Creating Boundaries in a Virtual Space

Allison Lundberg
May 06, 2021

After a year living through a pandemic, many staff continue to work remotely. Without the hustle and bustle of a commute, picking up kids, running errands, or planning happy hours, work and home life seem to mesh into one. You receive emails and calls after your designated work hours, and you may feel obligated to return the call or answer that email. “It will only take a minute”, you tell yourself. But what if that minute becomes an hour? Are you using your down time to take care of yourself?

That is what I encountered over the past year. My computer was always on in the next room. I would easily pop in and knock out a few emails, do a little work here and there, and feel a bit more accomplished before the next day. It was fun for the first few months at home in 2020, but then I felt as though I set a precedent for myself and my staff. I was always available.

My now toddler was just a baby when the pandemic hit, and even though I was home with my husband all day every day, we all needed that connection, that uninterrupted time together. We both fell into the hole of checking a few emails and quickly realized we didn’t have any boundaries when it came to work. That is when I had to break that late night expectation.

As you look into your work-life balance, how would you rate it? Are you a 10: you log off at quitting time, close your computer and focus on your home-life? Are you a 1: you have your email open at all times, answer the email when it comes through to your phone and are taking every late-night call? Are you a 5: you peek at your emails when something comes through and maybe answer it depending on how important it is?

Now more than ever, we need that break. That absolute disconnect from work that allows you to fully relax, to go outside for fresh air, to hold that promise to yourself and take time just for you.

Here are a few ways you can set boundaries in this seemingly boundless world:

Shut Down Your Computer
It seems simple, but the best way to break the habit of peeking at your email is to make it less available to you. By shutting down your computer, you’re telling yourself “that’s it for today”. Sometimes a physical limitation can help the mental space.

Share Your Plan
If your team now expects you to be available 100% of the time, share the new steps you are taking to separate yourself. It can be as easy as saying “starting this week, I will be unavailable via email after 6pm and am available on my cell but only if there is an urgent need”. By sharing your plan, staff can help hold you accountable, and may even follow suit. A leader taking such an action may encourage their staff to do the same. Be aware that your staff may see you working and feel the need to be working then too.

Take Time Off
In a remote working environment, and during a pandemic, we may feel we don’t need to take time off because of social limitations. But by taking time off, you are giving yourself permission to completely shut off and step away. You must break yourself from feeling guilty if you are not available all day every day. On your day off, you can find a new hiking spot, pick up food from that restaurant you have always wanted to try, or simply rest. Yes, you can take PTO to lay on the couch all day! What your mind and body needs is what you should spend your time off doing.

While it is great to excel at your career, it is also great to say “no”, put up boundaries and allow focus to be on yourself and your family for a change.

This tweet from @KatyLeeson has resonated with me for months:

“We NEED to stop glamourising overworking. Please. The absence of sleep, good diet, exercise, relaxation, and time with friends and family isn’t something to be applauded. Too many people wear their burnout as a badge of honour. And it needs to change.”

This week do an inward self-evaluation. How are you doing? Do you have boundaries in place to have a positive work-live balance? Reevaluate your needs. I give you permission to prioritize you.

Be kind to yourselves and others.

Allison Lundberg is the Manager of Marketing and Communications at Association Management Center. Allison earned her CAE in 2021 and was named a 2020 Forty Under 40 recipient through Association Forum. Allison is responsible for her client’s social media strategy, email marketing campaigns, video productions, and various other aspects that reach members and customers in new, creative ways. After working for a large company, she found her love for associations in 2012 and has been working with them ever since. Associations have presented Allison with many opportunities to grow her skills, volunteer, participate in leadership positions, and have a voice within her company.