You’re sitting at work and smiling… Is this a dream?

morale 2

You’re sitting at your desk… someone says, ‘if you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.” DO YOU?  I know I wanted to…

There are many studies that find a connection between psychological and physical well-being. In other words, Happiness = Healthiness. So, if this is a prevalent theme in society, then the workplace mantra of “a happy employee is a productive employee” should hold similar credibility.  The ‘happy employee’ practices of very successful companies has become increasingly newsworthy and noteworthy. The most fascinating to me is the 52 and 17 rule. Working in sprint like fervor for 52 minutes and then mind clearing breaks of 17 minutes, produces the employees with the highest productivity ratings.  Before I even knew this was a thing, I would try this. Perhaps telling a story to my department. But a little levity was met with the look of “WHY THE HELL AREN’T YOU AT YOUR DESK?” My morale was sky-high–[eye-roll].

Alas, I found myself in the dark ages of low morale. How, exactly, is “if you’re unhappy, you can always leave here. No one is making you stay”, a productive statement to employees? I find myself to be a different kind of manager. One whose methods include teamwork, recognizing hard work, encouraging idea sharing, attentive, (caring about employees as people—friends). We spend so much time at work, it is—I believe—imperative to constantly strive to have everyone HAPPY to be there.  I mean, we work for the same company. I enjoy working towards the same goals and sharing in the success stories.  As a manager, applauding those who work hard and building up everyone to share in the “fun’, is inspiring for myself as well as the group.

Most of us know the stories of the “really cool” companies to work for. We’ve seen the stories of company excursions to fabulous places. However, not every small  company can go to lengths like  Top 10 Forbes companies.  But there is definitely room for improvement for some. The jobs site has the Leap Awards, honoring the companies that have made the biggest strides to improve employee happiness year-over-year. This is an impressive award. CareerBliss evaluates more than 250,000 company reviews and ratings it receives from employees nationwide to find the top 50 deserving companies. To qualify for the list, each company has to have at least 50 reviews. If you look at the list and do some quick math, you will come to the same conclusion as I did. Happy employees make for prosperous companies.

When one considers the amazing perks of some of the larger tech companies or big retailers, it is no wonder the rest of us are left a little envious—which can leave you less than “happy”. Apple is a good example of real life—real use—perks for today’s world. $300 towards gym, $100 for metrocard (NYC), tuition assistance if the class is related to your job. Intuit has a onsite massage therapist and a great 401K with employer matching. Facebook has an abundance of free food, dry cleaning, parental assistance, personal training subsidies and a spa. (California)

Time. How do you put a price tag on time? No one has enough of it, and generally speaking, if you want to take time off from work—at least where I was, with a  Scrooge school of business mentality—it was frowned upon.  I would like to take a page from the likes of Moz—a software marketing development company that has a GREAT time perk. All employees get 21 days paid vacation AND the company gives them a bonus $3000 in vacation reimbursement for food, lodging, entertainment and transportation. The CEO at Moz believes that this type of perk is essential to keeping amazing people on his team. Right THERE is part of the morale booster. The CEO recognizes that he HAS a great team. Other companies like Netflix have instituted unlimited vacation days—which has its problems as well as its benefits. Not everyone is equipped to hash out how many days is right for your job. Will you feel pressure for taking more or less days than your peers? All in all, though, I personally would like that kind of conundrum.

Food. Food is always welcome. Many companies will offer a pizza day or doughnut day, where more health conscious companies might offer something more on par with their healthier lifestyle, and everyone loves a little gourmet feast we won’t make for ourselves. Food is a fabulous perk. Food offerings, since the first caveman brought a Mammoth gift to his cave neighbor, has always been a great gesture.

Fitness. Encouraging your employees to be fit, energetic and doped up on dopamine’s is a no-brainer. Even smaller companies, without a great deal of money to spend, have found ways to benefit their employees mind and body. A company called Gravity Payments has a weekly running club, where team members can be excused from
their work for an hour to go on an organized run around the neighborhood. This clears minds, provides a mental break, increases camaraderie and is super healthy. A more prevalent company fitness perk is simply paying for or subsidizing gym memberships or classes. And an up and coming perk is having a gym on the premises for employees to use. Again, seemingly a no-brainer to increase morale.

These are just some perks that companies who value their employees use to keep them happy. Low morale can simply not be dismissed. A very interesting survey by Watson Wyatt and World at Work, found that from 2009 to 2010 the percentage of top performing employees that would recommend their employer to others for a job dropped by nearly 20%. Even more telling was that slightly more than 40% felt their pay and benefits changes over the past year had had a negative effect on work quality and customer service. These are the types of costs to a company that, if overlooked, will be more than most employers can bear.

The moral of this morale story is simple. You reward your employees with a few perks and some recognition for their work and you are, in turn, rewarded right back with loyalty, hard work and great press. Word of mouth for any sized company is priceless. Better it be good press than bad.

Some great—and low cost—morale boosters…TAKE A LOOK AT THIS:

Xoxo DDJ

A suburban New York girls guide to nature and the great outdoors

BK PA Bear

I love the outdoors, in that I love fresh air.  I love the indoors in that I love indoor plumbing and a big comfy bed.  So it might not come as a huge surprise that my idea of “camping” involves both of the aforementioned. Planning is paramount if you’re a suburban girl like me who has that twinge of wanting to experience nature first hand, and it NOT being at the Bronx Zoo.  First, and possibly foremost, when choosing your locale, you will want to be acutely aware of the proximity of said nature to a fine resort, preferably—no definitely—with a spa and a pool—maybe even a gym if you are one of THOSE people.


Research will involve making sure that your nature excursion isn’t so far from your fabulously fluffy bed, duly appointed robe and slippers, along with a fine dining restaurant for the end of your exhausting oneness with nature.  My choice required the following criteria: distance from home, spa amenities, restaurant menus and… of course, proximity to the nature I have been craving. A mere 2 ½ hours from my personal insanity is Bushkill Falls in Pennsylvania. This first decision had me on my way to a brave new world.  This suburban chick was going out to find NATURE!

 BK PA spa                               BK PA drinks and snacks

Nature and resort being established there is more planning to be had, at least for me there was. I needed to move on to attire.  Don’t laugh, this is important stuff! Be sure to bring the appropriate clothing for your hikes and nature jaunts.  (I had to laugh when I saw people trying to navigate the rocky, wooded trails along streams and waterfalls in FLIP FLOP’s). So, being as how this typical New York suburban girl doesn’t have these items, a little shopping was necessary.  By the way a great trick when you purchase your awesome new designer hiking shoes is to scuff the bottoms for that OH SO AUTHENTIC LOOK.   Make sure you bring a bathing suit, as your fabulous resort has a pool or 2.  As I was in Pennsylvania, dressing up was not necessary.  In fact, you would look pretty silly.  I still managed to rock some kick ass casual.

BK PA me

You are almost ready to step outside the confines of your amazing resort. It sounds silly even now as I write this… Why ON EARTH would I leave these fabulous amenities?  BECAUSE, dammit… you came to see nature…. And you darned well are going to–Just as soon as you douse yourself in whatever carcinogen swears to ward off mosquitos, ticks, creepy crawly things, flying God knows what AND bears.  Ok… Turns out OFF doesn’t ward off bears.  However, I have on relatively good authority… ok some guy in a bar at the resort, but still… put your arms out straight to your sides, and somehow, without really moving, make sure mama bears babies are not behind you.  If they are, and Mama bear can not see her cubs, you are screwed and I hope you have a will.  I, being a seasoned NYer, travel with pepper spray, enough snacks to keep a family of bears busy and the ability to talk to the animals. Or, so it would seem, as they don’t seem to run away as quickly when I start talking as most people do.  In any case, my last resort would be the bad attitude I was born and raised with as a lifelong New Yorker.  Surely that has to work for something with the bears.   OK, Bears check.  Now, there are well… People.  I am not nearly as confident in dealing with them.  I’d go back to the pepper spray if need be.

I was ready to go.  Backpack filled with the appropriate bug repellent, water, Band-Aids—ya never know—and trail mix, since I never used TRAIL MIX  for its appropriate use before.  It all seemed to be going swimmingly until I made the mistake of hiking mid-day on my first foray into the “woods”.  I would have preferred bears.  People are not my cup of tea.  The signs are quite explicit.  “Hikers only”, “very long walk, rocky terrain”, “I’d turn back if I were you.”   I mean really!  The weather was 90 degrees, there are people dressed in jeans, flip flops, some people from India I am guessing, by their Saris that dragged on the ground behind them.  Oh, and of course the Einstein’s who thought flip flops on the most difficult trail would be wise, which worked out great as 2 of them sprained ankles. I should have told her that someone died just 2 years ago after slipping and falling 150 feet to their death, but I was feeling magnanimous for a change. This Zen thing was working its magic.

BK PA other signBK PA sign 2 small

 For the next day I went VERY early in the morning.  WOW, what a difference.  I barely—or is it bearly—saw any people on this excursion.  A couple of people walking dogs on one of the trails, and best of all REAL nature.  Deer with their little white tails whipping around as they put their little deer lips down to the cool clear water….  Oh wait, that doesn’t end well.  For me, however, it was breathtaking.  The early morning sun through the enormous trees, the way the sun glistened on the falls, and streams almost blinded me while it had me stopped in my tracks in awe.  Now I know, for a great deal of you this is old hat.  “Sure, yeah, whatever…. See that all the time.”  But for this suburban chick, I felt as though I was the first person on the moon.  And a feeling of serenity I had not known since my massage.  No, this was a different sensation altogether.  I literally didn’t want it to end.  Covered in sweat and drenched clear through my awesome outfit, I didn’t care.  THIS was amazing!

BK PA falls

BK PA beauty

BK PA TreesBK PA Rocks

My “Dora the Explorer” adventures didn’t stop there.  What good is heading out into what may or may not be the sequel to Deliverance, if you don’t take a few chances? So, even though I was on my own, I found a few “authentic” middle of nowhere establishments for the drinks and snacks that are obligatory.  I have to say, the food was great—for not being in NY—and the people were as friendly as can be.  I made friends wherever I sat my happy butt on a stool.  Again, serenity ensued.  I had crawled outside the box of my apprehension of doing things on my own, and had CONQUERED it—BIG TIME.

When not playing explorer I took full advantage of my resort.  The amazing staff befriended me immediately.  Turns out people like me.  The people there could not have been kinder or more helpful. They made me feel like family from the get-go.  I have to thank my best friend, whose generous gift allowed me to take advantage of the spectacular spa. It was amazing; massage, facial, manicure.  Now tell me what campground has that kind of service?  And a special thanks to a woman named Patty, who was able to hone in on my insatiable appetite. She made suggestion after suggestion and did not steer me wrong even once.  Every morsel of food I had at the resort was fantastic. I could go on and on about my Zen trip into the deep dark woods of a park in Pennsylvania, and the thoroughly relaxing nearby resort, but that would be silly.  I think my gushing about it has been sufficient.

Suffice it to say, this suburban chick has seen the beauty and serenity that lies 2 ½ hours from home and LOVES it. I found I am whole without needing someone to tag along with me.  There is NO stigma in actually WANTING to get away alone. I wanted this, I got it, and it was perfect.  I learned that the serenity lies within me—it’s just often interrupted by reality.

One last note about my literal and spiritual exploration, as I would be remiss to not mention the new friends I made at Bushkill Falls Inn:  Jen O., Patty, Crystal, and my tiny Bulgarian friend Donka who made me feel like family.  I hope when Donka returns to Bulgaria she takes with her the knowledge that she made my birthday vacation amazing.

I learned on my 49th birthday that I can do anything.  This was just the beginning.  🙂


Bushkill Falls Inn, PA

Update 2014: Facebook for all of its good or bad has allowed me to maintain a friendships with some of my PA girls. And for that I am quite grateful.  I WILL BE BACK… And you can all warn ROGER.  😉