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How to talk to your boss about work-life balance: Three tips to help you go home on time today

It’s a familiar scene in workplaces across Australia.

Long after 5pm, when rush hour is well and truly over, we’re still chained to our desk finishing off that last piece of work before heading home.

And, even when we do get home we’re still at the beck and call of our smart phones answering emails just before we go to bed and as soon as we wake up.

According to The Australia Institute (TAI) Report “Walking the Tightrope”, the average worker – including people in the NFP sector – donates $9,471 in unpaid overtime to their employers each year adding up to $109.8 billion across the Australian workforce.

It can be hard to break this unhealthy cycle, especially if your boss is prone to burning the midnight oil as well. So, how can you approach your manager about wanting a better work-life balance without fear of being seen as lazy, or not willing to pull your weight?

Go Home On Time Day, occurs every November and to mark the occasion, we’re sharing three things you can do to start that difficult conversation with your boss, and help you work towards a healthier work-life balance.

1. Know your facts

Before you request a meeting with your boss, familiarise yourself with some of these facts that will help you form a better argument for why going home on time, at least the majority of the week, is not only good for you, but good for your organisation.

Taken from last year’s report “Hard to get a break” from TAI, here are some great stats you could tell your boss;

  • Mental illness associated with over-work costs organisations billions of dollars “In 2008 it was estimated that workplace stress was costing the Australian economy around $14.81 billion per year.”
  • Over-work increases the risk of workplace accidents: “Disrupted sleep patterns arising from work stress contribute to fatigue and, in turn, to increased injuries and accidents in the workplace.”
  • Workplace stress could increase the organisation’s workers compensation claims: “In a recent report, Safe Work Australia found that mental stress caused by work pressure made up one-third of all mental stress compensation claims between 2008 and 2011 – far more than the number of claims made for stress relating to harassment and bullying, workplace violence and other mental stress factors.”

2. Have the answers

According to TAI there are a number of changes workers would be willing to make to improve work-life balance including fixed finishing hours or renegotiating work hours.

However people surveyed indicated they weren’t willing to reduce their pay in order to get more balance in their lives suggesting a big barrier for people in achieving work-life balance is financial.

After you’ve broached the subject of needing more balance in your life with your boss, it will be helpful to have some ideas as a starting point for negotiations. For example;

  • “In the long term, perhaps I can consider moving to a 9 day fortnight?”
  • “Would you consider me rostering a portion of my annual leave as a fixed day off each month?”
  • For people who are paid more to work longer than full-time hours: “Could we talk about a reduction in pay with the agreement that I will leave on time every day?”

3. Take part in Go Home on Time Day

Go Home On Time day is a great initiative established by the Australia Institute and beyondblue that encourages everyone to go home on time – if only just for one day.

But they want to take it further than that;

“The day is a light-hearted way to start a serious conversation about work-life balance.”

If you’re unsure about how to start the conversation with your boss, suggesting that everyone take part in Go Home On Time day in a staff meeting, or via an email to everyone in the office – including your boss – could be a gentle way to start the conversation and get everyone thinking about work-life balance.

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