Summer's finally here! Long, warm days hold the promise of outdoor lunch breaks and weekends at the beach, but what's even better is that you don't have to be rolling in dough to enjoy some really fun activities. If you know where to look, there's plenty of entertainment at your disposal, all without spending a dime.

Hold onto your hat, 'cause this live music is going to blow you away

Hello, live outdoor music!

In summer, local bands take advantage of the glorious weather and show off their chops at free concerts. If you're in New York, check out the NYC Parks summer concert series. It's got something for everyone, with concerts ranging from Scandinavian music to The Staten Island Snugs, a three-part harmony outfit, with lead guitar, bass, flute, and drums. But no matter where you live, chances are there will be a bar, restaurant, park, or festival pretty much every weekend with some live tunes. Check local newspapers or tourist bureaus, or even ask around at your favorite coffee shop. Baristas and bartenders are often artists, so they frequently have the inside scoop on the local music and art scene.

Admire free mural art

If you live in a city where murals are splashed all over buildings, do a bit of sleuthing to find out the stories behind the best ones. Hit up a tourist bureau or local library to get more information on the mural art scene in your city, then spend a lazy day photographing and drinking in your favorites. And if you're an artist, turns out painting murals pays pretty well too...

Just add sunshine!

Lazy picnic breakfasts, brunches, lunches, dinner, afternoon tea…you get the idea

You have the food – why not dine alfresco? Snag a few beach towels or bedsheet and a cooler, pack up some refreshments, and spread out under a shady tree. If you're the active type, bring a Frisbee or other lawn game. Couch potatoes, grab that novel you've been eyeing or your favorite magazine. Nothing quite beats munching away under the open sky as a warm breeze ruffles your hair. If you're planning on bringing booze to a park or other public area, make sure you check regulations before you go, and don't forget the bug spray!

Hike the great outdoors

Whether you're blazing your own trail or enjoying the fruits of someone else's labor, hiking through all sorts of natural surroundings can be rejuvenating. The National Park Service makes it easy to find a public park near you, or you can try AllTrails, an aggregate collection of over 5,000 trails that include directions, trail maps, and reviews. Even though it's tempting to sleep late during lazy summer days, if you're going hiking, it's best to start as early as possible in the morning to avoid crowds and the late afternoon sun. Furry friends make great hiking companions (just make sure you remember some water for them too). Once you reach the crest of a particularly scenic overlook, you'll feel proud to have accomplished something other than scrolling through a week's worth of social media posts.

You'll never go hungry at a farmer's market

Stuff yourself with free samples at a farmer's market

Sometimes it's easy to forget that food isn't actually created at your local grocery. There's something incredibly refreshing about knowing the provenance of your eats, and it's even better when you can speak to the people who created it with their own two hands. At a farmer's market you'll not only get to choose from the freshest, tastiest food you can find, but you'll also get to meet the people behind it. They frequently have samples so you can try out their homemade organic blueberry jelly or aged goat's milk gouda before you buy it. It's a fantastic place to try new seasonal foods, where you'll experience them at the peak of their flavor. Because let's face it: there's nothing worse than biting into a fresh strawberry or tomato only to find that while it may resemble the fruit, it tastes like soft shoe leather. Local Harvest and Farmer's Market Online are terrific resources for scouting out one near you.

Road trip with your besties

While road trips aren't technically free (I mean, gas costs money), when shared among a few of your BFFs, it's a pretty cheap way to spend a day or two. Do some investigating to see if there are any notable historic spaces or funky destinations nearby. Even if the world's largest ball of twine (incidentally, also a free attraction) doesn't quite live up to expectations, you can bet that you'll have a great time getting there. Put together a playlist of your favorite tunes that bring back happy memories and hit the road. Bonus points if you can convince your friend with the convertible to drive.

See where the magic happens at a factory tour

No, I'm not talking about touring your local air-conditioning unit factory. Think snacks and chocolate. Factory Tours USA lists a whole host of factories that offer free tours (and samples!) so you can get an inside look at how your favorite snack is made. Drool over the 25,000 pounds of confections made per shift at the Anthony-Thomas Candy Company in Ohio, or inhale the mouth-watering aroma of freshly cooked kettle chips at the Cape Cod Potato Chip factory in Hyannis. Once you try their hot, fresh-from-the-fryer kettle chips you'll be hooked, I promise.

Beautiful day + beautiful wine = beautiful life

Free booze! Need I say more?

Wineries, distilleries, and craft breweries are prime destinations to hit up during the summer months. It's fun to speak with the experts and learn how they got into their craft, and they're always happy to provide samples of their wares. Oenophiles can sample local wines from grapes grown out back, and beer fans will be hard pressed to find a better pint than one poured straight from the source. A quick Google search will unearth plenty of options, and if you combine it with a road trip or a picnic you've got yourself one hell of a sweet summer day.

Rejoice if you're light on funds. There's no need to envy your more financially flush friends, as there are more than enough free summer activities to keep you busy and your social media filled with memories.

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Over two years into the most momentous event in our lives the world has changed forever … Some of us have PTSD from being locked up at home, some are living like everything’s going to end tomorrow, and the rest of us are merely trying to get by. When the pandemic hit we entered a perpetual state of vulnerability, but now we’re supposed to return to normal and just get on with our lives.

What does that mean? Packed bars, concerts, and grocery shopping without a mask feel totally strange. We got used to having more rules over our everyday life, considering if we really had to go out or keeping Zooming from our living rooms in threadbare pajama bottoms.

The work-from-home culture changed it all. Initially, companies were skeptical about letting employees work remotely, automatically assuming work output would fall and so would the quality. To the contrary, since March of 2020 productivity has risen by 47%, which says it all. Employees can work from home and still deliver results.

There are a number of reasons why everyone loves the work from home culture. We gained hours weekly that were wasted on public transport, people saved a ton of money, and could work from anywhere in the world. Then there were the obvious reasons like wearing sweats or loungewear all week long and having your pets close by. Come on, whose cat hasn’t done a tap dance on your keyboard in the middle of that All Hands Call!

Working from home grants the freedom to decorate your ‘office’ any way you want. But then people needed a change of environment. Companies began requesting their employees' RTO, thus generating the Hybrid Work Model — a blend of in-person and virtual work arrangements. Prior to 2020, about 20% of employees worked from home, but in the midst of the pandemic, it exploded to around 70%.

Although the number of people working from home increased and people enjoyed their flexibility, politicians started calling for a harder RTW policy. President Joe Biden urges us with, “It’s time for Americans to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again.”

While Boris Johnson said, “Mother Nature does not like working from home.'' It wasn’t surprising that politicians wanted people back at their desks due to the financial impact of working from the office. According to a report in the BBC, US workers spent between $2,000 - $5,000 each year on transport to work before the pandemic.

That’s where the problem lies. The majority of us stopped planning for public transport, takeaway coffee, and fresh work-appropriate outfits. We must reconsider these things now, and our wallets are paying

the price. Gas costs are at an all-time high, making public transport increase their fees; food and clothes are all on a steep incline. A simple iced latte from Dunkin’ went from $3.70 to $3.99 (which doesn’t seem like much but 2-3 coffees a day with the extra flavors and shots add up to a lot), while sandwiches soared by 14% and salads by 11%.

This contributes to the pressure employees feel about heading into the office. Remote work may have begun as a safety measure, but it’s now a savings measure for employees around the world.

Bloomberg are offering its US staff a $75 daily commuting stipend that they can spend however they want. And other companies are doing the best they can. This still lends credence to ‘the great resignation.’ Initially starting with the retail, food service, and hospitality sectors which were hard hit during the pandemic, it has since spread to other industries. By September 2021, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 4.4 million resignations.

That’s where the most critical question lies…work from home, work from the office or stick to this new hybrid world culture?

Borris Johnson thinks, “We need to get back into the habit of getting into the office.” Because his experience of working from home “is you spend an awful lot of time making another cup of coffee and then, you know, getting up, walking very slowly to the fridge, hacking off a small piece of cheese, then walking very slowly back to your laptop and then forgetting what it was you’re doing.”

While New York City Mayor Eric Adams says you “can't stay home in your pajamas all day."

In the end, does it really matter where we work if efficiency and productivity are great? We’ve proven that companies can trust us to achieve the same results — or better! — and on time with this hybrid model. Employees can be more flexible, which boosts satisfaction, improves both productivity and retention, and improves diversity in the workplace because corporations can hire through the US and indeed all over the world.

We’ve seen companies make this work in many ways, through virtual lunches, breakout rooms, paint and prosecco parties, and — the most popular — trivia nights.

As much as we strive for normalcy, the last two years cannot simply be erased. So instead of wiping out this era, it's time to embrace the change and find the right world culture for you.

What would get you into the office? Free lunch? A gym membership? Permission to hang out with your dog? Some employers are trying just that.

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Did you hear about the Great Resignation? It isn’t over. Just over two years of pandemic living, many offices are finally returning to full-time or hybrid experiences. This is causing employees to totally reconsider their positions.

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