The week@work – The odds of being poor@some point, how walking in nature changes the brain, young women envision pauses in their career and advice to working mothers

One story stood out from the rest this week@work. Washington Post journalists Emily Badger and Christopher Ingraham reported on the findings of sociologist Mark Rand at Washington University. The title alone was attention grabbing: ‘The remarkably high odds you’ll be poor at some point in your life’.

“The poor in America are not a permanent class of people. Who’s poor in any given year is different from who’s poor a few years later.

By the time they’re 60 years old, Rank has found, nearly four in five people experience some kind of economic hardship: They’ve gone through a spell of unemployment, or spent time relying on a government program for the poor like food stamps, or lived at least one year in poverty or very close to it.

By age 60, nearly 80 percent of us will have gone through a rough stretch.

“Rather than an uncommon event,” Rank says, “poverty was much more common than many people had assumed once you looked over a long period of time.”

The age of job stability is over, if anyone was still hanging on to an ideal of job security. Financial planning is a critical component of long term career planning. The reality of the research is that there will be periods of economic challenge alternating with periods of affluence. The ‘poor’ are not some abstract population. They are your neighbors, family and friends.

A story in The New York Times offered an example of how attitudes toward work and career might alter a family’s income. Journalist Claire Cain Miller writing for the Upshot found that the most recent entrants to the workplace envision planned pauses in their careers.

“The youngest generation of women in the work force — the millennials, age 18 to early 30s — is defining career success differently and less linearly than previous generations of women. A variety of survey data shows that educated, working young women are more likely than those before them to expect their career and family priorities to shift over time.

The surveys highlighted that two generations after women entered the business world in large numbers, it can still be hard for women to work. Even those with the highest career ambitions are more likely than their predecessors to plan to scale back at work at certain times or to seek out flexible jobs.

You might call them the planning generation: Their approach is less all or nothing — climb the career ladder or stay home with children — and more give and take.”

Recalling the career of journalist Marlene Sanders who died last week, Katherine Rosman shared the story of a member of the generation who achieved professional distinction while being among the first to ‘work outside the home’.

“In 2000, Cynthia McFadden, the senior legal and investigative correspondent for NBC News, attended a party given by her friend Jeffrey Toobin, a staff writer for The New Yorker and legal analyst for CNN. There, Ms. McFadden was catching up with Mr. Toobin’s mother, Marlene Sanders, the pioneering television reporter. She asked for her advice on managing motherhood and a career.

Ms. Sanders put both hands on Ms. McFadden’s shoulders and peered into her eyes. “Never apologize for working,” the older woman said. “You love what you do, and loving what you do is a great gift to give your child.”

Over the years, Ms. McFadden said, Mr. Toobin told her he loved having a mother who worked outside the home, even in an era when it was not that common. It was a sentiment he reiterated in an interview on Wednesday. “I found her career exciting,” he said. “I loved to watch her on TV. Guilt was never part of the equation. And given her temperament, if she had been home all the time, it would have been a close contest to determine whether she or I went insane first.”

The last story of the week shares research that should encourage you to take a walk in the park. Reporting on a study at Stanford University, Gretchen Reynolds found:

A walk in the park may soothe the mind and, in the process, change the workings of our brains in ways that improve our mental health, according to an interesting new study of the physical effects on the brain of visiting nature.

But just how a visit to a park or other green space might alter mood has been unclear. Does experiencing nature actually change our brains in some way that affects our emotional health?

That possibility intrigued Gregory Bratman, a graduate student at the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources at Stanford University, who has been studying the psychological effects of urban living. In an earlier study published last month, he and his colleagues found that volunteers who walked briefly through a lush, green portion of the Stanford campus were more attentive and happier afterward than volunteers who strolled for the same amount of time near heavy traffic.”

In summary this week@work – take a walk in the park and consider your career path. Lose the guilt if you are a working mother, and plan for both the expected as well as the unexpected shifts in work/life balance.

The week@work – Leadership lessons from FIFA, ways to boost job security & the ‘small, happy life’

Early Wednesday morning Swiss authorities entered a high end hotel in Zurich and arrested 14 FIFA officials on a variety of charges including wire fraud, money laundering and racketeering. On Friday, Seth Blatter was reelected to his fifth term as President of FIFA. Subsequent reports throughout the week illuminated Mr. Blatter’s leadership style.

His response to the arrests and accepting responsibility as the most powerful leader in soccer:

“Many people hold me responsible. I can’t monitor everyone all of the time. If people want to do wrong, they will also try to hide it.”

Apparently the buck doesn’t stop at Mr. Blatter’s desk.

Writing in the Opinion Pages of The New York Times, columnist, Roger Cohen provided a rationale for Blatter to step down:

“Mr. Blatter, your time is up.

Why? Because the corruption charges against current and former FIFA vice presidents and others reflect an organization rotten to its core, operating in the absence of any meaningful oversight, without term limits for a president whose salary is of course unknown (but estimated by Bloomberg to be “in the low double-digit” millions), overseeing $5.72 billion in partially unaccounted revenue for the four years to December 2014, governing a sport in which matches and World Cup venues and in fact just about everything appears to have been up for sale, burying a report it commissioned by a former United States attorney into the bidding process for the next two World Cups, and generally operating in a culture of cavalier disdain personified by Blatter, whose big cash awards to soccer federations in poorer countries have turned the delegates from many of FIFA’s 209 member associations into his fawning acolytes.”

Why should we care? On Wednesday, Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post published a story, ‘The human toll of FIFA’s corruption’.

“On the surface, it’s just another white collar crime story: rich, powerful men making themselves richer and more powerful. But a closer look suggests that there is a lot of real-world suffering happening as a direct result of FIFA’s decisions.”

“Human rights advocates’ worst fears about Qatar seemed to be confirmed as Qatar began building the infrastructure to host the Cup, and reports of migrant worker deaths started to pile up. The numbers, to the extent that we know them, appear startling: A Guardian investigation last year revealed that Nepalese migrant workers were dying at a rate of one every two days. In sum, the Guardian put the total Qatar death toll of workers from Nepal, India and Bangladesh at 964 in 2012 and 2013.”

Perhaps we would all like to be a bit more secure at work, while not employing the extreme tactics of the FIFA president.

The ABC network affiliate in Sacramento, California aired a story on ‘Nine Ways to Boost Your Job Security‘. Number one is to do good work. Some of the other suggestions included continuing to learn to maintain your competitive advantage and never get too comfortable in your job. In other words, security and comfort are not synonymous.

The two tactics that stood out for me were to know yourself, and establish alternate revenue streams. “A 401k plan, prudent investments, side businesses, and lucrative hobbies can offer temporary financial support if you were to find yourself without a steady income.”

From the billions of FIFA to normal folk seeking security at work, the last story of the week comes from The New York Times columnist, David Brooks. On Friday his topic was ‘The Small, Happy Life’. He was surprised by the result of his request for essays from readers on “their purpose in life and how they found it”.

“I expected most contributors would follow the commencement-speech clichés of our high-achieving culture: dream big; set ambitious goals; try to change the world. In fact, a surprising number of people found their purpose by going the other way, by pursuing the small, happy life.”

So here’s one for you, Mr. Blatter. Not that you will ever read it. But if you did, you could learn something from the response from one of Mr. Brooks’ readers.

“Elizabeth Young once heard the story of a man who was asked by a journalist to show his most precious possession. The man, Young wrote, “was proud and excited to show the journalist the gift he had been bequeathed. A banged up tin pot he kept carefully wrapped in cloth as though it was fragile. The journalist was confused, what made this dingy old pot so valuable? ‘The message,’ the friend replied. The message was ‘we do not all have to shine.’ This story resonated deeply. In that moment I was able to relieve myself of the need to do something important, from which I would reap praise and be rewarded with fulfillment. My vision cleared.”