Dec. 7, 2021

Setting Healthy Boundaries While Working Remotely

Setting Healthy Boundaries While Working Remotely

This week, Ryan and Heather discuss some of the pros and cons of blurry work-life boundaries for remote workers.


  • How remote work lessens the stress of caring for sick family/pets
  • The persistence of Zoom fatigue
  • The importance of setting and communicating boundaries

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Ryan Purvis 0:00
Hello, and welcome to the digital workspace works Podcast. I'm Ryan Purvis, your host supported by our producer, Heather Bicknell. In the series, you'll hear stories and opinions from experts in the field. Story from the frontlines. The problems they face, how they solve them. The areas they're focused on from technology, people and processes to the approaches they took that'll help you to get to grips with the digital workspace inner workings.

So how have you been keeping?,

Heather Bicknell 0:33
You know, I've had better weeks than this one, I'll be honest, I don't know. I feel like so many things happened in the world this past week, as I'm sure you're acutely aware of, and then one of my cats is pretty sick. So I guess the upside to that is that, well, she's on a whole bunch of medication and she needs them, you know, multiple times throughout the day. And working from home, I can actually do that, you know, if I wasn't working from home, it'd be immensely stressful, or, you know, I'd have to, yeah, the whole, like, how do you actually do something like that when you're supposed to give them you know, four times a day a medication?

Ryan Purvis 1:16
Well, I mean, I can share that from being a parent. I mean, not that pet owners are not parents, because it's like you're two different kinds of child. But my son used to get tonsillitis, tonsillitis, you got to medicate them, also six times a day with penicillin. And I remember, you know, fortunately working for two different companies and we do different experiences. The first one would always say family first, but never really mean it. The second one would say family first and enforce it. Which which is, which is a much nicer experience or a nicer experience, but it's never nice to have your child sick. Because, you know, the ability in both cases would be was to work remotely. It was a case of look, you know, go do what you need to do with a family. And, you know, we've got this, if you miss a meeting, or whatever it is, don't worry about all your work. You like it, you know, because you because you are dealing with a child that they're not sleeping, because they burning a fever and all that kind of stuff. And it was usually like, with with CJ, it was about once a month. And you know, you get to a point also where you you're embarrassed to say hey, listen, my son's sick again. And they look at you like what have you done. And like, it's like, it's a natural thing for someone to judge you. Especially there are no kids. And it's just because he's going to nursery school. And his tonsils were enlarged and he wasn't at an age in the UK where they would take them out. If we're here in South Africa, here would have been the first time he got tonsillitis, it would have been one phone call and they're out. UK at awake, he has a certain size. So for a year, you know, every month that was the cycle of Well, sorry, guys, my son's but you know, I get a phone call from from my wife, and she'd say, it started again, CJ is red. And red is basically his temperature is going up so high is our body's gone pink. So you need to come back because we need to go to the doctor and we go through the whole cycle. So So yeah, so you know, when when you work in the sort of digital way. It's great to have that flexibility to be, you know, obviously in hospital rooms, you're replying to emails and working on stuff while we wait because you sit there for three hours while you wait for someone to see you and all that kind of stuff. And as long as your job can allow for them. It looks like quite

Heather Bicknell 3:43
well. Definitely. Yeah. I mean, you know, when it comes to health, whether it's human or human family or pets, just being able even, you know, in my situation, being around a monitor, you know, not kind of being away all day just removes a layer of stress, even though you know, yeah, just being able to make sure things aren't getting worse or nothing strange, is nothing new and strange is going on is I'd be more distracted sitting in an office all day kind of waiting to go back home at that point.

Ryan Purvis 4:24
Yeah, that's That's exactly it. And you know, that's that stress, that stress reduction you have, because you're now there, and you can see something change is huge. And it makes you more productive. I think it's all about the work but because you're not sitting at the office worrying about it. And, you know, some roommates that are cameras that they watch, they watch the dogs remotely when we're going out for lunch, they've called the dog on Skype to check in. And they literally will talk to the dog for five minutes on Skype while you said I'm having lunch with them. You know, it can it can be quite a big thing mentally to deal with.

Yeah, I actually I, yeah, I have a camera as well. I don't think the cats really, you know, you can talk to them through it, but they don't really respond to they come running towards it really. But with this condition, you know, I wouldn't be able to see I just be able to see issues walking around, that would be the only indicator on a camera. But um, how are you doing? You know, that was a lot about me moaning about my situation, how are you?

Oh, we're fine. We're good. I mean, as good as we can be. I mean, the the good thing about this, this latest revelation, or this new variant, is it's given South Africa, what good marketing for, again, things we're good at, from a medical point of view. So that's, that's a positive. I mean, obviously, it scuppers our plans of going back, flightless, at least this stage, we don't know if we'll go back when we think we're going back to the UK. But as I've said, a few people, I think we're safely here, still, because, because it is a good handle on it. In the sense that we, the Serbian government has had to handle, you know, TB, and AIDS and whatever for years. So there's all those those that infrastructure is in place. So just another virus is just another, you know, thing to, to handle. But good plates are made the court and this is this is actually quite funny. I was I was having five. And normally what I do is I go, the minute I go for a walk, and I try to walk through for 2030 minutes at Central the trial run or depending on how I'm feeling physically, I've had some trouble with my knee. So that's I'm trying to build that up. As I go for a walk this morning. And I'm not even 10 minutes out and a bloody starts to rain to last sprint back. Because I don't you know, it's coming. You know, it's like a flash rainstorm. I get back in and I'm sitting now, you know, I'm soaps, I've got my shirt off. And I'm sitting on my laptop, and I'm starting to work through emails and some stuff that I've been meaning to do that I usually don't do, because it's also busy. And I'm in the middle of something. And obviously, I'm catching up on emails, and I see an email that are applied to and I say I look, we should have chat about this. And the guy phones, me. And it must be about six in the morning. But because he's in Australia, you know, it's whatever time it is for him three in the afternoon for the afternoon. And I like see the thing, ring, but I don't stop myself thinking, Oh, it's six o'clock in the morning, I shouldn't answer the phone. I went to the phone. And we had like an hour long conversation. And I kept thinking in my head. What am I doing this is like, the whole point of being up early is to do work that you don't want to be you don't want to be disturbed during this time. Like this is your time to do brain work. And you're letting yourself be pulled into a call for something that's not important, not urgent, whatever, it was just a response to an email. And it made me think about some of the stuff we've talked about there. But having boundaries around your working time. Never mind that my kids are all sleeping and then getting woken up next time on the phone and all that kind of stuff. So fortunately, was all the right time that they woke up. But it was kind of you know, I didn't I didn't enforce my own boundaries. And I think that the whole morning is, you know, it's really mentally ruined my day. Because I was doing the stuff that I've been meaning to do that just got into it. And of course, the Pavlovian thing I took the phone call, because it was ringing instead of declining in our answer.

Heather Bicknell 8:44
Yeah, and that did the the personnel Australia know that you're in South Africa?

Ryan Purvis 8:51
Yeah, then, you know, fully and you still set it up early. I'm always I'm always early and even. It's actually a thing of well, we're quick about this. We you were any call you take you actually have like a set speech script, we basically can do a call, it's got to be quick. Even said, Yeah, this is the time of the day, we're actually good work done where don't want to be disturbed. And the guy didn't even register that, that this would be a short call. Yeah. And it's one of those and I think this is this, this comes into mental wellness thing as well. I have found the odd people that are so lonely because of working remotely. And I've you know experienced even not going to you know house full of people etc. Because you're not interacting with with your work colleagues physically. You're not getting that stimulation that you almost crave sometimes. And for some people and then this guy's not one of them, but they are this way. They just want to talk because they don't get the opportunity to talk about work stuff. So it should be a short conversation becomes a long con cuz I need to get it all out.

Definitely, yeah, I've experienced that as well. You know, yeah, that extends a lot of a lot of calls, a lot of meetings can just, and it's hard because it's like, you don't want to completely cut that out or cut that off. But a lot of people do end up just on back to back calls all day. So it's hard to really balance, making that efficient, and then having time for any sort of casual interaction. Because then if you make time for that, you know, if you set like, you know, occasionally I would like to set, you know, 30 minutes in the week to catch up with a work colleague who, in the office, I would have interacted with, but working remotely, we had like fewer and fewer reasons to collaborate essentially. So we would just kind of catch up when we talk about some work stuff and some personal stuff. And it was just like, by like, intentionally scheduling it in I think that like satisfied that need, instead of trying to talk to everyone a little bit on, you know, calls are scheduled for a different reason. Yeah,

no, it's a good habit to have just to catch up to people. But it's also draining you concept like, today, I've had, you know, back to backs the entire day. And I often I get people on this call, and you just have no energy, or time you get to after three, four hours, because you, especially if you have a camera, you've always got to be on and attentive. Whereas if you're in a meeting in a room, you know it because you're all there physically, you can get away with making notes on your on your thing without staring at people. In fact, because you're in person, you're not staring, you don't want to stare at everyone all the time. It's rude in some cultures, but when you're on the video calls, you know, you feel like you've got to be constantly engaged. And even looking away sometimes feels wrong. Even though no one's talking to you. That's an interesting one differently, or you should know that. But if there's any science behind that research done,

yeah, I haven't seen anything. But it's definitely worth worth a look like. I mean, you know, there's like, broadly, themes around wellness and burnout, and, like company culture being really hard to maintain, but you know, sort of this like social, the social element of work the Yeah, that human interaction piece would be interesting to see if anyone kind of explored it more.

I remember during the pandemic, that was one of the main part of it, there was a lot of talk about zoom fatigue. And I know a few people that that were literally doing, you know, calls 12 hours a day. And it almost becomes the same as that, that I'm so busy mentor that that people think makes them so important. And I've been on Zoom calls all day long. And you're like, Yeah, but that's not good. You don't do anything constructive in that time. Usually, it's the meetings and meetings have to be well balanced of meeting and brain work, collaboration and brain work.

Yeah. No, I've always really. No, I don't mind when people cancel a call or move a call, or no, I've ever had someone say to me, like, I don't need to be honest, I won't attend. But like, I think people need to enforce those boundaries. And not just because, you know, another call crept up at the same time, which is how it normally happens, but because you know, you're working towards a deadline, or you do have a, you know, a family commitment that maybe doesn't have to happen in that block. No, but is there a reason why it should, you know, happen to that time that would make it better for your life, you know, like your colleagues just putting calls on your calendar, you know, they don't know what's going on with your full work and life schedule. So it's really up to the individual as well that like, let you know, let people know or just enforce the boundary. And you know, you don't need to give your whole personal backstory. But I think the more people do that the more normalizes, like, not attending every single thing.

Yeah, well, that's I think that's a good point. I think there's, I mean, I remember even before the days of zoom and Skype sitting on these conference calls are 2030 people, and there's no way he's gonna contribute something valuable. But you're on there because you've been told to be on there or whatever it is, and that's such a costly exercise for a company. I prefer I think nowadays next year, we are talking in a group about this other day. meetings need to be short. Calls, call meetings, at least You know, not not even 30 minutes, 15 minutes, 25 minutes, that sort of range, unless you're doing something like a workshop, which which warrants a full hour, hour and a half. Yeah, because it's, it's exhausting. And you're not getting, you know, it's diminishing returns over time. People need to have breaks and recharge and come in with some good motivation.

Totally, I mean, it's almost like they having these all back to back, you know, our long call they I feel like, at least for me, if I'm on if I have a day like that, I'm not, you know, you're not bringing your best fresh itself to each call. So things maybe that could have taken a shorter amount of time get dragged on longer because you're kind of you don't have time to, you know, prepare before the call. You're hashing more things out live or maybe there's not like a proper agenda or you know, who's who's even leading this call, like, those things tend to happen more and more.

Know Exactly, exactly. Speaking of which, I am being pinged because I'm late for another call. All right. So yeah, it was good to catch up. Okay. Thanks, a judge.

Thank you for listening today's episode, and the big news app producer, editor. Thank you, Heather. For your hard work on this episode. Please subscribe to the series and rate us on iTunes or the Google Play Store. Follow us on Twitter at the DW W podcast. The show notes and transcripts will be available on the website www dot digital workspace that works. Please also visit our website www dot digital workspace that works and subscribe to our newsletter. And lastly, if you found this episode useful, please share with your friends or colleagues.

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