So you’ve put your pilates classes on permanent pause and told your mates you won’t be meeting them for happy hour until October because you need to log more hours at work. Bad move. Chaining yourself to your desk will do squat for your career, and can screw with your health, too
With these long summer days you may feel trapped having to log in at the office. But according to Barbara Holmes, director of the Managing Work-Life Balance consultancy firm, many Australian workplaces are now more flexible with work hours and telecommuting than ever before. In fact, 24 per cent of Aussie women aged between 25 and 39 have reduced their work hours in the past 12 months to improve their health and wellbeing, according to Australia’s Biggest Health Check, a survey of 25,919 people conducted by Women’s Health in conjunction with Prevention, Sunrise and Priceline. But there’s more to be done on this front: the ABHC also found 29 per cent of women in the same age group are not satisfied with their work/life balance, 59 per cent would like more “me” time and 38 per cent say the pressure to balance work, family and other commitments is a cause of stress in their lives.
Although it may be a good time to request some flexibility at work, don’t be greedy. Map out one – yes, one – specific request in your head, whether it’s working from home once a week or leaving the office by a certain time. Next, find out if anyone else has the kind of deal you’re dreaming of – ask around, talk to your supervisor or HR. “Many companies don’t communicate their flex options, so it’s your responsibility to investigate,” says Kyra Cavanaugh, president of consultancy firm Life Meets Work.
Gauge your boss
A boss who arrives at work around the same time the sun rises, or clocks off at midnight, might not be open to reducing your hours. This is why you need to figure out exactly what’s in it for them. “What can you do to make your manager look good or lighten their load?” asks psychologist Dr Ellen McGrath. For example, you could take on a project they don’t want to handle, train junior employees or offer to help a new colleague they don’t have the time to oversee. Granted, this conversation takes courage. Adds McGrath: “It has always been especially difficult for women to speak up about what they want or need because we’re conditioned to please.” But if seeking a more balanced life is truly important to you, muster up the nerve to make your request... Just remember to proceed with caution.
READ MORE: How to reduce your hours at work
Draw up an organised proposal, detailing exactly the arrangement you want, how you’ll manage it – when you’ll be working on-site versus off, how you’ll adjust your schedule as needed, whether you’re willing to accept a pay cut – and how this will benefit the company. For example, maybe by shifting your hours around, you’ll be available to customers who need help when your colleagues aren’t there, or by working from home part-time, you’ll have uninterrupted productivity. And be sure your boss knows there won’t be a reduction in the quality or quantity of your work. But beware: “The more personally motivated your request, the more likely your boss will doubt its legitimacy,” Cavanaugh says.
Beat ’em to the punch
Anticipate any potential roadblocks and troubleshoot them in advance. “You need to go in with a Plan B and C, just in case Plan A doesn’t work,” says Holmes. By drawing up a list of solutions for any hypothetical problems, you’ll not only help your case, it could also provide you with a list of answers for when your manager challenges you with a flurry of what-ifs.
Capitalise on success
Does your boss love you? That’s good news. Top performers are in prime position to receive flextime. “Valued employees have more leverage in these conversations, because companies don’t want their most talented people to leave,” Cavanaugh says. So be prepared to spout your biggest successes and the highlights of your positive performance reviews, and find a way to do it without sounding like an entitled egomaniac. The goal is to persuade your manager by proving that you consistently produce excellent work, whether independently or as part of a team.
Firm foot forward
If you encounter resistance from the big cheese, don’t wuss out or get upset, and definitely don’t tear up. Instead, suggest that you give the arrangement a trial run for a month or two; it’s possible that your boss isn’t open to the idea simply because they fear the unknown. But if it’s clear they won’t budge, it’s best to let go of the issue. You can always revisit the subject at a later date, or start looking for a new job that makes you feel less shackled.