Work-Life Integration: Part 2
Welcome back to The Art of Work-Life Integration Series. Catch up here if you missed Part One.
Today we’re taking a look at the workplace. This post will speak more to moms who are currently employed or job searching. If you’re a stay at home mom hang tight, next week’s post will look at some strategies you can use in your personal life.
Workplaces And Work-Life Integration
Let’s take a moment to consider how workplaces support work-life integration. Despite advances women have made in the workplace, mothers still face greater work-life conflict than fathers and their childless colleagues. But there’s a lot workplaces can do to reduce work-life conflict and set moms up for success.
Most Canadian workplaces have policies that are reactive to work-life problems such as offering unpaid leave of absences, unpaid emergency days off, or time off instead of overtime pay. These policies are at the employee’s expense, meaning that if a problem you need to deal with comes up in your life you face loss of pay, which increases stress in an already challenging situation. Although it is great to have this flexibility when needed, workplaces can do a lot more to help their employees succeed.
A Health Canada study showed that just under half of Canadian companies provide more progressive policies to support work-life integration. A progressive approach could include supports such as diversity and inclusion strategies and women's initiatives, flexible work arrangements, maternity leave transition coaching for employees, and training for supervisors to learn how to support staff with managing their various responsibilities.
What are the signs that a workplace will set you up to successfully manage work and family responsibilities? Workplaces with these types of progressive work-life integration policies will better position you for success. But a second key contributing factor crucial to work-life integration is a supportive workplace culture.
What You Can Do
How do you go about finding the support you need in your workplace to successfully manage work and family responsibilities?
If You're Currently Employed: Take time to investigate your workplace’s policies and have discussions with management about enhancing your work-life integration. Your boss doesn’t know what supports you need to effectively manage your work and family responsibilities. It’s up to you to identify your needs and communicate them to your employer so you can collaborate on an arrangement that works for your workplace and for you. Opening up this conversation with your boss can prevent burnout or leaving a job for an uncertain future.
Here are a few tips for approaching your manager or HR department:
Be prepared. Review written policies prior to meeting with your manager to know your organization's standard practices. Create a document to guide you in talking with your manager that includes what you've been contributing to the organization, what you are requesting to improve your work-life integration, and how the change will benefit the organization.
When you speak with your manager be sure to emphasis how making a change to your work arrangement will benefit the organization. A simple formula to communicate this is:
I've contributed XYZ to the company, in order to continue to bring these benefits to the company I need ABC to do my work effectively.
If your manager seems hesitant about change suggest a trial period. E.g. Try telecommuting one day a week for six months and then reassess the arrangement together. Maybe you can go up to two telecommuting days at a later date if it's working.
Be sure to express your commitment to your job and desire to advance your career goals within the organization. Negotiating changes in your work arrangement doesn't mean you are any less interested in your career. It means you are being proactive about managing your career to fit within your changing life so you can bring your best professional self to the job.
If You’re Job Searching: Set up informational interviews with staff at organizations you’re interested in so you can gain insight into the workplace culture. I am a huge fan of informational interviews! I’ve used this career development strategy personally to navigate my career and have seen countless clients use it to reach their goals. How do you go about conducting one? You can learn more about informational interviews here or contact us to get some personalized guidance.
Here are some example questions you can use to get the dialogue going in your informational interview:
What benefits are offered to help staff integrate their work and life responsibilities?
What opportunities for flexible work arrangements are available to staff?
What Diversity and Inclusion strategies does the organization have in place?
How would you describe the organization’s workplace culture? How would you describe the management style?
How would you describe the ideal employee in this workplace?
Another key tip is to review the organization’s website closely to find out about supports provided to staff. Some websites dedicate a page to staff benefits or diversity initiatives. Be sure to review the website before doing an informational interview; use what you learn and ask informed questions to find out the inside scoop.
Take what you learn to focus your job search on organizations that have progressive work-life integration policies and supportive workplace cultures. When you get a job offer from one of these organizations you can accept it with confidence, knowing it will be a good fit with your life.
Apply these tips in your career to begin taking steps toward better work-life integration. If you feel a bit lost at first be sure to share your questions and experiences in the comments or feel free to contact me. I'm here to support you as you work toward a balance that's just right for you.
Tune in next Tuesday when I’ll share Part Three of the series with tips on what you can do in your personal life to achieve better work-life integration.