This article originally appeared in the December 2015 issue of 425 Business.

(It Doesn’t Have to be) Awkward

Simple Intentions CEO Jay Ellard. Photo courtesy Simple Intentions.

Simple Intentions CEO Jay Ellard. Photo courtesy Simple Intentions.

As life shifts and changes, the need to balance work and life ebbs and flows along with it. Seattle-based Simple Intentions CEO and founder Jae Ellard came face to face with this realization after she stressed herself into a health crisis during a previous stint at a demanding job. Now, Ellard coaches managers and employees on how to have that sometimes-awkward conversation about what employees need to make certain their lives are balanced and healthy.

“I believe 99.9 percent of imbalance comes from people not living their values,” Ellard said. “It could be in how you’re spending your time or how you’re spending money, but if we spend time and money on things we don’t value, we’re out of balance.”

Ellard shared some tips to make asking your manager for what you need a little bit easier.

  1. Know what it is that you need. Sounds elementary, sure, but Ellard said it’s the most common problem. Most people are out of balance because they don’t know what balance means for them. Understanding their needs enables employees to have conversations with the people in their lives — at work and at home — to help find balance.
  2. Don’t turn the conversation into a big event. Don’t wait until a performance review or a one-on-one meeting to talk about it. Bring it up in a short conversation and be developing the habit of making it normal to talk about these things. It doesn’t have to be a big deal because the habit of expressing those needs is already formed.
  3. Keep in mind that business outcomes have to be met. Work is real and stuff has to get done, but it is possible to be balanced and get the work done at the same time. Just figure out what the needs are, what the work outcomes are, and find the middle ground. If a family reunion is in February and you’re an accountant, going to the reunion likely won’t work out. But a longer vacation in the summer is probably a go.
  4. It’s OK for this job to not be the right one right now. What it comes down to is looking at your values and whether the company supports those values. If your highest priority is family, and your job does not offer the flexibility you and your family need, then that job’s not for you at this point. It’s OK that your family is your priority. Avoid perceiving yourself as a victim and making the company the bad guy.
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