Maintaining Healthy Boundaries with a WFH Workforce

Everyone has worked in an office with an employee who insisted on staying behind late and always being available so as to maintain a perception of hard work and going over and above expected standards. However, it’s been long understood (and generally accepted) that this ‘presenteeism’ isn’t helpful and is not an indicator of how hard someone works or how valuable they are to a business.

Now, of course, vast swathes of the workforce are not in the office – but in proving that they are working, non-visibly, a culture of virtual presenteeism is easily expressed; even if it’s entirely unintended. It’s also not beneficial to the business, as healthy work-life boundaries are always productive to a happy, healthy staff. But how to maintain these boundaries when you’re not there in person with your workforce? Try the following…

Maintain one-to-one staff ‘check-ins’

Even if when in the workplace face-to-face you wouldn’t have one-to-one meetings with your staff or direct reports, now is the time to introduce them. These can be done either virtually or face-to-face as appropriate or relevant, and allow for work as well as pleasure to be discussed. One-to-ones will allow for the early identification of any working issues and for staff members to feel listened to and appreciated.

Encourage full utilisation of holiday allowance

It can seem unintuitive to take paid leave at a time that we can’t really go anywhere but companies still have a duty of care to employees and must provide their standard holiday allowance. Staff should be encouraged to take their full leave entitlement and to properly step back from their professional duties while doing it. Even if they can’t go as far as they would normally or partake in their usual vacation activities, leave still gives a welcome break from work and should be

Set clear working hours

Where possible, set working hours should be stipulated and availability requirements made clear to employees. If it’s expected for staff to be logged on to an online system, or available in any other manner, during certain hours, everyone involved must be aware of this and reminded often. Where staff are not expected to be available, this too should be communicated. Ridding the workplace; virtual or otherwise; of a culture where people feel they should ‘show up’ outside of their working commitments can be hugely beneficial for staff morale.

Lead by example

If you’re telling your staff to maintain a healthy work-life balance, you should be too! Don’t send emails out of hours that require a swift response or make calls when you know an employee isn’t (or shouldn’t be) available. Instead, demonstrate the balance between your professional and personal life by taking regular breaks, using your holiday allowance and setting clear boundaries between working and non-working hours. Managers and those senior to other staff can easily lose employee’s respect by saying one thing and doing another; and there is no place for that in a truly equal working environment.

The ‘always on’ culture of our devices, especially in our homes, does not do much to combat presenteeism but when it is tackled, the benefits to both our personal and professional lives can be huge. Happy, healthy employees should always be a top priority – and that involves helping keeping them that way!

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