Work Woes: Compensation & productivity

A big, huge, gigantic part of my life is my job. Like many of you, I spend a lot of time getting ready for work, driving to work, driving from work, thinking about work, dreading work, not to mention actually doing work. It felt odd having such a large part of my life unrepresented on the site, especially since it can be a major factor in someone’s health and wellness. For me, personally, workplace woes make up much of my mental health concerns, so I decided to add a new category for this a future posts.

I’d like to think this new section will have tips on productivity, creativity, self-care, setting goals and then crushing them…but right this second, I’m gonna use it for bitching.

Image result for working meme

You see, I think much of the modern (at least American) workplace is slow, outdated, inefficient, and sometimes downright nonsensical. This occupies a lot of my thinking, because no one wants their time and efforts wasted and it’s difficult for me to operate within these broken systems without getting frustrated. What’s bothering me today? How most places measure and compensate for productivity.

Let’s look at the stereotypical American workplace model: there’s a large cubicle farm in the center of a single large room with offices around the perimeter for ~important people~, a small break room, small bathrooms, and maybe a park bench or two outside. Dolly Parton sang about the struggles of working 9 to 5, but the modern reality is closer to 8 to 5. If you’re lucky they might have perks like flex time, childcare, or remote work, but while trendy, those things have yet to catch on large-scale.

This scenario forces employees to work within some pretty narrow standards: you will perform all your work in the same chair, at the same desk, strictly within arbitrarily-defined hours, eating at pre-determined hours, and you’ll be paid based on how many hours you work.

But…why?

If Americans truly valued productivity — as in, quality output — wouldn’t we compensate based on…output? Wouldn’t we accommodate workers in however makes them most productive? Right now we compensate based on Time Spent In Chair (TSIC), and not volume of work produced. Here’s an example for a fictional company:

  • Kevin works 40 hours/week, and is able to complete 20 case files in that time (0.5 cases/hr)
  • Susan works 40 hours/week, and is able to complete 30 case files in that time (0.75 cases/hr)
  • Bob works 40 hours/week, and is able to complete 10 case files in that time (0.25 cases/hr)

In this example, the three employees work identical hours in identical jobs for identical pay. That doesn’t seem fair, does it? Bob is much less productive than Susan but they are compensated the same. I see two possible solutions:

  1. The employees can be given 20 case files each week and allowed to complete things at their own pace, being paid a flat rate for the lump sum of work. At that rate, it will take Kevin 40 hours to complete his work, Susan will need ~27, and Bob will need 80. If Susan only needs 3.5 business days to finish her work, why make her stay for the rest of the week? She’ll inevitably end up taking on more than her share of work, uncompensated of course.Image result for work memeAnd what about Bob? If there are issues with Bob’s performance they’ll be evident immediately and can be addressed with extra training, a mentor, or perhaps reassigning him to another area. Bad employees can’t hide within an overall productive work group with this model.
  2. Or, you could also expect employees to work based on TSIC, having everyone work the required 40 hours, but compensate for their actual output. In this model, Kevin will complete (and be paid for) 20 cases, Susan for 30, and Bob for 10. Again, productive employees are directly rewarded and substandard employees have an incentive to improve. In fact, all employees have an incentive to increase their output.

You might think, “Sure, the classic setup isn’t fair to Susan, but if she’s really that much better of a worker she’ll be promoted faster and make up the pay difference then.” Maybe, maybe not. Even if it only takes one year for Susan to get promoted (which is very, very optimistic), she will have spent approximately 650 hours more than necessary at work. If she makes $15/hour, that’s $9750 uncompensated. Will she get a 33% raise alongside that promotion? Highly doubtful. Will she even be promoted after a single year? Again, doubtful.

The time and money saved with either model is not insignificant. Lost time cannot be recouped, and most people would prefer to see their families more, indulge in hobbies more, or maybe even pick up a second job if they had the time. Money compounds over time, and making more money upfront (as opposed to waiting around for a promotion that may never arrive) helps an employee pay off loans, buy a house, save for retirement, or fulfill their bucket lists. The benefits proposed by these models could making a shocking difference in the quality of life for the average employee, and who doesn’t want that?

All you’re accomplishing with the old model is making the Susans of the world tired, overworked, and resentful, and allowing the Bobs of the world to linger around, giving substandard performance with low consequences. Ever ask how you ended up with such an incompetent supervisor? How did they possibly end up in a position of authority despite being inept? It’s simple: they’re a Bob who worked for years unnoticed (and therefore un-fired) while the productive, motivated employees quit out of frustration.

Image result for work meme

Susan, working in the current system

If you set working hours based on output, your employees win and your business wins. If you set compensation based on output, your employees win and your business wins. Unfortunately, until businesses begin to truly value productivity, instead of just claiming they do, little will change.

What do you think? Am I totally right? A total idiot? Meet me in the comments!

Gift Guide: Family Edition

holiday gift guide for family


So, ’tis the season for gift guides: perfectly curated lists from tastemakers and influencers, trying to make your holiday shopping just a liiiiiiiittle easier. Not wanting to feel left out, I’ve created my own, Slacker-inspired gift guide that’ll simplify your life and make the recipients swoon.

Just kidding. I’m the world’s crappiest gift-giver.

That said, I try really hard every year to find thoughtful gifts…but usually procrastinate, then panic, and before I know it I’m frantically shoving 37 scarves into 37 bags to give the 37 special people in my life different versions of the same exact gift. Almost worse, I’ll occasionally find The One Perfect Gift™ for a single person, and then feel extra guilty that the other 36 presents are a bit generic.

So despite the blood, sweat, and tears I’ve poured into making this gift guide…maybe use it as a last resort, mmkay?


 

Philosophy Amazing Grace whipped body creme

This smells amaaaaaaaazing, and it’s great for dry winter skin.

Mom: She’s your amazing grace, right? (Just pretend that makes sense, thanks.)

 

Breakfast sandwich maker holiday gift

Just look at this bad boy!

Dad: An all-in-one breakfast sandwich maker? Hells yeah.

brother sewing machine holiday gift

This is especially great if he failed Home Ec.

Brother: Get your bro a Brother sewing machine! Get it?! He’ll love the pun! You’re so funny!

sister act and sister act 2 dvd holiday gift

Get it, “sister?” Another pun! I’m on a roll!

Sister: Give your sister the gift of Whoopi…wait…what? Never mind. Forget I said anything.

retro red boombox holiday gift

This boombox is pretty sexy, not gonna lie.

Grandparents: Go retro, and give your grandparents a sleek boombox, complete with CDs you’ve burned of all their old-timey favorites. Waylon Jennings, anyone? (For real though, this can be a really sweet, low-tech gift and it’s got that “homemade” touch.)

blue dinosaur desk lamp holiday gift

If your kid doesn’t like dinosaurs you’re doing something wrong.

Nieces/nephews: I don’t care how old your nieces and/or nephews are, every kid loves dinosaurs. They’ll sleep tight with this bitchin’ dino light.

cardiology for kids book holiday gift

If your kid looks like a smarty pants, you look like a smarty pants.

Kids: It’s never too early to prep your kids for med school, or at the very least start grooming a top-notch pub trivia partner.

gray futon gift guide

Classic design, clean lines: the perfect place to plan an amazing gift for that special someone without consulting a crappy gift guide made by a crazy person.

Partner: if you’re coming to me, the world’s worst gift giver, looking for a present for your romantic partner…you’re SOL. In the doghouse. So, here’s a nice sleeper sofa for your future nights spent on the couch.

Stay tuned for more gift guides, including friends, frenemies, coworkers, and of course a health-themed guide!

Chocolate avocado shake for avocado haters

chocolate avocado shake

I hate avocados.

They suck.  They taste like grassy…nothing?  And if you cut into them too early they aren’t smooth, but if you cut too late they’re mushy and brown, ugh.  Guacamole is weird and chunky.  And people just slice avocados up and put them on toast?  Plain toast???  Like ANIMALS???

So like a total maniac I bought an avocado at the store last week.

fresh avocado

Mmmmm, sludge. (I’m not doing very well selling this, I can feel it.)

Long story short, I’ve been trying to eat more vegetables, so I’ve been trying stuff previously written off as gross.  Cauliflower, sweet potato, vegan protein powder, beets, eggplant, and now there’s a damn avocado on my counter, and it’s juuuuuuuust ripe.  Pinterest recommended mixing avocado with chocolate, in brownies, cake, pudding, mousse, and all kinds of typically unhealthy stuff.  The avocado replaces other oils and fats with the healthy vegetable avocado fat, which is great, but I wanted something marginally healthier and single-serving.

Smoothie it is.

My go-to breakfast smoothie is about a cup of liquid, a cup of fruit, and a scoop of protein powder, so that’s the base of this smoothie, too.  I added cocoa powder for the chocolate (my protein is vanilla-flavored), and then a teaspoon or two of honey for optional sweetness.  So four, five ingredients tops, and what do I get?

The best freaking smoothie I’ve ever had.

It is PHENOMENAL.  It’s super rich, full of protein and healthy fats, and has two servings of vegetables!  And I swear, it’s not “good even though it’s a vegetable.”  It’s good all by itself.  You really can’t taste the avocado (I’d tell you if you could, believe me); it just adds this great texture.  I honestly think in a blind taste-test, the average person couldn’t tell there was anything weird about this smoothie, just that it was insanely good.  A five-minute, five-ingredient breakfast that’ll start your day off right!

Chocolate avocado shake

Serving Size: 1 16 oz shake

Calories per serving: 574

Fat per serving: 30 g

Carbs per serving: 42 g

Protein per serving: 42 g

Fiber per serving: 16 g

Sugar per serving: 19 g

Chocolate avocado shake

Ingredients

  • 1 avocado, peeled and pitted
  • 1 cup milk (I had soymilk, so I used soymilk)
  • 1 scoop protein powder
  • 1-2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • honey or agave, to taste

Instructions

  • Put everything in the blender. Blend. Eat.
  • *If your protein powder is chocolate flavored, start with 1 tablespoon cocoa and taste before adding more.
  • **I liked the smoothie just fine without any extra sweetener...it's just that...I liked it even more with a drizzle of honey. You do you.
  • Notes

    *These nutrition stats will vary based on the protein powder and amount of honey you use.

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    Not kidding, make this smoothie.  Immediately.  And tell me what you think!  How else do you guys hide vegetables?

    Greek fisherman stew on a snow day

    Greek fisherman stew

    Snow days as an adult are glorious.

    Waking up like a kid on Christmas, peeking through the blinds at the measly 3 inches of snow, and eagerly checking my work website for the notice: Campus is closed…

    snow day

    *Whiny voice* “I used to live in Montana, you don’t know what real snow looks like! You don’t know what it’s like to be really cold!” (PS: no one cares)

    Then right back to sleep.

    I had been planning on making a Mediterranean-style stew all week long, but now I had allllll day to perfect it.  See, weeks ago we went to BJ’s and for once in my freaking life I ordered off the “enlightened” menu (usually I get a bleu cheese bacon burger with fries, a beer, and a pizookie…cheat days FTW).  I got some mahi mahi dish that didn’t sound amazing, but ended up blowing my mind.  The fish was cooked perfectly, swimming in a rich broth with shrimp, pearl couscous, kalamata olives, and a few tomatoes.  Ya’ll…I have been dreaming about that damn fish for over a month now.

    After all the holiday indulgence, Zack and I decided to try the Mediterranean diet for the month of January.  I plan on posting more about the Mediterranean diet in a few weeks, but for now let me just say that it’s awesome.  Regardless, as soon as we agreed to give it a shot I began scheming about making the fish.  I found a recipe for “Greek Fisherman’s Stew” and modified it pretty heavily to mimic what I’d eaten at BJ’s.  While it didn’t entirely satisfy my craving, we still ended up with a pretty healthy, filling dinner that’s Med-diet compliant.  And even though I gave myself two hours to make it, it could probably be done in about 45 minutes.Greek fisherman stew and wine

    Besides the stew, I also made this skillet focaccia bread that was worth every calorie.  It was delicious dunked into the broth, but was also a stand-alone snack hours later after dinner (when most other breads would be dry and gross).  I HIGHLY encourage you to make this bread, whether or not you make the stew to go with it.skillet focaccia bread


    Greek fisherman stew

    Prep Time: 10 minutes

    Cook Time: 35 minutes

    Total Time: 45 minutes

    Yield: 4 servings

    Greek fisherman stew

    Ingredients

    • Olive oil
    • 1/2 large onion, finely chopped
    • 8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    • 1 large tomato (I used two but it was waaaaay too much), chopped small
    • 1 cup dry white wine
    • ~1/2 cup kalamata olives, halved
    • 3/4 cup Israeli pearl couscous
    • 2 fish fillets (I used swai, but bass, tilapia, or cod would also be great), chunked
    • 2 handfuls frozen shrimp, chunked
    • Salt, pepper, red chili flakes to taste

    Instructions

  • Add a few tablespoons olive oil to a large pot or dutch oven, and saute the onion until soft. Add the garlic and saute another minute. Add the tomato with juices, then cover and cook on medium for about 10 minutes.
  • Add one cup of dry white wine, then 1 1/2 cups water (if this isn't enough you can add more later), the olives, and the couscous. Simmer for another 10 minutes, or until the couscous is almost cooked through.
  • Season your fish and shrimp with salt, black pepper, and chili flakes to taste, then add them to the pot and cook for another five minutes or until the couscous is tender and the fish is opaque. Spoon into bowls, and enjoy!
  • *As always, adjust the seasonings as you see fit. If you want things spicier, add chili flakes to the broth or even some sriracha. The original recipe called for fennel, which has a light licorice taste. Add more veggies, or try a different grain. A garnish of smoked salmon (or even smoked salt) would be a delicious finishing touch!
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    So tell me, have you tried the Mediterranean diet (check out other fish-friendly recipes here and here)?  Any favorite recipes?  Any snow day favorites?  Comment below!

    8 self-care tips for the holidays

    roaring fire

    Ugh, I feel like self-care is such a buzzword these days.  If you think you’ve been hearing it a lot…you have.  Everything seems to count as self-care, even things like eating, sleeping, and breathing (I’m not kidding, google “self-care breathing” and read a million articles about the best way to breathe to reduce stress).

    Despite my bitching………..there’s something to it.

    It’s important to listen to your body and take care of yourself year round, but right around the holidays this starts to feel impossible.  How can you relax when you have to find personal/special/meaningful gifts for 47 different people, and bake dozens of cookies for the office, and look chic for all your friends’ parties, all while NOT GAINING A POUND OMG.  Oh, and actually doing work at your job?  Forget about it.

    Though it’s hip and trendy, even the cynic in me has to admit that self-care is necessary and needed in these times of stress.  Here are some ideas on how to relax, all with a holiday spin. ‘Tis the season, after all.

    1. Take a bubble bath.

    Image result for bath gif

    Clean out that bathtub, find some seasonal bubbles and give yourself a half-hour of bliss.  Gingerbread, vanilla, cookie, and peppermint scents will bring out your Christmas spirit.  Try this set of bubbles from Philosophy (it would make a great gift, too!).

    2. Watch a movie.

    Related image

    Christmas Vacation, anyone?  My favorites are Elf, Love Actually, and Die Hard (if Christmas happens in the movie, then it’s a Christmas movie!).  Make plans to pop popcorn, turn off your phone, and spend two hours with the Griswalds.

    3. Stare into a fire.

    roaring fire

     Where I live, it’s really freaking hot (except right this minute, when we have a wind-chill of -4 degrees…).  Any excuse to light up our fireplace is welcome by me.  If you don’t have a fireplace, try a few candles or even some string lights and just relax nearby, even if you’re doing the usual stuff.  Would you rather scroll Insta on your lame couch or in front of a roaring fire?

    4. Eat delicious food.

    chicken soup with vegetables

    You know what’s in season right now?  Pomegranates!  Greens!  Pears!  Citrus!  What about those classic winter foods that sound gross in the summer, light hot chicken noodle soup!  Chili!  Casseroles!  All those foods are seasonal, delicious, and healthy.  There’s nothing more comforting than a hot meal at the end of a cold day.  Try this tilapia and lentils recipe on for size…you’ll be too full to gorge on cookies.

    5. Drink up!matcha latte art

    Christmas = parties = booze = dehydration.  When you get dehydrated, your skin sucks, your energy tanks, and you feel crappy.  Stay on top of things by drinking tons of water and tea, and consider trying matcha or turmeric lattes for an extra boost of energy and nutrients.  That way you can indulge in that extra glass of champagne, knowing it won’t wreck your body.  Also, don’t overdo the caffeine and stay away from energy drinks.  Extra coffee will just leave you buzzing and anxious, and energy drinks are pure garbage.

    6. Do retail therapy the right way.

    Image result for treat yo self

    Let’s face it: sometimes you go shopping for other people, and leave with bags of stuff for yourself.  Now you feel stressed (and maybe a little guilty), and you still have to get something for your coworker’s brother-in-law.  Try making a list of gifts in advance so you don’t go into unnecessary stores and spend unnecessary money.  And if you tend to treat yo-self, budget a little money for a present from you to you.

    7. Have a snowball fight.

    Wreck havoc on your enemies and burn mega calories while you’re at it!  If you’re gonna be stuck in the snow, you might as well play in it, right?  De-stress after a long day by acting like a kid again.

    8. Make some healthy resolutions.

    unbreakable-kimmy-schmidt-carol-kane

    I’m alllllllllll about setting goals.  I set weekly, monthly, and yearly goals, so needless to say my New Year’s Resolution(s) is/are carefully planned out.  Even if you don’t go balls-to-the-wall like I do, take some quiet time to think about where you want your life to be in the new year.  Reflect on the good things that happened this last year and pick a few areas that could use improvement going forward.  Maybe you were really great about sticking to a workout schedule, but you didn’t get regular sleep (or you drank a bit too much).  As the new year approaches keep those goals in mind and set yourself up for success.

    That’s all I’ve got for now!  If you’ve got other ideas for stress management, especially those with a Christmas-bend, let me know in the comments!

    Portable lunches for taking to the gym

    portable lunches for taking to the gym

    Packing a healthy lunch is hard work.  All the traditional lunch choices, i.e. sandwiches, soups, and salads, get so boring after a while.  The internet teases me with posts like, “40 Salads That Are Great For Lunch!” but they all seem to require 27 ingredients, so no, that’s not gonna happen.  My salads are lettuce, chicken, dressing, or bust.  My soups are chicken noodle, lentil, or bust.  My sandwiches are peanut butter, or bust.  Burnout is a very real possibility, because I simply can’t justify spending an hour crafting some hipster salad that tastes funny and doesn’t fill me up, and I end up falling back on the classics.  Which are boring.

    Besides the snooze-factor, those kinds of lunches aren’t really portable.  You need a can opener, bowl, microwave, and table to eat at when you bring soup to work.  It’s really freaking hard to eat a salad while walking somewhere.  And sandwiches, while easy to eat on the go, just suck after a while.  Leftovers?  Fugetaboutit.spaghetti policy it's always sunny

    My work recently opened a gym for employees.  It’s pretty basic but right now my workouts are pretty basic, so I was stoked.  Logistically, working out at the new gym posed a big problem for me: when to go?  Let’s be real, I ain’t gonna go before work.  After work, I’m usually tired and hungry and want to go home.  Buuuuuut I  was already in the habit of walking during my lunch breaks (catching Pokemon with all the cool kids), so that seemed ideal.  That presented a new problem: when to eat?

    Here’s how my lunch hour breaks down if I wanna work out, too:

    • 10 minutes walking from my desk to the gym
    • 5 minutes changing clothes
    • 30 minutes working out
    • 5 minutes changing clothes
    • 10 minutes walking from the gym to my desk

    Do some simple math, and you’ll see that there’s no time in there to actually eat my lunch.  Sure, I could shave ten minutes off my workout to eat, but then what’s the point of even going?  The solution, I finally saw, was to eat during the walk to-and-from the gym.  This meant I needed to pack portable foods.portable lunches for taking to the gym

    The first week of this new schedule, working out 3 times a week, I ate nothing but sugar.  Why?  Because all the portable foods are sweet.  A peanut butter and honey sandwich, even on whole wheat bread, is pure sugar.  Apples, pears, grapes, bananas (which I don’t eat because they’re the devil), whatever other fruit, is straight sugar.  Granola bars?  Sugar.  Protein shakes?  Sugar.  By Friday of that week I was feeling barfy and murderous.

    The second week of my gym schedule, I bought those “protein packs” things at the market.  They usually have cheese, nuts, and some kind of deli meat.  I also got little packs of veggies and hummus or ranch.  This week went better than the sugar week, but my grocery bill was outrageous, I felt awful about all the packaging waste, and many days I still felt hungry.

    WHAT WAS I TO DO???????

    I finally found the magic combination of portable foods that tasted good, kept me full, and didn’t cost an arm and a leg.  My lunches are still a work in progress and I try something new nearly every week, but this formula right here is a tried and true winner.

    Let’s examine this line by line.  I usually eat between 400 and 500 calories at lunch, and at 470 this is in that “perfect” range.  The apple is the only sweet item, and also brings water, fiber, and vitamins (unlike most granola bars and protein shakes).  The cheese gives calcium and protein, the almonds bring protein and fat (don’t be afraid of fat!), and the jerky brings straight protein.  All told, this meal has 37 grams of protein (!!!!), 8 grams of fiber (not too shabby), 23 sugars (not great, but none of them are added sugars), and 25 grams of fat.

    I know you’re thinking right now, “holy shit, that’s a lot of fat!” but 17 grams of the 25 total grams come from the almonds.  Nuts are hella good for you, and fat isn’t the enemy.  Your body needs fat.  Don’t fear the fat.

    If you’re interested in macros, you’ll see that most of your calories are coming from, yes, fat, with protein in second and carbs making up only 26% of your calories.  Eating these macro ratios *all the time* would not be very healthy, no.  However, on a typical day my breakfast is very carb-heavy (think fruit smoothie or English muffin), and at dinner the emphasis is on lean proteins, so my daily macros usually align with my overall macro goals.  One fat-heavy meal a couple days a week won’t kill you.

    Another critical matter, like PAY ATTENTION TO THIS PART RIGHT HERE, is that I monitor portion sizes.  Wanna know what a serving of almonds looks like?

    a serving of almonds

    A handful.  YEP.  That’s all you get.  That’s how much jerky you get, too.  I know it’s not much, but the high fat/high protein/low sugar combination of foods keeps me full until dinner, which is a freaking miracle because I’m typically hungry, oh, idk, 24/7.

    So on gym day, I’ll eat my cheese and almonds on the way to the gym, and the jerky and apple on the way back.  My gym workout is weight lifting, so I like to save the sugar and protein as recovery food (although it probably doesn’t make a difference unless you’re doing hardcore lifts or crazy cardio).  These are things I can comfortably eat while walking the halls at work, keep me full until dinner, and are all whole, non-processed food.  In fact, if you eat turkey, chicken, or salmon jerky instead of beef, this meal lines up well with the Mediterranean diet.  If you swap the cheese for something else, it’s paleo and dairy-free.  Customize to your heart’s content.

    Voila!  After tweaking my lunches, I now have a fast, portable, whole-foods, filling meal that allows me to get in several more workouts each week than before.  How do you guys plan meals around your workouts?