As a working parent, a celebration for ‘Working Parents Day’ (I say with sarcastic air quotes) seems like extra work, because I know I’m the one throwing the party or begging my kids to give me a break. Considering so many of us live a working parent’s life every day (more than 60% of U.S. families have working parents or dual earners), I will admit I appreciate the idea that our children should take 24 hours to reflect on all we have sacrificed for them and celebrate it on a day other than the 2nd Sunday in May or the 3rd Sunday in June. (End sarcastic tone… 😊) 

 

When my husband and I started talking about having kids early in our relationship, I knew being a stay-at-home mom was not going to be something that kept me satisfied. Stay-at-home parents are a special kind of person. I absolutely look up to them and admire them, but I knew I didn’t have it in me to be one of them. 

 

Fast forward to our children being born. Heading back to work after 12-weeks of leave was really difficult but it was something I knew I had to do for my own sanity. When we moved from central Illinois to the Minneapolis metro when our youngest was just 6 months old, the cost of living more than doubled and it felt like every kid in my daughter’s preschool class had a mom who stayed home and could volunteer at every teachers request. I struggled with what the expectation was of our community and if we were going to be able to give our children everything they needed while both my husband and I worked all day. 

 

Today, as our girls head back to middle school, I appreciate the fact that I have a success story to share with them, so they know what they are capable of. That you can go from working at a truck-stop diner right out of high school and finally graduating with your bachelor’s when you are 27 years old, to being the Director of Human Resources at a really great company that appreciates the importance of quality time with your family. I get to show them every day what being a successful businesswoman looks like and to the same effect, their father does too, just with his own story to back it up.  

 

In the end, I feel like Working Parent’s Day (minus the sarcastic air quotes this time) is almost more of a day for me to appreciate myself: that I’ve done everything I’ve done to be a positive example for my children. I must preface that by saying stay-at-home parents likely feel the exact same way, and for goodness sakes, they absolutely should feel that way – what they do is a full-time job as well. What it really comes down to is that I’m happy doing what I do every day and I get to share with my girl’s what happiness at work looks like.  

 

If you are like most of us, you will not find happiness and contentment in your first job, or your second job, or your third job, or even your tenth job but you will find it if you keep following your passion and doing what feels good to you. Just keep doing what you believe in, and all that work will pay off in the end. And then, that’s when you get to throw yourself that party or ask for a break.

National Grief Awareness Day is August 30 this year. It began almost a decade ago. The intention of this day (and National Grief Awareness Month throughout all of September) is to raise overall awareness of the many ways those affected by grief cope with loss, provide resources to those going through personal losses, and to remind us all the importance of supporting people we know to be grieving. Like many silent struggles, there are many tools available to the individual experiencing grief but there is often a stigma associated with needing or using them. To try and reduce the stigma around conversations about grief, I’d like to talk to you about my personal experience using one of the tools available to millions of Americans attempting to manage their grief – their EAP (Employee Assistance Program). 

What is Grief? 

According to the Mayo Clinic, grief is a strong, sometimes overwhelming emotion for people, regardless of whether their sadness stems from the loss of a loved one or from a terminal diagnosis they or someone they love have received. The feelings associated with grief can vary greatly from person to person and so can how long it most strongly affects people. People can also use a wide range of tools to cope with grief, both internal and external. If you’re uncertain about whether your grieving process is normal, consult your health care professional. Outside help is sometimes beneficial to people trying to recover and adjust to a death or diagnosis of a terminal illness. 

What is an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)? 

An employee assistance program (EAP) is a work-based intervention program designed to assist employees in resolving personal problems that may be adversely affecting the employee’s performance. EAPs traditionally have assisted workers with issues like alcohol or substance misuse; however, most now cover a broad range of issues such as child or elder care, relationship challenges, financial or legal problems, wellness matters and traumatic events like workplace violence. Programs are delivered at no cost to employees by stand-alone EAP vendors or providers who are part of comprehensive health insurance plans. Services are often delivered via phone, video-based counseling, online chatting, e-mail interactions or face-to-face. 

How do you use an EAP for grief assistance? 

My father died on Halloween of 2021. Dad and I were close and his passing was not peaceful or pleasant. I wouldn’t say I’ve necessarily struggled since losing him, but I can’t pretend I’ve thrived either. Some days I find myself crying in the car for no reason and others I feel like my focus is affected. When I was first reminded that our EAP through FlexTrades had resources for dealing with grief I checked them out online and found them helpful. When another bad day hit me months later, I decided to call and use one of the 3 annual sessions with a trained and licensed councilor which my EAP provides. I was connected and prescreened to make sure I was not in need of emergency assistance then we simply had a conversation. We talked about the things I’ve been feeling and the things many others typically feel in my situation. Then we discussed avenues and alternatives to coping. Finally, we talked about professional service providers in my area and the counselor even was able to provide a list of those I could call in my area that matched my requirements and were covered under my insurance plan. It was easy, non-judgmental, helpful, and surprisingly cathartic.  

Ways to cope 

What I learned from that counseling call was that my, and everyone else’s, experience with grief is unique. There is no right or wrong way to act or feel nor is there a “proper” amount of time for those feelings to last. But there are simple ways you can cope with grief. 

  • Give yourself permission to take as much time as you need to help you move forward through processing your loss. 
  • Surround yourself with caring, supportive people. 
  • Find safe ways and places to express your feelings without hurting yourself or others. 
  • Try to maintain a healthy lifestyle. 
  • Maintain as much of your “normal” routine and schedule as possible. 

Empathetic grief is normal 

Grieving isn’t just for those experiencing loss but for those who care about those who’ve lost. If you are a friend of someone currently experiencing grief don’t be frustrated if you’re struggling to support them. It can be difficult but try to remember these 5 things as a guide. 

  • Be a supportive, caring listener. 
  • Be a “safe friend” accepting your friend’s feelings, even those that are more negative. 
  • Continue to reach out a month or more after the funeral. 
  • Help your friend slow down their decision-making process when making changes following loss. 
  • Let your friend know that it’s ok to not be “normal” yet at work and socializing, regardless of time-frame. 

Your eyes: 2 things you are probably taking for granted, simply assuming they will always be happy and healthy without having to put much effort into maintaining their health. In reality, taking care of your eyes so you are able to see those beautiful great grandbabies of yours when you are in your 80’s does take a little work, but I promise it is worth the effort!

Below are just a few reasons why you should take advantage of that vision insurance you have been paying for and not utilizing:

  1. Suffering from headaches? Ever thought it might be related to eye strain? It’s certainly worth seeing someone so they can help pinpoint the problem (or eliminate that concern).

  2. Grades suffering at school? According to Optometry Times, ‘one out of every four children have vision problems.’ If you are like me, your kids complained about not seeing the white board for months before you took their concerns seriously and realized maybe they weren’t just begging for attention. Make sure your child sees an eye doctor annually so learning or reading difficulties related to eyesight can be recognized/diagnosed early.

  3. Things looking fuzzy? Your eyes are constantly changing and those glasses you have been wearing since high school (20 years ago) may be back in style, but those lenses are in desperate need of an update! Get your eyes checked so you can determine if an update is needed (they’ll probably even set you up with some new lenses to pop into those funky old frames if you are not willing to let go quite yet).horn rim eyeglasses sittin on top of an exam chart forground sharp and background soft

  4. Stop it early! Having an annual eye exam is a great opportunity to have a professional look at the overall health of your eyes, even when you are not showing any symptoms or concern. Optometrists can detect eye diseases early in hopes of preventing serious damage.

  5. Concerns about other common health issues? Having an optometrist peek at your peepers allows them the chance to check for the onset of many other diseases or diagnosis, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Who knew?

If you are a FlexTrades employee, you have access to affordable vision insurance! Be sure to take advantage of your eye exams annually and get those green/brown/blue/hazel beauties the attention they so desperately deserve.

Did you know that FlexTrades has an entire behind the scenes safety team!? It’s called “Safety First”. FlexTrades’ #1 priority is to keep our people safe on and off the job!

“Safety matters because you matter” – Brenda Lovitz, FlexTrades’ Safety Manager.

We have been bringing awareness to the importance of staying hydrated. All across the United States the temperatures have been HOT this summer.

Here are some tips on how to stay hydrated:

  • Drink water throughout the day… attempt 8-10 ounces every 1-2 hours. Drinking water at shorter intervals is more effective than drinking large amounts infrequently.
  • If you are working in the heat… you will require more water consumption.
  • Try to avoid… energy drinks, surplus of caffeine, or any alcohol. If you do choose to consume any of these, you will require more water consumption to stay hydrated.
  • Eat regular meals through the day… this will help you retain the salt that you lose when sweating and moving around.
  • Carry a water bottle with you… having this with you will make it easier to drink water.

Infographic about how much water you should drink

Safety First is what FlexTrades Plans, Practices and Prioritizes.

 

June is National PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) Awareness Month, but it started as just one day. In 2010, the US Senate declared June 27 to be National PTSD Awareness Day. At that time, many support groups and organizations already recognized the necessity for a larger effort to aid people in seeking help. The day became a full month in 2014, via designation by the National Center for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. The goal of this effort is to raise overall awareness of PTSD, reduce the stigma around treatment, provide support for survivors, and encourage more people to pursue treatment. 

What is PTSD?

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that some people develop after seeing or living through an event that caused or threatened serious harm or death. Results of this disorder can result in a wide range of symptoms and recovery times can vary greatly among those affected. Some people may suffer for weeks while others may take years to effectively recover. Common knowledge of this disorder may be relatively recent, but PTSD is nothing new. As a matter of fact, the first mention of it dates to 50 B.C.! PTSD Awareness Month TImeline

Why raise awareness?

Approximately 8 million people are currently living with PTSD, in the United States alone. Most people suffering don’t get the help they need even though treatments are available and effective. Efforts to raise awareness don’t just result in more people getting the help they need either. Effective treatment leads to lives saved, in some cases, and better quality of life for all affected. 

How can you help?

The first way to help is to know the signs that can indicate PTSD and what to do when you see them. Beyond that, proactively spreading the word is the best way to build awareness. Talking about a thing, before it’s a problem, makes people more able to recognize symptoms when they experience them AND reduces the stigma around pursuing treatment. The National Center for PTSD created a daily activity calendar for the month that makes such advocacy easy for all! 

Don’t forget self-awareness!

Awareness isn’t just for others. Whether you are a military veteran or a life-long civilian, it’s possible that a previous traumatic event could be the cause of current mental health issues. Only a trained provider can diagnose and treat PTSD but you can take an easy, 5 question self-assessment to help you decide if it’s something you should be talking about with your doctor or mental health provider. Remember, knowledge is power and answers to your questions are out there. You have the power to help people with PTSD, even if one of those people is yourself! 

Work/Life balance matters to people, so much in fact, we even did a webinar about it. But many of us must travel frequently as part of our employment. Some, like all our skilled trades technicians here at PMG, even travel for extended periods of time. Why does anyone travel for work in the first place? How then does someone balance work with life when at least part of that life is happening a significant distance away? It’s true that travel can complicate the equation, especially for those with large families or young children. But there is still a balance to be found for us all. 

The following tips and tricks come from the best practices I’ve found in my own travel experiences and in interviews I’ve conducted with some of our most seasoned traveling professionals. I hope that all of you can find something that helps to dial in your own work life balance a little better. But remember, it’s essential to take care of you and your health first! Whether at work or in life, it’s hard to keep the cups of others filled if yours is always empty. 

Pre-Project 

Communicate – Be clear with your company about the tasks, goals, and challenges associated with your travel. Be clear with your family about where you’re going, what you’re doing, and when you expect to be back. Be proactive in communicating any changes with the above to any affected parties too. For example, if your return flight gets delayed let your spouse know you won’t be home for after-school pickup ASAP. 

Calendar – Schedule everything! When is your cousin getting married? If you need time off to get back for the ceremony, put in your request before your assignment starts. Do your kids have a choir concert at school? Just because you can’t make it live doesn’t mean that you can’t remember to ask about how it went.  

Coverage – Who gets called if a pipe bursts? Who is feeding your iguanas while you’re away? How about watering your garden? Just because you’re working on the road doesn’t mean time stops at home. Delegate responsibilities to family members and line up coverage for help (and backups) before you ever leave home. Remember Murphy’s Law (What can happen will happen.) then plan accordingly! 

On-Project 

Use Technology – Advances in technology have changed everything for people working on the road. A nightly call home has long been a staple to maintaining connections with family and friends. But things like FaceTime and Zoom mean that today we don’t just hear them, but we see them (and they see us) too! With four girls between 9 and 14, I’ve found a lot of value with the group we all share on Snapchat. I’m able to see their projects, hear their stories, and maintain conversations throughout my day (and at the convenience of my schedule).  

Participate – Technology is your friend here too. If you’re off shift, there’s no reason to miss a t-ball game just because you’re out of town. Have your spouse or a neighbor livestream the game and cheer from your hotel room. Does your family do a game night? Move it online and you can still take your turn from anywhere in the world. 

Share the Trip – This is critical. Sending a picture of something cool you’ve seen let’s your friends and family travel with you, at least in spirit. Bring something back as well. Every place I go for work, I always bring something back for my girls. It might be a souvenir from the airport, a shell from the beach, or a postcard. What it is doesn’t matter as much as what it does – namely, remind your loved ones that you took them with you and brought something back to prove it. Also, just because your family can’t travel with you for a full trip doesn’t mean they can’t come visit you for a shorter period. Many PMG technicians have friends and family stay with them for short portions of their assignments. This gives our techs a chance to share something special and their families a chance to share part of the assignment. It’s one of the favorite aspects of our model for all parties!technician on assignment with family on the beach

Post-Project 

Debrief – Work travel and family life aren’t perfect sciences; they can always be improved. This means you need to work diligently and intentionally at improving them though. When you return from a trip spend that evening saying hello and reconnecting. Then spend the next evening debriefing with your family. What went well? What didn’t? How can prep, planning, or execution change in the future to make things better? Once you have some ideas, put them on paper to make sure you remember to implement them for the next trip.  

Use Your Perks – One of the best ways to balance work and life when work takes you on the road is to share some of the benefits. Do you build up points with hotels or airlines from the trips that take you away from your family? Then use those points to take a trip WITH your family. Do you get swag from clients or prospects? Bring it home for the kids. The more all sides benefit from your travel, the easier it is for all sides to tolerate your travel. 3D illustration of FREQUENT FLYER title on cloudy sky as a background, under an airplane.

Embrace Imbalance – The simple fact is that there is no such thing as a true 50/50 balance to work and life at any given moment. There are always unplanned complications, fires to fight, or balls that are dropped. Spending a week on the road means that you can’t possibly spend 50% of your time at home that week. How do you achieve balance in the face of this reality then? For myself, and many others, this means taking less of a micro view of our time and more of a macro view. One PMG tech put it to me best in an interview when he said, “90 days on the road and 30 days at home may seem out of balance to some. They don’t understand though that when I’m away from home I’m not working constantly so I’m not 100% unavailable. But when I’m home, I’m 100% home. Taking the kids to school, volunteering, doing projects – I don’t have to use my time to do anything but those things, so I just make sure that’s what I do.” 

I hope these tips help improve your work/life balance equation the next time work takes you on the road. If they do, and you become more interested in regular road assignments, checkout our webinar Road Warrior to learn more about what it’s like to be a traveling trades technician with PMG! Then contact us if you’re still interested in a project (or in need of skilled techs who are). And remember, if you have ideas or questions of your own for a blog, we’d love to hear them! Just send them to our PMG Writing Team and we’ll cover them in future content. 

We are focusing on movement in March! Too many of us do not get enough physical activity in our day-to-day endeavors, so we came up with a list of 10 tips to help you stay moving. Remind yourself that the little actions you take add up to big results. Sport Activity Icons

  1. Plan a mid-day movement break. 10-30 minutes of time scheduled into your day to go for a walk, do a few chores, or actively stretch. Click for Guided Stretch Video 
  2. Skip the drive through. When you are picking up your morning coffee or lunch, choose to walk into the establishment to purchase your order!  Walking into Coffee Shop to Stay Moving at the register
  3. Set a timer! Work for 30 minutes and then take a 5-minute break to walk around and stand up. Repeat this pattern throughout the day! This will also help increase your productivity.  
  4. Stand during meetings. This is simple yet effective!  
  5. Find the staircase instead of the elevator. Choose to take the stairs or park a bit farther away when you go to the store. 
  6. Set goals. Use your fit bit, apple watch, or phone to keep track of your steps. Have a minimum step count for each day.   
  7. Plan out time for exercise. Actively write down in your calendar when you are going to exercise at the beginning of each week! Signing up for a scheduled class is a great option.  
  8. Walk while you watch or talk. Go for a walk outside or on the treadmill while you watch a show, answer emails, or call a friend/family member!  
  9. Get an accountability partner (Often referred to as an “Accountabilibuddy”)! Find someone to keep you moving, go for walks together or send messages reminding each other to prioritize your movement.  
  10. Move right when you wake up! Hop out of bed and do 5-10 minutes of yoga or stretching. Implement a “do 20 squats” rule when you walk to the fridge for your first glass of water!  

Movement is Medicine banner with black outline

Reminder: Every small habit adds up! Movement is medicine. Push yourself to implement at least 2 of these tips!  

PMG has lunchbox hacks because PMG believes that those who eat better work better. This blog is our effort to improve the American workforce one lunchbox at a time. We want you to feed yourself with something that fuels you better and we have tips, tricks, and recipes to make that possible! If you missed our last lunchbox hack, check it out on our blog page now.

With Thanksgiving barely behind us, and Christmas just ahead, many people are making (and eating) more sweet potatoes now than the rest of the year combined. That means an awful lot of those tasty tubers are probably finding their way into your lunchboxes as leftovers too. How do you freshen up such an old staple and are you choosing them correctly to begin with?

Tip

Thinner, longer sweet potatoes and yams (Is there even a difference? You bet there is!) are easier to cook due to more even heat distribution while cooking. So, next time you’re at the grocery store, skip the fat ones. Your results and prep time will both benefit.

Trick

Slashes > Pokes! Most people like to stab their sweet potatoes with a fork. However, if you treat your yams like Michael Myers (think BIG knives) by deeply slashing them you’ll thank us. This happens because the larger surface area of a slash allows heat to penetrate more quickly and evenly than little pokes. A secondary benefit is that more water can escape too so you’re also less likely to end up with a watery side dish.

Recipe

For those who really want to make an impression, try something you’ve never thought of before to change up tradition. A great option is this Mashed Sweet Potato Recipe with Crunchy Peanut Butter we received from Ilse, at Culinary Ambition. It’s a great way to mix things up at your next holiday spread. We promise you won’t be able to wait to get the leftovers into your lunchbox for your next workday either!

We hope you find these tips and tricks helpful and the recipe tasty. If you like what you learned, skim through our other blog posts here the next time you’re hungry for more knowledge. Have a tip, trick, or recipe of your own? Send it to our Writing Team and we’ll be happy to feature it in a future Lunchbox Hack too!

Josh Erickson, ReTool Public Relations & Engagement Specialist

October 10 was recognized as World Mental Health Day but it’s fair to say mental health is something we should be talking about every day, not just on October 10. The real focus of World Mental Health Day is not only to recognize the prevalence of mental health and really put a face to it, but also to focus on the gaps in health services that people with mental health concerns have and the stigma still associated with mental illness.

Mental illness shows itself in so many ways during so many stages of life:

  • In grandparents who have been isolated for so long and whose minds have started to wander.
  • In parents who are experiencing something beyond the ‘baby blues’ or preparing for their children to head off to college or who are just trying to keep an unstable marriage alive for their children’s sake.
  • In adults who are dealing with the constant pressure of living up to expectations, so often their own.
  • In children who struggle to come to terms with the constantly changing world around them and where or how they fit in.

For those of us not amongst the almost one billion people who have a mental disorder, we’re affected because the people we love are personally affected.

I know it seems cliché these days but you never really know what someone else might be going through. That smile they give you in the hallway might be hiding suicidal thoughts. That purposefully avoided eye contact might be someone pleading to simply hear a ‘hello’. That overdose in the school restroom is a literal cry for help.

As you think about your own mental health today and the mental health of the people that matter most in your world, consider the strangers as well. And remember that you don’t know what journey they have faced, you don’t know what path they’re following, and you don’t know what makes them tick. Be kind to them. Give them some grace. And let them know you care. While you’re at it, do the same for yourself.

For some great resources on depression, suicide, and mental health in general, head to www.who.int/campaigns/world-mental-health-day/2021/

Beth Bangtson, HR Manager

 

PMG believes that those who eat better work better. But we don’t just want you to work better; we want you to feel better too! This blog aims to help you feed yourself with better fuel and we have tips, tricks, and recipes to make that possible. If you missed our last lunchbox hack, there’s still plenty of summer left to get grilling, so check it out now.

Eating vegetables is always an important part of any diet because of the contributions they make to your health in terms of vitamins, minerals, complex carbs, fiber, and heart-healthy “good” fats. Proper vegetable intake is even more important during the hot summer months because they help keep you hydrated too. That makes this a great time of year to recommit to getting more vegetables into your daily lunchbox.

Tip

There’s lots of great ways to work more veggies into your daily lunch and kids can benefit too! One of the easiest things to do is to think about how you can replace an item with a vegetable rather than just simply adding them. For example, think about your favorite, old reliable sandwich. Now swap out the bread for something green and call it a lettuce wrap. Voila! Instant vegetable increase!

Trick

Start with a bag of frozen vegetables. They’re cheap, easy to cook in the microwave, and they can double as an ice pack in your cooler!

You might be saying, “Wait! Great idea, but I work outside. How does this help me?” The answer to that is easy. If you work on sites or in situations where a microwave isn’t handy, wrap your frozen (but thawing) veggies in tinfoil before lunch time, and let them sit in the sun while on top of your cooler or on your dash. Depending on temperatures and cloud cover, an hour should normally be enough.

Recipe

One of the easiest ways to eat more vegetables is to not eat them at all. Drink them instead!

A tasty smoothie can make a lot of vegetables go down easy while also being easy to prep. Try this Kale Pineapple Smoothie recipe next time you have the blender out. Then just make sure to leave enough to pack for work the next day!

If you found some of these ideas to be helpful, check out our earlier Lunchbox Hacks on our blog page for more to chew on.

Have some delicious tips, tricks, or recipes of your own you’d like to share? Send them to our Writing Team and we might feature them in future posts. Either way, we hope you work safely and eat healthy today!

Josh Erickson, ReTool Public Relations & Engagement Specialist