Recently on LinkedIn, Adam Grant, Organizational Psychologist at Wharton, posted:

“For generations, we’ve organized our lives around our work. Our jobs have dictated where we make our homes, when we see our families, and what we can squeeze into our downtime. What if we reversed that and started planning our work around our lives?”

The whole problem around this statement is that your work is part of your life. The minute you try to get people to separate out work as some sort of “thing” interfering with their lives, then you are preventing them from the fulfillment work plays in a person’s life when balanced as part of their life and not all of their life or an insignificant part of their life. I commented back on the post:

“Your work is part of your life, and in every area of your life, you have a personal choice as to what you choose to commit to and do with your time. How much you have to organize and how well you organize your time are all relevant to your life choices. At the end of the day, ‘you reap what you sow’ in every area of your life. It is amazing how many employers make provisions for dedicated employees to achieve balance when that balance is a mutually beneficial solution to both employee and employer, and the job is getting done while they are there or by someone else when they are not.”

In construction, specifically, there are certain times with certain jobs that you may need to make provisions in other areas of your life to accommodate something specific to a project. This could be an evening meeting one night a week for the duration of the project because the various stakeholders are in different time zones. It could be early morning concrete pours, a six-day workweek instead of five, evening work for a project to accommodate a business client that needs to remain open during daytime hours. There are many other possible scenarios.

If you are a dedicated employee and you take ownership of your responsibilities, then it most often goes both ways. If you have a time during your work tenure with a company where you need special accommodations to leave early one day a week to get to class, give more support to a family member, travel someplace you’ve dreamed of going, take care of a health need, or any other circumstance that may be for a season, most employers will reciprocate as long as the parameters of that provision are agreed to and adhered by without adversely affecting the company and your teammates.

Other than last-minute PTO needed due to illness or a family emergency, how you ask for special provisions or how you decline special circumstances your boss may request from you matters.

1. Discard Initial Reactions:

Regardless of how prepared either party is for the conversation, don’t react adversely to the other party’s reaction when first discussed. Any type of change with many, if not most, personalities requires time to process the ask. This is especially true if other parties need to be consulted, such as a significant other, additional team members, or other stakeholders who will be affected by the ask. Even if someone’s initial reaction appears to be a no or is no, often after contemplating, they realize there is a win-win solution for everyone.

2. Provide Potential Solutions:

If you are the person presenting the special request, come with possible solutions to make the request work. This should include time frame, cost, and logistics. For instance, if you need a month furlough for surgery, where you cannot be at the office or job site, discuss how the onsite part of your job would be covered in your absence. If they will have to compensate another person to do all or part of your job in your absence, consider the cost involved for the employer. If you are an employer requesting someone travel for a significant period that was not part of their past work requirements with you, make sure to include how you are prepared to support them with ancillary costs and personal provisions that might need to be accounted for.

3. Mediate the Process:

Dependent on the extent of the ask from employee or employer, expect that it might require discussions back and forth. During these discussions, refer back to suggestion number one, and don’t react adversely when talking it through. Never take advantage of the situation by asking something that would negatively affect the other person and undesirably reflect on your reputation.

4. Document the Terms:

When something changes within your current employment agreement, especially if temporary, and includes something out of the company’s standard policies, having a record of it will make sure there is no ambiguity starting out or in the future with the terms agreed upon. If others need to be involved to coordinate or provide for any of the terms, then they will see both parties’ commitment to what was discussed going on record. Due to time blurring verbal discussions, a written agreement is always there to refer back to.

Family well-being should always come first over your job. Your career and job help provide for your and your family’s well-being and also quite often provide for the “extras” in life. When you “own” the job you were hired to do and professionally plan and discuss your temporary, definable special needs, there is rarely a concern for the security of your employment. Why? Because before the ask, you owned the job, and during the ask, you worked to map it out.

To a Commitment to Work and a Well-Balance Life,

Suzanne Breistol