Time Management

Use This Simple Thing to Keep Work Away from Private Time

Woman with a box over her head with the title: Box out your private time

Recently I suggested in one of our blog posts that office hours need to die and that it might be wiser to distribute work in a different, more flexible manner. A small debate ensued and one of our followers raised an important concern: flexibility in where you do your work might lead to a situation where work starts cutting into your private time.

The trouble is, people sometimes assume that doing work from home – or especially – working from a home office means you’re always available. It’s a dangerous assumption that, unless handled properly, may lead to additional (and unnecessary) stress. There always has to be a line between your work life and personal life.

It takes two parties to enforce a border effectively. Flexible working arrangements must not evolve into 24/7 work. To prevent that, both employees and employers have to take concrete steps. I’d propose the following two-part solution:

Employees: Box Out Your Private Time

It’s OK to go the extra mile and work more than whatever your employee-employer agreement states. But at the end of the day, you have to pick out the time you want just for yourself and stick to it. Figure out how much time you need (and when you need it) then box that time out of your schedule. That box is your safe zone.

Successfully follow this strategy means being assertive about when you are available and when you’re not. When somebody messages you with a request during your private time, tell them you’ll do it on your next availability hour. You’re not James Bond; England won’t fall if you keep your phone away a few hours every day (if you are James Bond, please disregard and get back to work).

Employers: Respect the box

You don’t need stressed or burnt-out employees. Prolonged stress takes both an emotional and economic toll on teams. Low productivity, high turnover and the loss of skilled workers comes with a significant financial cost; companies spend an average for $4,129 filling a single vacancy, not taking into account the training costs once an employee is hired.

Entrepreneurs might (and probably should) choose to put more of their weight on the work side of a work-life-balance scale, but you cannot expect the same from people working for you. Or rather – you can, but be clear about your expectations and their level of commitment before starting a working relationship.

Happy people do good work.

Ultimately, it boils down to employee satisfaction. Happy people do good work. To be happy they need time to pursue their hobbies, or just take a much-needed break. Take software developers, for example. Great developers don’t just work on one thing – because, for them, coding is more than just work. Giving them the freedom to pursue their interests keeps them inspired and is, ultimately, in your best interests.

Has work time begun a global offensive on our privacy? Share your experience in the comments below.

We all need a break – tell your friends to just box out their private time on Twitter.

January 30, 2015