Watercooler

Posted: Friday, August 08, 2003

MINI-VACATIONS: The one- or two-week summer vacation may soon become a fond memory for many American workers.

Forty percent said they're not taking a week or longer off this year, according to an online survey of nearly 2,400 people. Instead, time away from work is being parceled into long weekend trips, with 85 percent saying they'll do such a jaunt of two to four days.

What's behind the shift? Time and money.

A third said they wanted to save money, but a fifth said they cannot or don't want to take time from work. Another 15 percent said they don't have the time to plan a longer, more complex trip.

''Leisure time is a precious element in our lives today, and people are getting creative in maximizing their time off,'' said Cheryl Law, senior director of consumer research at San Francisco-based Hotwire.com, the discount travel site that commissioned the survey.

''To take full advantage of limited vacation days and avoid being out of the office for too long, the weekend trip is a smart and affordable way to get away.''

LUXURY LIVING: Many of us look at upscale neighborhoods and speculate about the residents did they pay cash for their luxury homes? And what do these houses look like inside?

Coldwell Banker Real Estate Corp. has a few tidbits to share from a poll of its upscale properties agents, nearly 200 of whom sold homes in the past year worth $1 million or more. According to the agents, nearly a third of these buyers, 31.5 percent, paid cash. For those who decided to take a mortgage, 17 percent put down more than half the purchase price.

The agents said most of their clients (68 percent) could be considered ''new money,'' with executives the predominant field, followed by entrepreneurs who own their own businesses.

And these folks usually don't have far to move 72 percent are from the same state where they bought the house, and 55 percent of those are from the same city.

The well-designed kitchen whether for the chef or their own cooking was the top amenity for home hunters, followed by a media room with theater-style seating, a wine cellar, tennis or basketball court, indoor pool and a ballroom/cigar room.

FLEX TIME FREEDOMS: Do you regularly feel unproductive at work, tethered to a computer plopped on your desk, situated in a cubicle?

You might consider asking the boss for a more flexible work schedule, which could make you a better employee, according to Management Recruiters International Inc., a Cleveland-based recruitment firm.

Teleworking is among the more popular options. MRI estimated that employees who telework can save employers more than $10,000 each in reduced absenteeism and job retention costs. And by reducing office space requirements, an effective telework program can cut corporate real estate costs.

What's more, some companies are discovering an added retention bonus from flexible scheduling two-thirds of employees with flexible schedules who receive competing job offers routinely turn them down because they are personally and professionally satisfied, according to MRI.



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