Both at work and at home there are certain boundaries that help us to maintain some semblance of balance and peace. I am contracted to work so many hours per week and I acknowledge that when you start to become more senior, those boundaries can sometimes blur a little. There are also times when things simply have to be done and its in everyone’s best interests to do them, but then I always make sure I get that time back somewhere.
I was having a conversation recently about the difficulty with working from home and setting those boundaries. Working from home does provide some flexibility, and having had conversations with my boss, the only expectation is that you do your hours, and are within reach if needs be, how you split the day up is entirely up to you. This is useful for those with children and other such demands on their time, allowing them time to deal with domestic issues, then catch up on the work later on. I have heard of one very senior manager who actually has a tag line on her email signature that says she may have sent this email out of normal office hours, but there is no expectation for it to be responded to out of hours. It suited her to deal with that type of activity later on in the evening, but she was well aware that others don’t.
I am, in the main, someone who sticks to the same office hours whether I’m working from the office or at home. I can demarcate my time that way, and because I usually have so much going on in the evenings anyway, I need to shut work off and change brains.
I work a consolidated week, shunting full time hours into four days a week so I get Fridays off to do a multitude of other things. On the whole that’s non-negotiable, but I do appreciate that there may be times where other people’s availability is limited. I would be happy to dial into a meeting if absolutely necessary, but I’ll claim that time back somewhere. I am fortunate that my role allows flexibility, and there may also be times when it suits me better to have a different day of the week off, so would need to work the Friday to make the hours up.
I am very clear about turning the work phone and emails off out of hours. Again, my role doesn’t require me to be on call (been there, done that). If there was a major problem that required my immediate attention out of hours, then my boss has alternative means of being able to contact me.
Due to my all-consuming hobby, which could be a full time job in itself, there are times when I need to take calls, or go to meetings, or be somewhere. I am incredibly fortunate that my boss recognises this and I will either take annual leave, or make time up if necessary. There are certain times when that becomes a higher priority than being at the office.
I could spend an awful lot of time supporting my hobby too but even that has to have it’s limits. I am not necessarily going to answer emails within two minutes of receipt at 11pm. It can wait until the following day. Most of the time it has to wait until I get home from work anyway, unless its super urgent, which it rarely is. There are times where conversations have moved on during the day and by the time I get to it, the problem has either been resolved or there is no benefit to me wading in at that late hour. Sometimes, I will put off that activity until my Friday off, or the weekend, or when I’m in the right frame of mind to deal with it.
I think its very important to ensure that there are appropriate boundaries between work and play so that I know where my head needs to be at, but also others will know when the right time to contact me is. Admittedly, sometimes those boundaries get a bit blurred, but as an exception, not a rule.
One thought on “Setting boundaries and sticking to them”
I think the pandemic has altered people’s view on priorities and has probably exacerbated this conundrum. Lines have become blurred but as long as folk appreciate others boundaries all should work well. Patience could be a by-word here. I know I am just as guilty of expecting a prompt reply when my phone is an extension of my arm, but have to remember that may not be the case for others 😅