How to talk to your boss about improving your work life balance


Yesterday a friend called on her way home from work. She was stuck in traffic, stressed to the max and complaining that she was starting to hate her job.  She said me she has been working long hours, skipping lunch and has no work life balance.

Like workers all over America, my reaction was, “Hey, I know that drill.”

So, I encouraged my friend to speak with her manager. That suggestion didn’t go over too well.  “He doesn’t care,” she said. “He has no work life balance either.”

Make no mistake, this is a tough situation. The good news is there are solutions.

First, I suggested my friend tell her boss she wants to give her job her all and that she doesn’t mind working 24/7. I told her to follow that declaration with an explanation of the price that she and work product pay when she works at grueling pace for an extended time.

I told her to offer her boss specific examples of how her work product could have been even better had she been well rested or how she could have approached a project more innovatively had she had thinking time.

It is comforting to learn that a new Robert Half Management Resources survey, shows more than half (52 percent) of professionals said their work-life balance has improved from three years ago. Nine in 10 respondents (91 percent) reported that their manager is very or somewhat supportive of their efforts to achieve this balance. And 74 percent of workers said their boss sets a good — or an excellent — example of how to maintain work-life balance.

Although these results show a general improvement, my Inbox and voicemail are filled with messages from people who feel overwhelmed by workplace expectations and a complete lack of work life balance.

The dilemma: our managers and customers want good work from us and as much of it as they can get. We need to give it to them, but we also have to show them how having work life balance allows us to do a better job.

Along with initial solution I offered my friend others:

  • Track your hours so you have a record of exactly how much time you put in and then talk to your manager about changes you can make that will work for both of you.
  • Ask for help with reprioritizing projects or suggest bringing in extra support to avoid seeing initiatives fall through the cracks.
  • Get involved in a career planning activity that includes a self-assessment and a manager assessment. If you think you are sacrificing work life balance for advancement, but your manager doesn’t think you’re on that track, you need to know it.

Granted, re-balancing your life once it gets out of whack starts with your commitment to gain more control over expectations. When you are away from work, avoid the temptation to check email simply for the sake of feeling like you’re better tied to the office. When you have had a productive day, leave the office. Make no mistake, your boss will take note. But it’s likely a change in your attitude and wellbeing will follow, and that’s something your boss will take note of as well.

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