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Work life balance: how to work smarter, not harder

As Eunice Asante, career coach and co-founder of The Workers Journal, embarks on motherhood for a second time, she shares some advice on how to achieve a work-life balance.

© SHVETS production/ Pexels
© SHVETS production/ Pexels

How are we halfway through May already? This is my first post for the New Year. I had a plan for creating monthly content and posts and was ready to start January, hitting the ground running, and then I found out I was expecting our second baby!


While being very excited, I have also been fighting intense nausea, vomiting and tiredness for almost four months. Thank goodness my symptoms are improving so I can focus on helping my clients transform their careers.


During the four or so months, as my work and life had to pivot due to sickness, this highlighted the importance of being able to work flexibly. Or at least manage your work to fit your needs. It can be challenging to create flexibility in work, and much of this can depend on the industry you are in.


But there are ways around this, and what I've found is many people are too afraid to ask or explore more flexible options and, therefore, stay stuck working rigid work patterns. I would love to share some simple things I've done and ways you can present a request for more flexible work to support a better work-life balance.


The trick to getting a request for compressed hours approved is not focusing on why you want to compress your hours but demonstrating how little disruption this will cause

Compressed hours

I once worked a hectic role in which I was always working overtime; all I did was work work work. I took this as an opportunity to look at compressed working hours.


In essence, compressed working hours allow you to work your contracted hours over fewer working days, meaning you have more time off work for the same salary.


I went from working a contracted 37 hours a week over five days minus overtime to working 36 hours a week over four days.

© Mikhail Nilov/ Pexels
© Mikhail Nilov/ Pexels

Working only four days a week meant my working day was more extended, but this eliminated all the extra overtime I was doing. I cannot describe what having an extra day off in the week did for my sanity, making it worth the negotiations.


The trick to getting a request for compressed hours approved is not focusing on why you want to compress your hours but demonstrating how little disruption this will cause.


Other considerations include the possible advantages of compressing your hours and your willingness to be flexible if and when needed. If you have a reluctant manager, try suggesting a trial period to test this new approach, just make sure you are on top form during the trial period.


Location, location, location

If working compressed hours is too much of a stretch, try negotiating your working location. I have supported clients who have negotiated their contracts to allow them to work every three months from a different worldwide location.


Now, while this may not be possible for all of us, how about negotiating that you are office-based for meetings, networking, etc., but will complete the rest of your working day or week from home, a coffee shop, or anywhere else?

© Christina Morillo/Pexels
© Christina Morillo/Pexels

I once had a role where I would start my day in the office, travel home on my lunch breaks and end my working day from home. Having this flexibility was helpful as I could avoid office politics and drama.


The trick to getting a request like this approved is to focus on how this will benefit your organisation or how it could help you improve productivity and efficiency, especially if you are someone who struggles to be productive in a busy office environment.


Similarly to requesting compressed hours, focus and your willingness to remain flexible to the needs of the business rather than your wants.


Creative contracts

If changing location is not possible, consider creative ways of structuring your work contact; for example, I have come across many employers offering term time-only contracts or employers who are at least willing to discuss this type of employment structure.

© Monstera Production/Pexels
© Monstera Production/Pexels

A term-time-only contract is structured so you are paid during term time but are unpaid during specific periods such as school holidays. Another example of how term time-only contracts are structured is that your salary is spread across 12 months regardless of whether you are working.


If you are looking for more work-life balance or an opportunity to have time away from work to focus on your family, acquiring new skills, volunteering, travelling, etc., this may be an option.


Employers today are now more aware of the need to offer flexibility at work, and all UK-based employees have the right to request flexible working arrangements. Therefore, it's about aiming to create a win-win with your employer.

Read about Eunice's experience of working when she became pregnant for the first time. in the article: 'Pregnant during the pandemic'

A job share

Similarly, you could consider other options, such as a job share, to allow more flexibility. A job share is typically where two part-time employees share the work and pay of a single full-time job.


This gives you the opportunity to work while retaining a degree of flexibility. There is no fixed way to work a job share, so splitting the hours is up to you, your employer and the other employees involved.


Any UK employer has to give an application for flexible working serious thought legally. Therefore, if you seek better work-life balance and more flexibility, asking your employer for their options on flexible working or having ideas to present to them is worthwhile.


MART PRODUCTION/Pexels
© MART PRODUCTION/Pexels

Before approaching your employer, carefully consider your question: What do you want to gain and why? Then, structure your request to address any potential objections your employer may have. Think through the needs of the business and how to structure your request to complement business needs and aim to minimise disruptions.


It's essential to remain flexible, allowing both you and your employer time to think through a request, make adjustments or trail things out for some time.


I've been grateful for the degree of flexibility I've had over these last few months. Being able to restructure work around my life, especially when going through life challenges, has been a blessing. It's worth asking because if you don't ask, you don't get. 



Until next time

Eunice

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