Why did you choose to work from home?
For me, it was to have more balance in my life. But what is work from home creep, and how do we avoid it?
In a recent LinkedIn post, I shared my thoughts on Work From Home Creep after reading this article by The Atlantic here. Of course, the article is well-written and highlights some interesting points that you may have experienced in your WFH model. But, of course, in my opinion, there are some factors regarding the other side of the conversation that aren’t considered, and that’s the reason behind this post.
Let’s begin with some understanding.
What is WFH Creep?
The most accurate definition here is that Work From Home Creep is when your job unreasonably expands into your personal life. You’ll see this in meeting requests for after hours, delivery deadlines for work being unreasonable – think a Friday afternoon briefing for a Monday morning delivery, and critical, unstructured feedback via Teams, Slack, or other instant-messaging tools. For example, how do you respond to an angry-faced emoji regarding an analytical financial plan?
We joke because it’s true. Our methods of communication changed, and with it, so did our work times. We’re no longer on the road for hours getting to and from the office. We’re not unreachable after the workday or over the weekend. And some expect us to be within range of our devices 24/7.
That is when we apply tentative boundaries to our work and life. Yes, boundaries are applied, but they’re not enforced, and that, for me, is where the problem begins.
Do you take your work home with you when you’re working from home?
No, the heading here isn’t a mistake. Do you take your work home? You may think that you don’t, but in this day and age, it’s easy to bring our home lives into our work lives and vice versa. So yes, it’s lovely to introduce your kids when they come into your office, and in those rare moments, it introduces other sides to you – the human and emotional connections.
However, when you’re in a meeting and carrying your device to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee on call, the boundary changes ever so slightly. In this case, your work life is creeping ever so slightly into your home life. This is a slippery slope.
You may not notice it at first, but you’ll find that your methods of conduct with video conferencing, working, etc., change as the months progress bleeding ever more into your home life. Yes, you can now watch the game while you respond to emails. Yes, you can relax on the couch as you conduct an audit. Yes, yes, yes, you can do all these things and more – but the question is, at what expense?
Work/life balance is a scale by which you define your working protocols and your life terms. It is not about having more of one than the other. Instead, it is about finding what works for you.
For a manageable balance between work and life, one requires defined boundaries
As mentioned in my LinkedIn post here, the advice remains the same.
You cannot have tentative boundaries with WFH. You must apply proper grounding and discipline, and let me tell you this from experience: Your clients and colleagues will respect you for it. If they don’t respect your boundaries then perhaps you need to question the nature of these relationships and maybe even cut them loose.
To recap, define your “ideal schedule”, and then stick to it. The first thing I recommend you do to set this schedule is to block out personal and family time. These are non-negotiable. You then build in the rest of your working day to best fit your lifestyle, family, employer, etc.
It is also equally important that Employers recognize the pitfalls of WFH and empower their employees to set boundaries and find balance.
Yes, it takes work, and there is a learning curve, but if you never step back and think about what’s truly important to you and then set boundaries to keep it sacred, you will end up working all the time.
Try this for a few weeks, and then give me a shout if you notice any changes regarding that WFH Creep.