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7 Things to Do at Work When Everyone Is Out of the Office

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Most of your coworkers are out decking the halls the second half of December, but you’re not taking a vacation. Now what? You could celebrate the solitude with long lunches and Facebook marathons at your desk. Or you could do a few of these things instead. (Your career will thank you.)

1. CLEAN UP YOUR INBOX.

“If you’re like most people, all of those emails that you promise to respond to at some point get de-prioritized during the year,” says Alexandra Douwes, cofounder of millennial strategy firm Purpose Generation. “The holiday lull is a great time to go through everything.” To keep your stamina at its peak, alternate writing emails that require thoughtful responses with mindless tasks, like unsubscribing from newsletters you never open or responding to corporate surveys. Then think about what system you could set up now to prevent (or lessen) the email pile-up in the new year. If you live in Gmail, Douwes is a fan of this online Udemy course for Gmail productivity hacks.

2. INVITE A COWORKER TO LUNCH.

A skeleton crew at the office can be a good excuse to mix up your usual routine and socialize with someone new at the office. “Aim to make a new work friend with one of the other people there,” says Laura Vanderkam, a time management expert and author of I Know How She Does It and What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast. “Building tighter work relationships is associated with being more happy over the long run,” she says. And it can come in handy the next time you’re in a work crunch and need more people to pitch in.

3. UPDATE YOUR MENTORS.

Just because you don’t have a formal mentor doesn’t mean you should skip this step. “I don’t have any formal mentors,” Douwes points out. “But there are several people who have a vested interest in my professional pursuits and who have mentored or sponsored me at some point throughout my career.” The relative calm at the office this time of year is a great opportunity to follow through on sending them a quick life update: what you’ve been working on, what you’ve learned, what challenges you’ve faced. The holiday season is such a flurry of cards and family newsletters that an email or handwritten note won’t seem out of the blue.

4. WORK IN AIRPLANE MODE.

With coworkers and industry contacts out of the office, you’re probably getting far fewer emails each day. That can be a huge boon to your focus—so use it to your advantage by staying out of your inbox for large chunks of time, says Vanderkam. “See if you can be off for 90 minutes before checking your inbox,” she says. “You’ll likely make headway on projects you’ve been putting off for months.” And seeing how much more productive you are when you don’t toggle over to your inbox every two seconds might convince you to carry the habit of time-blocking into the New Year.

5. SET CAREER GOALS.

We’re all promising to lose five pounds and exercise more in our personal lives. But what about setting some work resolutions for 2017? “The holiday lull is a great time to reflect on the year ahead,” says Douwes. Think about what skills you want to gain or milestones you want to achieve in the next 12 months, then brainstorm a few concrete steps you’ll take to make them happen. Don’t just make this a mental exercise—jot it down. A study at Dominican University found that people who wrote out goals were significantly more likely to achieve them than participants who merely thought about their goals. Telling a friend increased follow-through even more, as did sharing regular updates with their pal.

If thinking of a career resolution makes you draw a blank, check out these five questions Douwes recommends everyone ask themselves at the beginning of each year.

6. DUST OFF YOUR RESUME.

Even if you’re not desperately seeking a new gig, the December lull can be a good time to freshen up your application materials so you’re ready to pounce if the right position opens up (or work hits a rough patch in the new year). Update and proofread your resume, then revamp your LinkedIn profile. In October, LinkedIn rolled out a new feature, called Open Candidates, that lets you signal to recruiters that you’re open to a new position—without broadcasting that news to your boss. (Just go to the Preferences tab and turn the Open Candidates feature on.) “The slow time over the holidays can also give you a chance to do some informational interviews,” says Vanderkam. Remember, HR teams that are in the office probably have more open calendars, too.

7. TAKE ON A STRETCH OPPORTUNITY.

Last year, Douwes used the December slow period to finally write a white paper that she’d been trying to write for months. “I’d never had enough time to sit down and finish it, because the day-to-day hustle and client requests got in the way,” she says. Your to-do list likely has similar stretch projects or things you’ve thought of doing throughout the year—and now you might have the focus and quiet to tackle them. Even covering for a different coworker than usual can help you stretch, says Vanderkam. “It’s easy to cover for a colleague who does similar work as you do, but cross-training on a different type of job lets you learn new skills and see what you might be interested in trying over the long haul.”

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9 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Hollywood Body Doubles
Hugh Jackman and his Real Steel body double, Taris Tyler
Hugh Jackman and his Real Steel body double, Taris Tyler
Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

When you see the back of an actor’s head in a movie, it may not be the actor you think it is. In addition to stunt performers, most movies employ body doubles (or photo doubles) with a passing resemblance to the principal actors. While some body doubles are brought on set for specific skills—like helping an actor pass as a professional athlete—the job can often involve just being a body, whether that means being nude on camera, having photogenic hands, or appearing in place of actors who can’t be on set for some reason. Here are nine secrets of the job:

1. THEY MIGHT ONLY BE MODELING ONE BODY PART.

Body double Danielle Sepulveres has played the hands of other actors in plenty of roles in her career, on TV and in beauty commercials featuring close-up shots of her holding moisturizer or makeup. She’s drizzled dressing on salad in place of Brooke Shields. She regularly slides files across tables, makes lists, and pours wine in the place of actresses on The Good Wife. (She has also played Jill Flint's butt on the show.) “I knew only glimpses of my hands might make it into a shot, or part of my shoulder along with a wisp of hair,” she wrote of one of her jobs in Good Housekeeping in 2016. But she overheard the director complaining that her wrists looked “vastly different” than those of the principal actress in the movie, 2015’s Mania Days. “Luckily, I didn't get fired in spite of my wrists, but I wouldn't have been surprised had it happened.”

2. THEY’RE NOT JUST THERE TO SHOW THEIR BUTTS.

Yes, body doubles are often brought in if an actor doesn’t want to bare it all on camera. But they are hired for other reasons, too. For one thing, union rules mandate the actors get 12 hours off between when they leave set for the day and their next call time, so if the shoots are running long, the crew might employ someone else to stand in. Other times, it's a matter of particular talents. Most actors may be able to sing, dance, and cry on camera, but few also have the athletic skills to allow them to pass as a sports legend. In Battle of the Sexes (2017), Emma Stone plays Billie Jean King, one of the best tennis players of all time. To realistically represent King’s skills on the court, the movie makers brought in tennis doubles to play in place of Stone and her co-star, Steve Carell. Stone’s double was chosen for her playing style, which resembled King’s, and worked with King on-set to perfect her imitation. The effort was, according to The Wall Street Journal, a huge success. “Not only is the tennis believable, it’s a meticulous representation of the type of tennis played in that era: serve and volley, chipping and charging to the net, touch volleys and soft hands.”

3. ACTORS CAN GET TOUCHY ABOUT WHO PLAYS THEM.

When you are tasked with choosing a celebrity doppelgänger, you’ve got to keep egos in mind. “The choice reflects on the principal actor,” DeeDee Ricketts, the casting director for Titanic, told Vanity Fair in 2016. “We have to take into consideration that they can’t be too thin, or more beautiful, or too heavy, or too old, or else the principal actor will think, That’s how they see me?” Actors often get to give input on who will be their double, and sometimes have final approval rights written into their contracts. When she was being considered for the job of Janet Leigh's body double in Psycho's iconic shower scene, model and Playboy covergirl Marli Renfro had to strip down for both Alfred Hitchcock and Leigh herself so that they could make sure her body looked enough like Leigh's, as Renfro recently revealed at a Brooklyn screening of the documentary 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene. In the case of nude scenes, actors might even have final approval on what physical moves their doubles are allowed to make.

4. THEY MIGHT NEVER MEET THEIR DOUBLE ...

If you’re working as an actor’s double, by definition, you’re not going to have scenes with them, and so some body doubles never meet the stars they’re pretending to be. Danish actor Elvira Friis, who worked as a body double for Charlotte Gainsbourg (and her character’s younger self, played by Stacy Martin) during the racier scenes of Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac (2013), never met the actor. “The closest I got to Charlotte Gainsbourg was that I was wearing her dress,” Friis told The Wall Street Journal.

5. OR THEY MIGHT SPEND A LOT OF TIME WITH THE PEOPLE THEY'RE PORTRAYING.

But how much time an actor spends with their doppelgänger really depends on the role. Some actors spend plenty of time with their doubles on set helping them get into the role. In What Happened to Monday (2017), Noomi Rapace plays the roles of seven identical sisters, making body doubles a necessity on set. Rapace helped direct her doubles during filming, “as they needed to know how the star would play the scene for each character so that it would sync up when she performed the part herself,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. Game of Thrones star Lena Headey (who plays Cersei) worked closely with her double Rebecca Van Cleave for a nude scene in the show’s fifth season finale. Headey walked Van Cleave through her character’s thinking and movements for each shot. Then, Headey did the same performance herself, wearing a beige dress that could later be edited out. In the final product, Headey’s facial expressions were merged with Van Cleave’s nude body.

6. THEY DON’T ALWAYS LOOK EXACTLY LIKE THEIR COUNTERPARTS.

Because body doubles are often only seen from the back or side, they may not look quite as much like their acting counterpart as you’d think. Brett Baker, who worked as Leonardo DiCaprio’s body double for Titanic, is several inches shorter than DiCaprio and seven years older. From the front, you wouldn’t peg him as a Jack Dawson lookalike. But with the same clothes and haircut, shot from above and behind, he passed easily as DiCaprio. Once Leo’s closeups were done, according to Vanity Fair, Baker was often brought in to stand opposite Kate Winslet as she played through her half of the scene. In some cases, he didn’t make it into the final shot at all, but still had to be on set for those 14-hour days.

7. THESE DAYS, THEY GET A BOOST FROM CGI.

With the help of technology, filmmakers can put their leading actor’s face on a body double’s torso, so they don’t have to limit their body doubles to just back-of-the-head or partial shots. This allows them to seamlessly meld both the main actor and the body double’s performances in post-production. That can allow directors to get exactly the scene they want in shows like Orphan Black, which features Tatiana Maslany playing multiple roles, or in cases where actors don't want to get totally naked on-camera. In rare cases, it can also be used to bring actors back from the dead. When Paul Walker died in a car crash midway through filming Furious 7 (2015), the filmmakers used his brothers and another actor as body doubles, superimposing computer-generated images of Walker’s face on their performances. Around 260 shots featuring Walker’s doubles appeared in the final cut.

8. IF AN ACTOR CAN’T ALTER THEIR WEIGHT FOR A ROLE, A BODY DOUBLE CAN FILL IN.

When Matt Damon was filming The Martian (2015), he wanted to lose 30 to 40 pounds to portray astronaut Mark Watney after he had been surviving on meager rations for years. But the filming schedule made that impossible, so a body double had to be brought in for some shots. “I was going to lose a bunch of weight in the third act of the movie, then put the weight back on,” Damon told Maclean’s. However, as the schedule shook out, they filmed the NASA interiors in Hungary, then immediately went to Jordan, which doubled as the Red Planet for the film’s purposes, and shot all the exterior shots from the beginning, middle, and end of the movie, with no time for Damon to lose a significant amount of weight. The skinny body double isn’t on screen for long. “It was, like, two shots,” Damon describes. (Still, fans noticed.)

9. SOMETIMES THEY NEVER MAKE IT IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA AT ALL.

When it comes to nude scenes, sometimes body doubles are hired but never used. Veteran body double Laura Grady was cast as Robin Wright’s lookalike for State of Play (2009), but didn’t shoot a single scene. “I just sat in my trailer, ready to go, and then at the end, [Wright] decided to do her own scenes,” Grady told Vulture in 2014. “That happens sometimes. Sometimes they just get a body double because they think they might need one, and then all of a sudden the actress is comfortable and she’s like, ‘No, I’ll just do it.’ Or they change a scene and they don’t make it as risqué.” Don’t worry, though—the double still gets paid.

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Visual Capitalist
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Looking for a Job? Here's the Largest Employer in Each State
Visual Capitalist
Visual Capitalist

Whether you love or hate Walmart stores, they're a vital component of America’s economy. The big box store is the top employer in nearly half of America’s 50 states, according to a new map spotted by Thrillist.

Created by Visual Capitalist, a Canadian media and news firm, the graphic below breaks down the nation’s largest private employers, state by state. Based on data collected by the website 247WallSt.com, it excludes state governments and military bases but includes public universities, hospitals, and airports, in addition to other businesses.

Walmart reigned supreme across the South and Midwest, with presences in states ranging from Alabama to Wyoming. Together, the map’s data suggests, Walmart hires over 1.5 million Americans, including nearly 172,000 employees in Florida alone.

Health care was also big business, with hospital services making up the brunt of the local economy in states including Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, and Minnesota. In Washington state, the airplane manufacturer Boeing dominated the local market, while MGM Resorts International employed 55,200 people in Nevada. And in both Maine and New Jersey, regional grocery chains like Hannaford Supermarkets and Wakefern Food Corporation helped locals pay the bills.

Check out the full map below.

A map of the top employers in each state, created by Visual Capitalist
Visual Capitalist

[h/t Thrillist]

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