Maintaining boundaries with our clients and our work is critical under ordinary circumstances. With the chaos of COVID, working from home is something I am extremely grateful for - not only because I get to do work in my pajamas- but I get to continue to support my clients and maintain employment in a job that I love. One thing has become abundantly clear, though, is that critical boundary setting in the past had some structural advantages (eg. a separate physical job location, a desk phone, an office door) and there are lots of assumed boundaries that I didn't realize were there that now are not. There are so many different areas that warrant establishing boundaries. From working location in your own home to when you answer an email or text messaging or whether to turn the camera on for zoom meetings, chat features and forums, on the clock or off the clock, if you work remotely you are even closer to work than before. I wanted to take a moment and see how others were implementing boundaries with their work, whether with clients or otherwise, and what that looks like for everyone. Any revelations? Comments? Tips?
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As far as the urge to answer calls, texts, emails 24/7 it has been really hard to draw that boundary. We always redirect to our 24/7 hotline but the emails became difficult to redirect in that same way. One thing that helped my team was setting an away message to our emails every evening informing the sender that the emails are only monitored during business hours and all urgent matters should be called in to our Call Center.
I've found the following have been helpful to me:
Physically putting my laptop and work phone away at the end of the day - I'm working from my kitchen so it's really important that I turn that space back into "living space" when I'm finished working
Blocking my calendar as "do not disturb" when I know I've got a large chunk of work to do - it's sort of the digital equivalent to having your headphones in while at your desk, and let's people know that I may be less responsive for a bit
Not sending emails outside of working hours if I can help it - maintaining my working hours (unless something imperative comes through) and not responding to non-urgent emails off the clock has helped me respect not only my time, but the time of my colleagues as well
So much of setting boundaries is actually (gently!) enforcing them - I find that people generally are very accommodating of these boundaries and it's only when I break them that they become blurry (so for example, if I start sending non-urgent emails at 9pm, people will think it's OK to contact me at 9pm with non-urgent items)
Looking forward to seeing how other people are setting up these bondaries!
Agreed @Elizabeth Karam and @Emilia Alsen, this is such an important topic to discuss. Even physically setting up my computer in a space separate from common home space helps (I know this may not be a possibility for everyone though). The Harvard Business Review has a good article on this subject (https://hbr.org/2020/04/3-tips-to-avoid-wfh-burnout) and we also hosted a webinar on #selfcare recently that I'm encouraging all of my friends and family working from home to consider watching: https://youtu.be/xRr3QE1cauU Thanks for starting a great thread!
This is such an important conversation to have. The lines definitely have been really blurry without those physical delineations in place. I think I've tried to keep the frame of mind that we can't be instantly accessible all the time, and these new work circumstances shouldn't change that. Walking away from my work cell during lunch and turning it off after I clock out has been helpful to create that boundary. Physically walking away from my workspace at lunch has been helpful too. I might go on a short drive or walk on my break to create some mental and physical distance from work :)