With more nonprofit professionals working from home during the pandemic, some of you are experiencing a new problem: coworkers and bosses who suddenly want to be in constant communication with you. Of course, we communicators desperately need our coworkers to talk to us in order for us to do our jobs well, but not ALL DAY, EVERY DAY.
Let’s tackle this situation using our Four Steps to Work Through Collaboration Problems.
Name the Problem
Naming the problem helps you depersonalize it.
“Work-Life Balance” is a term that just about everyone will understand. This isn’t about you being unresponsive, it’s about being responsive to the right people in your life (work people AND family/friend people AND yourself) at the right times of day.
Help Others See the Problem
How is it in the best interest of others to solve this problem with you?
You can tackle this in a few different ways. For starters, you aren’t being paid to work 24 hours a day, so gently pointing that out and being clear about your “on” and “off” hours could be helpful.
But you might want to look at larger internal communications and office culture issues too. Many organizations are implementing “no email after work” policies. Some use certain channels for certain things, including emergency after-hours comms. For example, if they truly need you, they should call you on the phone rather than relying on you checking email. But with that comes a fairly strict list of what constitutes an after-hours emergency.
Design Simple Rules
Simple rules are frameworks that help you make decisions faster and work more efficiently.
Once you’ve talked through what’s appropriate and what’s not in regards to both different internal communications channels and the timing around those, it’s a great idea to document that in an internal communications charter. Expectations for how quickly certain messages will be read and replied to (including after hours) is a must-include.
To design some rules, consider “If/Then” scenarios: If this happens, then it’s OK to contact whom by what means and when?
Also think about boundary rules: What is always a Yes or always a No/Never with internal communications?
Timing rules can help too: What kind of event or sequence of events would trigger off-hours communications?
Set Personal Boundaries
Boundaries are made up of Yes and No. Boundaries are absolutely essential for communications directors who want to be of service to their organizations without becoming servants to their coworkers.
An internal communications charter only works when implemented and enforced. Model good behavior for others! If you don’t want to talk after 6 pm, for example, don’t pick up the phone, and don’t initiate the calls yourself. Same for email! In the absence of a formal internal comms plan, simply tell your coworkers when you will check which channels and when you won’t. You might be surprised by how happy they are that someone “went first” and put it out there!
If you have additional advice for dealing with this situation, please share in the comments!