Today's post comes to us from the executive director of The Workforce Institute, Dr. Chris Mullen, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, SPHR.

Here at The Workforce Institute, we recently released the results of a survey we just completed that hits pretty close to home for me, a full-time employee and father of four kids under the age of 18 (that's right, I said four!).

Our “Summer Scaries” survey looks at how working parents, and working people in general, are feeling as Fall approaches and the global pandemic we are all living through shows no signs of slowing down.

Amongst our key findings:

These numbers should catch the eye of employers and managers everywhere. You, as an organization, are only as good as your employees, and if they are feeling stressed and burnt out, it's going to affect your organization. Summer is usually a time when employees take time off to unplug and recharge but this summer has been unlike any other, with travel restrictions and limits on gatherings. Many employees were unable to vacation the way they normally do and are also dealing with the stress of the pandemic, worrying about their job security and the health and well-being of themselves and those they love. For parents, we've been monitoring (okay, maybe obsessively) the decisions school districts are making around the country and waiting to hear what the Fall will look like for our own kids as we ponder how on Earth we're going to make child care work.

It's a lot.

Now more than ever, employers must prioritize self-care and open communication to reduce the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that everyone - whether a parent or not - is facing in order to reduce the likelihood of burnout later this year and next year.

Thinking about self-care for employees made me think of my fellow board member Sharlyn Lauby's blog post on this very site three years ago focused on the topic (Sharlyn is always ahead of the curve). While some of her ideas were specific to being in an office, many are even more relevant now than they were then. Here are a few that feel especially spot-on right now:

  1. Create “stop doing” goals. Often, when we talk about goals, it's in the context of the things we plan “to do”. Instead of always doing more, what if every employee had to set one goal of something they wanted to “stop doing”? It might be very helpful in changing attitude and behavior.
  2. Offer stress and time management courses. Schedule a lunch and learn session - there are so many options out there. Just one: SkillShare has a class on how to “Create a Perfect Morning Routine” that can be accessed from Facebook.
  3. Practice mindfulness. Harvard Business Review published an article earlier this year titled “Spending 10 Minutes a Day on Mindfulness Subtly Changes the Way You React to Everything”.
  4. Have “walking” meetings. We've heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking”. Instead of having a conversation with a colleague in a conference room, the new trend is to talk while walking. It makes the meeting go faster and you get in a little exercise.
  5. Recognize employees for their work and accomplishments. In general, people like to know what they do well. It's comforting and affirming. Managers have the ability to lift the confidence of employees by giving them recognition in a way that means something.

All five of these great ideas can be adapted for working remotely. If you are a manager, encourage your team to make a “stop doing” goal, suggest classes your team can take or apps they can use for stress management and mindfulness. I love the idea of everyone taking their phone and heading out for a walk wherever they may be and conducting a meeting this way. Perhaps most of all, don't forget to recognize your team for their work and accomplishments during this time. Make time to celebrate your employees' wins and get creative about how you do it. Practice gratitude and see how it transforms your working life. Recognize the magic in a “thank you.” People need appreciation and simple kindness perhaps most of all right now.

As summer wanes, a lot of us will have flashbacks to our childhood summer adventures.  If you are or have been a parent, you may also reflect on the craziness of balancing your professional responsibilities with your hope of creating similar memorable summer adventures for your children.  My partner in crime at the Workforce Institute, Laura Souza, is an accomplished essayist who takes this topic on in  her newest essay, published last week on Cognoscenti , a feature of Boston's local NPR station WBUR.  Enjoy - and maybe take the time to create one more memory before summer's end.

It happens at least once every summer: I'll find myself sitting in stopped traffic on a weekday morning, 15 miles from home but having been in the car for an hour already. My two daughters, wearing their bathing suits and each eating a “breakfast” that consists of a crushed granola bar that's been packed and repacked several times already, are getting restless and asking, “Are we there yet?”

Where's there? The beach, of course.

Only one question keeps running through my head: “Why am I doing this?”

Of course, deep down, I know the answer: I'm trying to recreate for my kids the magical summer days of my childhood.

On many a summer day, my mom and her best friend would pack their five children into a car and drive north to the beach. My memories of those trips are vivid: the car rides up where we all yelled and shouted, trying to get other cars to honk or at least look at us; the smell of the salty air as we walked onto the sand for the first time; the glittering water stretching out to the horizon; the sound of the waves as they washed over the sand and trickled back over the rocks and stones. I was always starving the minute we got there and devoured whatever my mom had packed for lunch well before noon.

Mom and her friend would sit in beach chairs talking and reading, taking walks and putting their feet in the water. And us kids would swim, body surf, boogie board, and play Wiffle ball or Frisbee on the sand. Eventually, after hours on the beach, we'd go get ice cream, the bigger the cone the better. Then we'd ride home with the windows down, in a sugar coma.

It was heaven.

As a kid, you don't realize all the work that goes into making a day like that: the planning and coordination, the preparing and packing of food, towels, sunscreen, beach blankets, chairs, umbrellas. The driving in stop-and-go traffic and parking in overcrowded lots that charge top dollar. My mom never seemed stressed about it, or perhaps I just wasn't paying much attention to her experience. For a kid, it's get in the car and go, return home sun-kissed and with a belly full of ice cream.

As my daughters do now, my brother and I also did some camps each summer: tennis camp and a computer science camp through our school where we learned about floppy disks and Carmen Sandiego. We even attended a week-long creative writing camp, where we worked out a summer-full of sibling bickering in a series of stories starring thinly veiled versions of ourselves.

Camps provide some needed structure for the kids and an equally-as-needed break for the parents, but it's not the camps I remember when I think of summer as a kid. It's those beach days. It's riding my bike by myself to a friend's house for the day, doing very little, and riding home again in the late-afternoon sun. It's swimming with my brother in our family's above ground pool and then “laying out” on our towels on the hot driveway to warm up, talking about what we wanted to do the next day or someday in the distant future when we were grown-ups.

Each summer for the past several years, my daughters and I have made a “Summer Fun list” laying out the things they want to do in their 10 or so weeks off. While some of the items are more ambitious, like “go to the Aquarium” or “visit the Museum of Science,” the ones that seem to make the list every year are the simplest: “go to the beach,” “see friends,” “eat outside,” “swim in a pool,” “go blueberry picking.”

I know in a few years my daughters will be busy with summer jobs and probably want to spend most, if not all, of their free time with their friends. So, I'm grateful for this time I have with them – even if we're sitting in stopped traffic on the highway with no beach in sight as they repeatedly ask me if we're there yet.

In my heart of hearts, I know the truth: we're there now.

Photo courtesy of Laura Souza.


I am no physicist, but I do know that objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.  I hope this goes for my long awaited vacation to New Zealand as well.  The Love Slave, our children and I are departing two weeks from tomorrow.  So how come the vacation still seems so far away?

Well, for one thing it's a THREE WEEK VACATION.  I feel practically European about it.  We've talked about this vacation since the first Lord of the Rings movie came out in 2001.  Our then 11 and 13 year old children were entranced.  The Love Slave and I had never been there.  We told the kids that if we could afford it after college was paid for, we would go.  And now, 12 years later, we're going.

And preparing for going is a herculean task, kind of like Sam carrying Frodo up that mountain.   I'll be whining, I mean blogging, about getting ready over the next two weeks.

What do you do to ensure you can relax on vacation?


What we're reading this week:

Are you a media mesher or a media stacker?  Does anybody do one thing at a time any more?

10 Ways to Use Big Data to Get to Know Your Customers Better via @WiredInsights

Encouraging new #workforce data about surging local #govt hiring in US: Great article by @mrmmpeters & @sbanchero!

Weak Employee Engagement Affects Six Out of Ten Large Firms via @TalentMgtMag

The Lost Art of Walking Around via @hrbartender

At Work, On Vacation via @HRExecMag

Retaining the Hourly Employee via @blogging4jobs

RT @MBTwebsite: Increase Profit Margins With Precise Labor Costing Technology

RT @williamtincup: RT Getting reacquainted with the nightmare that is commuting @SteveBoese

Finding Home Among Change via @Ray_anne @blogging4jobs

Flexing the workforce in 2013 via @TheManufacturer

Working from Home: A Work in Progress via @HarvardBiz

The Elements of (Employee) Attraction via @HRExecMag

How Do You Measure Love (Or Employee Engagement)? via @Forbes

Kronites are talking about:

New Time Well Spent #Cartoon: #bigdata

Brooksby Village, Employee Engagement and National Dance Day via @WF_Institute

Don't be afraid of the #cloud via @SmarterCafe

New car or #HCM: The salespeople matter via @SmarterCafe

Is Public Sector Spending On HR Too High? Government Insist Centralisation Is The Way Forward. via @simonmacpherson

A Funny thing happened on the way to the (LA) Forum via @SmarterCafe

Save $200 on your KronosWorks registration #KW2013

Pay or Play? Determining Your Company's Best Solution to the #AffordableCareAct #ACA

Kronos customers - Go to the portal & register your fav products, you'll have a chance to win an AMEX gift card!

RT @MBTwebsite: Increase Profit Margins With Precise Labor Costing Technology by @GreggLean!



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