Let me guess. During the past few months, you’ve spent some time thinking about your priorities. If so, you’re not alone. The pandemic has caused people around the world to reevaluate what’s important in life. If you’re like many people, finding a healthy blend between work and the other areas of your life is at the top of your to-do list. Believe me, I know. Between assisting my kids with their distance learning activities, driving them to their activities, and making sure their diet consists of something other than cereal, AND (oh yeah!) supporting my Salo team, my consultants, and our clients at work—it can be tough.
If you’re serious about achieving better work-life balance (or as I prefer to say, work-life blend or work-life integration), you’ll need to enroll others—such as your boss—in your master plan. But, talking to your boss about work-life blend can feel uncomfortable. After all, you don’t want to look like a needy slacker. The trick to success (and avoiding awkwardness) is to treat your work-life ask as a business conversation, not a commentary on your personal needs.
To do that, you’ll need to build a business case. Just follow these familiar steps:
1. Assess the problem.
Examine what’s causing the conflict between your work and the rest of your life. (Keep it focused on your role and the responsibilities as much as possible.) For example:
- Do you have an excessive workload?
- Is your company culture the culprit?
- Are you a serial over-worker/taking on more than you need to/unclear about priorities?
- Does your boss expect you to be available 24/7?
- Is your work schedule too inflexible?
- Are your coworkers also stressed out?
2. Create a mutually beneficial plan to address the situation.
Once you know what’s causing the stress, you can propose some solutions. Maybe your solution is a more flexible workweek, redistributing workload among your team, or simply setting clearer guidelines/boundaries. (Need ideas? Get inspiration from what’s worked for other companies or colleagues.)
It’s critical to make sure your proposal takes the company’s (and your boss’s) needs into consideration. Think about what drives your company/boss/team? Is it profit? Productivity? Deadlines? Clout? Anticipate questions related to the hot-button issues and be ready to answer them.
3. Collect examples and data to support your case.
Bolster your plan with data and real-world examples about your work. Document your results and successes as they happen so you don’t have to go back and try and remember all the great things you’ve done. Show your commitment to the company with examples of the value you bring to the organization and work you’ve done well. You can also use third-party research about work-life balance to bolster your argument.
4. Schedule a meeting.
This is not the time for an email request. Get time on the calendar to present your proposed solutions and have a meaningful discussion about it. Lead your boss through the plan, clearly illustrating how you can get your work done while finding the balance you need. Whether you have an actual document or just come armed with talking points, practice your sales pitch in advance—ideally, with someone who knows your boss.
5. Be ready to compromise and experiment.
There’s a decent chance your boss will have some reservations about the plan—especially if company culture isn’t set up to support work-life blend. Listen to any reservations and try to find common ground. Then, work together to modify or “test” the plan as necessary. For example: You could offer to try your plan for two weeks and see how it works. Or, instead of a four-day work week, you start with taking Friday afternoons off. The key is to be flexible. You never know, the best idea might be one your boss thinks up!
Due to the pandemic, work-life blend and organizational flexibility are at the top of people’s minds—especially as studies show people work more hours when working at home. As a result, companies might be more receptive than ever. In fact, chances are, they’ll appreciate your proactive, thoughtful effort to design a work environment that benefits everyone.
At Salo, we help senior professionals in HR, finance, and accounting find the work-life balance and flexibility they crave through consulting careers. Interested? I’d be happy to tell you more about it. Contact me on LinkedIn to start the conversation.