Updated: Dec 18, 2020
These are not my words. But if I got $100 for every time I have heard them over the past 9 months, I would be very rich by now. I smile - and empathise - each time I hear them, especially from people who struggled to understand how I worked from home before 2020.
The impact of COVID on work and home - and the relationship between the two - is deserving of a thesis 🙂. I have seen people go from 'looking forward to working from home', to 'looking forward to going back to the office', traffic notwithstanding. Recently, I had to talk someone out of resigning due to the stress of #WFH. When she worked from the office, she typically resumed at 8am and closed before 7pm. Now, she ‘resumed’ by 7am and was still working at midnight. She had become so cranky, struggling to manage her home, hardly eating, that her husband was acknowledging her office as the 3rd party in her marriage.
'We have too many meetings. How am I supposed to get any work done?'
‘If I miss a call and return it even after just 10 minutes, it’s trouble.’
‘My boss does not start his work until afternoon, and expects me to be at his beck and call till midnight.’
‘There’s no difference between weekdays, weekends and public holidays. Working from home has taken over my life.’
'Yes, I hate traffic. But at least then, leaving the office meant leaving work till the next day. But now, no boundaries!'
These are some of the comments I have heard. The truth is ‘work is work’, no matter where you deliver it. And while the lines are getting increasingly blurred between work and home, it is up to you to set your boundaries. And people are doing it already. A friend says her husband picks her calls after 7pm, and tells the callers that she is in the kitchen. Her bosses soon got the message and even referenced this in a board meeting, to admonish each other on the need to give employees a break.
Another stopped responding to calls or emails between 8pm and 8am. Her bosses were mad at the beginning, and she still fears some reprisal, but they are grudgingly adapting.
At the end of the day, you have to be both firm and flexible in setting your boundaries:
Identify the existing and/or potential implications of working all/odd hours on your health, well-being and family.
Define your work-free hours: what can you afford; what is a deal-breaker?
Block off some hours for major work e.g. reports, presentations, data crunching. Work offline on these if possible to minimise interruptions.
Assess the importance of each meeting, and your role in each: do you really need to ‘hop into’ every one; or would an email suffice?
If calls and emails distract you easily, can you set a timeframe for responding to these?
In order to reduce the potential enmity 😐from the above actions, discuss them with your colleagues - negotiating as required.
Whatever you do, make sure you consistently deliver high quality work during your ‘Open hours’, so that you can respectfully decline working midnights/weekends and get some rest when you need it. However, be flexible: there may be busy times which require more of you … but negotiate some time (e.g. a day) off to make up for these.
So, Team #WFHisascam, have you been able to set any boundaries to help manage your sanity? What are your leaders doing to support you? Please share.
Did you also notice that the examples above were from women? Gentlemen, how are you coping?