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Phoenix Forward

How to talk to your boss about family obligations

Try these work-life balance tips

Your son’s recital starts at 3:30 pm, but you can’t leave work before 5. Your daughter’s preschool calls saying she’s sick and must be picked up. You have to take your mother-in-law to the airport by 6, and your boss expects you to finish paperwork before you leave.

The truth is, whether you have kids, a spouse, parents or just friends who need support, life is full of obligations.

Fortunately, today’s workplaces are more flexible than those of the past, according to Antonio Vianna, instructor in the University of Phoenix MBA program and a human resource consultant.

“Companies are beginning to understand that if they want to attract and retain the high performers, they have to be compassionate about what happens in employees’ lives.”

Here are tips on how to juggle work and life effortlessly:


Create a plan of action before you approach your boss.

Employees have to hold up their end of the deal, Vianna says. “Demonstrate to your employer [and your colleagues] how you plan to get work done around your personal obligations,” he encourages.

Akilah Bradford, a human resource manager and another instructor in the MBA program, agrees. “Your superior wants 100 percent productivity,” she says. “It is important that you present a plan that ensures you will remain productive.”


Consider flex time.

Bradford works in the hospitality industry and uses the nature of running a hotel to her advantage, as well as her employer’s. “Because [our industry] is a 24-hour-a-day operation, flex time allows me to service customers outside of normal business hours and also serve family at home,” she explains.


Set some boundaries.

While it’s important to keep your supervisor informed of when you want time off, you don’t have to share all the details of your personal life, Vianna notes. “Most bosses don’t want to know the details anyway,” he says. “Give only enough information to request the accommodation you need, and leave it at that.”


Be realistic.

The bottom line: Employees need to ensure they get their work done, regardless of what’s going on at home. “Working parents must understand their business, the culture of their organization, and their superiors to effectively balance work and life,” Bradford explains.

Workers with unusual hours or shifts — like hospital nurses, law enforcers, retail managers and manufacturers — need to keep their expectations reasonable when asking for flexibility, according to Mary Eacott, a health care administrator and area chair of the nursing program at the University of Phoenix San Diego Campus.


If necessary, seek alternatives.

Part-time positions are an option for those with a lot of personal responsibilities, while freelance work and job-sharing arrangements are available in many industries.

Nurses and others with unusual hours should consider compressed workweeks, suggests Vicki Greenberg, a family nurse practitioner and program manager for the Division of Nursing at the University of Phoenix Southern California Campus.

Some companies even allow employees to donate unused vacation to their colleagues, according to Vianna. “The workforce is changing and will continue to change,” he says, “and companies are responding accordingly.”

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