6 Ways to Ask Your Boss for Better Work-Life Balance

By Ashley Marcin on 8 December 2014 0 comments

Work. Life. Balance. Three words that — in combination — have the power to transform your entire way of looking at the world. (See also: 9 Ways to Protect Your Personal Time From Work)

But how exactly do you achieve this seemingly elusive goal? Well, I've been on a journey over the last decade to figure it out. Here are some tips that have helped me, and they have the power to transform your situation as well.

1. Step Back

It's incredibly easy to get tangled up in the day-to-day responsibilities and deadlines. Eventually, we lose sight of what our priorities are, whether at work or at home, and life becomes this exercise in keeping our heads above water. First, take a step back and think about what it is you want from your personal and professional sides. Be specific. Write it down. Revise. Rewrite the list again. Then make a game plan.

2. Check Yourself

Before you approach your boss with any ideas or make major changes yourself, look at your time management to see where it could be improved. Many of us let work creep into our personal time when it doesn't need to. Or we over-commit to things outside of work that chip away at whatever time we have left. To start, track your time for a few days (on an Excel spreadsheet, a time management app, or just paper). Consider it an audit.

Once you see where your energy is going, write out a list of all your day's activities. Give weight to musts (work, obviously — but also the things you need in your life to be happy and healthy). Eliminate the extraneous wherever possible. In the past, I even found it helpful to write down time-suckers that fell outside my job description to show my boss. (See also: The Time Management Problem Most of Us Have)

3. Request a Meeting

See if your boss will meet with you for even 15 minutes to discuss your work-life balance. I like sending an email request with a brief description so it's on the calendar. Now, I've had a variety of bosses in the past ranging from awesome to not-so approachable, so I understand it can feel intimidating. Just remember: This is your life we're talking about. Fortunately, your workplace has already invested a lot of time and money in you — so you need not fret that bringing up concerns will get you canned. Quite the opposite, actually. There are some tremendous advantages for keeping employees happy, including better retention rates and even higher profits.

4. Prepare Yourself

Be organized in your approach. Talk about what you see as perceived time-wasters in your position. Offer some opportunities you have mapped for change. Basically, don't show up at the meeting expecting your boss to wave a magic wand. You need to offer both practical and creative solutions to your problems. And the help you suggest can range from personal improvement (taking continuing ed classes) to manpower stuff to better software that might automate some of your work. Sure, these ideas may get shot down, but you'll get points for trying, especially if you do your research.

For example, after a full-time receptionist had retired (and wasn't replaced due to a dismal budget) in the office where I served as an executive assistant, I used to get bogged down serving as a backup for phones. I had many other, more pressing tasks to complete for my boss. When he discovered how much time I spent on the lines, he moved a receptionist from another department to our office part-time to shift the workload at my suggestion. Lesson here: Your boss may not even realize what you do all day and may completely agree that your time is being spent on the wrong focus.

5. Flex It Up

Check in with your HR department to see what types of flexibility programs your employer offers. Sometimes you can move around your work hours to accommodate other parts of your day (coming in early or late, depending). Other times, you can work more hours some days and, therefore, fewer overall days of the week. A few of my friends have even organized a work-from-home schedule for certain days. Most offices offer some type of flex program, so it's just figuring out what might work for you and your boss. Obviously, all jobs have different responsibilities so not all flex arrangements work in all cases.

6. Take Your Time

I know this one can seem easier said than done, but when you get time off — take it! If you have holiday breaks, don't check email or even bring your laptop home. Make a habit of totally disconnecting on the weekends. If your job requires you to have a level of connectivity during time off, set a realistic window (and communicate your plan to your boss). Otherwise, set your automated out-of-office and rest and relax. I worked in an office once where everyone constantly checked their emails while on vacation. So, I simply asked my boss one day if that was required of me, and she said absolutely not and encouraged me to enjoy my time away. Problem solved. If your job routinely urges you to keep tabs on work on your personal dime, it might be time to polish your resume.

How have you carved out better work-life balance? Please share in comments!

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