Tag Archives: workplace

Fashion In Business Settings

April 13, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The worst thing I saw someone wear in a professional setting was a mini skirt with a backless blouse and tattoos showing when accepting an award,” says Gretchen Twohig, a lawyer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska.

Many executives would agree. Tales of skintight leggings, flip-flops, and ripped jeans appearing in a professional office abound. Some reports blame millennials while others consider the cause to be the rise of tech startup culture, but the rules are clearly not as black and white as they were in the Mad Men era.

JP Morgan formally embraced the informal trend in 2016 when they created new guidelines that took their offices from being full of suits and ties to ones that allow “Casual pants, capri pants, business-appropriate casual shirts, and polo shirts,” among other trends.

The variety even happens within industries. Nicole Seckman Jilek, a trial attorney at Abrahams Kaslow & Cassman law firm, wears a suit and pantyhose every day. If she wants to add a personal touch to her workwear, she uses accessories, especially black high-heeled pumps.

“If I’m going to be appearing in front of a judge or a jury, I’m probably going to choose a more conservative suit in a more conservative color: black, navy blue, some sort of neutral color,” she says. “But I do have a few of what I call ‘power suits’ that are emerald green and a couple of red suits. So depending on the circumstances, sometimes those red suits can project a more confident image than an all-black suit.” 

Jilek works in a setting that requires her to speak with a variety of clients.

“If I’m going to cross-examine or depose a difficult male witness, I may not want to wear certain colors because I want to come across stronger and bolder and more confident.”

Her personal preference to wear pantyhose every day doesn’t mean she finds it unprofessional if other women don’t. Jilek considers being too casually or youthfully dressed as crossing the line in a business formal setting.

Color choice can push the boundaries of acceptable business formal attire, too.

“There are certain circumstances that are the utmost professional setting, such as a jury trial, so I stay away from wearing a lot of color [in those instances],” Jilek says.

Twohig, on the other hand, works at a business casual workplace. She often wears accessories like jewelry, or brightly colored or patterned shoes.

She deems short skirts, anything with holes, or faded jeans as inappropriate for the workplace. Even dark jeans are pushing it.

Jeans, incidentally, are on the rise again, in terms of their prevalence and their waistlines. The 2018 spring fashion trends show everything from higher-waisted jeans paired with fuchsia blazers to jeans-style pants in sequined materials.

Michael Curry, a customer service training specialist and coworker of Twohig at Blue Cross Blue Shield, is known for having a playful sense of style.

Curry’s favorite way to express his personal style is with a boldly colored watch, belt, or shoes for that pop of color. He enjoys having more fashion options in a business casual environment like dressing down his outfit with a pair of white sneakers if he wants. But Curry also loves the polished look a tie can give when he needs to be at his best.

“My go-to work outfit when I need to feel confident is a cardigan over a button-up and tie with a tie clip, fitted slacks, leather band watch, eyeglass frames, and my signature fragrance,” he says. “I feel unstoppable.”

As workwear becomes more open to interpretation, the idea of acceptable fashion in business differs for each individual, and is only going to get more complicated, as millennials, who value personal expression over formality, rise to upper management and the conversations about gender identity and equal pay continue.

“Even at my office, there’s different dress codes,” Jilek says. “I wear different things depending on what I have on my calendar that day. I have a bunch of colleagues that also don’t meet with clients. They generally only see the people that we work with. So sometimes that can also justify a different look for them, but even under those situations, I always dress like I’m going to end up having a surprise important appointment or have to run down to the courthouse.”

And there’s another factor people sometimes don’t consider when hiring younger employees —those coming right out of college may not have much of a wardrobe budget.

“Early in my career, I didn’t have a lot of clothes to wear to work or the money to buy a lot of new things all at once,” says Twohig. “Now that I’ve been working for a long time, I have built a wardrobe.”

Even though Curry thinks jewelry should be minimal at work, he views a small eyebrow piercing or lip ring as still looking professional. Jilek sees fashion trends as a major influencer of what is considered acceptable business fashion.

“Ten years ago, you probably wouldn’t have seen any double-breasted jackets or suits in a store, but, in fact, I just saw a very successful, well-dressed evening news anchor wearing a double-breasted suit last week, and she looked great,” Jilek says.

Jilek, however, keeps her attention on the fact that she works in a professional setting.

“I’ve always kind of followed the mantra: dress for the job you want not the job you have,” Jilek says. “So if you want to be perceived as strong, confident, and capable—you need to dress like it.”

Nicole Seckman Jilek

This article was printed in the April/May 2018 edition of B2B.

Lalitha Nadam, Kristin Larsen, and Yuliana Linares

February 3, 2017 by
Photography by Ani Luxe Photography

This sponsored content appears in the Winter 2017 edition of B2B. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/b2b_0217_125/56

In a field known to be male-dominated, national full-service construction firm The Weitz Company offers excellent career opportunities for women as well as men, and its diversity in its workforce has contributed to the company’s longevity and success, say team members.

“The Weitz Company is associated and active in many industry-related women’s organizations both on a national and local level, including Advancing Women in Construction and the National Association of Women in Construction,” says Project Engineer Lalitha Nandam. “Gender balance in the workplace helps companies improve their organizational performance and operating results. I can describe the female co-workers in our company as trustworthy, dedicated, and creative. The ladies in our office don’t shy away from problems and are open to suggestions on how to handle them.”

“As different individuals bring their own views and ideas to the workplace, women also bring a unique perspective to the industry as a whole,” Project Manager Yuliana Linares says. “Having diversity in expertise and personalities helps our team at Weitz to tailor our services to each customer and to deliver not only an excellent product but a pleasant building experience.”

The Weitz Company, founded in 1855, has grown to become a national full-service general contractor, design-builder, and construction manager with offices around the country and team members who pride themselves in their ability to deliver the highest quality of customer service.

“Weitz uses a very innovative and flexible team approach that is unique on every job site,” Project Engineer Kristin Larsen says. “Each team member has their area of expertise but is working to bring the client’s vision to life.”

“In each effort, small or large, we value the partnerships we gain from each project we’ve done,” Linares says. “This kind of collective experience yields in our ability to provide value to our customers…Customers keep coming back because Weitz provides a collaborative approach for each project. We value the relationships we create; what we do is not just business to us.”

It’s clear why Linares was recently named to the 2016 Constructech Women in Construction list, comprised of some of the most successful women working within the construction community.  “Each construction project starts as a vision, and to be part of the team that brings that vision to life from start to finish is a great feeling,” she says. “It brings me a sense of pride and accomplishment.”

One of the company’s core values is “Nurturing Personal Growth,” which is reflected in a supportive and enjoyable work atmosphere.

“Employees are their happiest and most constructive when they work in an environment that suits them,” Nandam says. “Our workplace is an informal work environment with open office layout, which helps in getting exposure and learning things faster.”

“Our office is very collaborative; no one is ever on their own in finding a solution or going through a process,” Larsen agrees. “Everyone has their own experience and expertise, and they are happy to provide their insights…Our office has a good balance of varied personalities. We also know how to have a lot of fun in our office and on our job sites.”

8715 S. 121 St.
La Vista, NE 68128
402.592.7000
weitz.com

The Internet of Things

March 3, 2016 by

Can you turn down the thermostat from your smartphone? Are you wearing a Fit Bit®? Does your smartphone help you locate an available conference room at work? “Yes” to any of these means you’re experiencing the Internet of Things (IoT). Although the term has been used in technology circles for years, it’s only now becoming the focus of more mainstream discussions.

WHAT IS THE INTERNET OF THINGS? 

Kevin Ashton is believed to have introduced the term at MIT in 1999. Simply put, the IoT is the rapidly expanding concept of connecting people and things. It relies on Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth-enabled objects, sensors pulling information from the object, a wireless internet connection, and resources compiling, analyzing, and visualizing the collected data.

Several factors are contributing to the explosion of the IoT. Broadband Internet is more widely available and the cost to connect continues to drop. More devices are Wi-Fi enabled with smaller, less costly, and more powerful sensors. The costs to analyze data are coming down, and smartphone penetration is skyrocketing. All of these contribute to the IoT.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR THE WORKPLACE? 

IoT applications fall into two broad categories:

Intelligent Building 

Basically, a “system of systems,” already used in buildings today. Sensors adjust window shades and temperature based on sunlight entering the building. Embedded sensors monitor mechanical systems to improve efficiencies and sense failures before they occur.

Presence Awareness 

Today, security badges are linked to a central database. Swiped at a card reader, the user is recorded entering and/or leaving the building. Compiled data may measure use and occupancy of the building. For some, a user’s smartphone provides presence awareness—who the user is, where the user is in the building, available workspaces relative to the user, where colleagues are located, and a path to reach them.

Imagine a range of workplace applications for the IoT as devices continue to shrink, tech-nologies become more powerful, and costs continue to fall:

PEOPLE-CENTRIC APPLICATIONS 

  • “Push” workplace information (temperature, light, noise levels) to users based on personal preferences and work to be completed.
  • Support wellness by alerting users it is time to move/stand based on real-time biometrics.
  • Improve meeting effectiveness by alerting leaders when participants’ biometric data indicates they’re not alert, connected, or paying attention.

BUILDING-CENTRIC APPLICATIONS 

  • Enhance sustainability by applying actual use and occupancy data to manage building infrastructure.
  • Improve flexibility using real-time data to drive workplace change and reconfiguration.

ORGANIZATION-CENTRIC APPLICATIONS 

  • Monitor wellness programs based on individual biometric data pulled from wearables, smart phones, or sensors embedded in seating or height-adjustable tables.
Man using his Mobile Phone in the street, night light bokeh Background

Man using his Mobile Phone in the street, night light bokeh Background

The Importance of Office Design

October 6, 2014 by
Photography by All Makes Office Equipment

An inspiring office space is crucial to motivating and engaging staff. By combining a good office design with environmental considerations, you can improve productivity, profitability, and reduce your carbon footprint.

Office environments are ever-changing. From height-adjustable desks, to mobile work surfaces and LED lighting options—the possibilities are endless. Today’s best offices are designed to reflect the shifting expectations and needs of their employees. Here are five current trends in office design.

  1. Technology is key. Technology is now integrated into office environments. Interactive white boards, electrified surfaces and ‘touch down’ areas that allow for mobile devices to be used are just a few examples of how technology is breaking down barriers of the traditional workplace.
  2. Open workspaces. The lowering of panels or even the removal of all dividers between people can enhance the ‘teaming’ of groups and sharing of information without even moving away from their work areas. Open spaces can make people feel more comfortable and not so “boxed-in,” which can create greater productivity and efficiency.
  3. Collaboration. Collaborative areas are designed to get people more involved and connected with one another. Meeting spaces are being created to encourage collaboration between staff members. This might include lounge areas, bench and tables, or even café areas. Collaborative areas can take the place of formal reserved conference rooms or even private offices.
  4. Decline in available space. The economic recession has led to companies purchasing smaller offices or downsizing current offices, which means individual workspaces are shrinking.
  5. Fewer private offices. Having fewer private offices provides useful space for more collaborative areas. Today, furniture that is mobile, adjustable, multifunctional, and adaptable is just as important as private offices.

When companies incorporate modern design into their workplace, they will retain and attract the best talent and increase their overall productivity.

Filling Mom’s Shoes

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Daughters become inspired, motivated, and awed by their mothers as they see them dash out the door on a volunteer mission time after time. They often follow in their footsteps.

But as daughters trail mothers down the volunteer road, they’re finding the path has veered. More women in the workplace means a different approach to volunteering. Meetings once scheduled for mornings are now scheduled for noon so volunteers can return to jobs. An e-mail sent at midnight is now more likely to happen.

How volunteers schedule their time has changed. The dedication and sense of responsibility that daughters learn from mothers has not. Here we share four stories about the gift mothers give daughters that keeps on giving —the gift of volunteering.

Gail Yanney & Lisa Roskens

Gail Yanney became an anesthesiologist in the 1960s when few women held careers. At the time, the consensus was that working women didn’t have time to volunteer. (We know better now.) But she soon became one of Omaha’s most active volunteers.

Her volunteering career began while she was a busy student at UNMC College of Medicine. Invited to join Junior League, she asked permission from her department head.

“He said, ‘Physicians need to be part of their community,’” remembers Gail, who is now retired.

Passionate about the environment, she was a teacher naturalist at Fontenelle Forest on her day off. Gail is also a founder of the Women’s Fund of Omaha.

 “I was inspired by my mother, who did things women didn’t do then. If you’re not influenced by your parents, you’re not paying attention.” – Lisa Roskens

With her husband, Michael Yanney, she received the Spirit of Nebraska Award from the Eppley Cancer Center last year.

Gail’s daughter, Lisa Roskens, learned from her mom. “I was inspired by my mother, who did things women didn’t do then. If you’re not influenced by your parents, you’re not paying attention.”

Lisa is chairman of the board, president, and CEO at the Burlington Capital Group, a company founded by her father, who partners with his wife in philanthropy. Volunteering is a family affair at the Roskens’ house where Lisa’s husband, Bill, and their two children join in. They rally around animals and kids and have helped at the Nebraska Humane Society and at Take Flight Farm.

Lisa tries to pass on to Charlie, 13, and Mary, 10, what her mother passed on to her. “We try to instill that sense of giving back as an obligation to being a citizen in a community. I don’t tell them what charities to support, but foster independence.

“Mom said the only thing you get out of life is what you give away.”

Sharon Marvin Griffin & Melissa Marvin

Sharon Marvin Griffin and her daughter, Melissa Marvin, have received many of Omaha’s top honors for volunteering. For Sharon, they have included Arthritis Woman of the Year, Ak-Sar-Ben Court of Honor, Salvation Army Others Award, and United Way of the Midlands Volunteer of the Year, among others. For Melissa, awards have included the 2010 YWCA Women of Distinction and honors from the Omaha Junior Chamber of Commerce.

Each has been involved in more than 40 charitable activities over a lifetime. Each presently serves on 10 nonprofit boards. Coincidence? Not likely. Melissa has inherited her mother’s zest for volunteering.

“Mom is a professional volunteer,” says Melissa. “No. 1 is the importance of giving back. No. 2 is the importance of how to be a leader, how to work together in teams. I try to emulate that.”

“Mom is a professional volunteer…I try to emulate that.” – Melissa Marvin

Melissa remembers her first volunteer experience at age 7. She and brother Barney, then age 2, delivered Christmas gifts to shut-ins. “We looked on it as an honor,” she says.

The family, including her father, Sam Marvin, who died in 1997, together rang bells for The Salvation Army.

The mother and daughter also have in common busy careers. Sharon, who is married to Dr. William Griffin, has had a 25-year career in real estate at NP Dodge. Melissa is with the Cohen Brown Management Group and is director of Community Engagement for Metropolitan Community College.

Mom has the final word: “The more you give, the more you grow.”

Susan Cutler, Jeanie Jones & Jackie Lund

Susan Cutler has big fans in her daughters.

“I watch all the friends Mom has made and the rewards you get from giving. I have huge shoes to fill,” says Jeanie Jones. “I don’t think she realizes how big those shoes are.”

Those shoes took the first steps to volunteering in her hometown of Council Bluffs, where Susan lived with her husband, Bill Cutler, a funeral director. They moved to Omaha in 1987. “When I started volunteering, I learned so much about my community,” she says.

She volunteered at her children’s schools. “I wanted to meet other parents, learn what was happening,” says Susan, who was a third-grade teacher earlier in her life. She presently is on the board of directors of the Methodist Hospital Foundation and Children’s Hospital Foundation and is co-chairman for Joslyn Art Museum’s 2013 Gala.

“I have huge shoes to fill. I don’t think [Mom] realizes how big those shoes are.” – Jeanie Jones

Her daughters have their own impressive resume of community service.

“I remember Mom was involved in Ak-Sar-Ben when I was in sixth and seventh grades. I had to go to stuff and didn’t like it,” laughs daughter Jackie Lund. The mother of two children is owner of Roots & Wings Boutique in Omaha. But Jackie now goes to “stuff” and enjoys it. She is guild board treasurer of the Omaha Children’s Museum.

“I met some of my best friends through volunteer work,” says daughter Jeanie, who has three children. She serves in leadership positions for such groups as Clarkson Service League, Ak-Sar-Ben, Joslyn Art Museum, and Girls, Inc.

Susan said she didn’t try to influence her daughters. “Your children do what they watch, not what you say.” She continues her devotion to volunteering. “You learn about yourself, as well as about the community. It all comes back to you more than you can ever imagine.”

Sharon McGill & Kyle Robino

Kyle Robino remembers as a child slapping stickers on hundreds of mailings for charities. That was her first exposure to the world of volunteering with her mother, Sharon McGill.

Their family’s tradition of volunteering has been passed down from generation to generation. Sharon inherited the volunteering gene from her mother, who helped establish the Albuquerque Garden Center, and from her grandmother, a strong force in her rural New Mexico community. “I looked back at their lives and learned how they made things better for others,” she says.

Sharon brought along her talents as a ballet dancer when she moved to Omaha in 1968. Not surprisingly, her first volunteer act was helping to build a professional ballet company. A dancer, teacher, board president, and, later, ballet mistress for Ballet Omaha, Sharon took her two daughters along. They attended ballet classes and absorbed the essence of volunteering from watching their mother. She now serves on the Joslyn Castle board.

“I think people who volunteer clearly had mothers who were great role models. My mom was a great role model.” – Kyle Robino

Kyle and her sister, Gwen McGill, who resides in Napa Valley, Calif., are following in their mother’s ballet shoes.

The JDRF is the center of Kyle’s volunteer work. Five years ago, her older daughter, Olivia, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Kyle’s husband, Mike, is board president of the JDRF Heartland Chapter.

“As you get older, you figure out what your passions are and what causes are personal to you,” says Kyle, who owns Old Market Habitat flower shop. “I think people who volunteer clearly had mothers who were great role models,” she says. “My mom was a great role model.”

Kyle is now a role model for a possible fifth generation of volunteers—daughters Olivia, 14, and Ava, 7. These young ladies will have big shoes to fill, too.

Ervin & Smith

November 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Executives at Omaha advertising-public relations firm Ervin & Smith say the company’s recent growth and recognition as a top place to work and prosper are by-products of its considered emphasis on staff development.

2012 has seen the firm named one of Omaha’s Best Places to Work by Baird Holm LLP and the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, and as the Best Place for the Advancement of Women by Baird Holm and the Institute for Career Advancement Needs. Additionally, Ervin & Smith made this year’s Inc. magazine list of the nation’s fastest growing private companies after a 54 percent rise in revenue and significant staff increases from 2008 through 2011.

The agency, which employs more than 50 staffers, was founded in 1983 serving primarily financial services clients. While the financial services segment remains strong with clients like TD Ameritrade and Weitz Funds, the firm’s also made splashes with campaigns for such clients as Catholic Charities of Omaha, the University of Nebraska-Omaha, and Immanuel Senior Living. Ervin & Smith does business out of its own building at 16934 Frances Street.

“We encourage employees to get involved in community organizations and to serve on boards.” – Heidi Mausbach, vice president for Client Relations

Vice President for Client Relations Heidi Mausbach says one reason the company thrives is it hires people congruent with its mission.

“When we’re hiring, we’re very insistent on people meeting the core values of creativity, resourcefulness, accountability, passion, collaboration, inspiration, and loyalty. It’s resulted in a culture of very like-minded, smart professionals. Everyone here works really well together.”

She says core agency practices support professional advancement.

“We do a lot of leadership luncheons. Managers do one-on-one coaching to provide employees growth opportunities and immediate feedback. We encourage employees to get involved in community organizations and to serve on boards—We really believe that helps fuel not only your passion for work but for things you’re passionate about outside work.”

Heidi Musbach, Vice President, Client Relations, has been with the company for 12 years.

Heidi Mausbach, Vice President for Client Relations

Mausbach says the economic downturn led Ervin & Smith to hone in on itself.

“Rather than focusing on what our clients were doing and worrying about what was going on in the economy, we said, ‘Let’s focus on what we can control—ourselves.’”

Through this introspective process, she says, Ervin & Smith identified its greatest assets as “smart professionals always pushing to the next level and never settling,” adding, “As a result, we’re creating an environment where people love to come to work and enjoy what they do. By focusing on our people, we’re retaining and attracting top talent, and when you have the best talent, you attract like-minded clients.”

Co-founder and Executive Chairman Doug Smith has made the agency a haven for women moving into senior management. Sharon Carleton began as a copywriter there and today is President and CEO. Mausbach’s followed a similar career trajectory.

“I started as Doug and Sharon’s assistant,” Mausbach says, “and they gave me a lot of opportunities, they allowed me take some risks, and as a result, I was able to work my way up. Doug has always looked for people who are experts in what they do and can get results. That’s always been our philosophy. And that’s been my experience growing up in the agency. If you can prove and show performance, it doesn’t really matter your gender, your age, or any of that.”

“We’re creating an environment where people love to come to work and enjoy what they do.” – Mausbach

Carleton says, “We’ve never had a women’s initiative. Instead, we’ve always put in place programs we think will help all our employees. Employees have ideas for the company or a client, and we’re allowed to implement them. Over time, those individual ideas and opportunities have added up to a very supportive environment that both women and men appreciate.”

The firm’s Ms. Smith division has gained cachet as marketing-to-women specialists who consult with clients nationwide.

Carleton says Doug Smith nurtures this women-rising-to-the-top culture.

“Our culture has grown naturally from the foundation built by Doug Smith 30 years ago. I’ve been lucky to have him as my employer, mentor, and friend throughout my career. His generosity and encouragement keeps us positive and focused, pushing all of us to manage thoughtfully and strive for continuous improvement.”

For more information about the company, visit ervinandsmith.com.

Read more of Leo Adam Biga’s work at leoadambiga.wordpress.com.

Office Seating

When it comes to your office chair, one size does not fit all. Chairs are the most personal piece of office furniture—and the most complex—because they must adapt to all kinds of people and many types of work.

If you sit behind a desk regularly, you know how important it is to have a good chair. Many of us spend more hours in our office chair than all the other chairs and sofas in our life combined. Not having the right chair can cause lower back pain, as well as neck and shoulder pain.

Studies have linked the comfort of a workplace directly to the efficiency levels of employees and employee turnover. In an average day, people spend 5.7 hours sitting in their chair and 7 hours sleeping in their bed. If you’re one of those people who spend hours in a chair, below are some guidelines to healthy seating.

  • Raise or lower your seat so your thighs are parallel to the floor and your feet are flat on the floor or a footrest.
  • Adjust the depth of your seat pan so you have at least 2” of clearance between the back of your knees and the front of the seat.
  • Adjust the height of your backrest so it fits comfortably on the small of your back.
  • Adjust your chair’s recline tension—if necessary—to support varying degrees of recline. Avoid using recline locks.
  • Lean back and relax in your chair to allow the backrest to provide full support for your upper body.

Remember, a quality chair should always have a lifetime warranty on the frame and mechanical parts and a 5- to 10-year warranty on fabric.

Stop by All Makes Office Equipment Co. at 25th & Farnam streets to see what’s new in the office. The All Makes team is trained to help you make design and furniture purchases that fit your office atmosphere, your work style, and your budget.