Color & Control:

The new reality….juggling work, kids, household stuff

By Matt Berical

We’re all trying to bob and weave against the many punches thrown at us as a result of the coronavirus, but parents who work from home must be more agile than most. Balancing child care and home schooling and work means that moms and dads across the country have to have honest conversations with their supervisors about schedule changes, new systems that need to be devised, and new ways of finding work-life balance. Whether your boss is understanding or needs to be swayed, tact is required throughout the entire process.

So how can parents who now work from home talk to their employer about situational changes or proposed adjustments? Stewart Friedman, professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, Director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Program, and author of Parents Who Lead, stresses that parents need to frame the conversation as a business proposal that is in their best interest but makes it also seem mutually beneficial to their company. This requires understanding your role, paying attention to language, and making your boss a willing participant.

“You’re setting it up as something that you expect will be beneficial to your boss as well as to you,” says Friedman. “And that you’re going to check on that and adjust if it doesn’t work.” It’s a tricky balancing act. But here’s how parents who work from home can communicate work-life balance needs with their employer.

Read the full article HERE.

Figure out a plan of action

Before corresponding with your boss, you need to think about your role in the company, your role within your family, what you really need to succeed, and how to translate that need to your boss. The tricky part is to understand your needs versus their needs.

Frame the proposal as a value proposition

Once you arrive at a solution you think would work, send your boss an email that reads like a business proposal.

Don’t make it personal

A common mistake when engaging in such dialogue with a supervisor is to make it sound dramatic. “You can’t frame it as ‘This is something I need because if I don’t have this couple of hours, my kid’s going to fail out of school and my wife is going to kill me,’” says Friedman.

Set it up as a short-term experiment

You don’t want to frame your proposal as something that will be the norm from now on as you don’t even know if this new system will work. That’s not helpful to yourself or your boss. The better tact: Frame it as a short-term experiment.

Make your boss a part of the process

Think of this email as a sales pitch. What you’re selling needs to make your supervisor’s life better.

Expect a back and forth

After you send your email laying out the plan, it’s safe to expect some feedback from your supervisor that isn’t just: Sounds good!


Hopefully you’ll get a chance to pursue your new refined plan. “Usually you can get to a common ground but it doesn’t happen automatically. It never does,” Friedman says. “But most bosses are pleased and impressed by people who are not afraid to have this conversation.”

Parenting during a pandemic is hard.

Originally published on

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