News Roundup

Hope you had a terrific weekend. Here are some headlines catching my eye today:

Sweet drone Alabama: How productive was Alabama's latest legislative session? It's a topic of much debate. Well, at least the governor stopped a bill to tax and regulate bingo. Priorities, priorities.

Quit it: Leaving your job at this company takes guts. Geez dude, don't take it so personally.

Carolina on their mind: is suing State of North Carolina tax officials who want to know what state residents have bought over the website. North Carolina asks residents to "voluntarily" list all their online purchases on tax forms. Apparently, not enough North Carolinians do it. Go figure.

Storming the gates: Bill Gates, Sr. has some ideas for solving Oregon's tax problems.

It's the pitts: 52% of small businesses in a new Pitney Bowes survey say business is worse than it was a year ago.

Whose sick idea is this?: The 911 communication center in Cumberland County, New Jersey will sta…

Friday Funnies: Word Up!

I'll assume the person who wrote this message isn't an ESL tutor.

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Employees Are Searching For Themselves...Online

A new Accountemps survey finds nearly 70% of employees (69%) have typed their name into online search engines to see what comes up.

This practice has been dubbed "ego surfing." But hey, they say that life is a search for oneself and now you can do it online from the comforts of your couch. Who needs Oprah? Surf's up!

Actually, doing some periodic ego surfing is a good idea, especially if you're job hunting. The last thing you want is to be blind sided by an interviewer asking about those party photos from Cancun or a cutting comment you made on someone's website. Or maybe you're a sarcastic, jaded blogger. Oh God, no one's going to hire you now! Oh, well. At least you tried.

USDOL Tells Unpaid Interns They Don't Have to Clean the Breakroom Anymore

The U.S. Department of Labor just updated the rules governing unpaid internships. The USDOL is responding to the spate of bad press about unpaid internships over the last month, most notably this April 2 New York Times article.

Here are the updated rules for companies that use unpaid interns:

1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spen…

Companies Keep Going Green While Earth Day Just Wants To Take a Nap

Today is a two-fer: Earth Day and Take Our Daughters and Sons To Work Day. I'm not sure how they ended up on the same day, but there you go. Maybe we can combine the two by creating a whole new day called Take Our Daughters and Sons To Work On Earth Day. Employees are doing the jobs of two people anyway, and I can see the synergies.

Of course, every commemorative day gets its own set of surveys. CareerBuilder/Harris Interactive just released its own Earth Day study of 2,778 U.S. hiring managers and HR professionals.

So what are companies doing to be "green"?

One-in-ten employers (10%) say they have added "green jobs" in the last 12 months;

10% say they plan to add additional green jobs this year;

Northeast employers added the most green jobs over the last year (14%), followed by the South (11%); the West(10%); and the Midwest (9%);

24% of retailers added green jobs over the last year, the most of any industry surveyed. Also making the list were transportation (18%…

Where Were You On Black Friday 2000?

Ten years ago this month, the stock market slipped 700 points in one day (sound familiar?) and people dubbed it Black Friday. It was the first big sign that the dot com era might not last forever. Investors lost money, investment started drying up and well, we all know the rest of the story.

Enjoy this look at the Spring of 2000, which features a company appropriately named Vanish.

Thanks, Great Recession! We're All Internet Addicts Now

The Great Recession has spawned a workforce full of Internet addicts.

One-third of U.S. workers feel like they have to be online 24 hours a day, according to a new survey out today from InterCall, a conferencing and collaboration services provider.

Among the findings:

Almost one-third (30%) feel that they need to stay connected to work 24/7, even during weekends, breaks or holidays;

One in four employees (24%) fear they'll look less committed to their jobs if they don't stay connected to work when they're off the clock;

Almost half of U.S. workers (48%) who use technology at work say they're doing more work with fewer resources in the recession;

One-quarter (25%) of U.S. workers believe their job security is "partially dependent" on their supervisor seeing they are working online after the traditional work day is finished.
Yes, the Great Recession is turning many of us into worried, stressed-out Internet addicts fearful that we're always just one megabyte away …

Will You Participate In Take Our Daughters and Sons To Work Day?

Thursday is Take Our Daughters and Sons To Work Day. Will you participate?

This year's theme is "1 Youth, 1 Dream, 2Morrow's Leader." This is how the official website describes it:

This year the theme - 1 youth, 1 dream, 2morrow's leader - is written in texting format and is open to numerous discussions concerning what youth dream about and what creates a leader. The theme should encourage discussions among participants concerning the dreams they have, the dreams other people in their lives have, and the dreams of those persons who have become great leaders such as Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Oprah Winfrey, and other individuals that have opened doors like Dr. Mae Jemison, J. K. Rowling, and Sonia Sotomayor. In addition, the discussions by the youth will help them understand that all leaders don't have to be famous nor influence millions of people.
Here are a few interesting facts about the program:

It used to be called "Take Our Daughters To Work Da…

Survey Says Bush-era Title IX Rule Is Toast

Vice President Biden will be at George Washington University today to announce the reversal of a Bush-era clarification to Title IX that allowed colleges and universities to rely solely on survey input for measuring gender equality of various programs.

The Obama Administration wants university programs to provide more detail as to gender equality on campus. The thinking is that answering an online survey isn't enough to to gauge the state of gender equality. There's also the risk of unverified data making their way into these online surveys.

Most people think about sports when they hear the phrase Title IX, but it extends into academics and myriad student programs as well. Some academic departments still have very few women, so it will be interesting to see how this rule change could affect staffing and tenure. The rule reversal could also raise new questions about programs on campus. Why is it that the engineering club doesn't have any female members? Is it because the you…

What's the State of Your State?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released its regional and state unemployment report on Friday. Among the findings:

Unemployment went up in 24 states last month;

Hiring increased in 17 states and the District of Columbia last month;

The unemployment rate is flat in 9 states;

Unemployment has increased in 44 states and the District of Columbia over the last 12 months;

The national U.S. unemployment rate is at 9.7% for the third month in a row. In March 2009, unemployment was at 8.6%.

Access a summary of the report here to see how your state is faring.

It Smells Like Fresh What In Here?

Is this video a parody? The stilted acting and ironically not-safe-for-work dialogue of this sexual harassment training video make me feel sorry for all the employees who have had to watch it. How embarrassing. Well, the employees probably walked away with some new inside jokes to use around the office, which defeats the entire purpose of the training when you think about it. Go figure. [Warning: NSFW]

Monday Workplace News Roundup

Here are some headlines catching my eye today:

That's what he said: Forbes interviews manager Michael Scott of "The Office" for his tips on managing employees and it's hilarious.

Merry land: Maryland employers added nearly 36,000 jobs last month, the most of any state.

Speaking of Maryland, actor Danny Glover was arrested there the other day for protesting pay and labor conditions at Sodexo, which recently fired 16 employees for trying to unionize.

Death star: A must-read article about the hedge fund Magnetar, which helped create the risky mortgage lending weapons of mass destruction that got us into the Great Recession.

Drop and give me 20: Corrections officers in Texas are being required to pass new rigorous fitness tests including push-ups, deep squats and sit-ups following a spate of prison escapes and drug smuggling attempts. A 50-year-old corrections officer died of a heart attack during training on April 2.

Up in smoke: The Oregon Supreme Court sides with an emplo…

Administrative Professionals: File Under "F" For "Frustrated"

Administrative Professionals Day is next Wednesday, and a new survey finds these employees are suffering right along with the rest of us.

The International Association of Administrative Professionals, the group that started Administrative Professionals Day, reports that the hardest part of this recession for administrative professionals has been the lack of raises. 27% of administrative professionals in the survey said they haven't gotten a raise. They're doing more work, however: Slightly more than one-fifth surveyed (21%) said their workloads have gone up. Like many other people, they're doing more work for less money. They're also stressed out:

The recession has made the work environment more stressful than before. When asked “During this Great Recession, how are working conditions at your office,” 32 percent responded “fair—things are more stressful than before.” Of the nearly 900 admins surveyed, 26 percent said “good—with everyone getting along and doing well.” Nea…

A New Tax Form For Freelancers

Happy tax day. Or as we self-employed types call it, "business in a box" day. If you're a full-time freelancer, you've been sobbing into your bag of Doritos as you compare your current income to the glory years of the early 2000s.

Well, Sam Potts of The New York Times is here to cheer you up. Potts has created a new tax form for freelancers. I like his tax form a lot better than the real one. One of my favorite lines: "If you do not Twitter, you do not qualify as a freelancer and may not use this form."

Hahaha. Actually, forget Twitter. Media freelancers are spending their time on LinkedIn, where they're debating hot topics such as "What was your worst typo?" and "How important is a journalism degree to a career in newspapers and other media?" Another popular thread is, "Homonym/homophones (same sound words) i.e., their or there, buy, by, or bye, and hundreds more, are often misused. Have you ever misused one?"

It's cle…

Wednesday Warblings: Market This!

It's hard to believe that people used to smoke at the office. But in 1974, public service announcements like this one were asking us to refrain from smoking on the job.

This clip, featuring actor Judd Hirsch of "Taxi" fame, dates back to the beginnings of the non-smokers' rights movement. It's a fight that's still being waged today.

On a side note, I love the sound of the typewriters in the background. You just don't hear that anymore...

Retail Clerks Need To Change Their Attitudes About Making Change

What's up lately with retail clerks and making change?

I was leaving a parking garage last weekend and owed the parking garage attendant $2. I had only a crisp $20 bill from the ATM. I handed it to the parking garage attendant, who frowned, shook his head and muttered something as he made change. It dawned on me that he wasn't happy to be making $18 in change for a $20 bill. I apologized that I didn't have a smaller bill. He handed me $18 and closed the little window on his booth without saying anything.

A few days later, I was at a store making an 89-cent purchase when I remembered I still had $15 in change from breaking the $20 bill. I pulled out a five-spot and handed it to the woman ringing up my purchase. "Don't you have anything smaller?" she asked me in an exasperated tone. "No, I'm sorry. It's all I have at the moment," I said apologetically. She sighed, made four dollars and change and handed over my purchase while throwing me the st…

Workers Still Worrying About Keeping Jobs

MetLife’s 8th annual Employee Benefits Trends study is out this week.

MetLife surveyed 1,503 benefits administrators and 1,305 full-time adult employees working at companies with at least two employees. Here's a snapshot of what both sides had to say:

Controlling benefits costs beats employee retention as employers' main goal right now;

68% of employees have felt increasingly insecure about their jobs over the last year. These employees also report feeling distracted on the job due to their personal financial worries;

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of employees who describe their medical health as fair or poor are living paycheck to paycheck compared to 43% of people who describe themselves as being in good or better health;

42% of employees would like their employers to provide retirement planning seminars. 35% of employers currently offer them, however;

82% of employees said having access to a work/life balance program would improve their productivity.
You can access both a synopsis and…

Friday Workplace News Roundup

Happy Friday! Here are some headlines catching my eye this morning:

Hire ground: A new Business Roundtable CEO survey finds nearly three-fourths (73%) expect company sales to increase over the next six months, but half don't expect to hire any new employees and 21% plan to make staff cuts.

Partly cloudy: Only 10% of IT managers say they plan to use cloud computing for mission critical IT services. The rest of us just think "cloud computing? What's that?"

We don't need no education: A new American Association of School Administrators poll of 453 school administrators reveals 57% will delay technology purchases for the 2010-11 school year while half will delay or skip strategies for improving student instruction.

Yup, I'm...unpatriotic?: Ellen DeGeneres was featured as a category on "Family Feud." Contestants were asked to name one thing they know about Ellen DeGeneres. "She's a TV show host." Check! "She's gay." Check! "S…

Friday Funnies: Wicked Garden

I think this company is selling garden supplies. At least I hope that's what it's selling.

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Ryanair's Bathroom Fee Idea Really Stinks

As you've probably heard, Dublin, Ireland-based Ryanair is considering charging passengers 1 Euro or 1 British Pound (that's anywhere between $1.33 and $1.52) to use the bathroom on short flights.

Apparently, Boeing is designing a coin-operated door handle. Ryanair is also considering whether or not to remove a few bathrooms on some of its planes to add extra seating. The goal is to encourage passengers to use the airport bathrooms before they get on the airplane.

But I have to wonder if Ryanair's management has really thought this one through. Do they know how passengers could change their behavior in ways that will be negative for the customer, the airline, the flight crew and the airports?

I've been thinking about it, and here's my rundown of what might happen if Ryanair charges passengers to use its bathrooms:

Pissed-off cleaning crews. The airport bathrooms in the Ryanair terminal will get even busier if Ryanair starts charging per bathroom visit. More bathroom…

But What About Ken?

Forget Veterinarian Barbie and Doctor Barbie. Now there's Episcopal Priest Barbie.

Episcopal Barbie's back story: She graduated from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California and she's now rector at St. Barbara’s-by-the-Sea in Malibu, California. As this article points out:

She arrived at the church fully accessorized, as is Barbie’s custom. Her impeccably tailored ecclesiastical vestments include various colored chasubles (the sleeveless vestments worn at Mass) for every liturgical season, black clergy shirt with white collar, neat skirt and heels, a laptop with prepared sermon and a miniature, genuine Bible.

Apparently a devotee of the “smells and bells” of High Church tradition, the Rev. Barbie even has a tiny thurible, a metal vessel used for sending clouds of incense wafting toward heaven.
Oh, Barbie. Ever the fashion plate. And Rev. Barbie comes with accessories! You'd better take her seriously because she wants to be a Bishop someday. This…

Wednesday Warblings: Market This!

Ah, Ronco. How I miss thee. The K-tel album collections. The smokeless ashtray. The Brew Master. The Chop-O-Matic.

But my favorite was always the Record Vacuum, a handy but cumbersome device for cleaning record albums. Of course, my albums were always scratched so it didn't matter how clean they were. But I still love this commercial for a product that cleans another product that people don't use anymore.

And the Award For Highest Metro Area Unemployment Rate Goes To...

So just how hard is it to find a job where you live?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has just released a new report that breaks down the job hunt in 372 U.S. metro areas.

First, the bad news: The unemployment rate between February 2009 and February 2010 increased in 347 of the 372 metropolitan areas BLS studied. Only 21 metro areas reported a lower unemployment rate in February 2010. Unemployment remained flat in four areas.

So let's break down the numbers Oscar style just for fun, shall we? Put on your tux or designer gown and get ready because here we go. The envelope, please...

The award for highest area unemployment rate in February 2010 goes to: El Centro, California, which has an unemployment rate of 27.2%. Other nominees in the category included Merced, California with a 22.1% unemployment rate and Yuba City, California with a 21.6% unemployment rate. In fact, BLS concludes that of the 29 areas with jobless rates of at least 15%, 13 of them are in California. Ouch.

The award for…

Monday Workplace News Roundup

I hope you had a wonderful Easter and Passover. Here are some headlines catching my eye today:

Dodging a minefield: 115 workers have been rescued after eight days in a flooded Chinese mine.

The state with the highest percentage of Facebook users is South Dakota. 31.1% of South Dakota residents have a Facebook account. 125.7% of the people in Washington, DC use Facebook but it's not a state. 125.7% is also more than 100%. I'm confused.

Fizzling out: A new study finds taxing soda drinks neither lowers obesity rates nor reduces soda consumption.

Okay, we get it, Newt Gingrich. You really, really like chocolate, especially chocolate Easter bunnies and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

Going postal: Finland is testing a new postal model where postal workers will open people's mail, scan it, and digitally send the contents to the recipient's secure digital mailbox. Apparently, it's not all that popular due to privacy concerns.

Work Ethic 101: A report concludes Generation Y does…

Meetings Are Driving People Insane

You're conducting a meeting and you're quickly getting annoyed.

As you're talking, you notice someone on the other side of the table is drawing Homer Simpson on a legal notepad. The employee sitting next to him is eating a muffin, while another employee at the conference table stands up, walks out of the room and comes back. They occasionally chatter about something entirely unrelated to the meeting.

Watching this sea of humanity not only interrupts your train of thought, it makes you wonder if anyone around you is paying attention.

Unfortunately, rude behavior is fairly commonplace in meetings. PGi Worldwide recently surveyed leaders of 500 small and medium sized business to find out which meeting behaviors annoy them the most, and here's what they said:

Doodling - 21%

Eating - 31%

Fidgeting or spinning in one's seat - 32%

Leaving the room and coming back - 41%

Reading unrelated materials - 48%

Checking sports scores - 51%

"Zoning out" - 54%

Checking personal email…