Setting Work Boundaries in a Work From Anywhere World

When you work in a physical office, it creates a clear boundary between work and home. That boundary has blurred since the internet began to make it possible to access work resources from anywhere. It’s still easier to separate the world of work from your personal and family life when you have to travel back and forth from the office.

Remote work, on the other hand, usually takes place at home. That dividing line of a daily commute is no longer there, and it’s becoming clear that both companies and employees are having trouble determining where work ends, and the rest of their life begins. A May 2020 survey from Teamblind found that the top reason employees gave for burnout during the pandemic was a lack of work-life balance. That’s not surprising. A BlueJeans by Verizon study found that remote workers worked an average of 3.13 more hours per day in 2020 than in an office.

Boundaries Require Leadership

The best leaders understand the importance of coaching team members to create healthy boundaries between work and personal lives. It begins with culture, and a healthy, humane culture starts with a company’s leaders. In his series of essays on Medium, our CEO Mark Abbott writes, “The leader of leaders in every group owns their group’s culture.” A company with a high-trust culture will respect those boundaries and not expect other team members to take time away from their families and personal time after hours to work. Team members must enjoy the many benefits of remote work while still having plenty of time for friends, family and personal pursuits.

So how do you encourage Work From Anywhere (WFA) balance within your organization?

First, encourage team members to create a dedicated workspace within their homes. This could be a separate room or a corner of a larger area. What’s important is that this space becomes their designated place for work. This doesn’t mean that team members shouldn’t take their laptops out to their deck on a sunny day or work from a local cafe from time to time. But it’s psychologically important to have a special space dedicated to working for team members and those who live with them. That’s where papers, files, and work supplies live and where the laptop stays at the end of the day. It draws a physical and mental divide between home and works to establish a clear boundary.

Next, give team members the freedom to set their hours and ensure that those hours are respected. Make agreements about their work schedule, and ensure these hours include meal breaks — discourage working through lunch. Also, make sure that people set a block of time where everyone’s schedule overlaps so team members can have meetings or collaborate in real-time.

Once those agreements are in place, ensure you or other team members don’t violate them except in emergencies. Have team members set collaboration and communication tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams to “away” or “unavailable” when they aren’t working. That way, it’s clear that they won’t reply to messages during their time off. And make sure to coach team members to follow their own schedules! If one of your team members regularly sends emails outside their normal work hours, have a conversation about it. Burnout is a likely outcome when work routinely creeps into family and personal time, and that’s no good for anyone.

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