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Unblurring Boundaries: How to best support a work-from-home team

For companies that were able to shift their services from the office to employee’s homes in 2020, we’re many months into a new way of working. Our home lives have been uprooted as we’ve made accommodations to incorporate personal and family obligations into our work lives. Many of us have split our workdays into smaller chunks of time and now work during non-traditional office hours. It’s led to many discussions about blurred boundaries between our work and home lives.

As a company that puts a lot of effort into creating a positive corporate culture and ensuring our employees are healthy, both physically and mentally, we know these blurred boundaries can negatively impact our mental wellness and resiliency. Fortunately, there are some best practices for how teams can support each other, and many of these revolve around communicating efficiently. We’ve prepared a document you can download to begin a helpful conversation about these issues with your colleagues.

Respect your colleagues’ work hours

  1. Remember that your working hours will not be the same as someone else who has to juggle care-giving and/or schooling. Know that your colleagues will respond to your communications during their working hours, not your working hours. It might not be within the next hour but chances are it will be within the next 2 to 6 hours and that’s usually okay.

Respect the calendar

  1. Block off your non-working hours. Block out your lunch times, break times, walks, and vacation days. Make sure you build personal time into your calendar and respect those times. You need this time to stay mentally healthy and resilient.

  2. Check other people’s calendars. We used to be able to see if someone was at their desk, on the phone, or in the lunch room before we interrupted them. Now, it’s best practice to check their calendar first to see if they are available.

Set clear expectations

  1. In your communications, be clear about what actions are required and by when. Indicate whether you need a specific answer by end of day or at their convenience. For instance, “I have a meting with Liam tomorrow at 10am so I would like an update by EOD,” or “I have a call with Emma next week so I would like an update some time this week.

Email: Best used for formal processes

  1. Updates that require formal approval, decisions, or in-depth feedback are best handled with a tool that offers traceability, and can be saved with a back-up. That usually means using email.

  2. Add a note to your email signature to help others manage their time. For instance: “I value your personal well-being. Please respond to this email during your regular work hours.”

Chat Tools: Tools like Microsoft Teams or Slack are best used for team collaboration

  1. These tools are great for sharing news, articles and webinars, generating broad discussions, and sharing more personal or ad hoc announcements such as birthdays and fun things.

  2. Just as you used to chat with your colleagues in the hallway or in the lunchroom, stay in touch with fellow employees on private chats. Personal connections used to matter a lot and they still do, even if they’re virtual.

  3. Chat tools are also a good place to offer quick reminder nudges about upcoming deadlines.

Voice Tools: Best used for urgent requests

  1. On occasion, you may have an urgent or emergency request. This is when it is appropriate to text or telephone someone. If it’s not genuinely an emergency, send an email or chat instead. Of course, voice and video chats are always fine as long as you check the calendar and plan ahead via email or chat.

To help you have this discussion with your colleagues, we’ve prepared a PowerPoint presentation that you can download and customize to suit your personal needs. It even includes full speaker notes. Let us know if you have any questions!


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