Five Keys for Setting Sensible Work-Life Boundaries

Whatever your level in your business organization — executive, manager, professional— you likely have faced the issues of work-life boundaries in the workplace either for yourself, your employer or your employees.

Maybe you have children that need you to be at their school play, or perhaps your key project manager is resisting working longer hours for a crunch time project completion.  It might be that your employer wants you to be available all the time, since in this electronic world, you CAN be just a click away no matter where you are.

  • What’s the right approach to clarifying these expectations and boundaries  as an employer or an employee?
  • When is it right to intrude on professional-personal boundaries or allow yours to be compromised?
  • Should you ask an employee to be available during their vacation, or should you be available during yours?


The benefits of personal boundaries

These are tough questions that require some well thought out approaches for you and your business.  To complicate the issue, there is more to the picture, including the quality of the level of training you’ve given your staff, the responsibility that comes with higher  level positions, and your own personal work style.

Organizational development experts will tell you that there is scientific evidence for the benefits of balancing work and personal life – that time spent devoted to your favorite avocation, positive time with family or doing whatever it is that gives you joy or peace – rejuvenates and contributes to greater productivity and creativity when you or your employees return to work.

Make your work and personal life productive and creative!

Here are five keys for setting sensible boundaries that contribute to productivity and creativity in your work and personal life:

1.)  Flexibility works:  There is no such thing as a 9-5 professional or management job, especially in this economy.  But it doesn’t mean you or your people should be expected to work 14 hours a day, every day.  On the other hand, it does mean flexible expectations and responsibilities.  When there is an important project crunch period, everyone on the team needs to put in the time to meet the deadline.  Conversely, later, when it’s time to go to a child’s big soccer game, it’s also time to be flexible with yourself and your employees who have given their all to that project.

2.) Balance takes practice:  Take steps to separate your professional and personal life.  Maintain separate work and personal phones and email accounts.    Sit down with your team to develop guidelines everyone understands regarding when it is — and when it is not — appropriate to call team members (including you) at home or off hours.  Discipline yourself to avoid checking your work email inbox at home.  This could be difficult at first, so try starting with a short period and building up.

3.) Plan ahead:  Wherever possible, plan ahead so that your team or employer knows when you won’t be available.  Make your vacation and travel plans well in advance.  Plan how much time you need regularly for re-energizing and personal needs and put it into your schedule.

4.) Communicate your needs:   Let your team and your employer know your plans.  Communicate and negotiate what will work for you and the team and your organization. Be open to your team members’ communication on the same topic.

5.) Be creative:  Develop new options that will work for you and your employer.  In exchange for planned personal time, what can you give in return and how will you ensure your responsibilities are handled?  Are you willing to be available during alternative times?  Encourage your employees come to you with an optional plan when they want to “unplug” for a pre-arranged time period.

Lastly, it’s critical to not become an all work, no play employee OR employer.  In either case, the result is both you and your employees are deprived of the respite needed for peak performance.

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