Spring Cleaning Is Good… and Good For You!
It can be difficult to get enthused about carrying out the day’s chores—taking out the trash, washing the dishes, doing the laundry. But what if these mundane tasks had direct benefits besides clean toilets and dust-free lampshades? Any physical activity, including household cleaning, can reduce an individual’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease—and that’s not the only health perk to be gained from common chores. Here are several other pluses to the spring-cleaning obligation:
- Shedding pounds. Regular housework can be a powerful workout, burning 205 calories per hour on average, and even more if the task is rigorous. Simply going up and down the stairs is an excellent way to burn calories.
- Melting stress. Just 20 minutes of daily activity can cut anxiety and stress by 20 percent. Clean and clutter-free homes are relaxing and can even save time: preventing the frantic search for car keys or important documents, for example.
- Fighting allergies. Frequent dusting and vacuuming, regular cycling of curtains and sheets through the laundry, and refrigerator purges are simple ways to rid the air of dust mites and combat allergy attacks and hay fever. Spring cleaning is a good excuse to deep-clean sinks, furniture and other nooks and crannies that typically go unnoticed.
- Heightening focus. Disorganized desks, scattered clothing and overflowing junk drawers can complicate daily tasks and prevent effective prioritization. A bit of straightening up allows focused concentration on the most important work that needs to be done.
- Venting anger. Rather than unleashing your wrath on other members of your household, pull out the vacuum. Cleaning is a productive (and relationship-saving) outlet for anger and frustration. Don’t hurt the ones you love—knock out some dust bunnies instead.
It’s Credit Education Month!
Understanding your credit score is often a confusing, stressful process, but a clean credit report is worth striving for. BMO Harris Bank offers the following eight tips on how to manage and improve your credit:
- Check your credit report. This should be done at least 60 to 90 days before applying for a loan. If it’s incorrect, be sure to notify a credit agency before you apply.
- Pay bills on time. When a bill is paid late, it can show up on your credit report for up to seven years.
- Manage credit responsibly. While it’s generally considered a plus to have established credit accounts, too many accounts may have a negative effect on your score. Avoid going over the limit. Some companies allow you to do this as a courtesy, but it can reflect negatively on your credit.
- Use credit when needed. If you never use credit of any kind, it doesn’t mean you’ll have a great credit history. Lenders prefer to see some type of payment history. Avoid “shopping for credit.” Each time you apply for a loan or credit card, an inquiry is reflected on your credit report, which may affect your score.
- Use cards lightly. Racking up big balances can hurt your score, whether or not you pay your bills in full each month. You can often increase your score by keeping balances low.
- Limit your credit. Applying for a new account, transferring balances or concentrating all your balances onto a single card may result in a lower credit score.
Back In the Saddle…
Recent figures from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate approximately five million women and 176,000 men are full-time, stay-at-home parents. Thousands of these household CEOs, however, return—or attempt to return—to the workforce each year, a task which is becoming more difficult every day. How can parents who wish to go back to work get their résumés noticed? Kim Isaacs, resume expert from Monster.com, offers some tips for polishing a résumé with limited recent credentials so it shines for potential employers.
Emphasize relevant enterprises. Employers need to know your skills haven’t gotten rusty, so highlight experiences relating to the job—especially community involvement and volunteerism. Other valuable highlights include continuing education, freelancing or consulting, conference attendance, professional development membership and self-employment.
Avoid silly job titles. Labeling yourself a “domestic engineer” might sound professional, but employers are more concerned with your relevant skills. Unless you’re looking for work in teaching, daycare or another field for which homemaking and parenting are valuable credentials, it’s best to keep those off the résumé in favor of responsibilities that show you’ve continued to use your skills while away from the job scene.
Optimize your résumé. Many parents returning to work learn too late that the chronological résumé tends to eliminate them from candidacy. Functional résumés, though not the favored format of employers, highlight your experience in a skills-based layout without drawing attention to long absences from the workforce. The combination or hybrid résumé is the best way to avoid the functional résumé’s habit of raising suspicion about your work history while playing up your strengths through strategic skills-based groupings.
Tell the truth. Being a stay-at-home parent or homemaker is nothing to be ashamed of. Be honest in résumés, cover letters and interviews, but let employers know you haven’t let your skills languish. Make it clear you are enthusiastic about returning to work and have remained actively engaged in relevant fields, even if you haven’t been receiving a paycheck.
Are Your Meetings a Waste of Time?
Survey after survey reveals that unnecessary meetings are among the biggest waste of work hours. In fact, one poll found that 45 percent of senior executives said their firms would be more productive if they banned all meetings at least one day a week!
One problem—beyond the obvious, such as lacking a clear agenda—is the underlying current of competition that each person brings to the table. Signs of trouble include one or two people dominating the floor, individuals touting their achievements, and people failing to contribute their ideas because they fear being criticized.
How can you turn competition into cooperation—and wasted meetings into fruitful gatherings? Berny Dohrmann, chairman and founder of CEO Space International, offers these suggestions:
- Begin instituting culture change by rewarding cooperative behavior. When someone makes a suggestion that can help another individual or department, publicly acknowledge and praise that teamwork. Encourage inter-departmental interest and even personal bonds by allowing employees from one area to shadow employees from another. Look for employees who tend to be naturally cooperative and enlist them as mentors.
- Identify and curb competitive behavior. Avoid using public criticism, scorn or ridicule. Instead, set egalitarian standards, such as time limits for speaking, and stick to them. When someone strays off topic, discern whether he or she is sharing a potentially valuable idea or seeking a personal competitive advantage before steering him or her back on topic.
- Require everyone to participate in meetings. Circulate the agenda in advance with the stated expectation that each attendee come prepared to address at least one item. Making participation the norm is often as simple as getting everyone into the habit.
Mind the Gaps: Generation & Gender
The job market has been difficult for everyone since the start of the Great Recession. But as Baby Boomers hang onto jobs that Generation Xers and Millennials aspire to fill, these younger generations are experiencing underemployment, poor career progression, and increased competition for higher-paying jobs.
By the end of 2014, Millennials will comprise roughly 36 percent of the U.S. workforce. As each year more women receive higher education while more men leave the workforce, the pay gaps among generations and genders are decreasing. Millennials on the whole are more concerned with issues of equality than their predecessors, and their increasing numbers means they’ll bring their expectations of gender and generation equality with them.
Controlling for all other factors, the difference between the male and female pay scale is closing across the three generations. Millennial men and women with similar characteristics and jobs have just a 1.8-percent pay gap, compared to three percent for Baby Boomers and 3.2 percent for Gen Xers. The difference in annual pay between the generations, however, is substantial: Boomers and Gen X workers average $55,000 in their executive and managerial jobs, while Millennials—who are still working entry-level positions—are averaging just $40,000.
The good news for Millennials is that 18 percent of Boomers are slated to retire in the next five years, allowing others to climb the ladder and make room for the future workers of… Generation Z.
In January, Governor Pat Quinn announced the Illinois film industry generated a record $358 million in spending in 2013, resulting in over 4,200 full-time equivalent jobs. The new record is nearly double the previous record of $184 million in 2012. Numerous film projects contributed to the increase, including movies such as Divergent and Transformers 4; TV series like Chicago Fire; and about 150 commercial productions. The Illinois Film Office, a branch of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, promotes the state as an ideal location for video productions.
Out of the Office
Approximately one third of American adults now work as freelancers, consultants and contractors who spend anywhere from a few hours to their entire workweek away from the office. On average, remote workers log about four extra hours per week than their in-office counterparts. In many cases, working remotely has been shown to boost employee engagement and establish an increased sense of belonging within the company. The perks of working off-site aren’t just for employees; businesses can save time by hiring experts for special projects, while saving money on employee benefit plans. If remote hires continue to increase at the current rate, it will take just six years before they outnumber full-time, on-site professionals.
No More XP!
Beginning April 8th, Microsoft will no longer provide technical assistance for Windows XP. After this date, automatic updates will be cut off and computers running Windows XP will be unable to download Microsoft Security Essentials. Though the operating system may continue to be used, XP computers will be vulnerable to security risks, while new hardware, software, devices and apps are unlikely to be compatible. Microsoft recommends upgrading XP computers to Windows 7 or 8.1, cautioning that some PCs will be unable to download the latest updates and may simply need to be replaced. iBi