Monthly Archives: August 2016

The Gig Economy

Gig Economy

When I was growing up, everyone was expected to work a 9 to 5 job with a pension, health care and other fringe benefits.  Only deadbeats turned down a “real” job to do their own thing.  Of course, even then cradle to grave employment was already a myth.

Lifetime employment with one employer went the way of the dodo bird in the 1970’s as the U.S. economy began opening up to international trade.  The auto industry, the bedrock of lifetime employment and gold-plated benefits, was the first to feel the shock.  To compete, the U.S. auto industry automated factories which meant they needed fewer workers.  That led to labor strikes and everyone blamed the Japanese auto makers for “stealing” American jobs.

In the 1980’s, President Ronald Reagan pursued his dream of “small government” which translated into de-regulating many industries.  That lowered costs to consumers but it also meant job losses.  One of the deregulated industries was trucking.  That led to more labor strikes and the occasional murder of non-union truck drivers.  Union members and their sympathizers used high-powered rifles to shoot at trucks driven by non-union drivers.  I remember holding my breath as I listened to the evening news, wondering if one of my truck driver relatives would be the next casualty.

In the 1980’s, companies automated many jobs to remain competitive.  They downsized and reorganized their workforces and cut their employee training budgets.  Today employers complain that workers are disengaged and lack loyalty to the company.  Here’s a news flash to employers: Employee engagement is not likely to come back.  Employees who are old enough to remember the 1980’s are not going to invest in a company that they believe won’t invest in them.

Millennials and Gen-Xers didn’t experience the wrenching changes of the 1970’s and 1980’s but their parents did.  So, in a sense, these younger workers grew up disengaged from their employers.  Rather than fitting into a box prepared by their prospective employers, they want to set their own hours and decide what work they will perform.

That’s not such a bad attitude because the economy has changed.  Our economy now thrives on technology that automates many jobs. Cloud-based software allows an entrepreneur to replicate an entire back office with little or no assistance.  Of course, this means that businesses large and small need fewer workers.  But it also means that the barriers to starting a business are lower which allows the self-employed and “gig economy” to grow.

A major concern is that government regulators are creating more rules that fit the old economy instead of the new “Uberized” economy.  Government service is virtually the only remaining industry with lifetime employment which may explain why the regulators are looking at the myth instead of the reality of today’s workplace.  Instead of more regulations, we need training programs to teach new skills to workers who have lost their jobs due to technological advances.

About Norma Shirk

Norma started her company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, to help employers create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy. Visit Norma’s website: www.complianceriskadvisor.com/.

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Books That Changed My Life

Reading

Growing up, I spent most of my free time with my nose in a book.  I was not athletic, I was not particularly popular, and lived in a crowded duplex with three generations of my family.  Reading was always my escape and I read voraciously.  My parents, both teachers, had shelves of books and I loved looking at them, touching them, flipping through the pages.  I can still picture the battered shelves with titles from O. Henry, Edgar Allen Poe, William Shakespeare, Sinclair Lewis and many more.

When I was in grade school, I loved reading biographies, primarily those of women,  Clara Barton, Louisa May Alcott, Marie Curie, Maria Tallchief and Isadora Duncan, just to name a few.  It was through the lives of these pioneering women that I could imagine a world of possibilities for myself.

It was around this time, that I also entered the world of fantasy through one of my all time favorites, “A Wrinkle in Time.”  Even today I continue to love stories about time travel.  There’s something about the mind-bending nature of the genre that keeps me thinking about it long after I’ve finished the last page.  I even enjoy films about time travel, yes, “Back to the Future,” never ceases to entertain me, and the romance of “Somewhere in Time,” still haunts.

As I grew up, I fell in love with mysteries.  Yep, I had a small collection of Nancy Drew stories, but I quickly moved on to Agatha Christie, an interest that continues to this day.  I love nothing more than to curl up with a good “whodunit,” especially when I’m on an airplane or on vacation.  Then, I can enjoy the whole book in one sitting!  Mystery readers know there is nothing more frustrating than putting the book down, only to return days (or weeks) later and not remember what is going on!

As an adult, I fell in love with Harry Potter, and the writing of J. K. Rowling when my son wanted to read the books.  I felt I should take a read, first, to make sure it was age appropriate for him.  Of course, he moved on and I was hooked.  Her writing was surprising, evocative and rich and I could not get enough.  Eventually, my younger son found the books and together we explored the magical world of wizards.

In recalling these books that changed my life, it’s clear to me that there is no one book that defines me. I guess if there is a theme, it’s that I am drawn to stories that spark my imagination, make me dream about the fantastic, and open my mind to a world of possibilities.

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation.  The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors.  Check it out at http://www.theperetzproject.com.  If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

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The Other Side of the Couch – Speaking Tech

Locked Computer

Are you a digital native or an immigrant to the land of technology?

If you were born after 1987, you are most likely a digital native. You have grown up with technology and have little resistance to it.  You do it naturally, without a lot of thought.  If you are a digital immigrant, many things about technology can be overwhelming.  As the millennials grow up and move into the job market, more and more experiences require computer savvy.  If you want to apply for a job, you will most likely have to do so online.  If you want to find a phone number, forget about finding a phone book.  Need to apply for Medicare or social security?  Most help is found online.  Many of the day-to-day activities that used to be done through mail or through written application processes are not even available in these forms.

How do all of these changes affect professional counselors and other mental health professionals?

In a word, profoundly!  Technological familiarity is now often required to submit insurance forms, to sign up for conferences, to maintain awareness of changes in the field.  Journals which once were delivered through the mail now are delivered through digital means.   Practitioners have a wide variety of information sources available, but also can be overwhelmed with the sheer volume of information flooding in-boxes.

The most significant changes that are affecting the mental health field are those related to issues of confidentiality and informed consent.  Confidentiality is the bedrock foundation on which the counseling relationship rests.  Anything that threatens confidentiality is a threat to both the client and the counselor.  Confidentiality requires very careful attention to any possibility of breach.  However, many individuals, both counselors and clients, are very used to using emails and texting in order to quickly and efficiently reach others.

How do professional counselors handle these issues?  The most important method is through informed consent – that is, through explaining the issues that relate to the use of emails/texting and social media to clients as soon as a counseling relationship is begun.  Professional counselors are urged through their ethical standards to maintain a social media and technology policy and to explain it to clients.  Counselors are also encouraged to use encrypted programs in sending and receiving emails or texts, if they actually agree to do so (some counselors do not).

Telehealth or telemedicine is another emerging area of concern.  Suppose I am a counselor in Tennessee and a client in another state finds my website (another necessity for current practice) and wants to work with me through a video platform.  First, unless I am licensed in the state where the client is, I cannot work with the client.  Second, if I am licensed in that state, I must use a video platform that is HIPAA-compliant (Skype is not).  Third, I must be knowledgeable concerning the resources in that client’s area in case of emergency.  Fourth, I must have enough ability to work with technology to be able to access the client through another means if for some reason the video bridge fails at a crucial moment.

Technology is both an incredible blessing and a huge burden.  My immigrant ability to speak tech is improving, but I will never be as adept at it as are millennials.  Nonetheless, I will keep trying, because it is where the world is going.

What are your stories about technology?  How do you manage the digital world?  I would love to hear about it.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP:

Susan is a communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, and proud native Nashvillian. She has been in private practice for over 30 years. As she says, “I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts.”  Contact Susan at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com

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Permission to Create

Big MagicWorking as a creative person, I identify when hearing other creatives’ experiences and struggles.  Elizabeth Gilbert is one such person.  Her book Eat, Pray, Love, which chronicled her adventure of travel to pursue the three things that she most wanted to feel and be immersed in, connected with millions of people.

Her latest book, Big Magic, was a good listen for me.  She went through all the funky negatives we tell ourselves that keep us from creating.  She also gave examples of beloved pieces of art where people carved out a few pieces of time a day to create them.  I like the way she encourages us to create, not for money, not for success, but just for our happiness.

People talk to me about my art like I have a special gift.  I see how people are moved when I tell them about my experience of taking a painting class for the first time, and how I embraced it and knew it was something I wanted to pursue.  I appreciate that people are moved and inspired, and I understand that I have an ability to do what I do, but I don’t believe that I have anymore of a gift than anyone else, except that I became willing to give myself permission.  And what that meant was giving myself the tools that I needed to adventure, hence the painting class.  It was a long time in pause and in the “I don’t know if I can,” or “I don’t think I would be good,” since I had my first drawing class in the mid-1990’s.  Before the class, I could not draw good stick people, but I just wasn’t ready to carve out the time, or venture further, for almost twenty years.

So Elizabeth’s book is another tool, of encouragement, of permission to continue exploring, working toward something I want to achieve.

I hope you will give yourself permission to explore your interests.

Renee Bates

August 1, 2016

About Renee Bates

Renee is an artist focused on growing a newfound ability to express herself through oil painting, recently leaving her role as executive director of the non-profit Greenways for Nashville to pursue art and product development.  Renee likes being in nature, hiking, birding, and working in the garden. Married to David Bates of Bates Nursery and Garden Center, a 3rd generation business begun in 1932. Renee admires the fact that it was begun by a savvy woman, Bessie Bates.  Renee’s art may be enjoyed from her website or followed on Facebook.

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