Setting Boundaries: Let’s Chat About Your Work Hours

Setting Boundaries: Let's Chat About Your Work Hours

When you have an employee manual at your fingertips, it’s easy to know what your colleagues expect from you. Working hours, time off and company communication best practices stare back at you in black and white.

When you’re self-employed, expectations blur.

Some clients may treat you like an employee, assuming you’re available during their office hours. Others may think that since you work from a home office, you’re accessible seven days a week.

I want to share a quick story about setting professional work hours boundaries with your clients. (It’s good for both you and them!)

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A Quick Weekend Message

A few weeks ago a client emailed me on a Saturday afternoon.

While taking time away from my desk, I saw the notification pop in on my cellphone. Since I knew he was online, I decided to reply, because his answer would help me plan for a project scheduled for the start of the week.

Presumably, both of us had this particular Saturday off work, but we both engaged.

Now, Reverse the Scenario

On a future weekend, when I was working, I lingered over my inbox waiting for the information I needed from this client.

He reached out to me on a weekend in the past, and I replied. I figured he’d do the same, especially since we had discussed earlier in the week that I’d be at my desk on Saturday working on the project.

I waited and grew increasingly frustrated when I didn’t get the anticipated email.

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We Need to Communicate More

Looking back, this situation could have been avoided if we had both shared our working hours and expectations. Neither one of us set boundaries at the onset of the project — both expecting the other to be available whenever we needed input.

Poor communication. Lack of boundaries. Unfounded expectations. Do these sound familiar to you? When schedules get busy, it’s easy to become apathetic. Mindless assumptions cause unnecessary stress, a breakdown in your professional relationship, working unplanned hours and may lead to even more hours at your desk correcting related missteps.

Thankfully all of these issues can be remedied with direct, frequent communication. Be straightforward about your availability and working hours with everyone on the team, whether they are employees or freelancers.

Unless your client-contractor agreement is ridiculously detailed, and updated per project, you’ve likely experienced some encroachment on your personal time, or expected to hear back when your client was away from their office.

How do you communicate your working hours? Are they negotiated per project? Per client? Per week?

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Note: This post was last updated on January 2, 2023.

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