Over at Corporette on Tuesday, we asked the readers about work-life boundaries when you work from home — and I thought it would be great to have the same discussion over here, especially since photos of moms working from the floor of their closet have gone viral. (I know I’ve been on a Zoom call with a woman inside her car, in her garage!)
Here are the questions we asked the readers over at Corporette:
Do you have any tips, tricks, or hacks for keeping work-life boundaries in place, e.g., Do Not Disturb settings in Slack, automatic shutoff times, or even Boomerang for Gmail (on the sending side, at least)?
Work/life balance aside, do you think it looks unprofessional to clients and others to send or reply to email on nights and weekends — have you ever thought to yourself, WTH is this person replying to this at 3 in the morning? (For those of you who have coworkers spread around the country and globe, how much has that affected your answers?)
Additional questions for working moms: Do you feel like certain work-life boundaries have been crossed that may be difficult to regain? (I KNOW my husband’s boss has heard me screaming at our youngest for his misbehavior on Zoom… sigh.)
Another pertinent question: How is your partner’s work-life balance? How did it change during 2020, and how is it different from (or the same as) your own?
Psst: there is a HUGE amount to talk about here, obviously — this may be the start of a series here at CorporetteMoms.
Stock photo (professional woman weighing the words “FAMILY LIFE” with her left hand and “WORK CAREER” with her right hand) via Shutterstock / wavebreakmedia.
My office is in my bedroom. Boundaries are meaningless.
Yup. Today when I taught my large lecture class I had to make sure the monitor was turned so it didn’t show the edge of my bed.
omg, for real.
it’s changed mostly for the better… when the pandemic started I had just gone back to work post mat leave, and was doing it all and juggling it all. Post covid, schools closed, daycare too, and as the main breadwinner, my husband decided to be the day parent and take care of online schooling, when I started my day earlier (7 or 7.30 with emails as soon as baby woke at 5) and did my best to finish at 4pm so he could work some in the evenings ( he is a contractor). This meant that I could nurse during my breaks, see the kids every day at lunch, not rush through commute, not have 5mn to put dinner together but rather do it in bits throughout the day, and generally speaking feel more in control.
this year is different as both kids are back in school/daycare, but husband does pick up and drop off as I am still working from home so I can work non-stop, and I still aim to be done by 4pm (with emails done when kids are in bed if need be) so I can help with homework. I also take care of packing their lunches etc
Workwise, I don’t think anyone notices the change, I do as many hours as before, but I have been strict with my starting time and finishing time, and I feel so much more in control than I did a year ago. In fact, I dread going back to the office….
I literally saw this headline and just started cackling.
WELL. One of my professional contacts and I occasionally catch up in the drop off line at daycare (we have to wait outside, 6 feet apart). I have started turning all email off between 4:30 and 8PM, so that was nice. I took a couple days off where I turned off my phone and just gave my personal cell number for actual REAL emergencies to my boss and my most trusted staffer.
I’m past the point of ‘this is kind of fun!’ I’m past the point of, ‘Well, we just need to make it until X.’ I’m now at the point where this is life.
The life changing news though for me is that because the CDC is no longer requiring quarantines for fully vaccinated staff AND all my kid’s school and daycare staff is vaccinated, they won’t be closing school because of staff shortages. This is honestly fantastic.
That is life-changing!!! I’m amazed all your school staff got the vaccine. It isn’t available to teachers yet in our area but I think at least half of our teachers wouldn’t take it if offered. I hope schools eventually require it. I do not want to be doing this quarantine thing until 2023.
Fake meetings / blocking time during the day.
We’re pretty fortunate. My husband and I both work in project management for a health insurer, full time from home. I work from a desk in the bedroom, my husband works from what used to be a tiny guest room (only fits a full size mattress and nightstand). We have a multigenerational household, with my mother in law and my aunt. MIL watches our 19mo during the day. We can both close our doors and work mostly undisturbed, but toddler sounds (crying, tantrum screaming, and laughter…it isn’t all bad after all) still carries through the door and into our video calls. We’re pretty good about work life separation by starting work when the door is closed in the morning, and ending when we log off at 5 and open the door. I have a few Webex apps on my phone, only if in emergencies I need to log into a meeting or message a colleague. But otherwise no email on the phones, and those who need our cell numbers have them and use them only for urgent needs.
Boston Legal Eagle says
I’ve been blocking the 4:30pm-7:30pm time every weekday for kid time and logging back in at night if needed. So basically, I work from around 8:30am (after daycare drop off) until 4:30pm (daycare pickup), and then 7:30pm-8:00/9:00pm (depends on how busy things are). I also use the opportunity of being home to do a treadmill walk during my lunch “break.” Husband is also WFH and he starts dinner earlier now and we end up eating by 5:30pm most days. This makes the evening feel a little less rushed than when we had our commutes as the kids get some TV, baths and playtime, and still go to bed on time (my older one is done by 7:15ish now so the early bedtime is great).
When they are home from daycare due to mild illnesses, that all goes out the window and we both just do our best to get some work in around watching them. I like the lack of commute and WFH ability of Covid, but I definitely won’t miss the being sent home for every mild illness (and both end up staying at home for a week) and difficulty of backup care.
In a word, terrible. During the spring and summer when we had no daycare, I worked 7 pm (post-bedtime) to 1 or 2 am, and then slept in while my husband took the morning shift with our then 2 year old, because I simply could not work with a squealing toddler in the house. It’s been really hard to break that night owl habit and even though we went back to daycare in the early fall, I still end up coming home from daycare drop-off and crawling back into bed most days. Of course that necessitates working in the evening after kid bedtime and then I stay up late and get tired, so there’s even more reason to take a nap during the day. It’s a vicious cycle.
I still don’t have a proper workspace in our house, and I just can’t focus with all the distractions at home. I suspect I have undiagnosed ADHD because something as simple as the dog barking causes me to lose all focus and have a lot of trouble regaining it. I WFHed a fair amount before the pandemic but I always sort of used those as unofficial “catch up on life stuff” days. I was super productive on my days in the office, which meant working from home with decreased productivity a couple days a week wasn’t a big deal. Now every day is work from home with decreased productivity day, and it’s a mess. I don’t really care what’s going on with variants or case numbers – two weeks after I get my final vaccine dose, I’m going to park myself in one of the quiet, empty study rooms at the public library at least three days a week.
Why not? says
Noise canceling headphones!
My schedule is back to normal as much as it can be – my son is back in daycare again. I’m working from home (which I did pre-Covid in my dedicated home office), though my husband is also here now, working from our spare room. But, I have experienced pushback from other people! Someone asked me to attend a meeting on my off day and I said no because I do not have childcare, and he was shocked that I couldn’t just do both because he’s been working at times while watching his kid. I’m pretty firm in my boundaries but it’s annoying to see this new expectation pop up. I’m doing my best to stomp it out whenever I see it.
What is this work/life balance you speak of? I am a nurse executive so there is no balance. On all the time right now. With the current weather disaster adding to the mix, I am grateful my internet has gone down a time or two.
For those of us who have chosen to continue to keep our children home to protect our household from COVID-19, it has become increasingly impossible. Particularly because most schools/daycares are open and childless colleagues or those whose children have returned to school are less understanding of the difficulties of balancing work/life while staying home with multiple children.
I am supremely exhausted. I’ll work from the moment I wake up (6-7 am) to the moment I go to sleep (12-1 am) and still somehow only bill 7-8 hours, due to the interruptions of taking care of 3 under 7 and keeping up with the house. Husband owns his own business and has largely had to step back from his work, but I am still shouldering a lot of the cooking/cleaning at home even though he is a huge help with some things (primarily cooking and dishes).
All that to say, there is no balance for “me time.” I do get to spend a lot of time with the kiddos, for which I am grateful. But I am lucky for the days where I can shower, exercise, or have a little uninterrupted me time to read or watch tv.