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Follow the Leader

Updated: Sep 9, 2022

Let's set the stage. You are 1 year in to our new job at X organization. This is your 3rd job and you're in your early 30s. It's summertime and you've stayed at work until 6:30pm finishing up tasks before you meet a friend for dinner. Returning home, you reluctantly have your phone on ring, just in case. You hear "DING" and it's your work email. Your boss just emailed you about a deliverable they need to finish their work.


Do you respond right away? Wait until tomorrow?

When leaders lack boundaries, so do their employees. A lack of work-life boundaries leads to more time spend working which may lead to burnout.

Pre-Pandemic, more than 25% of employees said that they only left their desk 1x day for lunch. In fact, 55% of employees feel that they can't leave their desk to take a break. That means, employees are too scared of their boss' disapproval to take a break. Now with more remote work, this norm has likely changed. However, new behaviors like blurred boundaries have formed to fill the gap of the don't-leave-your-desk-mindset.

It is natural for us to observe what leaders do and to take after them ourselves. You see this most easily in children, who copy the behavior or words of their parents. Or, more amusingly (or annoyingly) of the younger sibling that won't stop repeating the behavior of the older one. It is human behavior for us to follow the leader.

So, on the flip side, when leaders are on board with healthy work behaviors, it helps both them and their employees have better work-life balance. And boundaries are just one way in which we need to start asking leaders to model balanced behavior.

So, if we want to make changes to our workplaces for #thefutureofwork, it is critical that we not only include leaders in that work but additionally provide particular supports just for them.

Here are 3 behaviors that leaders can model right NOW to start changing the dynamics at their workplace:

  1. Message employees only during work hours. And, schedule send messages when working outside of work hours.

  2. Talk to employees about breaks that you take. This helps normalize the taking of breaks, whether it is walking around the block, taking the afternoon, or going on a vacation.

  3. Work the number of hours that you expect your employees to work.

If you are an employee and don't feel that your boss is modeling these behaviors, try this:

  1. Don't apologize for being offline at times. You are allowed to have time away.

  2. Ask your boss about the boundaries that they prefer. That may open the conversation to what you prefer as well.

  3. And if all else fails, consider taking teeny tiny breaks throughout the day. This could be as short as a 10 second breathing break! Try our One Lung Breathing exercise as an example.

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