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Boundaries at remote work: start with a lunch break

To say that COVID-19 brought some changes to the work environment is an understatement. Many employees started working fully remote in the urgency for social distancing, without any previous training or deeper discussion on the matter. Because of that, new issues have been arising for the People’s team to solve. One of the many complaints emerging from this new work context is that the imaginary line that separated personal life from professional life has disappeared, or at least, is blurry.



Work and home have never been more intertwined


Although we can [and we would] argue that this line never existed in the first place, it is a fact that work and home have never been more intertwined. This because the worker was not the only one who went [and stayed at] home: along with them, were kids, parents, roommates, etc. Not only this, since now the worker is available at home, it seems that he/she is available at any time. According to Tulshyan, research shows that people are currently spending, on average, 48.5 minutes more at work every day[1].


A need to prove they are indeed working at home (or anywhere)


Talking to people, we see a fear of showing colleagues that they are indeed working (and not taking a nap at home). Being able to reply to a message in less than 5 minutes can prove that they are doing their job. It is funny to see that the absence of physical boundaries, such as room, distance, desk, workplace, contributes to the lack of limits. Coworkers can’t see anymore that the peer is eating or calling some family member. In the office, if the worker was not at his/her desk, there was enough trust from colleagues not to question the break and if he/she was working or not. It seems that this trust is gone at remote work, or at least, there is a sense from employees that this trust is gone.


Start setting boundaries by taking a lunch break


As adults, we should know that we can set boundaries without any physical prompt. An excellent way to start showing that you’re not 100% available all the time for your team is to take your lunch break. Do not eat at your desk or return to work immediately after your plate is empty. Schedule your lunch break, to let all people aware of it, and respect the amount of time you have established for it. If you’re home, you can take advantage of this break to cook your meal, talk to your family, or even take a nap. This is not only good for you but also for your employer. Research shows that people with adequate breaks are more productive and less stressed[2].


Employers need to encourage lunch breaks


Employees can make it even more fun by scheduling to have lunch on a zoom meeting with coworkers or friends. It is important to have a support group to hold each other accountable that the pause in the middle of the day is being respected. It would be even better if employers encourage this break. There are many ways to do that: by having a Slack status for a lunch break or for managers to notify the team that they are taking their lunch break.


Let’s start with a lunch break, for now, to make the working from home trend a healthy one!


[1] TULSHYAN, Ruchika. HBR: Take your Lunch Break!, January, 2021. [2] HASTINGS, Cristobel: https://www.stylist.co.uk/life/working-from-home-skipping-lunch-break-presenteeism-habits/407169

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