I've always been a "work to live" type of person.
Ever since I've been working, I tend to do my work, I leave, and don't really think about it again until the next morning. I'm thankful that my jobs so far have allowed for this 95% of the time, because I'd become unhappy with my job quickly if it required a lot of evening work. I have things to do after work, people!
But I think a lot of people are worried about how they will be perceived if they aren't sitting at their desk for the same 8 hours a day as everyone else, or don't log in at night to send some emails so their boss knows they're working at home, or don't log-in on their days off to show their commitment to their work.
I'm a people pleaser by nature so not doing work someone is expecting from me is not in my nature, which means if I want my evenings to be work-free, I need to be focused and intentional about how I spend my time in the office.
Over my 10-year career, I've learned to set boundaries and expectations at work to maximize my 40 hours and minimize bringing it home.
My boundaries look like this:
- I stick to my scheduled hours very closely. I get in at 8:00 am and leave by 4:45 pm to pick up the kids at daycare. This might mean I eat lunch at my desk if I'm busy.
- I don't bring my laptop home unless absolutely necessary, and I don't have a work phone (my company only gives them to managers and above).
- Because of the previous bullet, I don't check my email after working hours unless it's one of the rare occasions where I do bring my laptop home.
- I don't check in when I take vacation days or have my days off with the girls.
- I use all of my PTO within the allocated time frame. Losing paid time off is not an option for me!
One of the biggest things I've had to learn is to ignore is what people think of me. That is not an easy task. Some coworkers that don't work closely with me might not see me as the motivated, hard working, committed employee that I am. But perception is not reality, and frankly, my life outside of work is more important that what they think of me anyway. #sorrynotsorry
By setting these boundaries and expectations up front, my manager and coworkers know what to expect of me. I prove my value during my work hours, so nobody has ever questioned me about the fact that I need to leave before 5:00 or don't check email after hours.
So what can you do to start setting boundaries?
If you are the "available 24/7" person, it might be tough to go cold turkey, for both you and your coworkers or clients, but you can start taking small steps to make it known that you have a life outside of work.
- Go off the work grid a few nights a week. Leave your laptop at work, and don't check work email after hours.
- Start leaving by 5:00 most days of the week.
- Don't check email on your paid days off.
As long as you keep up your work performance, taking small steps to have more of a work-life balance will not only benefit you and your well being, but will likely make you more productive, as you have to fit in the same amount of work in less time.
Obviously there are some jobs where there is just more work than there is time, and there are some nights that will require working at home after the girls go to bed. I'm also not currently trying to get promoted or move careers, so that makes these boundaries doable for me.
If you are in a position where you are working from home most nights and don't want to be, or feel obligated to check email on your days off, I encourage you to commit to being completely offline at least a few nights a week. Your work will still be there in the morning, and the world will not end if you don't respond to that email. Most of us aren't saving the world with our work and don't need to take it so seriously.