Nearly a year and a half ago, we left the office to work from home, and instead of communicating with our colleagues face-to-face, we now talk to them on Slack. At all hours. With evidence that remote workers are spending longer than ever at their jobs, we decided to see what happens when we stop spending time on Slack and email outside of work hours for a week.
Predictably, I failed the test: I was working on an article about how travel interruptions have affected Bali, and due to the 12-hour time difference I had to interview people late at night or early in the morning. Christina, who makes it a policy to leave work behind after hours, did a great job switching off once the workday was over.
To learn more about setting boundaries, we turned to Work Life editor Julia Herbst. “I feel like there’s been a move away from the term ‘work-life balance’ recently towards the idea of work-life integration,” she says while sitting on the couch next to her dog. She adds, “About a third of our lives are spent working, sometimes more for some of us. So the idea that work and life are separate is an antiquated idea. Especially with the move to remote work, a lot of us are feeling that integration more than ever.”
One important factor? Company culture. Herbst says that it’s important for managers to set expectations for their workers. “A lot of it is about company culture and about what those expectations are, because you can have the best boundaries personally in your life, but if your manager doesn’t respect those and is on Slack at 2 a.m. expecting you to reply, that doesn’t really work,” she says. But while some things are out of our control, Herbst says that by changing our mindset, we can reduce our anxiety. “You don’t always have to reply to that email that you get at 9 p.m. It will still be there in the morning, and a lot of that I think is anxiety-related and wanting to feel like you’re on top of things at work. And so some of it, I think, is just experiencing that and seeing that things work out anyway.”
For more advice and thoughts on setting boundaries at work, listen to our latest episode.