Take Leave for Lunch!

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Is it lunchtime yet? Maybe the better question would be to ask if you even take a lunch break at all. Research reports that in North America, only one in five employees put time aside for meals, with nearly 40% of this population claiming to eat at their desks. We’re all busy, but let’s at least take a few to discuss why lunch breaks are worth it.

Experts claim that standing up for a quick food break can “increase your energy levels, stabilize your blood sugar, and enhance delivery of nutrients like antioxidants, vitamins and fiber that help your systems run smoothly.” Pretty important benefits, no? Stopping your work flow to eat lunch isn’t rocket science, but it can be difficult to put a project on hold. If you need more convincing on the matter, desk lunches also increase the potential for mindless eating, defined as “enjoying food less, eating beyond full, and generally not feeling satisfied by it which often leads to snacking on non-nutritious foods later in the day.” I doubt that anyone wants to feel poorly when, in this situation, making a schedule change can be so easy.

If eating lunch at your desk is part of your company’s culture, it’s time for a change. You’re entitled to enjoy a midday break! Add a reminder to your calendar and find a lunch buddy. The lunch rush can be a great opportunity to meet other coworkers. Our café is always buzzing in the afternoons, acting as a communal space to not only eat but communicate. We also host a monthly pizza day where Fools can unwind and enjoy a slice or two, as well as weekly afternoon express fitness classes to get Fools up and moving.

Don’t worry, your work will always be waiting for you to return. Whether you leave the office or not, I bet you’ll notice a difference in how much better it feels to get away from your desk. Taking leave for lunch will provide a burst of energy so that you can bring your A game back to your desk for the afternoon.

Fool Speaker Series: Chris Guillebeau

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It took 11 years for Chris Guillebeau to complete his quest of visiting every country in the world. This staggering journey – which he viewed in the beginning as “really difficult but not fundamentally impossible,” led Chris to all 193 countries. The first 100 countries he visited – not counting layovers, by the way – cost $30,000. Though there was certainly a financial element involved, Chris prioritized his travels and reached this incredible goal by his 35th birthday.

Chris met an amazing community of people and gathered a treasure trove of stories, many of which are shared in his latest New York Times bestseller The Happiness of Pursuit. He features the quests of people like Lisa – the youngest person to circumnavigate the world by sailboat at age 16 – to a man who pursued a 17 year vow of silence. Check out what you can take from Chris – including his top pick for travel destination – in 60 seconds or less below!

*This post’s image was taken from Chris Guillebeau’s blog, The Art of Non-Conformity

Is There an App for Everything?

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What’s in an app? It probably doesn’t relate to …”that which we call a rose” but, depending on what you need – Shakespearian or not – an app could be anything. Out of over 1.2 billion options in the Apple Store, it’s pretty predictable that social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube rank highly on user charts. While even I am guilty of downloading these popular programs, mobile apps aren’t just used for play. With the palms of many professionals’ hands glued to smart devices, productivity enablers can be found all over the Internet. One Fool, whose Motley reads “There’s an app for everything,” even hosted a 30-minute class on her favorite picks. Here’s our take on the best apps for business – and your workload:

1. Loggr

One user describes it as “a chance to actually log and track your life,” and an in-house Fool uses this app regularly. Track anything and everything, from the number of pushups you did last night to the cups of coffee you drank this morning. The best part? There’s no wearable attachment involved, so you don’t have to purchase anything. You can also use this free app in the workplace to track metrics or log hours.

2. Instapaper

Living in a city, one of my biggest pet peeves is when I lose service on the subway. Lucky for everyone else who feels the same way, paying $3.99 and downloading this app will allow you to save and store articles that can be read offline and on-the-go. It’s not only available on Apple devices, but also Androids and Kindles. Another plus? There’s a highlighting feature that’s great for studying text, plus you can share anything you’ve saved with colleagues.

3. Evernote

No more sticky notes when you can use this app, which organizes all of your ideas into one place. Whether it’s your to-do checklist or a multitude of random ideas, this app can create separate notebooks to keep your thoughts clutter-free. The People Team actually uses Evernote to consolidate speaker notes and presentations. Photos are able to be added, and this app can be downloaded to your computer to sync all of your work. Who can complain when everything’s in one place?

4. CloudMagic

We’re not the only ones who thinks this app is great – in fact, it’s the winner of several webby accolades. CloudMagic serves as a unified inbox for all of your email accounts, no matter if you’re using Outlook or AOL. By using its’ card function, you can connect your email with other business tools like Evernote, Trello, and Zendesk. This app proves to be incredibly functional with a clean visual design.

5. Songza

Music always helps with stress relief, but everyone needs a break in the first place. One Fool describes Songza as “curated playlists that seem to read your mind” because Songza offers music that’s mood-appropriate. Unwinding from a long day at the office? There’s definitely a playlist made especially for that feeling.

Do you use any of these Fool-favored apps? And if you have suggestions for others, we’d love to hear them!

Does Your Company Host Health Fairs? They Should.

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Over the past few years, the drive to improve Fools’ overall health has become a top priority. In fact, I’d argue that “Health” could rightfully be added to our list of core values. The benefits behind employees’ positive mental and physical well-being are endless, not just in the office but outside, too. We’ve been fortunate enough to employ a full-time “Wellness Fool” since 2010. These folks have inspired even the unhealthiest of our employees to make smarter, better choices, with several success stories to prove their impact.

One of our most-popular fitness-related benefits is our annual health fair…and it’s quickly approaching again. Health fairs have been described as effective ways “to provide valuable health information and screening services to large numbers of employees in a convenient ‘one-stop shop’ format.” This year, Wellness Fool Sam Whiteside hopes to take our wellness fair to a new level, incorporating not only flu shots and biometrics, but also massage therapy; athletic shoe fittings and running analyses; discounted gym memberships; healthy food samples; acupuncture; fitness demonstrations; and a blood donation van.

Though everything at our wellness fair will be optional, participation is always highly encouraged. It was reported in 2013 that only 43% of American organizations hold health fairs and 50% offer screenings. These statistics should be much higher, but it’s never too late to invest in your employees’ health. Whether you want a downsized wellness fair or a huge function, aim to begin the planning process at least four months in advance. These events usually happen during the fall when flu season begins to creep into the picture. Take the first step by talking to your Human Resources manager, and your organization’s health insurance providers, to locate vendor options. And if you choose to offer them, it’s necessary to reach out to the appropriate professionals while flu shots are still available. At a glance, 61% of companies in the US offer on-site flu shots.

Employer-sponsored health days can be life-changing. Just last year, Amy Robach of ABC News agreed to have the first ever live television mammogram for Good Morning America. Robach had delayed her annual mammogram for more than a year and, a week after the live event, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Even her doctors admitted that the mammogram had saved her life.

If your company doesn’t put employee health on a pedestal, maybe they should. It’s definitely worth the research. A healthy employee is a happier one, and who knows – an event like a health fair could possibly even change a life.

Foolish or Not, Meditation Matters

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Though meditation is a respected and ancient practice, how frequently is it applied in the workplace? Chances are you’re likely taking part in it more than you think. Have you ever stopped to sit, breathe deeply, and quietly reflect on personal thoughts? If so, you’ve participated in a form of meditation. It’s true! Though personal experiences vary, credible research indicates the many positive benefits of hopping on the meditation bandwagon. 

Misconceptions and opinions are forever present, but insight into meditational practices can be pleasantly surprising. Meditation isn’t solely segregated to the spiritual, nor does it stimulate psychic abilities. And it’s not just about sitting in a quiet place solo, either. Meditation increases self-awareness and battles stress; one study found that its participants felt fewer effects of depression or emotional exhaustion. The practice also reduces anger through a variety of methods, some of which were recently shared at The Motley Fool by a local instructor.

Some will say that implementing meditation in the workplace is “too new age,” but let’s face it – we are in 2014. One executive remembered from years ago that, “If you talked about meditation then, they thought you were either captured by a cult or something was wrong with you.” However, with Gallup reporting last year that only 58% of employees are thriving, it’s worth considering if meditation could add to the happiness and satisfaction within America’s workforce. The idea of corporate culture is changing and, in a stressful world, we all need to take a moment for ourselves sometimes.

One of the best things about meditating in the workplace is that it’s relatively easy to do. Whether it’s closing your eyes and focusing on one issue or practicing a tranquil breathing cycle, meditation is possible even at your desk. Simple breathing techniques can save you from allowing anxiety to take over, or letting an interpersonal conflict further decline.

In addition to weekly yoga classes, The Motley Fool is beginning to offer monthly meditation and movement seminars. Our Employee Wellness Fool encourages meditation in empty conference rooms and quiet corners, boasting that it can improve work/life balance and foster proactive stress reduction. Numerous Fools, including our CEO, participate in mindfulness meditation and awareness retreats around the world. One Fool mentioned that meditation helps to sharpen his focus and improve his attitude, while another practices at night to help regulate his sleeping cycle.

The meditation movement is already popular in Asia, where the WSJ notes that “yoga, laughing exercises, meditation and ‘spiritual intelligence’ are rapidly gaining fans in boardrooms and corner offices.” Google has long offered a popular course called “Search Inside Yourself,” which typically holds a six-month waiting list. The class is branded as “a workout for your emotional intelligence,” with its ultimate goal being to help people relate better to others. Isn’t positive collaboration alone at least one key to success?

From Def Jam Founder Russell Simmons to Oprah Winfrey, Executive Chairman of Ford Motor Company Bill Ford, and CTO of Cisco Systems Padmasree Warrior, many successful businesspeople practice some type of meditation. Between research and personal confessions, it’s clear that this practice is beneficial. Take some quiet time and we think you’ll eventually reap its benefits. You may find yourself not only a better person, but also a more valuable – and happier – employee.

Work Emails: Tips to Clear the Clutter and Get Your Point Across

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Despite all of the advances in social media and mobile platforms, email remains a primary way to communicate in the workplace. But let’s face it…we have a love/hate relationship with our inboxes. Obsessive inbox checking can turn into a nasty habit but, like it or not, it’s part of our working culture these days. Whether your boss sends along an important task or you’ve received a time-sensitive alert, the world of email connects to some of your most important responsibilities. That being said, a clutter-free inbox is imperative if we want to keep from drowning.

In an effort to keep inboxes well-kept at The Motley Fool, we encourage simple communication guidelines that can make big differences. There’s nothing worse than seeing a bombed inbox filled with emails that don’t concern you. One Fool employee said that such a sight makes her feel overwhelmed and ineffective. Plus, cluttered inboxes with worthless “reply all” messages can hide the important emails that you actually should be reading.

Our communications team has a few tips on email best practices to help Fools be more organized and productive. Though you may consider emailing a 101 topic, it’s never too late to learn new tips. Replying to a group email triggers inbox clutter, and it’s typically unnecessary. Remembering to delete superfluous recipients will save you from being “that person” who clogs accounts.  Take a moment to think – and look – at your email’s recipients, confirming that every person needs to read it.

It’s also important that your subject line is straight and to the point. Be clear of your purpose, but also articulate something that will entice recipients to open your message. When it comes to content, a short email isn’t rude…it’s efficient. Begin your message by laying out the objective. Remember to use candid language. Avoid open-ended questions and be as specific as possible, and keep in mind that bullet points can be your friend.

There’s not enough time in the day, and checking your inbox is just another task that adds to the craziness. If you have something short (and maybe sweet) to communicate, say it in person. But the more global our business turns, the less likely that this is feasible. No matter where your message is being sent, we promise you’ll save time for yourself and others by applying some of our suggestions.

Creative Employee Benefit Turns Fools into Readers

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Bookie MonsterBy Laurie Street
Member Services Fool

With our company’s name taken straight from Shakespeare, it’s no surprise that you’ll find many lovers of literature here.  One of the coolest – and newest – benefits to employees is the Bookie Monster program.  It allows full-time employees to order any book – fiction, non-fiction, job-related or completely irrelevant – on The Fool’s tab, as a hard copy or an e-book delivered to their own devices.

Top Fools understand the importance of each employee’s personal learning journey, and it’s true that reading is knowledge. Whether it’s a book about investing or business, or a novel, we’re encouraged to delve into all topics. Studies have shown that reading can significantly boost an individual’s vocabulary, creativity, and communication skills – among many other qualities. This awesome benefit aims to shape our employees into better and smarter leaders.

In fact, many of the world’s most successful businesspeople – both past and present – have been avid readers themselves. Tom Gardner shared a few of his favorite novels with me, including Conscious Capitalism, The Davis Dynasty, and The Outsiders, which all pertain to investing.  As for other topics, Tom also recommends Influence by Robert Cialdini, The Logic of Failure by Dietrich Dorner, and Tribal Leadership by Dave Logan.

David Gardner also shared some of his favorite business reads: Enough by Jack Bogle, Predictable Success by Les McKeown, Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith, Tribes by Seth Godin, and The Why of Work by Dave and Wendy Ulrich.

One of The Motley Fool’s core values is Innovation, so it seems fitting that we are able to expand our education in such a unique and generous way. Through literature, we can help the world invest better while simultaneously gaining a better understanding on a wide variety of topics.

If you’re interested in diving into a new book, we have lots of great suggestions based on your level of investing experience:

Elementary School

One Up on Wall Street by Peter Lynch

Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist by Roger Lowenstein

Value Investing With the Masters by Kirk Kazanjian

The Davis Dynasty by John Rothchild

Valuegrowth Investing by Glen Arnold

Junior High

The 5 Keys to Value Investing by J. Dennis Jean-Jacques

Beating the Street by Peter Lynch

Investment Fables by Aswath Damodaran

The Vest Pocket Guide to Value Investing by C. Thomas Howard

Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits by Philip Fisher

High School

Made in America by Sam Walton

Forbes’ Greatest Investing Stories by Richard Phalon

John Neff on Investing by John Neff

The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham

The Money Masters by John Train

University

Stocks for the Long Run by Jeremy Siegel

Quality of Earnings by Thornton Oglove

Investing in Small-Cap Stocks by Christopher Graja and Elizabeth Ungar

The Book of Investing Wisdom by Peter Krass

You Can Be a Stock Market Genius by Joel Greenblatt

Grad School

Break Up! by Campbell, Koch & Sadtler

Investment Gurus by Peter Tanous

Value Investing: A Balanced Approach by Martin Whitman

Value Investing: From Graham to Buffett and Beyond by Bruce Greenwald

The Road to Serfdom by F.A. Hayek

Core Value #3: Honesty – Make us Proud

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HonestyHonesty has a beautiful simplicity.  This straightforward value gives us a framework for making decisions companywide.  In a company built on intellectual capital, with the stated purpose of helping the world invest better, honesty is essential.

We chose our words here carefully: Make. Us. Proud.  Not “Don’t break the law” or “Tell the truth” or “Call ‘em like you see ‘em.” For us, honesty has to go beyond what is legally defensible.

Honesty also emphasizes the difference between core values and a code of ethics.  Our core values serve as fundamental beliefs that we can turn to when making decisions.  They should be easy to explain, embrace, and employ as decision-making tools. A code of ethics – although closely related — is generally a more formalized list of do’s and don’ts.  It’s almost a *gulp* “policy.”

Now – as promised in my first post, here are the answers to our values questions.

Do we hire for this value?

Yes.  How?  Certainly, it would be great to have Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth, but I’ll admit that the one I ordered from Amazon needs batteries or something.  And the last interviewee I used it on wasn’t amused.  Maybe he had something to hide…

Instead, I ask prospective employees: Tell me something you’re proud of. A time that you had to be honest when it wasn’t easy. A time that there was a difference between what was right and what was legal.

I also love to hear “I’m not sure” or “I don’t know” answers in an interview.  It’s virtually impossible to know all of the answers. Be honest about it.   I also see red flags sometimes when we ask someone to demonstrate knowledge.  Certainly, we don’t try to trick people with these questions, but it’s surprising to me how frequently this happens:

Q: “Are you an investor?”

A: “Yes!”

Q: “Great, tell me about the last stock you bought and why?”

A: “Ummm, well…”

Will we fire for this value? 

Yes.

Can you see and feel this value in our office?

Many of the same ways we encourage collaboration also foster honesty.  Everyone’s desk occupies the same open office, and our conference rooms have glass walls and doors.  We also build honesty into our services, displaying our returns since recommendation on the front page of our web site.  Some are up, some are down — but we don’t cherry-pick the winners.  We also display returns for specific recommendations throughout the office, and change the returns as the stock price moves.  Some months those are higher; some months, lower.

How often do we talk about this value?  When was the last time we did so?

Similar to Innovation, I actually hear “make us proud” more frequently than “core value honesty.” But our CEO has recently taken this value to the next level by hosting a monthly Honest Tea. At this session, which follows our monthly all-company meeting, everyone is encouraged to come and dissent. We want to ensure that we have not only a desire to be honest, but also an outlet for those thoughts.

Please note that our values are not actually rank-ordered.  I call this #3 to help blog readers keep track.  See the full list of values at Core Values to Live By.

Are You Our Future Wellness Coordinator? Apply Today!

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WellnessThe Motley Fool Wellness Program has been in place for about 2.5 years now and has created quite a culture shift within our organization. We have always been a “relaxed” atmosphere with amazing benefits (unlimited vacation, no dress code, mobile workstations, etc.) and the addition of our Wellness Program has been another staple to our fantastic environment. We have had tremendous support from our leadership team, specifically our CEO Tom Gardner. With his 100% backing, we’ve been able to grow this program.

However, our wellness program is measured to a different standard as it was not set in place to lower health care costs, reduce absenteeism, encourage presenteeism, or any general wellness metric; our program was created as an additional benefit because it was intuitive to push for a healthier and happier workforce. All the aforementioned benefits will automatically occur, but none are our driving metric to promote a healthy and well workplace.

The Motley Fool encourages a well-rounded path toward wellness, offering physical, nutritional, and spiritual benefits. We offer weekly boot-camp, yoga, meditation, and Zumba classes, while also providing on-site massage and chiropractic care. We gather three times a week to play basketball, soccer, and floor hockey at a nearby gym and Fools can buy a heavily discounted membership to said gym. The Fool also has a free on-site gym, locker room, and showers for those that need a quick exercise break, and we recently added standing desks and a treadmill desk in the office to help combat sedentary lifestyles. We’ve removed soda from vending machines, replacing unhealthy items with healthier options, while also providing free fresh food from local vendors twice weekly. We also provide health seminars on topics like stress management, healthy smoothie workshops, and body inflammation.

At our annual health fair, we bring in a wide array of vendors, ranging from acupuncturists, to physical therapists, to local farmers’ market vendors selling their nutrient-dense food. At the fair, The Fool also provides free biometric screenings and immunizations to all employees and their spouses. Lastly, The Fool employs a personal trainer that helps create individualized plans for any employee that wants one. The goal of our wellness program is to provide a variety of activities to help suit our employees’ needs in the everlasting pursuit of wellness. It is NOT to enhance our bottom dollar or to “fit in” with other workplace wellness programs looking to cut health care costs.

Are you a fitness-minded person who wants to be a Fool? We’re looking for Wellness Coordinator to keep all of the above programs running. Check out the job description to find out more and apply!

 

Core Value #2 — Innovative: Search For a Better Solution. Then Top It.

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InnovativeThe term innovation drums up images of world-changing ideas or inventions.  Certainly we at The Fool want to change the world, but innovation is more about making everything better every day and embracing change.  It’s constantly searching for ways to “Top It!”

We want Fools to relentlessly search for better solutions and try new things.  Fools should make small, thoughtful changes and double down on the winner and learn from the losers. One of our favorite books is Little Bets by Peter Sims. It reinforces our “test and learn” mentality, and I highly recommend it.

Big innovation comes in big steps and small steps, and we always want to be walking forward.

Even our vocabulary and cultural habits embrace and push an innovative spirit.  I hear these phrases almost every day: “test and learn,” “fail fast,” “try stuff,” “top it,” ”small bet,” “minimum viable product.”  I have heard or said each of these terms in the past 48 hours.

We want Fools to be bold and, most of all, to focus on solving the real problems. “Top It!” is a phrase that is a constant reminder to build a better solution.  It’s easy to criticize an idea and lose sight of the problem you are trying to solve.  In an instant any Fool can reframe the conversation with that two-word term – TOP IT – and we are back on track to focus on the problem we’re trying to solve.

Here are my honest answers to questions I referenced in my first post about core values:

1)        Do we hire for this value?

Yes.  We are looking for people that want to make those small bets and top it with us.  In an interview we want to hear about a time that you saw a problem and just made it better.  We want to hear your ideas for our company or the job you seek.  You don’t have to have solved world hunger, but show us that you like to test and learn and are open to change.

 2)      Will we fire for this value?

I credit Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh with putting this question in my head and pushing the idea that core values are ONLY real if they actually drive action in your organization.  You demonstrate their importance if you are willing to take action to increase their presence and also to eliminate blockers to their success.  If an employee is a blocker to innovation and change, it just doesn’t work. 

3)      Can you see and feel this value walking through the office?

Yes.  We are constantly innovating in our physical space, too.  If you come to our Intergalactic HQ in Alexandria, VA for a culture tour you’ll see that our 5th floor is completely mobile.  All of our desks are on wheels and if you come two months in a row it will look different the second time.  Things change pretty quickly around here.

4)      Is the value referenced frequently?  When was the last time?

I actually received an email from our Chief Performance Officer while I was writing this blog post.  It’s important to note that innovation as a core value is for everyone.  It’s not something that is expected of just the marketing, investing, product, or culture team.  Everyone is expected to innovate within their role and top it.  This is note was about our bonus payouts and innovation in accounting and employee ownership:

“I’d like to tell you about an experimental opportunity for your bonus payout that’s new this year. Like everything at The Fool, seeking innovation is a constant in our culture.  Heck, it’s a core value.  And, for the first time ever, we’re putting the power of choice in your hands in an innovative way…”

Also pretty cool that we’re encouraging employee ownership – I think.

Now – I encourage you to TOP IT!  How do you drive innovation in your company? Give me some ideas in the comments.