Maximizing Your Work from Home Life

More American employees are working remotely, and for longer periods, than ever before. In the spirit of spring, here’s some expert advice on how to clean up your home office, increase your efficiency, and reduce your stress, courtesy of writer NJ Goldston and Forbes.com.

According to a 2017 Gallup survey, approximately 43 percent of employed Americans say they spend at least some time working remotely. While there are many benefits—increased focus, better work/life balance—it can be stressful to stay organized if you are sharing a living and working space.

“Just as our lives change, our needs morph as well,” says Tori Springer Taylor, founder of SimplySimplify in Los Angeles. “Just as our work environments are ever-changing, and there is more of an overlap between our work/home life, you need to evolve your approach to organization.”

Famed closet and office designer of LA Closet Design, Lisa Adams, shares an interesting insight, “As more millennials enter the housing market, spaces will become more flexible and multi-functional, challenging the conventional notion of the closet. We will continue to see closets, along with every other space in the home, adapt to this more informal lifestyle. You no longer need a whole room dedicated to your desk, while your wardrobe suffers in a crowded walk-in; instead, these spaces become one.”

Here are some of Springer Taylor’s and Adams’ top tips on how to increase organization and efficiency when working from home.

Create an office command station. Springer Taylor says, “Traditional office spaces have changed and technology is making way for more ambiguous workspaces, so now people have different needs.

Adams adds, “When you’re limited on space, no square inch can go wasted. Maybe your desk isn’t a desk at all – it might be a console, coffee table, or kitchen island. Any surface where you can spread out and set up shop can be productive. Share/combine this space with another underutilized area of your home — an entryway, a kitchen, or even a closet.”

Organize your closet for home and office. When it comes to your clothing closet, Springer Taylor recommends organizing your clothing by activity, not color, as most of us do. For example, a “work” section of clothes designated for your days in the office and/or meetings, and your at-home work wardrobe for every day, work-at-home wear.

She suggests formal attire live in a completely different closet if this option is available to you. Approaching your wardrobe by activity is more streamlined and is especially helpful with black items (which we all have too many of!) as they tend to blend. This concept can be applied to shoes as well as clothes.

Schedule your life like you’re an executive. Springer Taylor advises mapping everything from social engagements, children’s activities (if you’re a parent), dinner parties, etc., and then working backward. For example, if you need to study a particular topic for a presentation, or bake a cake the day before a birthday party, put that action item on that day.

Add action items to your calendar so you are not up all night worrying about preparatory actions. This will help reduce stress by increasing your ability to manage multiple responsibilities calmly and more efficiently. The bottom line is to “approach your personal schedule as though you are an executive, whether you are or not,” she says.

Plan your days in advance. Never underestimate the value of a daily routine that you plan out the night before. This is especially important when you work from home. Structure your day, or else it’ll get away from you, and keep to the schedule. Springer Taylor recommends that you start on Sunday evening and lay out all weekly events. Then detail your very next day by the hour, starting with the most dreaded items first. That way, if a call runs over or something else pops into your day, hopefully, the most pressing tasks have been completed early on and uncompleted tasks can carry over into the following day.

Keep digital in one area. Adams recommends creating a digital and charging area in your home, so everything is together, and ready to go at a moment’s notice, including laptop, phone, and tablet. She also suggests keeping a mobile digital office kit at the ready. This saves you the time of packing up your operation every time you have to take a meeting. When a set of essentials can go with you, your workspace has no walls.

Commit to going digital. This seems so obvious but maybe it’s not. Bulky binders and notebooks are inefficient for an on-the-go professional, and take up valuable space when traveling. Files, notes and calendars can all live online, meaning they don’t weigh a thing, and they’re always at your fingertips during business travel. Just don’t forget your chargers. It’s also more eco-friendly to use and print less paper.

Be prepared for emergencies. Remember that emergencies happen. Have an emergency packing list ready and posted in your home. It should include key items for you and your family, items for your safety and convenience, anything you need for your pets, and all your important documents prepacked in a duffel and ready to go at a moment’s notice. As the Girl Scouts say, “Be Prepared.”

Source: Forbes.com

Making the Best of Bleisure Travel

Have you heard of, or even taken advantage of, “bleisure” travel—when you combine a business trip with some leisure/vacation time? It’s a rising trend in the United States, according to a November 2017 study from Expedia.

Findings of bleisure travelers

The study conducted by Expedia Media Solutions and Luth Research revealed that:

  • 43 percent of business trips in the U.S. today are bleisure, with 70 percent of business travelers adding extra days to their trips at least once every two to three months.
  • Typically, business travelers only book their flights, hotels and transportation once dates are set, which means they book quicker than leisure travelers.
  • The study found that the length of stay for a bleisure traveler when compared to a business traveler increases from two nights to six-plus nights.
  • Business travelers value hotel location above all other criteria due to the need to be close to meetings and conferences.
  • Geographic location is also very important to bleisure travelers, with 66 percent of survey responders saying the location of the business trip is key to whether they add extra leisure days or not.
  • As a result, cities that attract the most bleisure travelers are common vacation destinations.
  • Other factors impacting the decision-making process include flexibility, star ratings, quality and comfort.

Traveldailynews.com offers tips on how to make the most of bleisure trips:

  1. Stay near the sights you want to see. It may seem cheaper to book a hotel away from the tourist district, but those car fares will add up more quickly than you expect. Instead, pay for a more centrally located hotel within walking distance of the places you want to see most. Plus, walking will allow you to truly soak up the culture.
  2. Don’t waste time in touristy gift shops. If you’ve seen one gift shop, you’ve seen them all, and many gift shops sell similar souvenirs in every city. If you want a memento of your trip, look for unique local shops with native items that really capture the flavor of the city you’re visiting.
  3. Avoid long lines if possible. Skip the typical tourist traps for a better overall experience. Do good research beforehand to find out the points of interest, and schedule tours, appointments, or reservations ahead of time to save time and reduce stress.
  4. Let your meals guide you. Think outside the hotel bar, and find a restaurant that offers the most local flavor. It’s your best bet for experiencing the area’s particular culture and cuisine. If you aren’t sure where to start, ask your hotel concierge for a few local recommendations.
  5. Book meetings strategically. If possible, schedule meetings on Mondays and Fridays (and never before 10 a.m.). This way, you have a reason to be in town for the weekend. Better yet, you don’t have to burn vacation days to do so. And when you avoid scheduling meetings before 10 a.m., you free up your mornings for a quick hike, some “me time” at the spa, or a cup of joe at an iconic coffeehouse.

Source: Travelpulse.com, Traveldailynews.com

Business Travelers Weigh In On Safety and Security

Business travel spending worldwide reached approximately $1.3 trillion in 2016 and is expected to rise to $1.6 trillion by 2020, according to Statista.

But while business travel increases annually, business travelers are experiencing more worry about safety and security in an increasingly unpredictable world.

Consider the CWT Connected Traveler Study, which was conducted by Carlson Wagonlit Travel from March 30-April 24, 2017. The survey collected data from more than 1,900 business travelers between the ages of 25-65 from the Americas (Brazil, Canada, Chile, Mexico and the United States), EMEA (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom) and APAC (Australia, China, India, Japan and Singapore). To participate in the study, business travelers were required to have made more than four business trips within the past 12 months.

Main sources of worry

The results found that while more than one-third (37 percent) of European travelers are concerned about safety and security, their counterparts from other regions worry more. Travelers from the Americas said that nearly half (47 percent) of the time they worry about safety and security, while Asia Pacific travelers worry the most (56 percent).

“Despite recent terrorist attacks, business travelers say they’re more worried about other things, and that’s surprising,” said Simon Nowroz, Carlson Wagonlit Travel’s chief marketing officer. “We found that, yes, the world seems scarier at times, but travelers believe they have more tools at their disposal to keep them informed and safe.”

One in five travelers has cancelled a trip due to concerns about their safety and security. And 30 percent say they’re worried about their health and wellbeing when it comes to traveling.

Surprisingly, terrorism only ranks fifth (35 percent) among safety concerns, despite the high visibility of terrorist attacks. “Forgetting something needed for work” ranked higher (40 percent), as did “losing something important” (38 percent), “being robbed or attacked” (37 percent) – and even “weather conditions” (37 percent).

Differences among travelers

The study revealed some intriguing regional differences between the Americas, Asia Pacific (APAC), and Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

Only 7 percent of APAC travelers said they were “not concerned” about personal safety while traveling for business. That percentage rose to 12 percent for Americas travelers and 21 percent among EMEA travelers. This is reflected in the fact that APAC travelers appear to be better prepared, as more than half (52 percent) of APAC travelers maintain an up-to-date emergency contact profile compared to 38 percent in the Americas and only 34 percent in EMEA.

Feeling safer with technology

Interestingly, two-thirds (67 percent) of business travelers believe travel is safer today than in the past as they have more technology tools to stay aware of and mitigate safety concerns. Seven out of 10 travelers use at least one of their employer’s security protocols, such as traveler tracking or emergency contact profiles. And more than two-thirds (68 percent) buy travel insurance.

APAC travelers are also more likely to sign up for notifications of real-time risks (41 percent). Only 33 percent do in the Americas, while only 29 percent do from EMEA. APAC travelers were also more likely to know ahead of time about local medical or security services providers. More than a third (35 percent) of APAC travelers planned for these services ahead, versus 25 percent in the Americas and 20 percent in EMEA.

“Today’s travelers are sophisticated,” said Nowroz. “They’re signing up for alerts, they’re paying attention to the news and they use the available tools at their disposal. So while travel may seem risky, they’re taking steps to stay safe.”

Source: Hotelnewsresource.com, Statista

 

Flight Attendants Share Wisdom on Carry-On Bags

If you fly regularly, you know the annoyance of having to check bags, especially if you have to pay extra for them. Even worse is getting to your destination, tired and jet lagged, and realizing your luggage didn’t make it to the baggage claim. There is a better way — it’s called the carry-on bag.

What flight attendants and frequent fliers have known for years is that with the right bag and some smart packing techniques, you can cruise through security, onto the plane and out of the airport with ease.

Get a good carry-on bag.

It’s called a 22″ spinner carry-on bag. It’s the bag you see speedily rolling behind many pilots and flight attendants as they make their way to their next gate. Look for a sturdy, well-designed but lightweight bag with roomy pockets and a wide wheelbase. Spinner carry-ons get their name because of their four wheels. Bags with four wheels are easier to move around than those with just two. Airlines require carry-on bags that are small enough to fit under the seat or in the overhead compartment. Maximum size limits are typically 22″ long x 14″ wide x 9″ tall and 40 pounds. That’s why the 22″ spinner is a popular carry-on size. Most airlines allow you to carry on one small bag plus one personal item, including a laptop, purse or briefcase as long as it doesn’t exceed 36″ total and fits under the seat in front of you.

Understand what you can pack.

While you’re allowed to carry liquids, gels, and aerosols in your carry-on bag, there are restrictions you must be aware of before you pack. According to the Transportation Security Administration website, all liquids, gels, and aerosols must be in 3.4 ounce (100ml) or smaller containers. Larger containers that are half-full or rolled up are not allowed. All liquids, gels, and aerosols must be placed in a single, quart-size, zip-top, clear plastic bag. Gallon size bags or bags that are not zip-top such as fold-over sandwich bags are not allowed. For more details about what you can carry on an airplane, visit TSA.gov/311.

Utilize all the space.

The key to maximizing space in a 22″ spinner carry-on is to roll your clothes into “tubes” instead of folding and stacking them like in a store. Rolling saves space and also helps prevent wrinkles. It’s also easier to select what you want to wear from your bag without unpacking the whole thing. Roll several items together to prevent more wrinkles. Don’t pack them in the carry-on bag as soon as you roll them. Once all the clothes are rolled, stand the carry-on up and pack heavier things such as shoes and books first at the wheel-end of the case so they don’t move around and crush the other items. One flight attendant claims she can pack clothes for 10 days by rolling instead of folding them. Another advocates the use of vacuum space saver bags.

Wear your nice, and harder to pack clothes and shoes on the plane. They won’t wrinkle or take up space in your carry-on. Even if you’re able to pack everything you want in the bag, keep in mind the typical 40 pound weight limit.

FAA Proposes Worldwide Laptop Ban on Checked Bags

In October, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration began urging the world airline community to ban large, personal electronic devices like laptops from checked luggage on international flights due to the potential for a catastrophic fire.

The FAA is concerned about the lithium-ion batteries that are common in electronic devices like laptops. Tests conducted by the agency have concluded that when large electronics overheat in luggage they run the risk of combustion when packed with aerosol canisters like hairspray and dry shampoo. Depending on the type of plane, the potential for explosion becomes a danger to the entire aircraft.

FAA conducts tests

The agency conducted 10 tests, with four that included potentially explosive materials in addition to the laptop, including a bottle of dry shampoo, a 6-ounce bottle of nail polish remover, a 2-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer, and a 16-ounce bottle of 70% ethyl rubbing alcohol. All caused fires, but only the one with the dry shampoo exploded in a manner that couldn’t be contained by fire suppression systems in the aircraft and engulfed the luggage compartment within just 40 seconds.

Appeal to U.N.

The FAA submitted a paper to a United Nations agency detailing the results of their tests and stating that the fire could then rage unchecked, leading to “the loss of the aircraft.”

In the paper, the FAA explains in detail that the fire suppression systems in some modern airplanes are no match against the kinds of explosions that the FAA tested for. The FAA believes that the only reason there haven’t been more explosive incidents from electronic devices in checked baggage is simply because most people take their laptops and other devices larger than a smartphone in their carry-on.

While the FAA’s paper doesn’t address whether there should be a domestic ban, they do consider this a global issue and hopes to set a worldwide standard through the UN, since people so commonly hop on connecting flights.

Airplane industry agrees

According to the Associated Press, the largest airplane manufacturers as well as the FAA’s counterpart in Europe all agree with the FAA’s findings in the paper. The U.S. has previously toyed with the idea of banning all laptops in the cabin on all planes for international flights traveling to the U.S.

Potentially confusing to passengers

The FAA’s ban proposal may be unclear to passengers, who remember the laptop ban from earlier this year that was implemented by the US Department of Homeland Security against flights from 10 different Middle Eastern countries. Those flights didn’t allow passengers to carry large electronic devices in the cabin. That ban was allegedly in place because of credible threats to commercial aircraft by terrorist organizations. The ban was lifted in July after the 10 airports that were impacted reportedly made security improvements.

The FAA’s paper does explore alternatives to an outright ban on laptops in checked baggage, including allowing it to happen on the kinds of planes with the most advanced fire suppression systems, and asking passengers not to pack things like dry shampoo in the same bag as laptops. But the agency’s final recommendation is to simply ban laptops outright from being stored in checked bags.

The paper acknowledges the lack of data beyond its own 10 tests and specifically says that it welcomes further analysis from the international community.

Source: Fox6now.com

Take Your Career to the Next Level in 2018

The New Year is always a time for reflection, when we look ahead and set personal goals, such as losing weight, spending more time with family, or quitting smoking. But January is also a great time to re-solidify work goals for the coming year. Here are some professional resolutions to consider to help you make 2018 your best year yet—both personally and professionally.

Resolve to keep learning.

Thinking about going back to school or just taking a class? Let 2018 be the year you make it happen. There is something incredibly valuable in expanding your knowledge and learning something new on a regular basis. Successful CEOs know this. Consider the correlation between Mark Zuckerberg’s personal educational goals and Facebook’s annual successes. In 2010, Zuckerberg committed to learning Mandarin in the hopes of fulfilling Facebook’s mission of “making the world more open and connected” and Facebook exceeded 500 million monthly users and became the largest social network. In 2015, his goal was to read a new book every two weeks, and the next year, Facebook grew as a major publishing platform. Think about ways to incorporate new learning into your life on a regular basis, whether that is reading a book for 20 minutes a day, taking a new class, or even learning a new word each day. Think you’re too busy? Remember that knowledge fuels success. Think you can’t afford it? Many companies offer tuition reimbursement for their full-time employees.

Do work that truly inspires you.

Successful people usually have a good idea where their “zone of genius” is—that place where you’re doing what you’re best at and most enjoy, lose track of time and produce your best and most satisfying work. Wouldn’t it be awesome to go there more often? To be more in sync with your job and purpose, and at the end of the day feel more energized than burned-out? Make it a priority this year.

Raise your community profile.

“My resolution is to do more publicity and public relations this year,” says a president of a Manhattan-based event-planning agency. “I’m going to focus on doing more press — because press equals exposure, which equals money.” What kinds of PR and public events can you get involved with in your local community? There are many opportunities out there, from sponsoring a Little League team to helping out at a soup kitchen. The great thing about charitable events is you’re doing something good for the world, while meeting potential clients in a relaxed, positive environment.

Become a mentor to a young person. 

Another key to success in work and life is mentorship. Positive and productive mentorships help employees learn, become more engaged and reduce work attrition. This year, make a point to find or reconnect with a mentor, and also give back by mentoring someone else. It doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment. The key is to be involved and engaged—this is the most important factor in a successful mentor relationship. And enjoy the unexpected benefits. Many mentors say they become better at their jobs by teaching others.

Focus on long-term goals.

In work and life, stop focusing on the immediate bottom line and reward and look toward long-term success and sustainability. When you focus on the long term, you shift your focus to making proper investments in your time, money, and goals. Think forest from the trees. You might not see immediate returns at first, but going about your days with long-term goals in mind will help you stay on track with what you ultimately want from your career and life, and help avoid spending endless hours putting out fires or regretting short-term decisions.

Take time to meditate.

The research and evidence on the benefits of mediation is truly extensive, and top CEOs are taking note. Meditation increases immune function, mental focus, positive emotions, empathy, increases social connections and much more, according to Psychology Today. The best part is it’s free and doesn’t take much time at all each day.

Resolve to recharge.

“This past year taught me that taking time to regroup and recharge is essential to being able to give my gifts and effectively wear all of the hats that I wear every day,” says a career coach and strategist. This year, focus on working more efficiently, so you get more done and don’t burn out. Exercise, eat well, and go to bed and wake up at consistent hours every day. Periods of restorative rest can help reset the brain, so you’re even more efficient and creative on the job. If you need a vacation, prepare ahead of time, talk to people, and don’t feel guilty about it. You deserve some time off, and taking time away responsibly can also show managers and coworkers that you respect healthy boundaries when it comes to work and personal life.

Source: Monster.com

Travel Update on the Caribbean Islands

In August and late September, Hurricanes Irma and Maria tore through the Caribbean. In some of the harder-hit islands, like Dominica, Saint Martin and Puerto Rico, the deadly storms caused a humanitarian crisis, leaving residents without electricity or running water for several months, which in many places still has not been restored. As damage varied among the Caribbean’s more than 7,000 islands, rebuilding and recovery does also—some are safe and open to visitors, while others still need time. Here’s a status update on of some of the Caribbean’s most popular islands. Each country varies, so travel plans should be double-checked and could change at any time.

Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao

The “ABC” Islands, to which the three Dutch islands are sometimes referred, were unaffected by hurricanes Irma and Maria since they are located near the coast of Venezuela. Aruba is usually the typical Caribbean getaway, Bonaire is slightly less developed, but has a strong water sports presence and Curaçao has a mix of city life, hotels and one of the best sea aquariums in the Caribbean.

Antigua

Antigua, part of the two-island nation Antigua and Barbuda, was spared the worst of Hurricane Irma. The V.C. Bird International Airport remained open and most of the island’s hotels, such as Carlisle Bay and Cocos Hotel welcomed visitors. Several restaurants and businesses are still open and ready to receive guests and some of the island’s most popular beaches, including Coconut Grove and Sheer Rocks, were among the first to receive tourists after the hurricane.

Bahamas

The Bahamas were struck by hurricane weather but sustained minimal damage. All major services like running water and electricity are functioning normally, and the damage that did reach the islands has undergone repairs to restore sites back to normal—or even better.

Cuba

Parts of Cuba still lack clean water and electricity, and the U.S. embassy suffered severe flood damage during Hurricane Irma, according to a travel warning from the State Department. Cuba, which recently reopened tourism opportunities to U.S. citizens, saw a 189 percent increase in American visitors in 2017, though recent restrictions will likely curb 2018 numbers. Cuba is still dealing with some major restoration efforts, especially in the northern region where Irma hit hardest.

Dominica

Dominica was slammed by Hurricane Maria and is still working on the largest of repairs. The nation’s tourism industry launched an awareness campaign last week to encourage people to start booking trips for 2018, for January’s Carnival events DominicaUpdate.com tells potential travelers that the entire island should have power by April 2018, and that 80 percent of the island currently has pipe-borne water accessibility.

Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic suffered some damage during the hurricanes over the late summer and early fall. But it was not hit nearly as hard as other islands in the Caribbean and is ready to receive travelers. In fact, according to the website Caribbean Tourism Organization, travelers are welcomed in order to help restore the region’s economy.

Haiti

Haiti emerged relatively unscathed, though the State Department still warns against travel due to limited medical care infrastructure, ambulances and other emergency services.

Jamaica

Also mostly unaffected, Jamaica’s doors (and airports and ports) are open to tourists this winter. In fact, airlines added 200,000 seats on flights to nations like Jamaica as safe alternatives for travelers looking to change their itineraries, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Saint Martin/Sint Maarten

Saint Martin/Sint Maarten was among the hardest hit of the islands. After one month of rebuilding, the island was ready to welcome visitors. Princess Juliana Airport reopened and commenced commercial service on Oct. 10. Although many larger resorts are not equipped to host visitors, a good amount of smaller hotels can accommodate tourists. The island is unique because Saint Martin, the northern half, is French, while Sint Maarten, the southern half, is Dutch. Both halves of the island boast excellent ship ports, nature views and food.

St. Kitts

St. Kitts was one of the first islands to announce it was open for tourism after the hurricanes hit the Caribbean. After Hurricane Irma, the tourism authority announced the island was unaffected. The official account of the St. Kitts Tourism Authority tweeted Nov. 15 that the best way to help the Caribbean is to visit. Fun things to do in St. Kitts include hiking, going to the beach and visiting historic areas.

St. Lucia

Like many other islands in the southern Caribbean, St. Lucia was not impacted by either of the two hurricanes. JetBlue Airlines offers nonstop flights from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to the island. St. Lucia includes several activities for the lover of travel, including nature hikes and great opportunities for swimming and other water activities like snorkeling.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico remained relatively unscathed after Hurricane Irma hit, but was hit hard by Hurricane Maria. The hurricane knocked out 90 percent of the island’s power, and some areas are still waiting on restorations that may not arrive until May. Months after the devastation first struck, San Juan is open to tourism and is operating many of its most popular restaurants and hotels. Some traffic lights are still not working, and residents are still lacking basic needs, but major ports are open to visitors, and the island is slowly getting back on its feet.

Turks and Caicos

Much like the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos has restored nearly all hotel and restaurants, and minimal damage has been repaired.

U.S. Virgin Islands

Hit by both hurricanes, the U.S. Virgin Islands faced some of the most severe damage. The timeline for recovery is long, and though basic needs will likely be vastly improved by the end of the year, many hotels and restaurants are nowhere near ready for tourists. Some hotels and resorts are waiving cancellation fees, though a few have opened along with the major port for cruise ships to pass through. St John and St Thomas, major tourism hotspots, will require around $200 million to repair, according to NPR.

Sources: Newsweek and Daniela Cobos / ibtimes.com 

5 Steps to a Stress-Free Vacation from Work

With the holidays around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about taking some time off from work. That can be difficult for some of us who suffer from “workaholism,” a condition common to people in the Tri-State area. We work harder and longer than most people, and then feel guilty about taking some well-earned time off. This is not only unnecessary, it’s potentially unhealthy. Taking time off has shown to be healthy for our body, mind, and spirit, and can actually improve our overall outlook and productivity when we return to work. Here’s how to take time off from work without feeling bad about it.

Step 1: Be strategic with your days off.

When scheduling your vacation days in advance, look at a calendar and be strategic about it. Take time off when it’s not your busy season. Consider returning to work a day earlier than you announce, to build in some extra time to ease into your work routine. Also, try to avoid booking anything important the day before your vacation or the first day back. And plan effectively so you can leave work a few hours early the day before, rather than doing what many people do and leave late, adding substantially to their stress level.

Step 2: Let colleagues know you’ll be away. 

Managers and coworkers will appreciate advanced notice that you will be going away. Send a notice in writing via email, and, if necessary, schedule one or two brief meetings, or talk to colleagues one on one about ongoing projects, what could potentially come up, and who to contact in your absence. Leave a number where you can be reached if it is urgent—but more importantly — ask a trusted colleague to step in as the contact in your absence.

Step 3: Set up messages and email.

Before you leave, set away messages for your e-mail and voicemail, making sure to include your return date and the names and numbers of coworkers who can be contacted in your absence. Also give a copy of important files to a colleague who can step in on your behalf if the need arises.

Step 4: Disconnect when away.

You know how it goes: You finally take a vacation away from the office or business, but you can’t help yourself from checking email or calling in just to make sure everything’s OK. The problem with this seemingly responsible behavior is that it can confuse colleagues. If you say you are not working, but are checking and returning phone calls and emails, you’ll send a mixed message. This applies especially to managers, whose vacation behavior sets the tone for the entire group. If the boss answers e-mails within 30 minutes even while on vacation, the workers will likely assume they’re expected to do the same. More importantly, not disconnecting prevents a person from enjoying the mental, physical and even spiritual benefits of truly restorative downtime.

If your job responsibilities and/or company culture truly prevents you from totally disconnecting from work during vacations, try to limit how often you check in. Do what works for you, but realize the importance of limiting your work time when away.

Step 5: Give credit where it’s due.

Upon your return, block out some time the first few days to meet with your manager and/or colleagues to catch up on what occurred during your absence. Take time to acknowledge the good work of those who covered for you while away. If appropriate, bring back a small gift as a token of your appreciation.

Remember, you deserve this time off. Taking time away from work responsibly is healthy on many levels, from physical rest to renewing your spiritual purpose. So prepare ahead of time, talk to people, and don’t feel guilty about it. Taking earned time away can also show managers and coworkers that you respect healthy boundaries when it comes to work and life.

2017 New York City Holiday Events Calendar

For those of us living in the Tri-State area, we’re lucky to be just a short car ride away from one of the most festive and exciting cities in the world: Manhattan, better known as, “The Big Apple”! To help you plan your upcoming activities, here’s our 2017 New York City Holiday Events Calendar.

Fun and free: Holiday windows in NYC!

One of the most cherished Manhattan holiday traditions is also a free one—enjoying the department store window displays of some of New York City’s finest and most iconic department stores. Here are some stores and addresses to put on your holiday look list:

  • Barneys New York, 660 Madison Avenue between 60th and 61st Streets
  • Bergdorf Goodman, 754 Fifth Avenue at 58th Streets
  • Bloomingdale’s, 59th Street and Lexington Avenue
  • Cartier, 653 Fifth Avenue at 52nd Street
  • Henri Bendel, 712 Fifth Avenue at 56th Street
  • Lord & Taylor, 424 Fifth Avenue at 39th Street
  • Macys, 34th Street and Sixth Avenue 
  • Saks Fifth Avenue, 611 Fifth Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets
  • Tiffany & Co., 727 Fifth Avenue between 56th and 57th Streets
  • Van Cleef & Arpels, 744 5th Ave, between 7th and 8th Avenue

91st Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Considered the official kickoff to the holiday season, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is watched by more than 3.5 million people on the streets of Manhattan and more than 50 million people nationwide.

In 2017, new balloons will include Jett from Super Wings, Harold the Baseball Player, Macy’s Golden Snowflake Stars, and the Macy’s Blue and White Star. You’ll also see appearances and performances by Sabrina Carpenter, Jojo Siwa, 98 Degrees, Jimmy Fallon and The Roots, Flo Rida, Wyclef Jean and The Goo Goo Dolls. Plus, numbers from Dear Evan Hansen, Anastasia, the upcoming Once On This Island and the new SpongeBob SquarePants musical.

The parade starts at 9:00 am sharp at West 77th Street and Central Park West, then proceeding to Central Park South to 6th Avenue (Avenue of the Americas), and ending at 12:00 noon at 34th Street in front of Macy’s Herald Square.

Recommended areas for watching the parade include the first leg along Central Park West, Time Warner Center and, finally, along Sixth Avenue between Central Park South and 38th Street. Note the section from 38th Street to Herald Square and Macy’s department store is the telecast area and closed to the public.

When: Thursday, Nov. 23, 2016, 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Where: 77th Street and Central Park West to 34th Street/Herald Square, Manhattan
Info: www.macys.com/parade 

85th Annual Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting

Another iconic Manhattan holiday moment is the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting! The 2017 tree will be lit for the first time on Wednesday, Nov. 29 at Rockefeller Plaza and will remain on display through January 7, 2018.

The giant tree is traditionally a Norway spruce, and is lit with 30,000 environmentally-friendly LED lights on five miles of wire. And to top it off: a Swarovski crystal star.

The annual tree lighting is free and open to the public on a first come, first-served basis.

When: Tree lighting is Nov. 29. The tree stays lit and can be viewed until 9:00 pm on Jan. 7, 2018.
Where: Rockefeller Plaza, between West 48th & West 51st Streets and 5th and 6th Avenues, Manhattan.
Info: www.rockefellercenter.com

Newly-Updated Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes

Since 1933, people of all ages have been enjoying the Radio City Christmas Spectacular show. But this New York City holiday tradition is anything but stale. The Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) announced recently that the 2017 production of the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes, presented by Chase, has undergone a complete technological overhaul.

Technological enhancements in this year’s Christmas Spectacular include updated graphics in every production number as well as complete visual transformations of scenes such as the energetic tap number, “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” “Here Comes Santa Claus,” and the finale number, “Snow.” For the first time ever, all eight of the venue’s iconic proscenium arches will have imagery projected onto them using the most advanced 14K digital mapping technology available.

From a unique take on “The Nutcracker” to the original “Here Comes Santa Claus,” the show features 140 performers, including ice skaters, dancing teddy bears, the world famous Rockettes, a live Nativity, and of course, a guest appearance from Santa Clause himself!

The Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes, presented by Chase, will run from November 10, 2017 – January 1, 2018. Tickets are on sale now at www.rockettes.com/christmas and the Radio City box office.

When: Nov. 10 through Jan. 1
Where: 1260 Avenue of the Americas, New York City
Info: radiocitychristmas.com

2017 New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train show

One of the lesser known, but equally festive and family-friendly New York City holiday events is the New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train show. Enter the Botanical Garden’s Enid A. Haupt Conservatory—a stunning Victorian-style glasshouse and a landmark itself—and watch the Garden-gauge trains loop a quarter-mile of track past 150 New York landmarks, including the original Yankee Stadium, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Trans World Airline Flight Center at John F. Kennedy Airport, and several bridges that remind that Manhattan is, indeed, an island.

This year’s exhibition features 3,000 square feet of additional exhibition space, making room for dozens of new trains, bridges, and tracks, as well as, a captivating short film of the show’s behind-the-scenes magic, and a stunning multisensory finale of light and sound.

When: Nov. 22 – Jan. 15
Where: 2900 Southern Blvd, Bronx, NY 10458
Info: www.nybg.org/hts

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™

Another timeless New York City holiday classic, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™ is the holiday ballet of all ballets. From the moment the lights go down, you will be transported to a magical place inhabited by marching toy soldiers, a glowing one-ton Christmas tree, adorable children, mischievous mice, crystalline waltzing snowflakes, the Land of Sweets and some of the most glorious dancing on earth. As in years past, 90 dancers, 62 musicians, 32 stagehands and about 100 students from the School of American Ballet team up to make The Nutcracker a magical performance for all ages.

When: Nov. 24 and runs through Dec. 31
Where: West 62nd and 65th Streets and Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues, New York City
Info: nycballet.com

Three Decades of Driving: Hoyt Celebrates 30 Years!

This October, Hoyt Livery celebrates 30 years in business serving Fairfield and Westchester Counties and surrounding areas with their ground transportation excellence. Owners Santo and Lynda Silvestro of New Canaan, CT purchased Hoyt Livery in 1987, and through three decades of hard work and dedication, have expanded the company to over 60 vehicles with more than 40 drivers. A key factor in Hoyt’s success has been a continual commitment to learning about changes in the industry and improving on their already superior customer service. Hoyt was recently named Best of the Gold Coast Winner for Best Limousine Service 2017—proof that their attention to detail has been recognized by their clients.

The Hoyt Experience

Hoyt’s mission from day one has been “The Hoyt Experience.” To make sure each client is transported with the utmost satisfaction from the moment they make their initial reservation until the moment they reach their final destination. This is accomplished with Hoyt’s friendly, helpful reservationists and professionally-dressed, knowledgeable chauffeurs.

“Our success is largely thanks to our stellar staff and loyal clients,” says Lynda Silvestro. “We have the best of both, and we couldn’t have lasted this long without them. “We know that there are other transportation options out there, but time and time again we see the same clients calling back. We truly appreciate that,” adds Santo.

Rewards Programs

Another reason for client loyalty is Hoyt’s Referral Rewards Program. When a client’s friend or colleague hires Hoyt, the company will send the person who referred them a $25 American Express gift card.

And for frequent travelers, Hoyt offers the Marquis Rewards Program. When a client completes 10 rides, they receive a free airport transfer.

Hoyt Livery Travel App

“We realize that customer preferences and expectations change and evolve, so it’s on us to keep up with the times,” says Lynda. To meet the demands of digitally savvy clients, in 2013, Hoyt launched their mobile app, which allows clients to schedule a new trip, check their reservation and keep a record of their frequent destinations to make booking easier for future trips, all from their iPhone, iPad or Android phone.

“Most of our clients are very busy business travelers—they’re not behind their desks, they’re on the go,” said Lynda. “We felt they needed this app to be able to book and manage their trips from the palms of their hands.”

Download the app here.

Drivers are Employees

Another major differentiator: Hoyt’s drivers are employees — licensed, insured, and trained in Hoyt’s standard of excellence. Many other limousine companies, on the other hand, are merely transportation “brokers.” Upon taking reservations, they hire freelance drivers without any regard for their experience, insurance status, or vehicle condition; a reminder for the buyer—or in this case, rider—to beware.

Always Adding to Fleet

Hoyt has consistently added new vehicles to their fleet over the years. The lineup now includes more than 60 Lincoln Town Cars and stretch limousines, Chevrolet Suburbans, Ford E350 Vans, and more—all impeccably maintained and cared for. “When that car pulls up to a client, that’s their first impression of us as a company, so we want it to be a positive one,” says Santo.

With an open mind and an open ear, Santo and Lynda continue to talk with customers about every aspect of the business, and encourage feedback and welcome emails. Cheers to 30 more years of excellent transportation service!

To make a reservation with Hoyt, visit us online or call (203) 966-5466.