One challenge with hybrid working and acting on emails and phone messages, is how to set boundaries for working hours. During the pandemic when everyone has been working remotely, many people have reported that their working hours per week have increased. This was, I believe, a combination of individuals being in virtual calls – I feel there was reassurances of being in meetings to keep in touch with others. That as we didn’t have a natural time to start and finish work, as we weren’t commuting, our work/life balance and life became blurred. BUT, there was also the challenge of being in so many back to back meetings, that there was no time to complete work in work hours, hence having to finish work late.
This has been highlighted more since there will be hybrid workforces with teams in different locations as well as the continued stress related to longer hours. Here is the article
One recommendation is that no-one sends emails after specific hours. Some people have even suggested that individuals are fined But this creates a number of problems:
- if you work with clients and colleagues in different time zones
- It is a personal choice if someone decides to work outside agreed working hours
- An individual might have agreed flexible working hours to fit in with care responsibilities
- If there is a “Crisis” with “Everyone on Deck” in order to complete a specific piece of work or project
- There are some people who might send an email or voice mail message as soon as they think of something so they don’t forget – but aren’t expecting a response immediately
- There is an accepted “Presenteeism” culture within the organisation, where individuals are expected to respond to emails and messages 24/7.
Now as workforces start to return to offices and also arrange hybrid working: where there are some people in the office and others continuing to work remotely, this is an ideal opportunity to re-consider the whole idea about being available to answer emails and calls at all times. I was delighted to read that Jane Fraser, the CEO of CitiGroup has banned Zoom calls internally on Fridays and openly said that employees should work reasonable rather than unreasonable hours each week. Read the article.
Here are some suggestions of how we could manage work life balance and the expectation of responding to calls and emails: surely it would be much better to do the following:
- Have certain hours – perhaps between 1 – 4pm where you and your team respond to emails; answer calls and be actively visible
- Have an automated response when you are not in the office to manage expectations
- Some people I know have a specific note on their email signatures saying that they work specific hours and they will respond when they are back at work. This manages expectations in a clear, professional way
- Explain which time zone you are in. Other people contacting you might not realise you are in a different time zone and are surprised you don’t respond quickly!
- If there is a specific project where everyone is involved, the leader needs to make it clear that everyone should be available at a particular time.
- It would also be useful for the leader/manager to have a spreadsheet showing the times people are available
- To manage your own expectations of when people should respond to a call or email: remember not everyone will be working at the same time as you.
- For leaders to step up – rather like Jane Fraser of CITIGroup and start to change the work culture.
Setting boundaries for hybrid workforces is an important consideration for any leader and business owner. This is part of a series we are including for Hybrid Working. If you would like to receive our Hybrid Working Checklist for Leaders and business owners Grab it here.