Shared Meals Matter Blog

Sep 30th

Work Burnout: Why it’s GOOD News (really) and What You Can Do to Reduce It!

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Did you know that according to a 2013 Gallup report only 30 percent of American workers, and 13 percent of employees worldwide, feel engaged at work?  These are pretty small numbers, don’t you think?

Burnout is on the rise.  According to the article Why You Hate Work (NY Times), this burnout is happening because of the demand on our time, and the ever-presence of technology giving us 24/7 access to email (how many people are still on work email at home well until bedtime?)

What the research shows is that when employees are not having their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs met, they are getting burnt out.  Makes sense, right?

womanoverworked

The way people feel on the job directly impacts the company’s bottom line (profits).  Having a sea of drained, under-performing employees is causing waves.

 

Research shows employers are taking notice and are more open to making changes.

 

That’s why I say this burnout problem is good news!

It’s been more common in the past decade that workplaces offer concierge-like benefits to make the workplace more inviting (free, healthy food, game rooms, afternoon cookies and coffee, etc.) While it’s great to see employers making efforts to create a better workplace environment, these amenities are steps towards integrating our work / personal / leisure lives but don’t directly address the problem or offer actual work-life balance.

One idea in the article that stuck out to me was the idea of providing nap rooms. To me, if employers are feeling that nap rooms are a solution to helping us feeling more engaged in the workplace, we are in serious trouble!

Further, this is not what I want to see in my co-workers every day:

nap

Here’s what we might want to say to our employer:

“Dear Employer:

We want workplace flexibility.

We want to be able to create some boundaries so we can go home at reasonable times, enjoy time with our friends and family without work distractions, share a meal, do a variety of other fun activities, and then get rest before the next work day.

We’re ready to talk with you about ways you can help us feel less burned out on the job so we can be happy, healthy, perform at our best and together help the company make lots of money.”

Sincerely,

Your Employees

P.S. Hold the Nap Room!”

Lots of companies have written policies which seem to support workplace flexibility (such as working from home occasionally, or working an alternate shift to accommodate a child care schedule) but often there’s not support to effect this flexibility.

Working beyond 40 hours a week and with limited opportunity to take breaks is also reported as wreaking havoc on the well-being of workers. (I know I feel spent when this has happened to me. Don’t you?) Pushing out work emails no matter when or where you are doesn’t help us be healthy employees.

womanworkingfrom home

Work hours bleeding into our mornings before we start work (perhaps interrupting a shared-meal with our kids before they start their day), through lunchtime (another time to bond with a co-worker over a healthy lunch) and in the evenings and weekends prevent us from having a meaningful break (not to mention miss having dinner with our families or friends).

The amount of time (the opportunity to be present) and the quality of that time at home (not being distracted by work/technology) offers us the chance to reclaim ourselves, to feel refreshed, renewed, relaxed.  When people don’t have the chance to have this time (truly) away from the office activities it creates resentment, too.

As you know, I’m a strong advocate of the need to preserve interpersonal connection and reclaiming life balance through sharing meals with others — with the goal of 1 shared-meal a day.

 

To achieve this, we need to address obstacles, including work ones, that are keeping us from being able to share meals.

Some might think it’s radical to suggest that we take the lead and talk with our employers about our need to create some boundaries at work. I suggest to you that employers are wanting to hear from us! Research is showing them that it makes good business sense (dollars and cents) to listen and to work with us towards a win-win solution.

If your work hours and schedule have prevented you from taking care of your basic needs, consider meeting with your manager about your need to reduce burnout and better balance your work and home life.

Here are a few actions you might want to take before you meet, and a few things to consider:

1. Check to see if your company has a written policy regarding work hours. Know going into the meeting what the policies are and ask for a work schedule that might be better for your lifestyle and well-being.

2. Ask your supervisor to support you in creating a boundary for the end of the workday, and then stick to it.  Also, don’t put undue pressure on yourself — promise yourself you’ll resist the temptation to ‘finish just one more thing’ before you leave. Acknowledge there may be necessary exceptions, but have a plan.

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3. Program a reminder to sound fifteen minutes before you plan to leave and begin wrapping up on time. To keep yourself committed, ask those waiting for you at home to start preparing dinner, or establish a time and place for standing restaurant reservations with a friend.

4. Prepare (and then bring to the meeting with your supervisor) a wish list on a piece of paper that you’ll refer to during your meeting. Start with the minimum requirements in your pursuit of work-life balance–for example, to arrive to work at 8:30am instead of 8:00am so you can enjoy a shared breakfast with your toddler, or to have the freedom to defer work email responses received after 7pm until the next work day, or to enjoy paid time off without any work interruptions.

5. Include any considerations that will help you to stay committed to your employer, such as earning a one-month paid sabbatical after 10 years of service. Remember, this is a wish list…be creative!

6. Research companies who have active policies that support the work-life balance of their employees. A good employer will have a vested interest in the well-being of their employees and will stay progressive in their policies so they don’t lose you to a competitor.

friendsharingmeal

Important Note!

Keep in mind that your wishes must be reasonable. Your employer cannot consider requests which interfere with business operations or your ability to do your job with the excellence for which you are paid. I’m not suggesting you approach your supervisor like a bull in a china shop but rather identify what flexible work arrangements might be available to you and have a respectful conversation with your supervisor to gain his/her support. Some workplaces are more open to a dialogue than others, so make your suggestions accordingly.

If all of this sounds too scary (and with some employers, it might be) at a minimum, research the work-life balance and flexibility options your company offers and identify the ones of personal value.  Keep those in mind for the next opportunity to talk with your supervisor, and don’t give up!

* * *

If you’d like to learn more about how to create a shared-meal plan for your family or friends, please visit my site for resources, including my book, The Shared-Meal Revolution.

Please write me at carol@shared-meals.com if you have any questions related to work-life balance suggestions, or any questions about shared meals in general!  I’d love to hear from you and am always happy to help.

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Sep 23rd

Happiness? It’s (way) easier than you think…

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Happiness. Most of us say that’s what we’re after.  And we slave away doing (a million things a day) and moving (through our busy schedules), seeking to fill ourselves up on that elusive feeling of happiness.

But do we spend a lot of time planning how to get more happy?

An interesting article at Time.com offers info that can make you think twice about making a plan for more happiness: “Can You Really Predict What Will Make You Happy” (Eric Barker).

Here are the top five factors that a 2000+ person survey said might predict gaining more happiness:

  1. Better health
  2. More time with friends
  3. More time with family
  4. More traveling
  5. Earning double what I do now

 

Does this list surprise you?  I was surprised (but glad) to see that 5. “earning double” followed better health and socializing with friends and family.  It seems that we spend a lot of time trying to “earn double” but when it comes right down to it, earning more money doesn’t inherently make us happier (as this survey, and other research shows).

A quote by Daniel Gilbert (Harvard researcher of Happiness) offers this insight:

“We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends, and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends.”

happypeople

What are we doing to plan for more happy time? 

[I’ve got a great idea. And it’s already an activity we need to do every day just to keep living.]

Eat. With someone else.

And when you make a shared-meal plan, you are literally taking care, each and every day, to incorporate several of the top factors to help you feel happier.

  • You can create better health (#1 on the list above) by sharing nutritious meals (studies show that kids eat better when they’re eating with their family members).
  • You can plan more time with friends and family (#s 2 & 3 above) through a daily shared-meal ritual (according to the time article “having a better social life can be worth as much as an additional $131,232 a year”).

Bonnie

If you’re curious how to create a shared-meal plan, read my book The Shared-Meal Revolution and join me in The Shared-Meal Revolution!  If you have any questions, or want to share how shared meals make you happy, please write me at carol@shared-meals.com — I’d love to hear from you…

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Sep 16th

What Every Tech Executive Parent Knows – Set Limits (p.s. even Steve Jobs’ kids were low-tech!)

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According to New York Times writer Nick Bilton, who  interviewed several well-known tech executives about their families’ tech habits, many tech execs put specific  limits on their kids’ screen time Bilton spoke with with prominent tech leaders including Steve Jobs (of Apple notoriety), Evan Williams (a founder of Twitter and Blogger) and Chris Anderson (formerly with Wired and now running 3D Robotics). As Bilton’s New York Times article explains, these tech execs knew that prolonged screen time could have many adverse effects including becoming addicted to these devices.

techdevices

Some of the boundaries that these wise executives cited were setting allowances — 30 minutes a day– or no devices at all during the week (except for homework), delaying their kids having their own smartphones until the age of 14 (according to this article, non-tech parents may give in to smartphones as early as 8 years old).  One executive made a distinction on approving the use of devices for “creating” vs. “consuming” (I agree with this!)

One common strategy all tech exec parents agreed upon was banning screens from the bedroom.

Are you considering setting limits for your kids devices? Do you wonder how your kids will use this extra time?

homemusic

If so, I have a few suggestions:

  • Keep books (soft/hardcover) in the house and consider book clubs and related activities
  • Start a home-based craft project such as letting your kids decorate your dining space (framing school or camp art projects or drawings, or using their favorite colors)
  • Start field day games in your yard or neighborhood
  • Use every day household items to explore music activities
  • Get your kids involved in your family’s shared-meal plan (invite them to plan menus, help pick out groceries, help with age-appropriate meal prep in the kitchen or make a music CD for background music during your meals together; and of course, keep your shared-meal time “tech free”!)

Do you think these tech gurus would ban tech devices from their dining tables, too?

As someone who is an advocate for a 1x daily shared meal, I was pleased to hear Steve Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson report this:

 “Every evening Steve made a point of having dinner at the big long table in their kitchen, discussing books and history and a variety of things,” he said. “No one ever pulled out an iPad or computer.”

techfree1

Activities related to a daily shared-meal plan can help your kids develop some wonderful social and creative skills, to name just a couple of benefits. Would you like help creating a shared-meal plan that suits your family? If so,  click here to read about my book, and join The Shared-Meal Revolution!

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Sep 9th

Shared-meal rituals–not just for families–helping to keep couples out of divorce court

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Ever look up at the end of a long work week and realize you feel detached from your spouse or partner?

Post work-week blur do you wonder, “How’s he or she doing? What was his or her week like?”

Womanlaptop

You sigh, admitting to yourself that you have absolutely no idea.

Our workplace tasks seem to grow like weeds that keep popping up.
To be in command of the details of our work lives, we extend our workdays into our home…so we can try to keep the weeds from taking over.
We engage in rituals at home like obsessively checking emails on our smartphones, checking/leaving voice messages, signing into our laptops to finish Excel spreadsheets, doing Skype work conferences.
Meanwhile our spouse or partner is at home in another room doing the same thing.
Darn. Those pesky weeds are winning.
We’re missing connection with the people who matter most.

How can we tend to the garden of our relationships?

A recent Time.com article about the science of what makes marriages work reports that what keeps marriages going strong is…

...really knowing each other,
…being in contact with the details and facts of each other’s lives,
…and keeping updated on changes taking place in our spouse or partner’s lives, including their feelings.

Without this type of time together, experiencing each other, communicating, being….
We’ll lose touch.
We’ll become strangers.
We’ll grow apart.

To keep a marriage or relationship strong, we have to take the time to actively care for each other. 

To nourish the bond between us.

We need to find a way to connect.

Daily.

gardenheart

My advice?

Create (or renew) a shared-meal ritual. Plan to share 1 meal a day with the people you love.

Turn off the devices and turn on your attention–giving and getting–the details about each other.

Give each other nourishment and sunshine your relationship needs via your meals together.

Celebrate your next anniversary with something you’ve created from your very own garden...with what else? A beautiful display of Forget-Me-Nots…

forgetmenotflowers

If you’d like to keep your marriage (and all your relationships) strong, share a meal daily!  Click here to learn about my  book The Shared-Meal Revolution.

SIGN UP for my blog  (see the orange Subscribe to “Shared Meals Matter” button in the upper right corner) to get helpful information about sharing meals delivered free to your in-box once a week.

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Sep 4th

Home-cooked meals — a modern day burden? I object! {Please read my response!}

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There’s an article on Slate.com that argues we should stop “idealizing” home-cooked family dinners. This article poked fun at this tradition as being romanticized ‘from ’50s era sitcoms’ and argued that home-cooked family dinners have no place in our modern lifestyles.  The author (Amanda Marcotte) cites that “time pressures, tradeoffs to save money, and the burden of pleasing others” leaves mothers feeling stressed, and guilty, and that they can’t achieve the ideal of being a good mother.  The article also offered that problems like whiny, picky eaters around our tables takes all the fun, joy, and satisfaction out of the experience.

Well, that’s certainly a sour mouthful, isn’t it?

Here’s how I feel —

While I recognize that it is true we all have time pressures, and a cultural influence to do everything efficiently (just because technology tells us we can), and some of us have ‘selective’ tastes as to what we’ll eat, this ritual is no longer just about mothers having their plates overflowing with all the responsibilities of shopping, cooking, presenting, serving, and cleaning up after the meal.  That time is long gone!

I wrote my book, “The Shared-Meal Revolution“, to offer compelling information as to exactly why we should help people preserve this ritual.  We must have connection with another human being every day. The kind of connection that makes us feel alive. And, there are many areas of development such as physical, social, psychological, creative, academic, cultural/ethnic, and spiritual where we can benefit from the simple act of sharing a meal together.

I want to share with everyone what I learned through my research about sharing meals.  I have answers for these common obstacles.

This ritual is not just about mothers and families (although it’s especially important for children to have routines and structure in their lives, such as a shared-meal ritual).  Sharing a meal once a day is something valuable for each and every one of us, no matter if we are single, married, or have a family. What better activity is there to help us cope with our hyper-scheduled, uber-networked lifestyles?

Frontcover

Having a daily shared-meal experience is more relevant than ever.

So how do we help each other get a meal on the table once a day?

Give yourself permission to ask for help.

Develop a collaborative shared-meal plan.

 

Here’s how we start:

  • Gather family members, friends, people you want to share meals with.
  • Discuss your desire to create a shared-meal plan together.
  • Everyone chooses an aspect of the meal they would like to handle (plan the menu, shop for groceries, set/decorate the dining space, prepare food, cook, clean-up, etc.)
  • With everyone doing a little to pitch-in, it removes the burden from one person – it’s an equal opportunity activity!
  • Everyone’s involvement builds commitment to the experience.
  • Relax, smile, enjoy…and connect.
  • Repeat daily! (breakfast, lunch, dinner…whatever works for you!)

It’s OK to ask for help.

In fact, it’s healthy to do so.

***If you believe in the power of a daily shared-meal with people you love, join The Shared-Meal Revolution! Please visit my website  and check out my book for valuable information and resources to help you create your very own shared-meal plan. *** 

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