‘Boomerang’ Employees Are on the Rise

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You’ve probably heard the term “boomerang” used in recent years, most likely referring to adult children who move back home after college. But another type of boomeranging is also on the rise: employees who leave a job only to return to it years later.

Workplace boomeranging can happen for a number of reasons. Maybe you’re laid off, but when lean times are over, your employer invites you to return. Or perhaps you just want to take time off to get a degree or travel the world. Jennifer Liou left her marketing job because she wanted to learn new skills, for example. She’d been working for a year and a half at consumer electronics company Belkin when she decided to leave. “I reached a point where I wanted expand my skill set to include creating web banners, photography assets, creative collateral, understanding target audience, communications and more,” she tells Mental Floss.

Liou moved to Hong Kong to work for a gaming company, where she learned an entirely new set of skills. Later, when her former boss offered her a new position back at Belkin, Liou decided to boomerang. “My original boss and I kept in touch the entire time from when I left Belkin,” she says. In fact, her boss even became a mentor. “She let me know that the marketing department had evolved and that I would continue to sharpen my skills and grow as a marketer.”

While it probably sounds like an ideal scenario, boomerangs should keep a number of factors in mind before swinging back to a job. “I’ve been on this side of rehiring people many times and I can say that two out of three people who are rehires will leave within the following year,” says Lindsay Mustain, a former talent acquisition professional and founder of Talent Paradigm. Most importantly, the company culture has to be welcoming to returning employees—which may explain why a company like Belkin, in particular, has so many boomerangs in its employment.

For their part, Belkin makes it a point to stay on good terms with workers when they leave, benefiting from their growth if they ever decide to come back. In a recent survey, 76 percent of human resources professionals say they’re more willing to accept boomerang employees now than in the past. “The other issue with boomerang is that most hiring managers don’t want to rehire once you’ve left because you’ve already decided to leave one time, so be sure if you choose to return that you know it can be just as hard as getting in the door as the first time,” Mustain adds.

“I entered the business quite young and had been at Belkin for a few years, stepping up from my original position into a newly created role,” Aniela Fleming, head of marketing at Belkin International, tells Mental Floss. “At the time, I felt it was important to broaden my experience and learn more about the inner workings at other organizations, and other industries.” After parting on good terms, the company later reached out to Fleming after she expanded her skill set and experience. They offered her a role in which she would lead their Australia and New Zealand marketing teams. “It’s hard to wonder ‘what if,’ and they are hard decisions for a reason,” Fleming says. “That said, I’m even happier that after growing professionally and personally, I was able to return to a company that I love and add even more value because of my new experiences.”

Aside from ensuring the company culture is conducive to boomerangs, there are a few things you should keep in mind if you’re thinking about returning to an old job—whether you’re about to quit, or you’ve been offered a new role.

UNDERSTAND WHY YOU’RE QUITTING

Take time to be introspective, suggests Liou. “Instead of quitting out of frustration, have a concrete reason for leaving.” That might mean you want to learn very specific skills, work in a different industry, or just go back to school to get a degree.

And if you have an issue with your current boss, for example, try to work it out even if you know you’re going to quit later. Years later, if you do decide to boomerang, that boss may not even be in the picture, and you’ll have maintained your ties with the company instead of being the angry employee who quit in a huff. “As a manager, I would want to understand what that reason was if an employee wanted to leave and would want to see if there is a way to resolve the issues,” Liou says.

When you return, it’s important to remember why you wanted to leave in the first place, too, Mustain adds. Was it an issue with your manager and has that manager now changed or been replaced? Was it policy and has the policy changed? Did it have to do with company culture, and has the culture adjusted enough for you to thrive in it now? “In order to be successful to reintegrate into the original job you need to do a deep dive into why you left in the first place,” Mustain suggests.

KEEP IN TOUCH

Of course, if you want to stay on top of new opportunities, it helps to keep in touch with employees and stay up-to-date on company changes. “Connect with all your previous contacts at the company and ask how other functions are doing. Ask how other managers are—do the homework—to help inform your decision in coming back,” Liou says. “Also know that there needs to be a fit between you and the company for the relationship to work.”

If and when you’re ready to return to a previous employer, reach out to any former managers or colleagues you’ve worked with. Ask for their feedback or advice for approaching the company as a boomerang.

BE PREPARED FOR CHANGES

It’s easy to come back to the company and expect everything to be the same. You might start to use the same approaches that worked in the past, only to discover that’s not how they’re doing things anymore. When you return, make sure to look at the opportunity with a fresh perspective, as you would starting any new job. And make sure to reassess the company culture, as it may have changed, too. During the interview, make sure to ask the same questions you would at any other interview. What does the company value? What are their goals? And what goals do they have in mind for your specific role?

“Culture fit and personality [are] as important between an employer-employee as [they are] in personal relationships, and connecting and embracing a company’s ambitions and aligning them with your own career goals isn’t something that happens as often as you might think—I got lucky,” Fleming says. “If you have this with a former employer, and you still believe you can continue to grow and be challenged in your career, then this is a wonderful opportunity I would always recommend."

12 Creative Ways to Spend Your FSA Money Before the Deadline

stockfour/iStock via Getty Images
stockfour/iStock via Getty Images

If you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), chances are, time is running out for you to use that cash. Depending on your employer’s rules, if you don’t spend your FSA money by the end of the grace period, you potentially lose some of it. Lost cash is never a good thing.

For those unfamiliar, an FSA is an employer-sponsored spending account. You deposit pre-tax dollars into the account, and you can spend that money on a number of health care expenses. It’s kind of like a Health Savings Account (HSA), but with a few big differences—namely, your HSA funds roll over from year to year, so there’s no deadline to spend it all. With an FSA, though, most of your funds expire at the end of the year. Bummer.

The good news is: The law allows employers to roll $500 over into the new year and also offer a grace period of up to two and a half months to use that cash (March 15). Depending on your employer, you might not even have that long, though. The deadline is fast approaching for many account holders, so if you have to use your FSA money soon, here are a handful of creative ways to spend it.

1. Buy some new shades.

Head to the optometrist, get an eye prescription, then use your FSA funds to buy some new specs or shades. Contact lenses and solution are also covered.

You can also buy reading glasses with your FSA money, and you don’t even need a prescription.

2. Try acupuncture.

Scientists are divided on the efficacy of acupuncture, but some studies show it’s useful for treating chronic pain, arthritis, and even depression. If you’ve been curious about the treatment, now's a good time to try it: Your FSA money will cover acupuncture sessions in some cases. You can even buy an acupressure mat without a prescription.

If you’d rather go to a chiropractor, your FSA funds cover those visits, too.

3. Stock up on staples.

If you’re running low on standard over-the-counter meds, good news: Most of them are FSA-eligible. This includes headache medicine, pain relievers, antacids, heartburn meds, and anything else your heart (or other parts of your body) desires.

There’s one big caveat, though: Most of these require a prescription in order to be eligible, so you may have to make an appointment with your doctor first. The FSA store tells you which over-the-counter items require a prescription.

4. Treat your feet.

Give your feet a break with a pair of massaging gel shoe inserts. They’re FSA-eligible, along with a few other foot care products, including arch braces, toe cushions, and callus trimmers.

In some cases, foot massagers or circulators may be covered, too. For example, here’s one that’s available via the FSA store, no prescription necessary.

5. Get clear skin.

Yep—acne treatments, toner, and other skin care products are all eligible for FSA spending. Again, most of these require a prescription for reimbursement, but don’t let that deter you. Your doctor is familiar with the rules and you shouldn’t have trouble getting a prescription. And, as WageWorks points out, your prescription also lasts for a year. Check the rules of your FSA plan to see if you need a separate prescription for each item, or if you can include multiple products or drug categories on a single prescription.

While we’re on the topic of faces, lip balm is another great way to spend your FSA funds—and you don’t need a prescription for that. There’s also no prescription necessary for this vibrating face massager.

6. Fill your medicine cabinet.

If your medicine cabinet is getting bare, or you don’t have one to begin with, stock it with a handful of FSA-eligible items. Here are some items that don’t require a prescription:

You can also stock up on first aid kits. You don’t need a prescription to buy those, and many of them come with pain relievers and other medicine.

7. Make sure you’re covered in the bedroom.

Condoms are FSA-eligible, and so are pregnancy tests, monitors, and fertility kits. Female contraceptives are also covered when you have a prescription.

8. Prepare for your upcoming vacation.

If you have a vacation planned this year, use your FSA money to stock up on trip essentials. For example:

9. Get a better night’s sleep.

If you have trouble sleeping, sleep aids are eligible, though you’ll need a prescription. If you want to try a sleep mask, many of them are eligible without a prescription. For example, there’s this relaxing sleep mask and this thermal eye mask.

For those nights you’re sleeping off a cold or flu, a vaporizer can make a big difference, and those are eligible, too (no prescription required). Bed warmers like this one are often covered, too.

Your FSA funds likely cover more than you realize, so if you have to use them up by the deadline, get creative. This list should help you get started, and many drugstores will tell you which items are FSA-eligible when you shop online.

10. Go to the dentist.

While basics like toothpaste and cosmetic procedures like whitening treatments aren’t FSA eligible, most of the expenses you incur at your dentist’s office are. That includes co-pays and deductibles as well as fees for cleanings, x-rays, fillings, and even the cost of braces. There are also some products you can buy over-the-counter without ever visiting the dentist. Some mouthguards that prevent you from grinding your teeth at night are eligible, as are cleaning solutions for retainers and dentures.

11. Try some new gadgets.

If you still have some extra cash to burn, it’s a great time to try some expensive high-tech devices that you’ve been curious about but might not otherwise want to splurge on. The list includes light therapy treatments for acne, vibrating nausea relief bands, electrical stimulation devices for chronic pain, cloud-connected stethoscopes, and smart thermometers.

12. Head to Amazon.

There are plenty of FSA-eligible items available on Amazon, including items for foot health, cold and allergy medication, eye care, and first-aid kits. Find out more details on how to spend your FSA money on Amazon here.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

5 Easier Ways to Water Your Christmas Tree

Artfoliophoto/iStock via Getty Images
Artfoliophoto/iStock via Getty Images

A decorated Christmas tree adds instant holiday cheer to any room—for a few days, at least. If you neglect to care for it, however, it doesn't take long for that tree to start dropping needles and dry up into a brittle, brown fire hazard. The key to keeping your tree looking healthy until the New Year is to water it every day. Of course, that comes with its own problems, like sap-covered clothing and sore knees. Here are some alternative methods for watering your Christmas tree that won't have you wishing for the end of the holiday season.

1. Rig a funnel and PVC pipe.

The worst part of watering a Christmas tree is crawling around on your hands and knees, but once you've set up this funnel rig, you can water it while standing up. As Eric Palonen demonstrates in the video above, all you need to do is stick a PVC pipe into the tree stand, attach a funnel to the other end with an elbow connector, and pour in the water.

2. Dig out a pool noodle.

Don't have a spare PVC pipe at home? A foam pool noodle works just as well as the receptacle for your funnel.

3. Disguise a DIY water dispenser as a present.

On Instructables, Rickyspears shares his step-by-step process for building a Christmas tree-watering rig. Using a bucket and plastic tube with brass fittings, you can create a water-siphoning system that automatically keeps your tree hydrated. And because a big bucket of water beneath the tree isn't the most festive sight, Rickyspears also tells you how to disguise it by hiding it in a box decorated with wrapping paper.

4. Use a wine bottle.

Still have some leftover wine bottles from Thanksgiving (or the weekend) lying around the house? Use one of them to water the base of your tree while keeping a safe distance between you and the sticky branches. (Though if you do get some sap on your hands, there are a few easy ways to get rid of it.)

5. Invest in an automated watering system.

DIY watering rigs are inexpensive, but if convenience is your main concern, it's hard to beat a product that was designed just for this purpose. The Christmas tree watering bag from Elf Logic senses when your tree needs water and replenishes it automatically. Plus, it hangs on a branch like an ornament, making it easy to tuck away.

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