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Do you know the difference between wellness and wellbeing?

Wellness refers to physical health. When your employer talks about wellness, they want you to quit smoking and lose weight to bring down health insurance costs. You know what brings down health insurance costs? Better regulation of health insurance companies and medical providers. But, no, you have to lose five pounds and give up donuts. That’s wellness.

Wellbeing is more holistic and is used to talk about life experiences and feelings. Employers bucket wellbeing into three different categories: physical, emotional, and financial. Your company still wants to lower costs, but there’s a move to cost-per-employee as well as revenue-per-employee to engagement scores.

If you’re happy in those three buckets — and making “good choices” as defined by industry experts who understand healthy outcomes — you’ll make your company more money. If you’re not satisfied with life, your employer won’t be as profitable.

So, how do companies measure things like happiness and engagement?

Well, some employers partner with solution providers to send out surveys and then respond to the data. It’s programmatic and sometimes assumes the outcomes, or, at the very least, has a list of solutions for different scenarios.

Other employers will hire technology companies and look at your calendar — yes, your daily schedule — and try to understand what you’re doing with your day. Then they’ll swoop in with personalized recommendations on meeting with your manager more, finding a mentor, asking for feedback from your colleagues, getting more exercise, doing more meditation, taking a digital detox, or even recommendations for PTO.

And still other employers will use wearables like your badge to see if you’re stationary or getting up and moving around during the day. Google pioneered this with their cafeterias. They would monitor who was eating where, and they’d open and close lunch stations to encourage connectivity between different groups of workers. Wearables help employers monitor physical activity in a bunch of new ways. Now, your company wants you to get up and move around because sitting is the new smoking.

So, I’m here to postulate a new theory about wellness and wellbeing. The difference between the two is how the two are measured. Wellness is self-reported, and wellbeing is surveilled and diagnosed.

Employers are over employee engagement surveys and wellness programs because those are reactionary and, honestly, a lagging indicator of an organization’s wellbeing. They want to surveil you, diagnose you, and treat you before you even know what’s wrong. We live in a world of cameras, sensors, and data tracking tools. Pull everything together, and you get a predictive picture of what’s going right — and what could go wrong — with the biggest line-item expense in your budget.

Welcome to the era of employee wellbeing. Your company loves you and cares about you. And they’re watching your every move to prove it.

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A recent study reports that no alcohol is good for your health, which is terrible news for everybody who has a real job and wants to decompress.

Unfortunately, the news is true. Forget the French, forget your wine club, forget the beverage industry’s claims that beer is good after running. Not even a moderate amount of alcohol is worth the risk to your body. It turns out that sitting isn’t the new smoking. Drinking is the new smoking.

As someone trying to retire from alcohol, I am acutely aware of the pros and cons of drinking. Love champagne, hate a champagne headache. Love the margarita, hate the salt-bloat. Love the feeling of forgetting my problems, hate when I wake up from alcohol-induced anxiety at 3 o’clock in the morning and remember my obstacles are still there.

Adulthood is a tricky thing. Once you know that something has no upside, it’s hard to see anything but the downside.

NO WAIT THAT’S A LIE.

There are so many things we do that are bad for us — or just don’t work — and yet we do them, anyway. Think about your job.

Interviews don’t correlate to performance, but we compel candidates to dress up in their fanciest business attire and roll into our offices and ask a bunch of dumb questions like we’re oracles and can predict the truth.

Performance reviews are garbage and don’t get to the heart of achievements, outcomes or obstacles; however, don’t tell that to the boss who thinks he’s doing you a favor by sitting down with you regularly and giving you feedback.

Wellness plans don’t deliver. They try to reward us for being healthy — and some companies offer to cook us healthy meals in the cafeteria — while still forcing us to commute to work, shoving us into open-office work environments, and making us sit all day in long meetings that don’t need to happen.

It’s not hard to see why so many people ignore science and drink socially or excessively. Spirits are worn away by a society that doesn’t bend or flex to commonsense or science. And it’s hard to fight back against nameless and faceless people who run corporations that make our lives harder. Much easier alter reality for a few moments than to change our careers and our lives permanently.

But I’m done with short-term fixes that never entirely fix things.

Now that I know that alcohol is mostly bad for society, I’m trying to make better choices. It’s not easy, but I’d rather be brutally honest than pretend that “moderation” is okay. While I’m not going to wave the temperance flag and badger other people about their choices, I’m not going to let the beverage industries profit and win because I’ve lied to myself about the benefits of drinking. The same people who say that it’s never been proven that drinking is bad for pregnant mothers are the ones who tell me that moderation is okay.

Do I look stupid here?

So, these are the things I won’t lie to myself about: Smoking. Drinking. Eating meat. Pretending that HR/corporate methods are useful.

What’s on your list?

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How many people enjoy reading self-help and business books? I can’t imagine many.

(I’m burned out, myself.)

A few weeks ago, I finished my book proposal for “Let’s Fix Work,” and it includes an introduction, author bio, an overview of the audience, a marketing plan, competitive analysis of similar books that sold well, book specs, a chapter outline, and a sample chapter.

Honestly, I’m not trying to write a self-help or business book. I’ve had to read about a dozen to understand my competition, and most of them are horrible.

On the business book side, they are mainly dull and dry. Authors want to establish themselves as experts and write in a formal, unapproachable tone. When it comes to life-hack books, I think it seems uncool and shady to follow a formula where the author tells her own pathetic story, swears at her readers to motivate them, and tries to seem edgy while taking their money.

(No thanks. If that’s the game, I want no part of it.)

What do you think of business books and self-help books? What do you like? What bugs you?

My book tries to make the case that work is broken because you’re broken. Do you want to fix your job? Fix yourself and put yourself first. Deprioritize your job title and reconnect with your community. Bet on yourself. Fix your money. Prioritize happiness and contentment. Put your physical and emotional wellbeing first. Blah blah blah.

My book isn’t a self-help book or a traditional business guide. It’s just an attempt to help you reframe your current situation. It’s a list of ideas and suggestions. Take it or leave it.

(I hope you take it. I hope someone takes it. Part of being a big sister is realizing that no one listens to you.)

Now, having done the competitive analysis portion of my book proposal, I know there are things that I won’t do with my book.

First off, I won’t pretend that I’m a therapist. If I watch another Instagram story from a self-help guru who offers clinical advice in a pretty font, I’m seriously going to lose it. Therapeutic advice from a writer who isn’t a therapist is fraudulent.

Second, I won’t commoditize life’s obstacles and offer a neatly packaged solution. There are authors and gurus out there who have trademarked issues like impostor syndrome®™ and social anxiety®™ with the goal of offering five simple steps to fixing your life. I think that’s malpractice. Also, what if you are an impostor? Maybe you should own up to that and start living a more authentic life, yo.

(I’ve got my work cut out for me.)

The good news is that literary agents are interested, and I start traveling to meet them after Labor Day. I’m also traveling for work — attending conferences and meeting with clients — and can begin my marketing plan right now.

The bad news is that this book proposal has ruined my personal reading goals, and I’ve been inspired-to-death. It’s nearly impossible to pick up my Kindle, right now, and get excited about my library. So, if you have any YA book recommendations, I’ll take ’em.

What’s good? What are you reading that you love? I need to get my mind off fixing work for a few weeks while I’m traipsing around on planes trying to lock down an agent and sell this manuscript.

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Back in 2004, nobody knew anything about the social internet.

I started blogging at Blogspot under an assumed name, and it was a grand old time. Then, around 2007, I launched Punk Rock HR. Although I used my real name on the website, times and trends were weird. A catchy alias was still very important to establish a character and brand.

But I wasn’t all that punk rock. The title of my blog was just an insult — I wore Doc Martens to work in 1995, and my boss said something like, “Who do you think you are? Punk Rock HR?”

And I was like, “You look warm. Why don’t you take off one of those eleven fancy scarves tied around your neck before you pass out from a hot flash?”

HR bitches always be hatin’!

Thanks to horizontal envy and female-on-female competition, an identity was born. However, it wasn’t an identity that could sustain itself throughout my 30s. So, I started blogging under The Cynical Girl because that’s what my high school boyfriend called me.

Finally, in 2012, I was like — enough of this nonsense. My friend Josh called me Laurie Fucking Ruettimann while making fun of my diva-like qualities, and I decided to drop the middle initial and just start writing under my real name.

I’m here to tell you that it was the best thing I’ve ever done for my professional career.

Catchy names and identities are cute, and they are the hallmark of early writers and content creators who are feeling themselves out. What’s your tone? Who’s your audience? Why do you write? You can do that under fake identities and funny personal brands.

But you can write about HR, recruiting, talent, benefits, relationships, communication, leadership, AI, technology, blockchain, RPO, organizational development, organizational effectiveness, and executive compensation under your own name. In fact, you should.

While you’re being insecure and assuming an identity, people who are less interesting and less funny than you are mopping up the market with articles about the future of work. And while you think you’re being catchy and creative with your hokey identity, you’re not.

You’re being ignored by people who should know your name.

So, it’s fine to be a newbie and create memes and blogs and movements under an assumed or secondary identity and with 72 other social media accounts. But don’t do it for long. The world is waiting to be entertained and educated in your authentic, honest voice.

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The world is small and good. Social media and the internet is pretty great.

Years ago, my husband worked for Monsanto/Searle/Pharmacia. He made drugs. The entity was acquired by Pfizer, so we moved to Kalamazoo for his career. I also worked for Pfizer and had an office in Building 88 in Kalamazoo, which was a modernist gem. Didn’t spend enough time there because I traveled too much.

The building was torn down a few years ago, and I wrote about it.

Just yesterday, someone sent me this note:

What a joy to have found you. I was recently in Kalamazoo, MI driving along Portage Road. I looked out the window and said: “Building 88 is gone!.”

Today on the Internet I found your article about said building. My dad spent his entire working life employed by The Upjohn Company. He worked in the basement of Building 41 and was Vice President of Personnel. He started after graduate school, went into the Army during World War II, and then came back to Upjohn until his retirement in the 1980’s.

I was in Building 88 a few times, including lunch. It was ahead of its time and a tribute to the era of 1950 and 1960’s America. It would not appeal to all but it was done very well by the architects and builders.

Those were the days. Upjohn had its own fleet of buses for employee transportation to and from work.
They had barbershops, subsidized cafeterias, on-site pharmacy (you could buy a 16 oz bottle of vanilla extract for cooking purposes), an outdoor picnic area and so on. There was the veterinary unit, the agricultural unit, the expansion into Puerto Rico. The fleet of corporate aircraft. The Unipet dog treats in the ceramic bowl with bell ringing lid.

Many small and medium-sized cities are never the same after a local iconic company merges or is taken over by entities out of town.

Got any good Dorothy Dalton stories? How about Sue Parish’s pink WWII P 40 Warhawk?

One could not be a Kalamazoo resident and not have in their home a supply of Kaopectate and a supply of Unicap vitamins.

One last unique place and thing related to Upjohn. Brook Lodge

Thanks for listening. Best of luck with your career.

I love how the son of a VP of personnel found my blog and reached out. What a joy.

The internet is pretty great. Don’t let the naysayers tell you otherwise.

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Hey, everybody. Tomorrow is A Tribute to Elle, the day where we’re remembering Elle Seiden and honoring her father, Jason Seiden, who is our HR/recruiting colleague.

For more information on how to participate, check out the website or watch the video.

Raise awareness, raise your voices, and lift Jason and his family up. Let me know if you have any questions.

Love,
Laurie

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Hey, everybody.

Years ago, I did a series of blog posts called “F@%k It Friday.” We’d spend the day on Friday talking about stuff that has nothing to do with work or HR.

So, it’s Friday afternoon. I worked hard, this week. Let’s have some fun and bring F@%k It Friday back. Why not? I’m sick of fixing work, today, and sometimes it’s good to have a little fun.

I wonder — do you prefer lakes or oceans?

Let me know!

Love,
Laurie

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Hello, everybody. I’m headed home from a week in Ireland. I hate it when bloggers like me go on vacation and then use their time away from the computer as an opportunity to lecture you to take your PTO.

“You need space and time to think,” they write. “Turn your brain off. Get away from the computer. Get back to what’s important in life: creativity.”

I don’t know what world these people live in, but most of us don’t have the freedom and luxury to take a break from reality and swap our daily negativity for a more positive inner dialogue.

But chumps like me are right. You gotta take your PTO.

It pains me to admit it, but all that touchy-feely crap about taking your PTO is right. Time away from the grind is good for your mental and physical health. You are killing yourself for your job, and it’s not worth it. Most of you work in bullshit jobs, anyway. Take your PTO.

It’s also true that too much work makes you weird. All that initial energy and passion for your career becomes obsessive and unnatural. It leaves you with a myopic interpretation of purpose and goals. And it makes you annoying as hell. What’s worse than someone who only talks about work? Not much. Take your PTO, get better at your job, and have more interesting life stories. 

Finally, PTO is part of your total compensation package. (Well, if you’re lucky and don’t work in some crappy portfolio/temp/creative job.) When you skip vacation days, you’re leaving money on the table. Companies love unlimited PTO because it turns out that works take less time off when there aren’t clear parameters around the program. Take all your PTO. If you have unlimited PTO, test those boundaries. Don’t let your company profit from your weird, peasant-like commitment to work.

And a quick word for people who don’t have PTO — join a union and fight for your rights as workers. Or get a lawyer. Years ago, Microsoft had to go back and recognize contractors as employees because the lines were blurry. I think the market is ready for another lawsuit. Words like “employee” and “contractor” are 20th-century terms in a 21st-century economic environment.

What’s full-time? What’s part-time? What’s contingent? Freelancers, artists, and entrepreneurs should test this and redefine the corporate and social contracts in America and beyond.

But all of that is for another day. Just do me a favor and take your PTO. It’s good for your brain, your body, and your soul. And you freakin’ earned it.

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Think of somebody who rubs you the wrong way at work. The dude who opens his mouth and annoys you. The woman whose emails make you feel an impending sense of dread.
You are that somebody to someone else at work.

One of my favorite theories of work is that there’s work-math in every office environment that looks like Hammurabi’s Code intersecting with Newton’s third law. For every person who makes your blood boil, you cause the same reaction to one of your colleagues. 

Hate the look of a coworker for no reason? Don’t like the cut of your officemate’s jib? Wonder why the chick down the hall is such a loud talker? That’s because those other people are you, and there’s an individual talking shit about your sloppy work habits on Slack. 

And they’re not wrong.

Introspection + Insight = Change

I’m a big fan of Cy Wakeman, who is a noted workplace tension expert, and she tackles the big stuff. If you have severe conflict issues at work, she’s your thinker and researcher on all things drama.

I know that most of you hate reading books, and some of you are thriving contrarians like me. You wouldn’t listen to good advice, anyway. So, maybe you can do a few experiments at work and see if there’s a way to de-escalate workplace conflict and live a better life without reading a workbook or watching a webinar.

First thing I do when someone bugs me at work? Well, I think back to a time when I behaved poorly and wasn’t proud of it. Last year, I took a consulting job at Zenefits. There was a VP who wasn’t my biggest fan, and she was disinterested in forming a relationship with me.

The culture in Silicon Valley in insane — and warrants another blog post or maybe bonus material on Let’s Fix Work — and she didn’t become VP of anything by suffering fools. She summed me up, didn’t like what she saw for many reasons, and wrote me off. And, at first, it was confusing. Then it was maddening. Then it broke my heart. 

But how many times have I acted that way? How many times have I felt threatened by other women or younger people? When haven’t I been insecure in a corporate job? Isn’t that why I quit corporate America in the first place? 

Horizontal competition between two women isn’t new, and I could see a path forward with this VP because some of my biggest rivals at Pfizer are now my dearest and loveliest friends.

And, looking back, we weren’t even rivals. We were women who were trying to survive. So, whenever that VP was assertive and challenging, I put her behaviors — and mine — into perspective.

We’re all human. Unless you’re the founder or owner, the system is stacked against you at work. Especially as women. Someone has to be the change they want to see in the workplace, and I decided it would be me. 

It’s funny how, six months later, neither one of us is at Zenefits. Maybe she was the change, too.

Don’t Be Somebody’s Asshole

The next time someone bothers you at work, take a second and think about a time you saw that behavior in yourself or another work-related situation. Then, apply the lessons to your life.

Someone bugging you? Tensions running high? Hate the look of your colleague? Be thoughtful, kind, and offer grace. The more you forgive the mundane, the higher the likelihood that someone will forgive you.

Forgiveness is one essential and undervalued way that we fix work.

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Jobs of the near-term future will have three components: dream, create, perform. Each part is interwoven and material to the whole. 

Dreaming is the precursor to doing great things. What differentiates humans from bots and algorithms is our ability to imagine. While robots can be programmed for artistic talent, they can’t aspire beyond their designed consciousness. Not yet, anyway. 

And while machines can create just about anything they’re told to make, they can’t forecast the emotional landscape of the human heart and build on impulse. I’ve been listening to How I Built This, which is a podcast on entrepreneurialism, and it’s fascinating to hear how people create successful companies. Our biases and weaknesses impede societal evolution, but they also cause artists and entrepreneurs to act and solve problems in creative and innovative ways. 

No robot can create Stitch Fix, and no algorithm could create FUBU. 

Finally, all near-term jobs will require some level of performance. It’s not enough to make a burger; it’s how you serve the meal. No longer enough to cut hair, but, instead, you need to impact your customer’s life. As I write this blog post, I know that hitting the publish button is the first step in my audience’s journey. Relationships differentiate me from a content bot on AOL.

So, the three components of future jobs look like this: dream, create, perform. Beyond authenticity, it’s vulnerability. And that’s easier said than done. 

It used to be that only artists thought about the creative process. Now, everybody is an artist, and, ultimately, a student of how their work gets done. If you don’t hone and guard your creative process, you’ll lose out to the commoditized products created by robots. 

Welcome to the future of work, my friends. You can beat the robots, but you must allow yourself to be human and vulnerable. I think it’s worth a try.

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