Setting Work Boundaries and How that Impacts Moms at Home
You head home for the day to have dinner with your family or maybe you’re at are at a friend’s birthday happy hour. You left the office only hours ago and you’ve received several emails, calls or texts. Can’t they figure it out on their own? Is it an emergency or can it wait until you’re in the office in the morning? Why can’t they respect your time? Can’t you have a moment with family or friends without interruption?
Does this sound familiar? What is missing in this scenario is boundaries. A consistent piece of advice from the more than 110 professional part-time working moms who I interviewed for my book was about the need to set and maintain boundaries at work. Setting boundaries can be hard, though.
The Boundaries at Work are Important at Home
The boundaries that you put in place at work make a huge impact on your time away from the office, especially when you’re a mom. They help us work smarter and enjoy the time away from the office.
- At the office, you need both time to work to get things done and time to engage with your clients and team. Boundaries help you divide up that time effectively.
- Being more productive with your limited time could mean getting more done more quickly and even getting more time with family. You can’t add more hours to the day, but if you’re more efficient with your time, you could get back time that you can spend with family.
- It’s important to be present with your family and friends. If you’re focused on work stuff at home, you’re not enjoying your time with family and friends.
- You need a break each day to recharge and to perform your best. We aren’t machines. We can’t be productive 24/7, even if you can be connected 24/7. Our brains need to step away from work to be at our best.
- Time away from the office each day helps manage stress. If you can’t ever step away from work, stress levels will only go up. Time away from work lets us decompress and destress.
- You look at things with a fresh perspective when you can put them down for a while. It’s hard to see another perspective or find the holes in your own perspective if you can’t put something down for long periods of time. And interacting with your family and friends might even trigger new ideas.
Putting Boundaries in Place Now
Now that you understand why boundaries are important, how do you put them in place? Here are some ideas, based on my own experience and the feedback from the moms I interviewed.
- No phone or electronics time for a set amount of time each day or for the time when you’re with family unless it’s an emergency. And no phone at the breakfast or dinner table.
- Response to non-emergency communications (phone, email, text) within 24 hours or by end of day or whatever timeframe you’re comfortable with. You might be traveling, in an all-day meeting, sick, taking care of a sick child, working on a major deadline. Give yourself some wiggle room, so that people don’t expect you to respond in minutes and then keep contacting you until you respond.
- Define or redefine what an emergency is to your team, clients, manager, etc. Everyone you’re interacting with needs to be on the same page as to these definitions since they can vary from person to person or even project to project.
- Boundaries are not only about the time when you leave the office; they also matter for getting your work done at the office. Putting blocks on your calendar means you’re more efficient with your time. Designate meeting times (or even days) on your calendar, so that you have designated work time. Make sure your manager or senior leadership, team, and clients know about these blocks to set their expectations.
- The easiest way is to establish boundaries from the beginning of a relationship, either a new job or with a new client. Lay these out upfront and make sure everyone agrees to the worktime and personal time boundaries. Establish definitions for things like emergencies or interruptions.
- If it’s an existing relationship, you might be able to put in place new boundaries, but chances are you will need to have an adjustment period to give time for people to re-adjust to new boundaries. You might need to retrain your clients, manager or senior leadership, or team when you redefine your boundaries. An option is to create a transition plan for yourself so that it’s not like a light switch between two sets of boundaries.
Give yourself time to get these in place. And stick to your boundaries over time, even when things get iffy and pushback kicks in. You can do it!
GUEST BLOGGER: SUZANNE BROWN
// strategic marketing and business consultant
Suzanne Brown is a wife and mother to two young boys. She works as a strategic marketing and business consultant. Her current project is interviewing 100+ professional part-time working moms to get their insights, advice and ways to overcome challenges when working part-time. She blogs weekly about topics related to work, family or the balance between at www.mompowerment.com