How Do I Discuss Work-Life Balance? Ask the Expert

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"I'm not sure my firm means what it says when it talks about work-life balance. Is there a way to speak with my boss about it, without raising red flags in his eyes?"

Before you discuss the issue with your boss, you need to do your homework. You must become informed, not only with your organization's policies on work-life balance, but the policies of your competitors. After you've done your research, you'll be in a better position to discuss and negotiate potential adjustments and changes.

Your first step should be to identify your personal issues and needs and determine what work/life benefits would help you. Are you seeking flexibility in how, when or where you work, such as working from home or job sharing? Or, are you hoping for convenience, such as on-site daycare, a fitness center or concierge services?

The next step is to determine whether your organization has formal work-life balance policies, programs or resources. Check your employee handbook, employee policies and procedures manual or speak directly with the Human Resources department. Your organization's Internet and Intranet sites may also include benefit information.

Once you've determined your firm's policies, it's time to scope out the competition. Check out their Internet sites, call their HR departments or research online. Using a search engine, enter "work-life balance," a space, a plus (+) sign, a space, and "Wall Street firms." Or, enter "work-life balance," a plus (+) sign and "finance industry."

After all of this, you should have the information you need to create a personal plan. First, decide what changes you'd like to make that will help you achieve better balance. Then, be prepared to share what your organization already has in place, what other organizations are doing to foster better balance and what the experts and studies say are the positive outcomes for organizations who adopt work/life balance policies. If you can demonstrate to your manager how your organization will benefit, you'll have their ear.

Robbie Miller Kaplan, a nationally-recognized expert on career communications, is the author of "How to Say It In Your Job Search" and "How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say: The Right Words for Difficult Times," published by Prentice Hall Press.

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