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Successful Women Reflecting on Work-Life Balance

Many working women choose their career path because they have been inspired by other women. With each chapter of my career, there have been numerous women cheering me on, giving me advice and sharing how they manage to strike harmony between work and home. Work-life balance sounds ideal in theory, but figuring out how to juggle it all is always a challenge, especially when it seems the system is working against us. A demanding career makes things even more difficult;  between the back-to-back meetings, endless emails, and constant deadlines, it’s tricky enough to squeeze in a good cup of coffee, let alone carve out time for a date night, kids’ school activities, or a quick yoga class. During this blog series, I invite you to meet women in my life who have found harmony and balance between their professional and personal life. So, pull up an OfficeSource chair and meet the amazing women in my life.

Melia Tourangeau

President and CEO
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

“A successful woman is one who can build a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at her.”

– Ishania Kurmi

Being appointed to the position in May 2015, she became the first female and youngest CEO in the Symphony’s 123-year history. Talk about a strong and determined woman! Melia has been working in the Symphony environment for nearly 25 years, after receiving a Bachelor of Music Degree in 1994 from the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music with a major in piano performance and a minor in musicology. In April 2007, she also received a master’s degree in public administration with an emphasis on nonprofit leadership from Grand Valley State University. And while her resume is impressive enough with all of the above, she is also a board member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), the International Women’s Forum and an officer for Group1 Managers at the League of American Orchestras. She lives in the Pittsburgh suburbs with her husband and two children.

Melia and I became friends a few years ago, after meeting at a family function. It was at this function where we discussed the balance of being a working mom and keeping up with demands of both family and career. I continue to admire the way she is able to balance it all. After sitting down again with her recently, I was able to capture in writing some of her advice on work-life balance and how to succeed as a woman in the working world. I hope that her words below inspire you to work hard, stay dedicated, and realize that you are all rock stars

Here are some of the Questions I asked Melia.

My biggest accomplishment in my career has been the organizational turn-around since my arrival in 2015 at the PSO. The Pittsburgh Symphony was in a challenged position financially; it needed better governance from the board, and the culture on the staff was less than optimal. It was a much more challenging situation than what I thought, and we had to make some hard changes to save the organization. We had to endure a painful work stoppage with our musicians in 2016, which was probably the lowest point and hardest thing I have ever done. Between 2016 and 2019, we have grown earned revenue and contributed revenue significantly to fix the operating accrual budget and the past two years we have seen surplus budgets for the first time in over a decade. Our challenges are not solved completely, but we are about 180 degrees from where we were five years ago on every front.

My biggest accomplishment in my personal life is the fact that I have a wonderful husband, who was diagnosed with brain cancer about 25 years ago. He survived the cancer, which is a real miracle, and he is my beacon of strength. It’s been a journey for us, and not easy to say the least. He is technically disabled due to the brain damage of surgery, radiation treatments, and chemotherapy, but he is physically quite able and a wonderful stay at home father to our two children. We have a wonderful family, and my husband’s strength is always a reminder to me of what’s really important in life.

In our organization, we work when others play. We also work when others work! I have a 9 AM-5 PM job during the week and a 5 PM-midnight job often several nights a week and on the weekends, with concerts and other Symphony/non-symphony events in the community. I also have two children that I love to be with and a wonderful husband. I learned a long time ago that if you try to be there for everyone, you will fail. I had to learn how to forgive myself for not always being Super Mom, learn to take care of my own health and well-being first, and learn to not feel guilty about building time into my work schedule for me and my family. Some tactical ways I’ve done this are:

(1) My assistant only books me three nights a week – including concerts. If I want to do more than that, I do it, but she stops at three and reminds me before I book more.

(2) The important school events, like parent-teacher conferences, band concerts, school orientations, kid sporting events are booked in my calendar and are hard to negotiate off if asked to move.

(3) I schedule ALL my vacation days at the beginning of the year. I never let one go to waste!

(4) If I’ve got a late night on the calendar, I come in later in the morning, or take a 3-4 hour break in the afternoon and go home to be with the kids and my husband.

(5) I read every night, if even for two minutes, and journal to get stuff out of my head before I go to sleep.

(6) I finally hired a personal trainer to make sure I go to the gym and exercise on a regular basis.

I believe my coworkers would describe me as collaborative, empowering, dedicated and passionate. I asked my kids how they would describe me and they said I am determined, loving, kind and supportive.

Some of my core values are kindness, empathy, commitment, trust, and integrity. I am dedicated to the work I do and to my family. I give people the benefit of the doubt and try to put myself in their shoes to better understand where they are coming from. I always think about what information I know and who else needs to be informed. I also insist on strong communication among my staff and myself. I don’t ever want to be surprised or blindsided.

Balancing my work and personal life, and the guilt associated with feeling like I am either letting people at work down or I’m letting my family down. I have overcome that challenge by accepting that I can’t be all things to all people, that I need to make intentional choices about what is important to me and my family, and I clearly articulate with my colleagues at work and with my husband and kids what those choices are and why they are important.

The culture of the PSO has changed considerably since I arrived. It was not a happy place to work when I got here. It was a very soiled workplace with an underappreciated and non-empowered staff. There was a culture of “fear of retribution” by the board and the musicians to the staff. We have changed that culture significantly across the organization. A combination of some new staff in leadership positions, a building of trust within the staff that they are appreciated and supported by me and the Board, building communication lines between musicians, staff and board to allow for the proper flow of information and facts, as opposed to assumptions and myths spreading across the organization. These are just a few of the things that have changed since I arrived. I encourage all my leadership team to follow my example of living a healthy work/life balance. Because musicians never stop being musicians; they never take a break from work, and this mentality tends to bleed over to the culture of the staff in our industry. However, the staff are not musicians and by modeling healthy work practices we have created a much healthier workplace with better productivity and results.

I lead a $32 million-dollar professional orchestra with 101 full time 52-week salaried musicians, 75 full-time administrative staff and another 50 part-time staff. We own and operate Heinz Hall, which is a historic venue in downtown Pittsburgh and the home of the Orchestra. We are the 6th oldest orchestra in the country with an incredible legacy. My direct reports are the Music Director Manfred Honeck, Principal Pops Conductor Byron Stripling, Sr. VP & Chief Operating Officer, Sr. VP and Chief Financial Officer, Sr. VP and Chief Development Officer, our HR Director, and Administrative Assistant. Our entire senior leadership team is 11 people, which in addition to my direct reports, includes the VP of Artistic Planning, VP of Orchestra Operations, VP of Marketing & Sales, Sr. VP of Learning & Community Engagement, VP of Innovation & Technology and Director of Communications. We have a Board of Directors who I report to, which currently has 54 members, as well as an Honorary Board, The Jack Heinz Society (which is a junior board), the Pittsburgh Symphony Association (our volunteer association) and the New Leadership Council.

I spend the majority of my time working with our Board, fundraising and managing community relations as the face of the orchestra. I absolutely love this part of my job as it is all about relationships and building advocacy for the orchestra and our mission. Working strategically with our Music Director and Principal Pops Conductor to build an artistic vision is an exciting part of my job that fuels my passion for the orchestra and our work, and developing a strategic direction for the organization overall is what I work on with the Board. I love spending time with the musicians and being their advocates.

I wish we had a better financial model that was more dependable. Ticket sales and earned revenue, in general, is only 25% of our budget. We have a large endowment, and the draw from that annually is about 25% of our revenue every year. The rest comes from donations from the community. We raise $16 million annually in private support, which is a heavy lift. We also have seven unions that we work with at Heinz Hall, the largest being the Musicians Union. Contract negotiations are my least favorite thing to do and always have been. I hate the antagonistic nature of negotiations and the “us vs them” mentality.

My days start by having coffee with my husband and getting our kids off to school. I sometimes go to the gym, but more often go in the evening and weekends. I get to the office between 8-9 AM and have meetings most of the day with donors, with staff, with musicians, with board members, and board committee meetings. If there is a rehearsal, I try to go down before rehearsal starts or at the break to visit with the musicians, welcome the guest conductors and guest artists, and if I have time, I will sit in on a little of the rehearsal. I often will have breakfast and lunch meetings most days of the week, which gets hard on the waistline! After the Friday night of each of our BNY Mellon Grand Classics weekends, I host a dinner with the conductor, guest artists, and donors (and I often have a dinner before concerts with donors as well). On those evenings, I don’t get home until about 1 AM.

When I’m home, I really try to unplug from work and just be with the family. I will do what I need to as far as emails, but I really try not to spend my time at home working. I do often need to go in Saturday evening or Sunday afternoon for concerts, which interrupts the family time, but is part of the deal in my job. When I’m home, I love to cook, hike in North Park with my husband and our two Labrador retrievers, go to my son’s hockey games or my daughter’s trombone lessons and band concerts, go to the gym and relax at our home with a movie.

Working hard is good, but working smart is better. Focus and prioritize what is most important and don’t let the little things get you off track.

I love it!  It has great support, and it looks fantastic and is really comfortable.

Now you can see why Melia is a force to be reckoned with! She is truly an inspiration to all working women and all the young girls who need someone to look up to. Melia can now conquer her day-to-day in one of our most comfortable and supportive OfficeSource chairs from the Corpo Collection. This chair is all about supporting the areas of the body that experience the most stress and discomfort during a long day in the office and at home. Not only does it come with an optional headrest, but also has unique seat cushion color options to choose from. After sitting in the chair, Melia said that she absolutely loved it!

If you want to be a part of the magic of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, visit their website, where you can also see a list of upcoming events


SKU: 138yma78v
Mesh High Back Task Chair w/Black Frame
OfficeSource®
Seating
List Price: $559.00

Melia's Chair Review

The Corpo Collection is your solution for functional seating that will both look and feel good. Focusing on supporting the areas of your body that experience the most stress and discomfort during a long work day, this collection is just what the doctor ordered. With an optional headrest and unique seat cushion color options, you will create a unique space that is full of comfort and support.

5/5

“I love it!  It has great support, and it looks fantastic and is really comfortable.

Have you ever stopped to think about how much time you spend in your office chair? Take an average work week of 40 hours, multiply that by 52 weeks, and you rack up approximately 2,080 hours over the course of a year. Multiply that by the number of years the average person works, and it’s easy to see that a large portion of one’s life is spent in an office chair.

40 hours a week  |  52 weeks a year |  45 years working

ON AVERAGE PEOPLE SPEND 96,600 HOURS
OF THEIR LIFE SITTING IN AN OFFICE CHAIR

As surprising as these numbers are, even more, surprising is that more money is often spent purchasing a desk over an office chair. Same holds true for home office setups. Some spend more time in front of a computer than sleeping, so it only makes sense to have an office chair for both the office and the home, that is both supportive and comfortable.

A great ergonomic chair can increase productivity and efficiency of the person sitting in it, on the other hand, a bad office chair can lead to major back and leg problems or carpal tunnel, which causes lost time at work and a decrease in productivity and efficiency. Most consumers shop based on decor and neglect the importance of design and ergonomics. Luckily, there are some great options that are both aesthetically pleasing, as well as provide amazing ergonomic features.

OfficeSource has a great chair that checks all these boxes and then some.

WHAT ARE THE TOP FEATURES YOU SHOULD CONSIDER WHEN PURCHASING AN ERGONOMIC OFFICE CHAIR?

LUMBAR SUPPORT

Consistent lumbar support
that follows your waist at all times

ADJUSTABLITY

A synchronized back and seat
with multiple position options.

SEAT SUPPORT

High density foam

BODY WEIGHT CONTROLS

No need to adjust
tension for different users.

MID BACK MESH CHAIR WITH TWO-TONE FRAME AND ALUMINUM BASE

The Luna Collection will make your office look out of this world. With the collection’s mid-back, mesh chairs with a two-tone frame and aluminum base, you’ll look both good and comfortable while you sit and get work done. It is also height adjustable and mobile, with its attached casters. Say hello to a neat twist on a typical mesh chair, when you choose the Luna Collection.

SKU: 88222AGRY
List Price: $1,149.00
Upholstery/Colors: Black Seat with Gray Back

  • Pneumatic Seat Height 
  • 360-Degree Swivel
  • Tilt-Tension
  • Synchronous Control 
  • Lumbar Adjustment 
  • Height/Width Adjustable Arms 

Always keep in mind when you are searching for your ideal chair that there really isn’t a “one size fits all” for every body type. For more seating options, visit officesource.com

Open workspaces have been a trend for many years, and they continue to steadily grow in popularity. In fact, more than 70% of employees in the United States now work in an open office environment. Open layouts foster communication, teamwork, and approachability. I work daily on researching what the top trends are in the office furniture world, and the open plan concept continues to cultivate its place in the business environments. In short, just like rock and roll, it’s here to stay! Though the benefits of this concept can be felt throughout a company, this layout is especially attracting attention within specific departments.

Marketing and sales are just a couple of examples, where an open environment allows teams to bounce ideas off one another and more efficiently share information. Beyond departments, more executives are endorsing the open office strategy as they watch it increase communication and help make a team more cohesive, as well as provide them, as leaders, with a better, clearer picture of what’s going on within their company.
 
Just like every other trend, this concept does receive its fair share of criticism. The two most common complaints about an open office concept are distractions and privacy. However, make no mistake that the benefits by far outweigh the negatives. There are solutions to better mitigate distractions and secure employee privacy, that allow everyone to succeed in their space. 

With open offices on the rise, the re-birth of breakout rooms also happened. Typically break rooms were known as places to eat lunch in or a hub to enjoy a hot cup of coffee in. However, break rooms have now become a spot for employees to get a moment away to clear their minds, make a personal call, hold a small group meeting and of course enjoy a snack or meal.

A newer trend is bookable rooms, which are pretty self-explanatory based on their name. Bookable rooms are locations that can be used on either a first-come, first serve basis or scheduled in advance for a specific time. There are many options of software, that can assist with bookable room scheduling and availability. 
Finding a private space is easier for companies to manage than the issue of distractions. More than 10,000 workers from across 14 countries were recently surveyed, and the findings showed that office workers are losing approximately 80 minutes a day due to distractions. If solutions aren’t provided to lessen these distractions, many employees find themselves unmotivated, unproductive and overly stressed. 

It’s no surprise that having an open office layout can allow noise levels to rapidly escalate, which once again points to another great benefit to having a company breakout room(s). While distractions in the office lead to unproductiveness from employees, a breakout room can help create a more dynamic space where people have the freedom to enjoy the peace and quiet or chat to their colleagues in specially designed zones. These rooms not only mitigate distractions but are effective in helping boost the mood or morale of your employees.
Simply allowing more personal control over the physical workspace (e.g. open office or breakout rooms) and providing easy access to meeting places, encourages group cohesiveness and job satisfaction. Knowing there are private, quiet rooms available, where you won’t get kicked out when you’re focused, promotes a strong psychological sense of privacy and control. This will keep employees from worrying about a workplace environment where they are abruptly shoved out of a space or invaded by sudden, interruptive discussions. Knowing they can focus and complete tasks that require concentration, streamlines productivity.

There are many products to help with finding that balance of openness and privacy. Featured below are just a few of the many options OfficeSource has to offer. 
VARIANT COLLECTION
PRIVACY SCREENS
Our Variant Collection offers an array of options that can be built to suit for open office layouts while still having the ability to offer some privacy. With the privacy panels that can be mounted to both the top and underside of desks you will have the feel of an open office but with the privacy of a traditional layout. 
 

 
MILLENNIAL COLLECTION
PRIVACY CHAIR CUBBY
Trendy, modern, and comfortable furniture that not only looks good but makes a great space to work privately, eliminating any surrounding distractions.  Create unique seating solutions in your workspace that can serve more than one purpose. 


SPRY MOBILE WHITEBOARD
Durable and lightweight, the Spry Mobile Whiteboards are great to use as mobile dividers in open office spaces. Go from a collaboration session to individual spaces in a matter of minutes with locking casters and a magnetic surface.




OS PANEL SYSTEMS
Explore the endless possibilities of configuring your office space through the use of office partitions, office dividers, and panel systems.
Now that you have the common spaces up to date, why not look at some break-out room options? With all the options out there it may be hard to decide what you would like your breakout spaces to look like. OfficeSource offers many options that are multifunctional that are perfect! 
Choose a base style, color and even the chairs and accessories you would like, but we don’t just have options when it comes to tables, we also have many styles of chairs that will work in anything from break room to boardroom. 

One of the easiest ways to transform a room into feeling larger is with mirrors.

Prior to my education as an interior designer, I thought mirrors were only useful as standbys over the fireplace, in bedrooms, or in bathrooms. However, as I began to work in the design field, I found that their presence in homes and offices made a dramatic impact on the way a room feels, in regards to the size.
When used in the right areas, and creatively, mirrors can create quite the optical illusion. Creating light, texture, space, and character, mirrors instantly open up what feels like a cramped area, and also gives any room the ultimate WOW factor. Aside from soaring ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows, there is no better friend to a small space than a well-placed mirror.
BEHIND FURNITURE
Large mirrors, either hung or propped up, can brilliantly boost the sense of space. Placing furniture in front of the mirror will soften any glare and enhance the reflections. The bigger the mirror, the more space it will appear to create. A pair of large, window-like mirrors bring a sense of balance to a neutral space.

 Bowery Collection.
CREATE A “WINDOW”

Small spaces are not usually packed with windows, so why not a fake one! Place a mirror in an area you wish had a window. Create ‘multiple’ windows in a room by placing a mirror next to or across from a real window. The reflection maximizes the effect of natural light and exposure, creating pleasant door views, that can be appreciated from multiple angles.
BEYOND WALLS
Mirrors don’t have to be hung on the walls to reflect light. You can brighten your interior spaces by placing them in other areas. Lining the back of a bookshelf can add great reflection and depth to a room. Adding glass to a table top, and then placing a candle or lamp on top of the glass, is one of the quickest ways to add reflective light to brighten a space.
Heritage Collection 
Norsons Collection Bookcases
So, don’t just limit your mirrors to the obvious bathroom, bedroom and fireplace; branch out and use them to enhance and compliment your office space, or give any room a sophisticated and brightened appeal. After all, mirrors are always a good idea!

*|MC:SUBJECT|*

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Let me start by saying that I love my job! But even those of us who love our job, can become overwhelmed with meetings, tasks and deadlines. For many of us, when Friday comes, the work week feels like a blur. I recently read a report from the Bureau of Labor, stating that the proportion of workers spending more than 40 hours a week at work, has been on a steady increase over the past five years.

As a population, we are spending more and more time at our job. However, does that mean we are more effective? Could the digital distractions and mindlessness actually be reducing our productivity and make us less happy along the way? Could the solution be as simple as implementing just a few mindfulness practices at work?

I have been taking a deeper dive in to this topic the past few months, and have compiled a list of five mindful practices that can help you better accomplish all those tasks on your ever-growing to-do list, be happier and even boost your brainpower!
 
Throughout the day, we find ourselves slumping into our office chair for yet another day. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy suggests that sitting on a backless stool or chair can help you be more mindful of your posture and your breathing, which helps to increase focus. Also, an added bonus, is that you can burn calories and increase your core strength. (link to the spool here)

View the Spool Collection Chair —> HERE

How do you control unwanted thoughts throughout the day and stay focused? One of my dearest friends, Dr. Kelly Donohoe, has a great solution. She calls it the Grounding Technique, which is something great to practice on your breaks or during your lunch time.

“One thing I love to teach people – for kids too! – is called a ‘grounding technique’. It’s a positive way to ‘get grounded’! You can do it anywhere – sitting or standing. If you are sitting, you turn your energy to the chair. Standing – focus on the literal ground beneath you. This act of refocusing makes it impossible for your mind to keep whirring and buzzing. When you notice your mind wandering away from the ground – you gently bring your attention back. That’s it! Cognitive magic!

Our minds can only do one thing at once and focusing on the here and now will bring calm and peace. It can happen anytime, anywhere. No one knows what you’re doing, all they notice is your renewed calm. If it feels scary to let go of your worries, you can remember that they will always wait for you – though you may not need to revisit those thoughts, letting them go for a minute will never make the situation worse. “

Dr. Kelly Donohoe, Licensed Psychologist www.drkellydonohoe.com 
Follow Dr. Kelly Donohoe on Facebook —> HERE 
 

You probably would not drive somewhere new without some planning first; determining the best route, making sure you have enough fuel, figuring out how much time it will take you to arrive at your destination, and how many pitstops you will need to take along the way. Why not look at your work day as a ‘new destination.’ Develop your daily trip plan, write down what you want to accomplish that day and make a plan of how to accomplish it. Planning your day with specific amounts of time assigned to each item on your to-do list can help you remain more mindful and focused on the task at hand. You may feel like you’re getting more done when you multitask, but odds are, you aren’t. According to the American Psychological Association, multitasking reduces our productivity, in many cases, as must as 40 percent, which clearly makes us less mindful in the long-run. Enjoy your daily journey and don’t forget those pitstops to refuel your mind.

I recently read an article with the opening statement of: “sitting is the new smoking”. The article stated how recent research proves that sitting for too long at your desk makes you more likely to contract heart disease, cancer and Type II Diabetes. The suggestion is to stand at least 10 minutes every hour. My tip is to sneak in a yoga pose while standing! I am not suggesting to greet your co-workers with a Warrior Pose, but it is easy to get in a side stretch at your desk. Even the simplest of side stretches will extend your spine. This posture even gets into the muscles around your ribcage, which allows you to take deeper, more relaxing breaths throughout the day. Relaxing breaths create deeper mindfulness. So how do you perform a proper side stretch? Either bring your feet together or place them hip-width apart, depending on your flexibility, reach your arms into the air, interlace your fingers and stretch to the right. Be mindful of your hips and shoulders, both of which should stay in one line. Hold for a few breaths on each side and then release. 

View OfficeSource Standing Desks Collections —> HERE

You may not realize that to be more mindful AT your workplace, starts with setting limits when you are NOT AT your workplace. Turning off notifications for your work email, and reminding yourself that you will not respond to work related tasks during certain hours. This will actually increase your productivity, focus and commitment to your work when you are actually at your workplace.
 
So, let’s take some of these steps to becoming more mindful at work. Not only will your body thank you, but your mind will as well. Become an even better and more focused worker, by implementing some mindfulness practices at work, whether it’s the ones I suggested above or some that you create yourself. It’s time to become a happier you!

Did you try some of these mindful practices? Let us know which work best for you, or share some of your mindful practices that you used to be more focused at work. 
 
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