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The Power Suit: PowerLess?

Posted by: Michelle Conlin on August 13

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Since I am obsessed with all things sartorial, I couldn't help but be riveted by a recent Wall Street Journal story about fabulously powerful people who self-ban the wearing of suits.

Is wearing a suit now the sign of a macher manque?

In the course of my reporting travels during the past year, all of the sources with whom I interviewed who had the most power--wielding the most clout, capital and all-around largest power footprint--were all adorned in anything but a suit.

By contrast, when I recently did a favor for a friend and picked up her repaired Tag Heuer at Tourneau, the watch salesman was donning a three-piece summer-weight number that was decidedly NOT off the rack. A lucre side gig? Family money? Power user of Woodbury Common?

I've noticed this a lot in the service sector: they are all dressed up, while we in Corporate America are all dressed down. Even the halls of once-starchy P&G and once white-shirt-only IBM are filled with some awesomely casual gear.

The upshot is that if you want to see someone turned out in the above-shown Gekko gear, you are more likely to see it on the body of a Barney's salesman than in the lobby of a midtown hedge fund. In these circles, the new uniform is the dry-cleaned, many-hundreds-of-dollars jeans paired with a bespoke shirt and couture jacket. The women are rocking the jeans with the mini blazer.

The power suit is becoming powerless. Wearing whatever you want now seems to be the new emblem of a new kind of power. As in, I am so incredibly amazing and fabulous that corporate dress codes and social norms do not apply to me.

Is this one more upside-downism in a world that seems increasingly topsy turvy?

Jeans (albeit crisp and pressed): the New Power Wear?

The Commuting Paradox

Posted by: Michelle Conlin on July 28

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With the rise of designer gas prices, no one is getting slaughtered more than the fastest-growing group of commuters: extreme commuters. Soon, they may well have to flee suburbia.

This made me think of a study I came across a few years ago when I was writing a piece about the epidemic of extreme commuting.

The research came from a fascinting reserach duo in Europe, who proved the Faustian Bargain of commuting in a paper called The Stress That Doesn't Pay: The Commuting Paradox.

The researchers, economists Bruno S. Frey and Alois Stutzer, of the University of Zurich's Institute for Empirical Research in Economics, found that most people travel long distances with the idea that they'll accept the burden for something better, be it a house, salary, or school.

They presume the trade-off is worth the agony. But studies show that commuters are on average much less satisfied with their lives than noncommuters.

A commuter who travels one hour, one way, would have to make 40% more than his current salary to be as fully satisfied with his life as a noncommuter, Frey and Stutzer found. People usually overestimate the value of the things they'll obtain by commuting -- more money, more material goods, more prestige -- and underestimate the benefit of what they are losing: social connections, hobbies, and health.

Says Stutzer, "Commuting is a stress that doesn't pay off."

Something else to think about in the era of couture gas.

The New Flextime: Summers Off?

Posted by: Michelle Conlin on July 25

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I am deep in a fantasy. It is a new kind of fantasy for me, having nothing to do with the obtaining of something Marc Jacobs or the receiving of a free night's stay (room service included) at the Four Seasons.

No, this fantasy is of an entirely different order. It involves the new currency in the workplace. The cushiest and most lusted after: the ability to control one's time. The flexibilty to sculpt one's schedule.

It is with the thought of this new benefit in mind--and in heavy withdrawal from an extra-luxe vacation--that I am filled with the fantasy of taking next summer off.

I first learned of this workplace micro-trend last summer, when I wrote a piece about the shape of perks to come.

In reporting this little ditty, I learned that more women at consulting shops like Deloitte and Touche and Ernst and Young were slicing and dicing their schedules so as to take the summers off to spend with their kids.

At around the same time, I heard the lovely story of a former colleague who has swung at deal at her employer where she works full time during the school year and then takes the summers off to dabble a la plage with her two boys. In return she receives 80% of her paycheck. Believe me. This girl is good. They would do anything to keep her.

Heaven knows most working women--save the trustafarian ovarian-lottery winners--can't afford this kind of flexibility. Not without big-money-man husbands.

And many jobs wouldn't lend themselves to such an arrangement.

But work with me. With the prospect of having the summer off, I know I for one would practice an entirely different kind of spending discipline so as to salt away enough to afford such largesse. I'm also waging that there are more kinds of knowledge-worker jobs that could be arranged to take advantage of such scheduling paradise.

Does this sound lifestsyle redesign sound delicious to anyone else?

Four-Day Workweek: The Answer to Gas Prices?

Posted by: Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson on July 14

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Simple answer: No. That’s an old game.

While well-meaning politicians, corporate executives and school administrators begin exploring, and even mandating, “four-day workweeks” to fight the pain at the pump, we scratch our heads. Why not shift the work environment to one where physical presence, the quantity of hours one works, and the commute itself are rendered obsolete?

It’s time to start viewing office work as something we do, not related to a place we go.

Merely showing up at a job doesn’t deliver business results. People are showing up at their jobs today, and may or may not be getting anything done. A four-day workweek only sustains this system of time equating to productivity.

Yes, we agree that reducing your commute by one day may save some money, but let’s offer people the opportunity to experience some real savings – and for businesses to unleash the full potential of their employees.

Final note: check out this nifty calculator that lets you figure out whether or not you should move closer to work in order to save money on commuting costs. You’re supposed to fiddle with the cost-of-the-new-house variable and the distance variable, but we played with the number of commuting days a week. Moving closer to work can make a difference…but only driving to an official physical office space two or three days a week saves you BIG.

Key to work-life balance is not a good job, it's good sex

Posted by: Penelope Trunk on July 09

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When you think about work-life balance, don't blame your work. It is a misconception that you need a great job for a great life. The connection between a good job and a good life is tenuous. So you should just worry about the basics:

Do you have goals you can meet?

Do you feel challenged by your work?

Do you have control over your workload?

If you answer yes to all these questions, then your problems in life probably don't stem from work. They are probably personal. So stop thinking chaning your job is going to change your life.

In fact, the thing you really need to be happy is sex. Once a week with the same person. That's way more important than your job, or the money you make or the friends you have. (Although, doing well at any of those things does give you a wider range of people to choose from for sex.)

When it comes to work-life balance, then, you're not really looking for balance. Really, it's impossible, and you know it and you have never met anyone who honestly could say they had it. You are really looking for peace and happiness. And those things are attainable, if you stop focusing on money. You only need $40,000 a year to reach peace and happiness. Really. Even in New York City. Because happiness is about your optimism levels and your sex life and not about your job.

So get a job that doesn't undermine your ability to have peace. And then focus on your sex life. And when you hear your friends talking about work-life balance, recognize that at their core, what they are really talking about is that if they approached life with more optimism then they would be more likely to be happier with their choices: Whether or not they are balanced.

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