How to Set Boundaries in the WFH Normal

Dear DW,
Now that I’m working from home, I find that I’m always expected to be “open for business.” How can I appropriately set limits with my colleagues who want to meet at all hours of the day?

Signed, Ready to Close Up Shop

Dear Ready,
While technology has made it easier for us to handle our workloads remotely, the downside is you’re never really inaccessible. As a result, you have to develop boundaries around work and personal activities, says Brie Weiler Reynolds, a career development manager and coach at FlexJobs.
One of the most important things you can do is create a structured workday. If you don’t know when you’re going to be sitting down at your desk each day, how can you set limits on when colleagues can call you? If your office shares a calendar, input your standard hours so coworkers can see when you’re on and off the clock, Weiler Reynolds suggests.
Once you share your schedule, stick to it. If you respond to emails 24/7, colleagues will continue to expect you to drop everything when they want something from you.
Instead of dragging yourself to 6:00 a.m. Zoom meetings because your coworkers are in another time zone, create a spreadsheet and ask everyone to provide their ideal hours to participate in video calls. That will raise awareness that compromise is in order, and you can schedule meetings that are convenient to everyone.
If your team uses chat software such as Slack to communicate, change your status to “unavailable” when you don’t want to be disturbed.
Finally, working from home can make it more difficult for you to leave the workday behind. Creating a physical barrier can help, Weiler Reynolds says. “Leave your laptop in your home office or put it in a drawer and shut the door.”

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