Setting Professional Boundaries: How to Keep Work and Life in Balance
As an entrepreneur, you’re likely juggling more tasks and projects than most people can handle at one time. Even if you’re not a self-employed person, though, odds are good that you have to meet some deadlines or other obligations every day. Keeping up with all of these tasks while maintaining your health and well-being can be difficult if you don’t set boundaries between your personal and work lives. While it’s important to be flexible and accommodating in your working relationships, it’s equally important to be able to step away from work when it’s time to do so. However, it can be daunting to set these boundaries up front — the sooner you set them, the better! Keep reading to learn when to set boundaries and how to update them as needed.
Set Working Hour Expectations
We recommend setting working hour expectations up front whether that’s during the interview process for a full time remote job or a first time meeting with a potential client as a freelancer. Many employers/clients may say they offer flexible working hours. It is important that you ask what their definition of flexible means — we have seen expectations on both employer and employee sides be very different. For example, an employee may hear flexible and think they can quite literally work whenever, so long as they meet deadlines. However, employers may mean that their workers can start a few minutes later or leave a few minutes earlier within a traditional work day.
It’s also important to establish time off too! If every year you take off spring break to take a trip with your kiddos, be up front about that from the start. Employers may offer unlimited time off, but that may mean only a couple days in a week and not an entirely full week. Communication is key here, and it’s best to always ask both parties to define what they want in the working relationship. This is where you are able to establish important boundaries — as well as the communication channel to update those boundaries as needed.
Don’t Be Afraid to Set New Boundaries
Using our example from above, perhaps you started working with a company that stated they offered “flexible” schedules. However, as you started working together, you realized they expected you to work when they did, with flexible applying more to their schedule than yours (yes, we have seen this before!). If this is not what you expected, you have every right to speak up for yourself! Politely send a message stating that the hours are not what you thought, and that you would like to have a discussion about working hours with the company.
Work-life balance is incredibly important, and as uncomfortable as it may be, it’s important to stick up for yourself in the workplace! If it wasn’t communicated that an employer thought you would work mostly afternoons but you need mornings because of your children’s schedule, bring that up with your employer and ask to negotiate hours. It really all comes down to communication! A good employer/client relationship will be based on open communication and negotiation.
Create Payment Window Rules
For our freelancers, the number one boundary we see that goes without being established is that of creating firm payment windows with companies. Let’s say you offer Net 30 on your invoices, but your client does not pay in 30 days. You have to keep reminding them, and finally, 10 days later, they pay. But, that does not cover the stress or time it took you to keep track of all that and follow up with them.
Of course, there can be outstanding circumstances that cause a payment to be late every once in a while. However, as a freelancer you rely on your customers to pay in a timely manner. During that first meeting with your client, let them know that after thirty days goes by, you will charge a certain percentage of the invoice or add in a special processing fee for late invoices. You can research online to find good examples of rates/fees for your specific position.
As mentioned above, if you have not established this boundary yet and you find yourself with a client that is consistently paying later and later, it’s okay to establish this boundary later. All you need to do is communicate what the penalty for paying late is and why you have to enact that. Working with your client, you may be able to come up with a different billing system that gets you paid on time without charging extra.
Boundaries are extremely important, so you should establish them up front, but if you don’t it’s okay to go back and let the parties involved know that you were not aware this is how things would be, and they need to change. Just be open about your situation. What are some ways you set boundaries with employers and clients alike? Let us know so we can share your advice with the HireMyMom family!