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How companies can support employees in keeping effective work/home boundaries (Part 2/5)

Both the organization and the individual have their parts to play in maintaining this type of boundary which is as important to personal well-being as it is to professional productivity. 

14 Oct 2020 | 19 min read

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels


Here at Rungway, there's one belief that is at the heart of what we do - from the product we build to the way we work together as a team: Every Question Matters.

Earlier this month we hosted a webinar entitled “Why bad is stronger than good: How hard-wired biases can undermine your efforts to create a positive workplace culture”.

We had more questions from attendees than we could answer live, and we didn't want to leave them unanswered.  So we sent the questions to our two panellists to get more of their knowledge and experience, and we will publish their responses over the coming weeks. To watch the webinar on-demand or read through the takeaways click here

Q: In a complex organisation, what principles might be put in place to support people in recreating and maintaining effective work/home boundaries?


Annie Coleman
Consultant in culture and conduct and 'C' Suite Executive coach

Emails to be responded to within office hours regardless of when sent.

Use anytime you might have spent commuting in the past as ‘Me time’ for you to spend as you would like. Block it out in your calendar. 

If working from home, create a ritual to end your workday - a walk; meditation; a drink; exercise; lighting a candle; a piece of music. Try and hide or cover up your laptop or desktop for a while - even a plant might do it, to switch off. If you need time off during the day for child care or another home matter tell your Line Manager and block it off in your calendar.  

Productivity needs to be measured by output not numbers of hours on zoom or emails.  Have a discussion with your Line Manager about your goals and how they will be evaluated in this new way of working.


Dr Chris O’Neill
Psychologist, Fellow of Harris Manchester College, Oxford

The international population data indicate that nations with the highest levels of wellbeing and happiness (Denmark and the Scandinavian countries) are those nations whose citizens have a clear and well-balanced separation between work and home life. In those countries, the boundaries between work and home life are reinforced and maintained at the level of national culture, organizational culture, and individual practice.

Both the organization and the individual have their parts to play in maintaining this type of boundary which is as important to personal well-being as it is to professional productivity. 

For the organisation, its practices, policies and leadership need to model good boundary-setting. What this means will vary according to specific circumstances, but may include, for instance, some of the following:

  • Goal-setting and expectations that are clear, realistic and reasonable, not only in terms of the organization’s aims, but also the individual’s need for a healthy work-life balance. 

  • Dead-lines and appraisal criteria that incorporate the same dual perspective.

  • Leaders will need to model their own exemplary good work/life boundaries through their own practice. Here, actions are likely to speak louder than words, for instance by not sending emails, texts or phone messages outside normal working hours, and not expecting responses to these outside normal working hours.   

For the individual, especially when working from home, it is helpful to find practical ways of marking and maintaining the boundaries between work time, and the rest of life. This might include:-

  • Using the power of routine and habit. Setting up a daily routine or timetable and keep to it, so you build up basic good habits of work/life balance and separation. (Turning a reasonable routine into a good habit reinforces the boundaries, and prevents endless boundary-fudging and energy-wasting re-negotiations with oneself).

  • Use the power of boundary-marking rituals. Design rituals to mark the beginning and ending of the work day.

  • Work in a separate place. Where possible, deliberately do your work in a different place from where you relax and live the rest of your life - a different room, or a different area of a room that you only use when working. (eg don’t work on a sofa or bed that is used for non-work parts of your life).

  • Avoid predictable temptations and distractions. From your experience of what circumstances are most likely to lead you to fudge or confuse a clear separation between work and home life, make concrete plans that will help you to avoid the temptations.

  • Make a deal with yourself. When you have worked out what a good work/life balance means for you, make an explicit deal with yourself to keep it; you can also ask someone else to witness the deal and, from time to time, ask you about how well you are keeping the deal.

Those who live alone, feel a lot of pressure from work, or who know they have tendencies to be anxious, perfectionistic or a bit obsessive will need to take especial care of their boundaries!

Research indicates that it is much more effective to build useful habits so you don’t have to use will-power all the time. 

Other interesting research suggests that facing continual distractions, or using will-power rather than habit, is much more energy-consuming than relying on habits and routines; the increased energy demand requires an intake of slow-burn food to keep blood-glucose up. 

This is the second article based on the questions we got during our webinar “Why bad is Stronger than good: How hard-wired biases can undermine your efforts to create a positive workplace culture”. To watch the webinar on-demand click below.


Our commitment to helping companies thrive, not just survive

By creating a supportive space online and offering the safety of controlled anonymity, Rungway help companies to hear the feedback that will inform how they plan for what comes next. And employees from all backgrounds can feel connected and included by having their voices heard on a level playing field while tapping into valuable support from colleagues at every rung of the ladder.

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