How to Talk to Your Boss About Work Life Balance
Finding and keeping that elusive thing called work life balance is tough for most fathers. In an era when smartphones and other digital devices can allow us to be connected at work 24/7, no matter what our normal working hours, work tends to insert itself into family activities and personal time.
A father can find it particularly difficult to successfully balance work, family and life when his employer or his supervisor is a workaholic himself or at least expects that level of time commitment of his employees. Some companies have a commitment to their employees' work life balance but many employers do not. And with the ever increasing demands to do more with less in today's corporate world, dads can find it difficult to keep those demands and the needs of their families in balance.
At one point in my life, I had a boss that was unusually demanding. I was on call 24/7 in his mind and needed to answer my cell phone whenever he called, day or night, and needed a pretty good explanation if I didn't. I even programmed his ringtone as "Hail to the Chief" as a reminder that if he called, I needed to be there.
So, if you find yourself in a situation where your work life balance is out of kilter and needs some rebalancing, you need to have the support, or at least the understanding of your boss. Here are some tips for talking with the boss about your need for work life balance.
Remember the strength of your position. As you consider how to approach the boss, you need to remember that you come from a position of strength. Your employer has a lot invested in you in training and experience. He does not want you to burn out or to quit because you are unhappy or overburdened. If you think about it, your improved work life balance is a benefit to your employer, even if he doesn't get it yet. So, as you prepare, don't think about it as asking your boss for a favor; think about the advantage to him or her of your improved work life when you are better balanced.
Focus on productivity. Your boss wants your best effort when you are on his clock. If you can find ways to accomplish more at work in your regular work schedule, the concern about you working "around the clock" will be less. So, start finding ways to be more focused and productive at work. For example, don't check emails all day long; set aside time three or four times during the day when you will respond to emails. That will generate fewer interruptions and allow greater personal productivity. If you have a lot of meetings, work to make them shorter and more productive.
If you have some repetitive tasks, find ways to do them faster and in more of a routine.
Know the facts. Studies have shown over and over that workers with better work life balance are more productive, more loyal and better performers. So as you get ready to talk to the boss, arm yourself with some stats that show how a better work life balance can be a plus for him, the organization and you.
Be ready with answers. No boss likes to be presented with a problem. They want to understand the issues and then be presented with good possible solutions. For example, if you are finding yourself going home later and later and you feel a need to get out of the office closer to on time, pose the problem to the boss and say something like, "I know you might be worried about my work getting done on time if I leave earlier than I have been, but I could take work home so I could work for an hour after the kids are in bed or maybe I could come in a bit earlier the next morning." If you have a proposed solution to the problem, at least you are respecting his concerns and trying to find creative solutions.
Approach the boss respectfully. This conversation about work life balance will in many ways redefine your relationship. Make sure you have an attitude of cooperation, of finding compromise and direction. No recriminations or anger; your purpose is to take steps toward a better balance. Speak in soft tones and with deference to his authority. Challenging him could create a negative here instead of a positive. Think of it as working together to solve any problem that arises at work.
Be prepared for compromise. You probably won't get everything you hope for from the conversation. But you should be able to find an answer that gets you closer to that delicate work life balance you are trying to find. Be willing to find a little middle ground - maybe a few more evenings at home without interruption or the ability to have a Saturday that is given entirely to your family. The process of getting closer to balance may take some time, and this conversation may be the first step in the journey.
As you find answers that move you to a place where you have more time for your family and yourself, remember what a gift it is to have a supervisor that at least is willing to work with you. Keep the commitments you make - both to your boss and to your family - and as the trust grows with the boss, more opportunities for addressing workplace issues will come.
So stay focused, committed to making your time at work and at home more productive and positive, and as your work life and family life come into better balance, you will find greater peace inside yourself, knowing that you have chosen a way which will leave a legacy with your family forever.