Not setting boundaries either at work or home can have very stressful results.
When I worked at a regular J.O.B, before becoming a small business owner, I had to have some surgery and was out for a few weeks. Someone was hired to fill in for me while I was out, a few weeks’ training given, and things seemed to be set…until a few days into my medical leave when the phone started ringing, and ringing, and ringing. 27 phone calls in a day and a half later, I finally said “enough, I’m not answering the phone anymore or I’ll end up back in the hospital from stress this time.”
Fast forward three years, I was on my first vacation with this same company. I had set up the phone forwards, the backup to the phone forward for the answering service to call in an emergency, and told my staff I would not be answering my phone. I left town on a Sunday and by Tuesday my boss was already calling me. I refused to answer his calls. Then he had a department head start calling me to see if I would answer his calls. I did answer one, and was told “he’s looking for you.” I said “great, I’m not taking his calls. I’m on vacation and unless it’s life or death, he’ll figure things out.” Well that went over like a lead balloon.
The next night was Wednesday, and the company’s answering service started calling me. After the third call I knew my backup and 2nd backup had not answered the calls so I had to – that’s the loyalty in me. It also meant there was a flood, leak, or major repair issue at a 24-hour retail store that we maintained so it was a real emergency. I took the call and did what needed to be done. When I called the backups, they both said, “We did not recognize the number so we didn’t answer.” Ugh! I’m asking myself why I went through all the prep work then to make sure all situations were covered.
Obviously it does not matter what boundaries we set and precautions we take, other people are not always going to follow our lead. It’s up to us to set, and keep, those boundaries, no matter how difficult it might be at the time. I would say it’s vital to our health to do this. So how do we set the right boundaries?
- Set regular working hours. Even if you normally work at night, that’s ok as long as your clients know what times you are available by phone.
- Avoid company-issued phones. That same boss from the earlier conversation, told me on my return that I could never not take his calls again. Arrogance, yes, but inaccurate as I had never taken a company phone or phone number. My cell phone was mine and subject to my rules, no one else’s.
- Take a day off, regularly. Days off are not meant to be a “reward” for hard work, though that’s what they have become. Instead they are actually meant to help us clear our heads and come back fresh and energized.
- Use markers for work and play.
- If you work from home, only work in a specific area. When you leave that area, you leave work.
- Use clothes as a work marker. Dress in work clothes during work hours. You don’t have to dress in dresses and heels, but don’t work in sweats and pajamas all day either. Change when work time is over.
Choose your rules for when, where, and how you will work. Draw boundaries for yourself using time, clothes, and location. By answering calls and replying to emails and texts when you are on your personal time says you are training clients that there are no boundaries.
Your Virtual Concierge is an Online Business Manager and Virtual Assistant company ready to help you set and enforce your work boundaries. Call or email today to find out how else we can help clear your plate of unnecessary to-dos. 888-268-6038 or firstname.lastname@example.org.