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How to Set Boundaries at Work for Greater Productivity

Unclear and unrealistic expectations can cause you to lose your best employees. Even if you don’t lose the employee, using their personal time could bring a loss in morale. As connectivity improves, the expectation of reaching an employee when they’re “off the clock” has become the norm.

As the boundaries between personal time and work time blur, employees often take measures to reclaim the personal time they’ve lost since they’re virtually being pulled right back to the office. Even if an employee doesn’t retaliate by abusing sick time, they could need sick time due to the stress of not having a chance to truly leave their duties after physically leaving work. Even employees who work at home need some personal time set aside on their schedule.

Just remember…

Just because you haven’t been confronted about weekend emails (with orders to complete work over the weekend) or other such off-hours requests doesn’t mean the employee hasn’t started to resent you. Then you’ll have a real productivity problem—the disgruntled employee will likely start secretly window-shopping for greener pastures. You might not notice because they’re browsing on their smartphone in the restroom.

Do you REALLY need it RIGHT NOW?

You might think “one quick question” won’t hurt—but it could.

How often is that employee asked “one quick question”? You could be doing it so often that you don’t realize how frequently you’re interrupting the employee’s personal time. Even if you’re only calling that employee once today, you might not be the only person from work who is disturbing them on the same day.

Instead of calling or sending work as an urgent email for immediate completion, consider if the issue can wait for the next business day. If you’re concerned that you’ll forget the issue by the next morning, send the email for delayed delivery, or send the message stating that work on the issue doesn’t need to begin before the upcoming workday.

How to prevent unclear boundaries

Preventing or fixing unclear boundaries starts by asking yourself a few simple questions before you call, send an urgent text, or an urgent email demanding IMMEDIATE response:

Do you need to call your employee because they made a mistake?

If the employee is making mistakes (making it necessary to contact them during “off-hours”), there may be a training issue. The employee may also be responsible for too many duties.

Do you need to call the employee because they didn’t complete their work on time?

Was the employee given a reasonable amount of time to complete their work?

Did the employee miss time at work?

Their work may be incomplete or suffering because they need to reclaim the time you’re taking from them during their personal time. The employee may be taking time away from the office because you have made their personal time into office time.

Have you had this issue with other employees?

If it seems you’re always having to pester your employees to get things done during a specific time frame, it could mean the problem is not the employees. If you have lost employees without knowing why they quit, it’s often due to unreasonable expectations. You may need to make changes to the workload.

Is anyone else contacting the employee with pressing demands?

You might not be the only person contacting the same employee during their personal time.

Is the employee allowed to take time off?

Constantly denying vacation time will take its toll on the relationship. Instead of saying “NO”, try to work with your employee to meet their needs.

Don’t just stop at asking yourself. Ask the employee if they’re being contacted too frequently. Ask them how they feel about their work. Ask them if their work is interfering with their personal time.

When an employee is able to leave work at work, and their time away from the office is truly their own, it’s easier to make time at work more productive. Instead of resentment, your employees will have excitement for the task at hand.

For help with this issue, contact INSPIRE at 317-842-8881.

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