Traditional Boundaries in Remote Settings

How to Support Your Team While Apart

Whether working from home was part of your company’s culture prior to 2020 or not, the coronavirus pandemic has made remote working a necessity for many corporations. In our last two posts, we’ve discussed how to navigate the challenges of how companies create and sustain a positive culture remotely. So much of culture is created through interpersonal interaction – from planned office gatherings to quick, informal, watercooler conversations. Without the opportunity for these face-to-face interactions to occur, the question must be asked: how do we work on company culture when we are apart? We have to start here: if you aren’t working on it, it’s not getting better.

Some employees love being able to work from home. Some do not. As someone who worked from home for a decade and now has two daughters under the age of four, I fall strongly in the latter category. But, of course, there are both pros and cons to remote working.

The perks?

  • Flexibility

  • Your own, personalized office space

  • More hours in your day, with no commute

  • Not being limited to lunches made in the rarely cleaned office microwave

The drawbacks?

  • Feeling the need to demonstrate your productivity

  • Less face-to-face interaction and the subsequent feeling of isolation

  • Harder to “turn it off”

  • Blurring of personal and professional life

When you think about it, all these drawbacks or difficulties stem from a lack of boundaries on the part of the employer and the employee. When we cannot separate our lives’ personal and professional areas, we can begin to feel unhinged.

Personally, in my previous job, where I predominately worked from home, I struggled. While I did my best to establish boundaries and routines, I did not have clear expectations, guidance, or support from my employer. It truly felt like I was on an island. I felt as if it was all on me to plan and execute my daily responsibilities, and without any support, I was lost and did not know if I was meeting the unspoken expectations of my boss. I did not know how to ask for what I needed either.

As leaders, we need to advocate on behalf of our team members to ensure that they are working as effectively, efficiently, and most importantly, focusing on their mental and emotional well-being.

Everyone naturally struggles with setting boundaries, and that is why leaders must help their people create and adhere to specific remote working boundaries.

Here are some ways leaders can support their people when working remotely:

Over-Communicate

Simply check-in with your people. Everyone is different, so ask them how they’d like to be communicated with and how often. But no matter how frequently you check-in, make sure to discuss and set your expectations around their specific job responsibilities—collaboratively set deadlines. Share big picture vision and goals – not just daily tasks. Ask how you or other teammates can support them.

As I stated earlier, people begin to feel isolated without face-to-face interaction. Being present – video chat, phone calls, texts – helps your people to realize you care because you are giving them your time.

Set and Respect Traditional Work Hours

Some jobs may require certain hours despite working from home, and other companies may take the “as long as it gets done” approach. No matter the company policy, it is essential that expectations are set and discussed. Make sure your team members know their required schedule.

When working from home, it’s easy to justify answering one last email or work for an extra 15 minutes. However, that can quickly become five more emails or working for an additional hour. Tell your team that it’s important to “shut it down” whenever their specific workday is done. If you send emails outside of the traditional work hours (or agreed upon hours), you are setting the expectation that your team should be working then—model healthy boundaries.

Encourage “Screen-Time Breaks”

Remind your people that it’s okay if an email or direct message goes without an instantaneous reply. When working remotely, our computers, phones, and tablets can start to feel like a ball and chain. They are our only connection to our job and other people. Employees want to make sure they portray that they are busy. It gets hard to step away.

Tell your people to take breaks. Move your body. Get some fresh air. Unplug. Recharge. And for goodness sake, each lunch! Preferably without a screen in front of you.

Be a Resource (and Provide Them Too…)

Take steps to empower your people with the support and tools they need to stay productive and healthy. Whether it is by offering a mindfulness and meditation app or giving more flexibility, these resources need to be made widely known and available to your people. There’s also a company called DREAM4 that can help support your employee’s engagement and well-being too…

Finally, listen to your people. It comes back to communication and requires empathy as well. Ask how you can support and have the resources ready to offer.

There is an enormous amount of challenges when it comes to working remotely, and leaders need to be equipped and ready to support their teams. Without face-to-face interaction, we must be more intentional to help our team create and uphold healthy boundaries. These boundaries will help you take care of your people. When we take care of our people, we are taking care of our culture.

Let us help you identify ways to work on “it.” Schedule a call TODAY

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