How to Help Remote Workers Manage Boundaries

Topic(s): stress, wellness, work-family balance
Publication: Journal of Vocational Behavior
Article: Who moved my boundary? Strategies adopted by families working from home
Authors: M. Shirmohammadi, M. Beigi, W.C. Au, C. Tochia
Reviewed by: Tyler Cowley

While the concept of working from home and managing boundaries has been a topic of discussion for some time, the recent shift towards remote work has significantly amplified the importance of this subject. This article delves into the importance of setting and implementing boundaries for employees engaged in remote work.

WORKING FROM HOME AND BOUNDARY MANAGEMENT

The authors (Shirmohammadi et al., 2023) conducted a study that explored the experiences of dual income families. These families had to meet specific criteria to qualify for the study, namely, having school-aged children and two parents working from home. Data was gathered from 28 households in various countries, including China, Iran, Malaysia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The researchers conducted 56 interviews that lasted 60-90 minutes each.

The findings revealed that many of these families were navigating the challenges of both parents working from home for the first time. Consequently, many families were finding success through trial and error. Throughout this process, four key strategies emerged for establishing boundaries: (1) Repurposing the home space, (2) revisiting family members’ responsibilities, (3) aligning family members’ schedules, and (4) distributing technology access and use.

Further, the study identified five strategies for implementing these boundaries: (1) Appointing an informal boundary overseer, (2) maintaining live boundary agreements, (3) enhancing family communication, (4) providing incentives or consequences for boundary adherence or violation, and (5) outsourcing or asking for help from people outside of the household.

PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS FOR ORGANIZATIONS 

The authors suggest three ways for organizations to support remote employees.

  • Supervisors can assign tasks that allow employees with inflexible schedules to work at their own pace. This approach not only enhances productivity, but also shows support for diverse needs, leading to a more satisfied and motivated workforce.
  • Employees should be encouraged to collaborate with their partners on optimizing their home environment, redefining roles, and enhancing family communication. It is crucial to establish clear systems that will help employees balance work commitments and maintain harmony at home.
  • Organizations should train managers to address employee needs with empathy and flexibility. This is crucial for those working remotely; it helps them feel supported, understood, and appreciated.

 

Shirmohammadi, M., Beigi, M., Au, W. C., & Tochia, C. (2023). Who moved my boundary? Strategies adopted by families working from home. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 143, 103866.

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