Facebook: Should You Use It At Work?

Courtesy of The Vault

There’s a lot going on in Employers vs. Facebook news. Wednesday, legislators in the state of Maryland passed a bill banning employer requests for employees’ and job candidates’ social media passwords.

Thursday morning, Facebook announced plans to provide its users with “archives” of data the company stores–helping Facebookers of what information is floating around the internet.

This is all great news for job seekers seeking more privacy protections for their online activities. But as much has been said about workers’ online lives outside of work, little has been mentioned about the use of social media sites at work.

Generally, it’s safe to assume that all parties think it’s a bad idea: employers bristle at the notion of paying employees to tweet or update their statuses (even if they don’t block social sites at the workplace), and employees who don’t want to look lazy will deny their extracurricular online activities.

But maybe all this shame and secrecy is unfounded. Can checking Facebook at work really be so bad?

Not so shockingly, it’s not. In fact, new research says Facebook on your breaks—or any other fun web surfing–might actually boost your productivity.

To test this theory, Academy of Management experiment gave three groups of people a simple task–highlighting letter A’s in a large block of text—then gave them each three different rest activities. One group put together bundles of sticks, another rested without internet (but could call friends, etc), and a third was allowed to surf the web.

When each of the groups had their “mental exhaustion” surveyed after the 10 minute break, it was discovered that internet users were 16% more productive than the offline group, and 39% more productive than the group that had continued working with the sticks.

Awesome, right?

Of course, longer, more active breaks (perhaps those including sunshine and exercise) are probably the most preferable rest you can get. But the all-encapsulating mental vacation that is mindless web browsing is pretty powerful stuff, and the biggest bang for your time buck. Considering many workers are too worried about job security to take real lunch breaks, or even their vacation days, it’s worth allowing.

So until the workplace gets a little less stressful for everyone, employers: can we get a little looking-the-other way on our Pinterest habit?

–Cathy Vandewater, Vault.com

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BREAKING NEWS: Fezelry Jewelry Giveaway!

by Jackie

NBC Washington weekend anchor Angie Goff introduced me to the beautiful, one-of-a-kind designs of Fezelry Jewelry via Twitter. Angie’s statement necklace caught my eye during a Saturday morning broadcast, and the rest is Twitter history.
Fezelry Jewelry owner and designer Christine Haynes took a moment to answer a few questions for A*cute readers and is teaming up with LookAcute.com to give away a gorgeous pair of earrings!

Christine Haynes, Fezelry Jewelry Owner and Designer.

Q. What led you to jewelry design?

A. Creativity was welcomed and encouraged in my home, I was even allowed to write and draw on my bedroom walls!

One day a favorite necklace broke and being a DIY gal at heart, I tried my hand at fixing it. Before I knew it I made a few more for friends! I began selling my creations to friends and coworkers even giving them away as gifts. When I started college I used that craft to pay for things my scholarships and grants did not. I had no clue it would or could become a career path. It wasn’t until I moved to Maryland a few years ago that I decided to take my jewelry crafting to the next level and start Fezelry Jewelry Designs.

Q. What inspires your designs?

A.Beautiful things in nature, people watching, even sitting at home flipping

Agate Necklace from the Bedrock collection

through colorful magazines can conjure up design inspiration. I came up with the bedrock collection watching cartoons with my children!

Q. What is the step-by-step process of creating a custom piece with a client?   

A. Custom designs consultations take place either in person or virtually (phone, email, Skype) I like to sit down with the client and get to know them a little bit, and have real meaningful conversation with them beyond the project. Also, I like to find out what inspires them.

If we are meeting in person, I examine the person, what she is wearing, clothes, bag shoes, what type of jewelry is she currently wearing. Is it a special event, or ‘just because’? We discuss color preference, even if there are allergies to certain metals. I like to send my clients pictures of the process it gets them excited about their project and they really feel involved in the process. If I am consulting a gentleman on a gift for his wife, fiancé, or girlfriend I find I need to do a bit more digging. I always ask them to bring or email me pictures of the lucky lady and if possible it’s great if they can snag a few pieces of jewelry from her current collection!

Q. What has been your favorite piece to-date? 

A. It changes constantly! At this time it’s a very unique necklace made using rough amethyst and round freshwater pearls from my bedrock collection. It takes a special person to appreciate rough gemstones. I love the juxtaposition of the rough gemstone with the smooth pearls and crystals.

Q. What’s the best reaction you’ve gotten from a client? 

A. I consulted a bride-to-be on the phone and we only met in person one time so I could get her measurements. I never even saw her dress but I asked so many detailed questions I was able create exactly what it was she was looking for. She trusted me to create her wedding jewelry sight unseen until the day before her wedding! When she saw her jewelry she shrieked with excitement because the choker I created for her using crystals, bugle beads and pearls matched exactly the detail on the waist of her wedding dress!  She asked me if I was a psychic!

Enter to win these fab green agate earrings!

1. Click here to “Like” A*cute on Facebook, then comment on this post with your name/ email address and tell us why you should win.

OR

2. Submit a photo of yourself to acute.consulting@ymail.com for an Office Runway feature.

The contest ends on Thursday, January 5 at 11:59 p.m.

Winner will be chosen at random and announced on January 6.

Good Luck and Happy Holidays!

Staying Cool During a Heat Wave

by Sherria

Many of my friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter sounded off about the heat wave. Some people saw it as an opportunity to make jokes, some were disturbed, and some were just plain pissed off. Well, people, we can’t control the weather, but we can prepare for it and make sure we stay as healthy as possible during extreme conditions. According the Centers for Disease Control, extreme heat can cause illnesses (i.e. heat stroke) or even death. Populations most susceptible to heat related illness include “the elderly, the very young, and people with mental illness and chronic diseases are at highest risk.” There are numerous ways in which all populations can keep cool during extreme weather.  Below is a list of ways to prevent illness.

#1 Air-conditioning is the number one protective factor against heat-related illness and death

#2 Drink plenty of fluids

#3 Wear appropriate clothing and sunscreen

#4 Plan outdoor activities appropriately

 Please read CDC Extreme Heat: A Prevention Guide to Promote Your Personal Health and Safety.

 In honor of the heat…

Networking the Network: What is Google+ ?

by Jackie 

It seems as if there’s a new social networking platform every day. Aside from Facebook and Twitter, I’m usually reluctant to join new online networks. I don’t know how long they’ll last in the social networking universe, and am not too eager to keep up with yet another site. But, I’ve dedicated this summer to trying new things so I decided to try out Google +. I plan on using the streamlined “answer to Facebook” as a medium for both personal and professional networking. The delicate balance between these two worlds is essential for making key connections.

I use my Facebook page for fun and  keep a tight rein on the site’s customizable Friends Lists. Whereas my Facebook page is strictly for personal use, my LinkedIn page is purely professional, and sort of robotic. As I grow in my career and gain more experience, I’ve learned from mentors that networking should not be strictly business. While maintaining privacy is paramount, it is also important to be personable and approachable. My Google+ page will be the place for just that.

So far, what I like about the site is its use of “Circles” to categorize contacts. At every turn, you can customize which circle (colleagues, friends, family, etc.) sees what. While this is an option on Facebook, it is much more user friendly on Google+, with prompts appearing before every post.

I also like that the site is clean and easy to navigate. So far, there’s no Farmville, Honesty Box, or Sorority Life applications.

The site is brand new, relying on the guise of limited invitations to create a sense of exclusivity. Will Google+ outgrow Facebook, or will it keep us going around in circles? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Want to learn more? Click here for tips for Google+ newbies.

Oh, and shoutout to @Apoc06 for the Google+ invite!

E-tiquette: Strictly Confidential? Keep it offline.

by Jackie

There has been a lot of attention on online communication lately. Facebook, Twitter, Email, and GChat all make it easy for is to connect with friends and colleagues, but the “just-between-us” nature of in-person conversations and interactions does not exist on the web.

Rule of thumb: If you don’t want something to be public, don’t put it online.

  1. Avoid #ThatAwkwardMomentWhen you hit Reply All on an email that wasn’t meant for everyone to see. It may seem cumbersome, but if you want to comment privately on a public email thread, copy and paste the the contents of the email into a brand new message and send to your intended recipients. In some email programs, you can move the Reply All button far away from the Reply button to avoid mistakes. If your comment is strictly confidential, speak to the interested parties in person, or better yet, keep it to yourself.
  2. Don’t say anything online about your job, coworkers, or boss that you wouldn’t be comfortable saying to your colleagues’ faces.
  3. Use Facebook’s privacy settings. Restrict access to your photo albums, use your friends’ lists, and be selective when confirming friend requests. The site’s options allow you to customize your page for the different groups of people in your life.
  4. Not everyone is your friend. After a significant amount of time communicating, it may seem as if you can trust someone you met online. But, don’t get caught in a false sense of security. Assume that whatever you send someone may be forwarded to the entire world.
  5. Twitter is a great tool for rapid response, but it is a public forum. Even tweets from private pages or Direct Messages can be copied, pasted, and broadcasted. Think before you tweet.

Mobile Fashion and Style Apps

by Sherria

I would consider Jackie the more tech-savvy person in this duo. I am what the Marketing Execs call a ‘laggard’- late to respond to new trends. But since both Jackie and I have been on the move recently, traveling to different cities without computer access, I’ve picked up a habit or two from her; accessing the latest news and style updates via mobile web and apps.  This girl has an App for everything on her phone. So, I decided to browse through my BlackBerry apps and find out what was available. I downloaded some national news apps that would allow me to keep abreast of current events and Twitter- all free of course. It wasn’t until I started browsing through magazine and online advertisements that I discovered apps for my favorite magazines and fashion websites. So much of the fashion industry can be accessed in the palm of your hands. While many mobile websites are compatible with BlackBerry, I must say that the iPhone takes the lead in supplying apps. Oh the joys of technology! I know many of you have the iPhone and can easily access a million apps, so I figured you would like to check out some of the cool apps I have discovered online. Some are also compatible to any Smartphone. If you click the title of the app below you can visit the download page which will tell you if your phone is compatible or not. Happy Downloading!

StyleCaster

StyleCaster is a free mobile app which provides three style looks per day and can tailor the looks to the weather forecast inyour city. According to AppSafari, "StyleCaster is the world’s first personal style discovery platform that is integrating Content, Shopping and Community to create an experience unique and personalized to each and every user."

 Style.com

Style.com app is perfect for you Couture Diva's! This app allows you to view the latest runway shows, peek into exclusive party photos, and view the Style File blog.

Trendstop

TrendStop trendtracker is a free mobile download for all Smartphones. You will receive access to daily trend reports, pictures from runway shows, runway schedules and event guides.

Elle Mobile

ELLE mobile is basically the magazine in the palm of your hands. You can access articles, fashion updates, daily horoscopes, and a shopping guide for up to 10 U.S. cities.

If there are any other cool fashion and style apps that you have accessed, please let us know. We’re always looking for the hottest new thing.

A*cute hasn’t gone mobile yet. With your support, maybe one day we will. But in the meantime, check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and FormSpring.

Remembering how to dream

by Jackie

I’ve always been an avid reader, but until recently, I have not been hitting the book as often as I used to.  Believe it or not, what whetted my appetite for reading was Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series.  I devoured all four of the massive texts in about a month (I’m totally Team Edward, by the way).  After I finished the last book, I felt like something was missing.  I actually missed the characters and keeping up with a storyline.  It took me back to the days when I first discovered the magic of books as a little girl.  During my lunch break one day, I went to Borders and searched the shelves for my next book and came upon Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist.

I’ve been meaning to read it for a while:  the valedictorian of my sister’s high school graduating class quoted the text in her speech; Coelho is Sherria’s favorite author; and there’s not a day that went by without me seeing someone quote it in their Twitter update or Facebook status.  After reading it, I get it.

The allegory chronicled the efforts of Santiago, a shepherd, as he traveled to Egypt to discover his “personal legend.” As I followed Santiago’s journey, the theme of following one’s dream no matter what the cost resonated with me.  According to Coelho, somewhere between childhood and adulthood, we all became afraid to dream and discouraged from following our hearts.  While this may sound like some cooky self-help message, it is true.  The daily clock-in/clock-out of the 9 to 5 and the mundane routines of the workday can be threatening to our dreams.  At 25, I was beginning to believe the whole “quarter-life” phenomenon had hit me, and hit me hard.  Done with school and ankle-deep in my career, I started to think of the day-to-day as just a job and forgot why I was excited about my work when I first started three years ago.  I felt stuck.

The book reminded me of what I used to be passionate about and slowly, but surely, I am rebuilding my confidence to accomplish all of my dreams, even those that sound downright crazy.

If you haven’t read it, I recommend that you pick it up. It’s a short, but powerful book.  If you have read it, what did you think about it?  What are you reading now?