How to Talk to Your Boss About Your New Work-From-Home Challenges

Expert tips on how to communicate with your manager about balancing work and family.

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Getty Images

With millions of people working from home, the way we do business has changed practically overnight. For many, meetings are now done via Zoom and tasks are assigned on Slack. Setting up a work schedule is a great way to stay organized and avoid burnout, but for many working parents, how they divide their time may need to shift. Working parents now find themselves teaching and entertaining their children, managing household responsibilities and still working full-time. And it adds up. According to a Thrive survey of 5,000 American employees, 70% found the coronavirus outbreak has negatively impacted their day-to-day performance and productivity.  

So if you’re struggling to adjust to this new normal, you’re not alone. And speaking with your manager about your work-from-home challenges can help you develop an action plan and reduce some of the stress you may be feeling. 

“All of us are experiencing disruption, uncertainty, and conflicting responsibilities,” Kevin Hancock, author of The Seventh Power, tells Thrive. “Trust that your boss will understand and be supportive even if you have doubts. Bosses need to hear the truth about what employees are feeling and it’s a disservice to yourself to keep your personal needs on the sideline.” 

Research shows that people tend to be more open to new ideas if they are working together to solve a problem rather than simply reacting to someone else’s solution. “Make sure you start by articulating your shared goal,” explains Celeste Headlee, author of Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing and Underliving. “You could say something like: ‘I know we are both focused on growing the company and increasing our reach.’ Then you can express that you may need help in reaching that goal, because of the extraordinary circumstances we are all experiencing.” 

Headlee recommends an open dialogue where you invite your boss to help you solve a problem. “Tell them you have some ideas on how to manage your parenting duties without significant impact on your work, and then invite your boss to share their ideas as well,” she adds. 

It’s also important to communicate your challenges early. “Letting your boss know as soon as possible that you’re feeling overwhelmed can help you both get ahead of the burnout curve,” says Lee Mayer, Founder and CEO of Havenly. “Be thoughtful, specific and concise. Your boss likely has lots of things competing for their attention and time, so being brief but comprehensive can help them hone in on the issue and be quick to identify a solution.”

Remember, everyone is in a similar situation right now. Communicating your challenges and devising a plan that works for all will relieve stress and set you up for more productivity. To ease your transition into this new normal, try these other Microsteps. 

Each Monday morning, put your working hours on your calendar so your co-workers know when you’re available. Giving them visibility into your schedule will help avoid meetings that are scheduled when you have to feed your kids or have logged off for the night. 

Microstep
Pick a signal to others in your home that you are engaged in deep work (assuming your children are taken care of).
This could be putting on a pair of headphones, or selecting a particular workspace in your home. The signal will let others know that you are not to be disturbed, and helps insulate you from distractions.

Today, reach out to your manager and ask if you can schedule a daily five-minute touch-base. This way, you can rest assured that you’ll have time to check in with each other even when you’re not seeing each other in person. 

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