Employee Appreciation Day posts often detail the top five things employers can do to recognize their employees, but we wanted to talk about something a bit bigger. As more companies move remote and personal and professional lives continue to blend, we need to talk about boundaries—specifically, respecting boundaries. Read on for three simple things you can do to show your colleagues you respect their boundaries.
In light of Employee Appreciation Day, instead of listing the top five things employers can do to recognize their employees, we wanted to talk about something a bit bigger. It’s one simple thing every working professional can do to show appreciation to their teammates and colleagues: Respect boundaries.
It’s a word we’re hearing more and more these days. To quote Brene Brown, “Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.”
Setting boundaries in our professional lives is key. We need to clearly communicate with colleagues when we’re available, what deadlines are realistic, and when our personal lives take priority over work.
It’s important to note that boundaries don’t just benefit the person setting them—they benefit the team and the business overall. They allow us to fully be present in our professional tasks, producing great work with clear minds because we aren’t distracted by non-urgent messages or experiencing burnout due to working long hours. Boundaries play a crucial role in balancing work and life, and the pandemic has made it clear we need that balance.
But what about respecting boundaries? How can we ensure we’re respecting boundaries in a virtual work environment where everyone is supposedly 100% available all the time?
Below are three simple things we all can do to ensure we’re respecting our colleagues’ boundaries.
As more professionals embrace remote work-life, their personal lives have blended with their work lives. They’re working longer hours, constantly communicating with colleagues on mobile apps, and can work from anywhere, anytime. But just because we can work anywhere, anytime, that doesn’t mean we should; and we shouldn’t expect our colleagues to, either.
We need to respect the working hours set in place by our colleagues. If colleagues make it clear they won’t be able to make those 8:30 a.m. meetings because they’re dropping their kids off at school, or they need to log off early to attend a class, or they need to step out midday to take care of a family member, we need to respect those boundaries.
In addition, be mindful of their “do not disturb” and “busy” settings on your employee chat tools. They could be leading a presentation or doing their best to be 100% present in a meeting, or they could have set aside time to finally get that critical project done. You might have an urgent, timely question you need to ask, and if that’s the case, go ahead. But your questions aren’t urgent all the time. For those not-so-urgent questions, ping them and let them know you have a question for them whenever they have a moment to spare. And if it’s not urgent at all, wait for them to be shown as available or simply send them an email.
I think we can all agree that realistic deadlines from Day 0 of the project help everyone. There are always a couple of people who oversell or people who expect something to be completed well before what’s reasonable; hence why manageable deadlines need to be agreed upon by all stakeholders involved. If your colleagues state that the deadline you suggested is unrealistic, listen to their reasoning. They will most likely list concerns you couldn’t have been aware of, and you’ll be grateful for their honesty.
Also, manageable deadlines make it so no one has to work evenings or weekends—and bringing it back to point No. 1, we shouldn’t expect colleagues to be 100% available all the time.
The most important thing we can all do is trust our colleagues: Trust they’re capable of doing their job; trust they’re doing their best; trust they’re setting boundaries to protect their mental well-being so they can show up for their team at 100% capacity.
It can be easy to have tunnel vision when it comes to executing projects and hoping everyone will achieve perfection; but with this behavior, clear boundaries can be missed.
If we trust colleagues are getting the work done, we won’t feel the need to ping them when they’re “busy” or shown as “do not disturb” (when they most likely chose those settings so they could be 100% focused on the task we’re asking them about).
The pandemic has completely transformed the office work environment, and because of that, we’re still in this learning period of communication and project management best practices. As we adapt to this future of work (FOW), it is crucial that we respect the boundaries of our colleagues. In doing so, we are creating an environment where everyone can produce their best work and remain passionate about their jobs without experiencing burnout.
Also, remember that the person on the other side of the screen is a three-dimensional person who exists beyond the computer. You never know what they might be struggling with outside of work. By simply respecting their boundaries, you’re showing up for your teammate in an immense way, whether you know it or not.
Danielle Sutherby is a senior communications specialist at Progress, where she supports Progress’ employer brand efforts, raises awareness of the company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) and inclusion and diversity (I&D) efforts, assists in PR activities, and strategizes employee engagement activities worldwide. Danielle is also the co-founder of the first employee resource group at Progress, Progress for Her, which aims to empower women at the company by providing leadership and networking opportunities. When she is not at work, you can find her writing, reading, or acting like a tourist in her own city.
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