As a recruiter, I hear this phrase at least two times a day. Questions from my candidates at the end of the call always end with “What is the work life balance at your company?” But it’s the answer that I continue to struggle with even after all these years. In order for me to answer this, I have to know what your definition of work life balance is. You and I could have two very different interpretations of this.
I will admit that since I started working in startups back in 2013, I basically said goodbye to ever having a 9-to-5. It wasn’t a huge issue for me. My jobs were demanding, but rewarding and didn’t always feel like work. The other aspect of my job is that even when you’re “done,” you could be doing more. You can always be reaching out to candidates or finding them so technically the job doesn’t have to stop if you don’t want it to. That was my challenge – finding my boundaries.
As I head into 2019, I think of a new year as a fresh start. It’s a chance for me to set my intentions and create new patterns for how I want to live my life this year. My own work life balance is near the top of the list. When I left the office for my holiday break, I made a promise to myself. The out of office message was up. No one would be expecting to hear back from me until I said so – January 3rd. I was taking two weeks off. Halfway into break, a colleague reached out with what seemed like a timely urgent message. It would have been easy for me to oblige, but I had to stand my ground. I knew it wasn’t urgent and I set the expectation on when I would get back to them. Nonetheless, I was slightly peeved.
This instance reminded me of a moment and learning lesson I had earlier this year. A colleague of mine was on vacation and this time, I was the one that reached out to her with what I considered an urgent message via Instagram. It wasn’t something for her to do, but it was an FYI that I thought she would want to know.
Her response: Hi! That’s great! But please don’t message me about work stuff while I’m on vacation. 🙂
Polite, direct, and completely got the message across to me that what I did was inappropriate. I knew immediately that what I had done was wrong, but it took me being on the other side of it a couple weeks ago for it to come full circle. As individuals, we all have our own ideas of work life balance and boundaries. Something to remember though is that others have different philosophies about theirs and we need to practice respecting that.
The best way to find out how is by asking, but here are a few general rules:
- When you go on vacation, let your team know the duration for when you’ll be out and who they can reach out to in place of you. It’s best if this is communicated in a team-wide email as opposed to one-off conversations.
- Make sure to set your email out of office response before you leave.
- Ask your teammates what their preferred method of communication is and which they respond to the fastest. Is it by text, phone call, email, Slack, etc?
- What you consider urgent might not be considered urgent to someone else. Before you capitalize all the letters of that word in the subject line, take another minute to reconsider.
- If you send a message outside of normal working hours or 8-6PM (generally) you shouldn’t expect a message back until those working hours roll back in again. The same goes for weekends. ie) your message on a Saturday might not get a response until Monday. Tough.
- If you are slightly bothered by someone inserting work into a time for you that doesn’t belong, politely remind them or in my case, set the expectation.