Out of hours or out of hours? Finding the balance

06 October 2021

Out Of Hours Hc

Working from home has paved the way to flexibility for many of us, we can choose more convenient hours, schedule around our commitments and reduce our expenses. But the same enhanced flexibility that benefits you benefits other people too, and that can have hidden costs.

For example, what do you do if every day you wake up to dozens of missed emails because a co-worker works earlier or later hours, especially if they are your boss?

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Knowing when to draw the line

It can be hard to deal with an influx of communication that continues around the clock. You don’t want to feel like you never leave the office but unfortunately this is what has happened to many remote professionals.

About 35.9% of the UK’s employed population worked from home last year according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), saving time on commuting but averaging 6 hours of unpaid overtime each week. Considering the average UK commute is about an hour a day, over the course of a week the average homebound professional saves only one hour instead of seven.

Many of us struggle to say no when it comes to work/life balance, and whilst it’s great to be passionate about our work, we have to know when to draw the line. Every now and then circumstances may require that you work a little overtime, but if this is adding up to regularly, consistently going way beyond your contracted hours, then you need to say no, or consider re-negotiating your contract.

Put in some boundaries

If you find yourself inundated with requests for calls, meetings or to respond to emails at unacceptable hours, it’s time for an (appropriately scheduled) conversation. You need to communicate to your team and co-workers exactly what your core working hours are and why it is important to respect them.

There may be times when you have to go outside of hours to deal with a work emergency, but make it clear what constitutes an emergency, last minute requests are not. If a genuine crisis emerges, make sure your colleagues have a reliable way of contacting you.

Manage your expectations

Sometimes when you wake up to multiple emails in the morning it isn’t because you missed some terribly urgent work event, but just because you work differing hours to others. Unless emails are marked as urgent, there is no need to stress out over them.

Instead take your time to read through emails calmly and respond appropriately. It is natural that there may be some overlap in working schedules so set time aside each morning, or whenever you begin your day, to work through them.

Self discipline

Out of hours communication can also be partly self inflicted. If you regularly exceed core hours to work on projects and tasks, other colleagues may become aware you haven’t left work yet, so don’t be surprised if they mistake this for you still being available.

You may need to work on your organisation skills to better juggle your workload in future, or you may just be a workaholic, and struggle to disconnect. In either case it’s essential to enforce your working hours, you have to police yourself, so when it comes to the end of the working day, switch off all work related devices.

Work in progress

As we adjust to new ways of working there will always be teething problems, but through continued open communication, understanding and adaptability, we can all persevere, however and wherever we work.

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