Perhaps one of the most over-used cliches in discussing work life balance is the advice to “set boundaries.” In the digital age, where an employer, customer, or team member can find you on vacation via cell phone, or a child can FaceTime you on a business trip (or, as a recent viral video shows, inadvertently join your video interview) boundaries in life are blurry at best. Setting them, doable. Enforcing them? Not as easy.
This is why I’m learning to live with disappointment. Not mine – theirs.
I know, I know, there are the select few, those mom-unicorns who shed the baby weight easily, thrive at the office, kiss faces and stay “present” at home, and maintain their sanity. For the more human of us, we’ve realized “having it all” is likely impossible, and now it’s simply a matter of who is going to be disappointed.
Phew. That sounds incredibly dramatic.
It’s also true.
Drawing a hard line and getting off the computer, e-mails, and work mindset when work ends, may result in disappointment. And those people may voice that disappointment in a public forum or e-mail.
Responsibility in these situations is threefold:
- Be amazing. Don’t be a disappointing employee; however, do feel comfortable disappointing people who have unreasonable expectations availability or abilities.
- Be firm. Re-enforce the boundary – without qualifiers or apologies. For example, if a colleague sent a late-night e-mail and expected a response, perhaps a reminder is in order: I’m happy to take a phone call to my personal cell if you have an urgent matter that needs my attention, but I am not on e-mail after the business day ends because that time is reserved for my personal life.
- Be bouncy. In the words of my daughter’s swan song, let it go! Seriously.
Setting boundaries may be a constant battle. It may be a one-time effort that yields wonderful results. Either way, here is something to consider the next time an opportunity arises to advocate for boundaries that support quality work and quality family time: this one’s for the future.
Those mandatory nursing stations?
That protected leave?
The famed invincibility of a pregnant employee?
These are the fruits of our predecessors’ labors. Establishing, maintaining, and protecting a boundary may not just save your sanity – it may set up the next generation, or even the next hire, for a better experience.