Boundaries in the Time of the Coronavirus

Boundaries. One of the most defining aspects of the coronavirus period. Stay at home, or close to it. Stay within the boundaries. That is clear.

And yet there is one boundary that is less clear than ever. It is a boundary that has always challenged us – the boundary between work and home life. For many of us, the home is now the office, which means that we are, effectively, at work 24 hours a day.

A common complaint we’re hearing is that the workday has gotten longer. A lot longer. The morning starts earlier and the end of the workday carries into the late hours of the night. Even the weekend has become legitimate work time, as it’s hard to know which day it is. The result, predictably, is exhaustion and fatigue, the tell-tale signs of approaching burnout. And if we’re not careful, it will affect our productivity, our health, and our relationships.

So what can we do? 

Put the boundaries back. Decide on your work hours and stick to them. Of course, you may need to be flexible. This period is challenging for everyone. Juggling house-bound children, work and housework isn’t easy, and concessions are inevitable.  But even our concessions need limits, and it is up to us to establish them. The following points could make your boundaries more acceptable to the people in your life.

  1. Set realistic boundaries. Many of us are playing multiple roles simultaneously.
  2. Ask your manager to prioritize your tasks, and explain clearly what you have on your plate and the relevant time requirements.
  3. Manage expectations proactively. Tell colleagues in advance when you are available and when not. And remember to be flexible as these are not ordinary times.
  4. Keep your communication positive. Emphasize the times when you are available.
  5. Leave a buffer for exceptions and compromises. Rigidity is only likely to cause stress.
  6. And finally, invite your colleagues to follow your example. You just might create a new and welcome trend.

There’s a lot of talk about the coronavirus period being an opportunity. It is undoubtedly an opportunity to practice setting healthy boundaries.

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