Setting Communication Limitations
In a world where technology is literally at our fingertips, and communication between employees and their employers is rarely regulated, a healthy work/life balance can feel nearly impossible to achieve. As a result, there are people out there who are making steps towards legally protecting workers’ personal time. One such person is Brooklyn Councilman, Rafael Espinal Jr., who recently proposed a bill that would make it illegal for employees to be required to answer calls after work hours. According to this bill, while employers would still have the right to reach out, day or night, they would not legally be able to reprimand an employee for failure to respond. His reasoning for proposing this bill?
“We live under that anxiety and never really take the time to decompress.”
Does anyone else agree? If you are unsure of the amount of stress that Americans actually experience as a result of a poor work/life balance, take a glance at the chart below from The American Institute of Stress’ website. From this chart, it is easy to see that the stress that many Americans experience trying to juggle work and their personal lives is substantial.
While this information is useful, the bill has not yet been passed, meaning those late night phone calls and emails (and the expectation to answer them) are left unchecked. The following are a few ways that employees can try to resolve this issue while waiting for the law to catch up.
- Clear communication: As with many workplace issues, clear communication can be the catalyst to a solution. For instance, companies need to clearly outline the amount of communication that is expected of their employees upon hiring. If an essential requirement of a role is being reachable 24/7, that needs to be discussed before a candidate even accepts a job offer. However, if you do not receive this from a potential employer, make sure that you ask what the communication expectations will be should you accept a job offer.
- Set boundaries: In other words, teach others how to treat you. As long as a company doesn’t require their employees to respond to calls, texts or emails after hours, take it upon yourself to set boundaries for when you will respond to work related communication while out of the office. It may be as simple as saying, “I turn my phone off around 9:00 every evening” or “I will be at the beach this weekend and may not have service”.
- Unplug: Once boundaries have been clearly communicated, it is up to employees to implement them. One way to do this is to unplug from technology during those hours that were previously communicated were off limits.
- Reciprocate the favor. Make sure that you also take your coworkers’ work/life balance into consideration before calling them after hours. The phrase “treat others how you would like to be treated” comes to mind. If you expect others to respect your personal time, reciprocate the favor by respecting theirs.
Whether you are for or against, a law like the one that is being considered in New York currently could bring clarity to workplace communication limitations. In the meantime, start to strike your own balance by using these four tips.