6 red flags that you need better WFH boundaries

Close-up image of female hands open or close laptop on white table, work-life balance, working from homeWhether you love it or hate it, working from home has become the new norm in 2020 for thousands of people all across the country.

The upsides? Working in comfies, working from bed, doing yoga on your lunch break and giving your pet cuddles.

But the downsides? It’s possible that your manager may use the remote working situation as an excuse to make you feel obligated to answer messages before or after hours, to work longer hours or employ a guilt-trip when you step away from your laptop.

So if you’re finding that the line between your work life and personal life is starting to blur, or if you feel your boss is crossing some serious boundaries, it’s time to reset. From Megan Boyle, Senior Content Manager at Bolton SEO agency, The Audit Lab, here’s six tell-tale signs that you may need to have a chat with your manager about your limits.

  1. You’re contacted well past working hours

Ok, so we’re realistic here. Everyone checks their emails at home after they’ve sat down for dinner. Everyone replies to work texts on the weekend. And let’s face it, if you use Slack then chances are you’ve got the app on your phone, too.

Aah Slack, you’re a blessing yet a curse.

If you find that you’re constantly receiving (and expected to reply to) messages from your manager or coworkers in the evenings or on weekends, when the working day is clearly over, then this is a red flag.

The first step here is to set some boundaries yourself. Disconnect your emails from your phone or turn off notifications on Slack when you leave the office. If you’re still getting messages late into the evening, that’s when you may need to communicate your boundaries. Sometimes all it takes is a simple “Thanks! I’m offline now for the rest of the evening but I’ll get back to you / get that over to you when I’m online tomorrow morning.”

  1. Your absence is noted

You’re fully entitled to breaks when you work from home. You are 100% allowed to still take your hour lunch, make yourself a snack, or even go for a walk to clear your head. So if your manager starts making you feel bad for being away from your laptop, that’s your second red flag. It shows that there’s a lack of trust in you and your ability to do your work. Of course, if you’re missing deadlines or skipping scheduled meetings then that’s another conversation, but you still have every right to take a break no matter where you’re working from.

If you find that this continues, then it’s time to have an honest conversation with your manager about why they’re always on your case. Chances are they aren’t doing it maliciously; a lot of business owners or managers are feeling a loss of control that they aren’t able to manage you as closely as they used to. It’s an awkward conversation, for sure! But you shouldn’t be made to feel like you’re doing something wrong just because you take a 15-minute break from your screen.

  1. They’re too friendly

It’s perfectly ok to be friends with your manager, as long as it feels appropriate to both sides. But at the end of the day, they are still your boss and that’s a boundary that needs to remain in place.

Maybe you feel comfortable talking about your life outside of work, but if you start to feel obligated to respond to messages that aren’t related to work, especially if it’s having an impact on your workload or is intruding on your home life, then it’s time to have words.

Remember, you aren’t being paid to be your boss’ friend.

  1. Your workday magically extends

When you work from home, your commute disappears, but that doesn’t (and shouldn’t) mean that your workday magically extends. If you’re suddenly finding meetings dropping into your diary when you would normally be travelling into the office, raise it with your manager and remind them that your working hours haven’t changed.

  1. Your work and home life are blending

Separating your work life and home life when you work from home is difficult. It’s harder to maintain boundaries and it can be tricky to disconnect from work when you don’t have that commute or different view to help you get into the different mindsets. And as tempting as it is to answer emails while you catch up from Netflix or check Slack when you’re in bed, it’s a red flag that things are becoming too blended.

The recent loss of the office has somehow transformed our home lives into the ‘forever office’. We’ll still be getting messages when we’re eating, doing bath time with the kids or doing our morning workout. And that’s a major remote working culture problem.

While many articles will recommend turning off your phone, silencing notifications or even putting your device in a drawer, you shouldn’t have to physically separate yourself from your belongings. So if it’s getting to this point, it’s time to have an honest conversation with the powers that be.

  1. Scepticism emerges

Do you feel a little guilty when you add a doctor’s appointment to your calendar? Do you get messages asking for some kind of verification about your requested time off? Please remember, regardless of whether you’re in the office or working from home, you are entitled to time off for illness and doctor’s appointments.

Your life is your own, even when work starts to bleed over into your home life. To avoid becoming burnt out and stressed, it’s important that you set your own boundaries and stick to them no matter what.

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