As a boss, you want to create a positive, productive work environment for your employees. A great work environment can prevent quiet quitting, increase staff buy-in, and help you achieve a higher ROI on all of your projects.
However, it’s easy to become overbearing when trying to establish a positive workplace. You may accidentally overstep work-life boundaries in the process and can damage employee well-being by texting staff out of working hours or asking your employees to attend events that go beyond their role description.
You can protect your employees by creating a culture of positive boundary setting. Positive boundary setting ensures that everyone can maintain a work-life balance and lowers the risk of workplace fatigue and burnout.
Messaging employees outside of working hours oversteps their work-life boundaries and can jeopardize employee motivation and well-being. Yet, many managers still send messages, emails, and texts to employees during their time off.
Countries like Portugal have already instated laws that ban bosses from texting employees during time off. The reason is clear: folks need time away from work to switch off and enjoy their lives. These laws give employees a “right to disconnect”, as they cannot be punished for failing to read or respond to messages that aren’t sent during working hours.
As a boss, you should follow suit and abstain from messaging any staff outside of working hours. This may be challenging at first, as you’re probably used to rapid responses from employees 24/7. However, your colleagues will thank you as they will be able to truly disconnect from work while they’re away from the office.
Follow through on your commitment to positive boundary setting by revising your communication standards. Make it clear that employees are not supposed to access emails or message boards during non-working hours and that there will be no punishment for folks who fail to read information sent outside of working time.
Managing a business is like juggling and spinning multiple plates at the same time. You never have enough time to do it all yourself, so you need to enlist the help of others to ensure that your expectations are met.
If you run an organization with multiple departments, try to meet with managers at each level of the corporate structure and ensure they understand your expectations. Make it clear that you want to improve employee well-being, and care more about avoiding burnout than completing a project early.
During this time, ask managers for feedback to ensure that your expectations are met. You may find that your employees are already running at full capacity and that they must work extra hours to meet deadlines. If this is the case, you may need to rethink your operations or consider hiring more staff to reduce existing employees’ workloads.
Creating a culture of positive boundary setting may require re-training. Many employees are used to being overworked and will ignore calls to stop messaging outside of work hours. If this is the case, you need to invest in training that gives employees the tools they need to set clear boundaries.
Start at the management level. Give your managers project-management training so they have a clear understanding of how much work is required to complete each project. This will ensure that managers don’t take on projects that are too large for their teams and will protect the work-life balance of the employees they lead.
Give all of your staff access to communication training. Some staff members find self-advocacy easy, while others will be too anxious to speak up when their boundaries are being over-stepped. Communication training can give these employees a chance to practice saying “no” and will reassure them when they choose to raise a boundary-related issue.
You may need to retrain yourself, too. As a business leader, you’re used to working long hours to see your vision become a reality. This approach may have worked in the early days of your business, but your employees now look to you as an example. Take your responsibility seriously by becoming unavailable outside of your work hours unless an emergency occurs.
It’s worth noting that some employees don’t realize they are overstepping boundaries. You can proactively prevent accidental breaches by including extra training during the onboarding process. This training should cover infringements like workplace relationships, how to report boundary-related issues, and what to do if employees need to send a message outside of working hours.
Remember Remote Workers
Many remote workers struggle to maintain positive boundaries when working from home (WFH). It’s all too easy to check work emails before bed and many employees who work remotely become hyperfocused on their work-related productivity.
However, overworking from home can have a negative impact on remote workers’ health. Employees who WFH are more likely to experience burnout and may feel isolated if they dedicate all their time to work.
You can help remote workers set boundaries by limiting their access to work-related technology. Digital communication technology supports the connection between remote staff and HR, but it can undermine remote employees’ work-life balance. Be vigilant, and tell remote workers to log off if you see them sneak back online for some extra work after hours.
Clear boundaries are integral to the success of your business. Without clear boundaries, your staff will become burnt out and resent the business they work for. Start by training all your employees and ensure that they have the communication skills necessary to report breaches of their boundaries. You may need to re-train your managers, too, as many will fall back into their old habits without clear guidance.