Doing it all, managing our time, being the best in the business and finding “balance” is pretty elusive these days for the young working woman. But I am still a big advocate of at least trying to achieve that in order to find your happiness. To reach that elusive balance, you are probably going to get to that important point in the pursuit of your happiness where you finally say, I need to stop working so much, in order to pursue more important things in life. It is difficult to achieve anything in the office or at home when you are feeling burnt out and most employers want their employees to thrive at work and so understand this.
Check out this post if you aren’t sure taking a cut would be beneficial
Which is why today I am talking about how to have that difficult conversation with your employer about reducing your hours. There are many, many reasons why you might feel you need to or can reduce your work hours, like I mentioned here, but basically, if your intuition is telling you to do it, then you should. I know that, for me, the conversation itself was what held me back from asking for so long, so I wanted to share my advice since then so it can be easier for you.
For me, I know it was a lot easier than it would be for many others because I have a fantastic relationship with my employers, but in some ways that made reducing hours harder for my fear of disappointing them and knowing how much they actually relied on me at work. But, like I said before, all employers generally want you to be firing on all cylinders, and if taking a cut is the way to keep doing that, then they will understand.
It took me a long time to actually work up the courage to do this, but I finally did it, and I have not been happier with a decision I have made this year. So, if you are considering it or feel like you need to reduce your numbers, take my advice and listen to your intuition and make it happen!
Starting the conversation about reducing the number of hours you work with your employer can be really stressful, scary and overwhelming but, inevitably, you have to do it if you want to drop your hours – unless you want to just wait until you are fired (please don’t do that!). Instead, look at your job, your bosses and take these suggestions into consideration.
Put your best effort into all tasks that you manage
If you are about to ask for something from your employers, you are only going to hurt your chances if you start to slack off at work. They are far more likely to reward you and listen to you if you have been putting in consistent, high levels of input and enthusiasm into your commitments. Don’t start to let other’s on your team down, otherwise they will see dropping hours as you letting them down even more. Plus, you’re not leaving all together, the more work and energy you put into your job the more you will get out of it and the more positive it will make you feel!
Wait until a regular review of your position, or request one
If you have regular reviews with your employer it may be a good idea to wait for one of them to bring up this subject so that you are going over your entire performance and not just making it about cutting your hours. There is nothing wrong with requesting a meeting to discuss your role in their business to make this happen faster.
Ask if you are meeting the targets that the employer expects
I think this is particularly important, because if you already aren’t meeting their expectations they are not going to be open to giving you time off. You have to prove that you can complete your job and your tasks in the time that you have available. By setting up a review meeting to discuss this early on you are giving yourself time to improve on any areas they mention, before having another review to judge where you are now sitting.
Open up about your mental and physical wellbeing
If you are tired, or struggling at home, or getting sick constantly – don’t hide it! If this is going to be a major cause for you dropping hours then they will understand better if they have had an inkling that you are overworked. I certainly don’t recommend taking fake sick days, or complaining constantly but you don’t always have to answer “how are you?” with “good”. It’s ok to say if you are tired, stressed or have a sore throat.
Ask for a trial of reduced hours
I think this is wiser than asking for exactly what you want straight up. Ask for an afternoon off a fortnight, if you want to bring it up to an afternoon a week. This gives everyone, including you, the chance to adjust and see if it works and it also gives you the chance to see if it is as beneficial as you thought it would be, without going all in. See how you go with the pay cut as well.
Expect that this will start the conversation, not be the deciding conversation
When you go into each and every conversation or meeting throughout this time of reducing hours, remember that it is a long term plan. If they say they can’t afford it right now – that’s fine – bring it up in the next review. If you find you have not cut back enough still, bring it up again in 6 months and ask for more. Everything should be taken in baby steps and with the end goal in mind – to make your work and life balance as easy and integrated as possible. You don’t want to sacrifice your lifestyle by taking too much time off just for the sake of it, you also don’t want to spend your hours at work bitter because you couldn’t take off enough. Keep it all in perspective, love.
Ask for regular reviews if you had something you needed to work on, put a timeline on the trial, or just ask for a performance review. If you keep on top of their expectations of you, and let them know you have a plan for reducing then every one of these conversations will become easier. Don’t wait for them to organise the next meeting, because they are far more likely to forget, it doesn’t mean they aren’t open to having another conversation. Keep the lines of communication open, and keep track of the things you were discussing to quickly get back to where you are.
I hope that, if you have decided you can manage to reduce your hours or even better – that it will be a big benefit to you, that you can now have a better plan of how the conversation might actually look, knowing that it can be a six month process to go from first initiating the idea and asking for areas of improvement, to reducing to the point that you are happy with.
I think that you should attempt to remain in meaningful employment for as long as you can if it brings you joy, and if this is one way to help you to stay there while pursuing your own goals and life then go for it!