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Tag Archives: healthy boundaries

Stressed woman at laptop

Prompted by the COVID pandemic, more and more people have realized they can do much of their work away from an office setting. Working from home (WFH) is becoming the new norm, and companies are beginning to realize that employees can be about as productive at home as in the office. With WFH sticking around for the long haul, it’s crucial to establish some personal ground rules.

Why set ground rules?

Because it’s easy to get trampled by unreasonable expectations if you’re not seeing your bosses and co-workers face-to-face. People may expect you to return emails at all hours of the day, jump into a last-minute Zoom meeting, or take on a mountain of new assignments.

Just as it’s important to set personal boundaries in an office setting, so too is it important to set firm WFH boundaries. Here are 3 ways to do so:

1. Take Charge of Emails

If you’re answering emails at 8:00 or 9:00 at night (or later!), you set the expectation that you are willing to work at all hours of the day. That should not be the case. Even if your work laptop is with you 24/7, it is important to separate your work time from your personal time. That means establishing a timeframe for answering emails and sticking to it.

If your co-workers and supervisor know you’ll generally respond to emails between 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., that expectation will be set. If they know you’ll respond to emails at 11:00 at night, that expectation will be set. If, for some reason, it’s easier for you to respond to emails at night (maybe you have small children that need care during the day), schedule your emails to send the next morning. That way, you’re still holding firm to your email parameters.

2. Say No

Many of us get in the habit of saying yes to assignments, even when we are A) short on time or B) the assignment does NOT suit our talents. When their team is working from home, supervisors may not have a good sense of how busy people are and whether or not they are free to take on more work. Because of that, they might assign tasks to those who are already up to their ears in work.

If you find yourself panicking about a new assignment, pause and ask yourself, “Does this fit into my area of expertise? Do I, realistically, have time to take this on?” If you answer no to either question, push back (as respectfully as possible!). You might even reach out to others who are better suited for the assignment and see if they have the time and capacity to take it on (if you do this, remember to return the favor at a later date. Also, let your supervisor know you’re looking for someone else to take on the assignment!).

For more, read this post for tips on saying no.

3. Limit Zoom Meetings

Zoom meetings are tiring. It can be difficult to read social cues through a screen, you’re forced to sit up and stare at the same spot for an extended period of time, and it’s sometimes difficult to get everyone engaged. If you’re involved in back-to-back-to-back Zoom meetings, you might find yourself completely wiped out at the end of the day.

To prevent video chat burnout, make an effort to limit your online meetings in a given day. If someone wants to schedule a meeting, ask yourself, “Do we really need to meet about this? Would a simple email suffice?” AND ask yourself, “Have I already reached my Zoom meeting limit for the day? Will scheduling another be productive or relatively useless?” Take charge of your schedule and limit your online video chats.

 

Just like working in an office, WFH should come with firm personal boundaries. If you do not take charge of your time and set healthy parameters, you’ll find that you’re in danger of burnout. Start saying no, setting email boundaries, and limiting video chats today!


MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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