Remote Work Is Blurring Work-Life Boundaries. Here’s How 7 Companies Add Definition.

As businesses nationwide have shifted to remote work due to the coronavirus pandemic, employees are experiencing blurred lines between work and home. 

As a result, many workers are clocking in longer hours, attending more meetings and ultimately, feeling serious burnout. To combat this trend, companies have refocused their attention on the work-life balance of their teams.  

 

Written by Kelly O'Halloran
Published on Oct. 27, 2020
Remote Work Is Blurring Work-Life Boundaries. Here’s How 7 Companies Add Definition.
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As businesses nationwide have shifted to remote work due to the coronavirus pandemic, employees are experiencing blurred lines between work and home. 

As a result, many workers are clocking in longer hours, attending more meetings and ultimately, feeling serious burnout. To combat this trend, companies have refocused their attention on the work-life balance of their teams.  

Through allocated resources and processes that aim to create healthy boundaries between work and home life, the following Colorado tech companies are combating burnout with every tool at their disposal. 

For instance, at the cryptocurrency trading platform ShapeShift, engineers who log late hours to suppress a system attack are immediately given time off, “even if they want to work,” said Scott Gralnick, director of global partnerships.

At DHI Group, CTO Paul Farnsworth said he sets attainable sprint schedules and project deadlines from the onset to help his team maintain balance. 

“Checking in on bandwidth and ensuring that good processes are in place are more important than ever,” Farnsworth said. 

Built In Colorado connected with Farnsworth, Gralnick and leaders from five other tech companies to learn how they prevent and address burnout.

 

Scott Gralnick
Director of Global Partnerships • ShapeShift

It’s ShapeShift’s goal to make sure employees never get to the point where they feel overworked, Scott Gralnick said. Still, it happens. When it does, the crypto services company promotes open communication across the teams so employees feel comfortable asking for assistance or time off. 

 

What examples do you set as a leader of remote workers to ensure employees feel empowered to create and uphold healthy work-life boundaries?

We believe it’s not about the time you put in, but about the outcome of your achievements and goals that matter most. Everyone has their own routines, and we want to provide the resources and communication tools to harness the best out of our team members so we can all succeed. 

 

Say a remote employee came to you and said they were feeling overworked. How do you address the situation? 

We promote mental and physical wellness programs and give time off whenever possible. We encourage an open environment where everyone feels safe to communicate what their needs are before they get to a breaking point. It comes down to trusting your team members and our team members trusting in us to provide for their wellness. 

It’s inevitable that we have people on the team that are going to need to put in late nights out of the blue. For example, if your systems get attacked in the middle of the night, you wake up the team and deal with it.

Our engineers eagerly tackle challenges as they come up, even at late hours when an unexpected fix is needed. In those cases we make sure to immediately give them time off — even if they want to work. 
 

So we don’t lose the charm of our weekly catered lunches, we give employees a Grubhub stipend.”  

 

What are some specific perks ShapeShift offers remote workers to ensure they have the resources they need?

The first thing we realized was not everyone had a home office. We wanted to help our team feel comfortable, so we sent our employees home with equipment that helps create a positive workspace. We also provide an internet stipend, and so we don’t lose the charm of our weekly catered lunches, we give employees a Grubhub stipend to use for our open Zoom “lunch room.” 

 

Lionel Sotomayor
Senior Product Analyst

To help Alto employees be successful while working from home, the online pharmacy and delivery company offers educational stipends. Employees have used this for trainings on time management, stakeholder communication and data science and analytics. Lionel Sotomayor, a senior product analyst, shared how else Alto aims to make remote work easier. 


What examples do you set as a leader of remote workers to ensure employees feel empowered to create and uphold healthy work-life boundaries?

As a leader on the team, I’ve shared Google Docs to leverage the Pomodoro technique, along with active time-blocking on my calendar to set aside time for my biggest priorities. While this helps with staying productive, this also helps delineate when I can be expected to be online. This pairs well with our agile methodology, where we can look ahead to scope time needed for upcoming projects and analyses. With these boundaries set, it’s also important to have a way of “transitioning” from work to personal time. I personally love dog walks to start and end my day.

Outside of our virtual office, I look through the upcoming month or two and publicly add “out of the office” invites on my team’s calendar to set the norm that despite having to shelter in place, it’s perfectly appropriate to take time off.

 

How do you address when an employee tells you they are feeling burned-out? What’s the most important step you take to help that employee find balance?

Our mantra revolves around transparency and direct access to healthcare, and it’s applicable to both our patients and employees. When we’ve run up against burnout risk, the best method I’ve found is to set aside discovery time. During this time, we break down the projects and tasks that an analyst has on their radar and identify the areas that are consuming the most time or contributing the most “urgency” stress. We empower them to redefine expectations and goals with stakeholders and keep visibility on how each item fits into the coming roadmap. Not surprisingly, our business partners are amazing at helping to remove obstacles for teammates. 

The most important thing we as a team have done is set a culture of collaboration. We’ve set up judgement-free zones to come together to listen to and support each other. On the preventive side, we have set aside time on Friday for team lunches and non-agenda connecting time, which are great for connecting and learning more about each other. When we get to the end of every sprint, we hold retrospectives which allow us to speak candidly on where we succeeded, learn from where we slipped, and share examples on the various challenges we’re tackling.
 

We’ve set up judgement-free zones to come together to listen to and support each other.

 

What perks does Alto offer to support employees while working remotely?

We offer reimbursement for courses and online training for time management, stakeholder communication, and furthering our talents in data science and analytics. Alto also provides discounts for standing desks if we want to upgrade our home office. For taking time off, Alto provides 10 holidays along with 10 sicks days annually. On top of that, we encourage every team member to “take what you need” for vacations, so that there is flexibility in creating a schedule that works for your personal and familial needs. 

 

Michaela Conserva
Quality Assurance Supervisor • ezCater

Even before COVID-19, maintaining a healthy work-life balance has been a cornerstone of online catering marketplace ezCater’s culture, Michaela Conserva said. The quality assurance supervisor said she asks about work-life balance routinely in one-on-ones and has enacted key leadership practices to ensure she doesn’t contact her team when they are off. 

 

What examples do you set as a leader of remote workers to ensure employees feel empowered to create and uphold healthy work-life boundaries?

As leaders, we regularly speak about work-life balance in one-on-ones. We also encourage our teams to take time off to recharge and set guidelines that make room for unexpected things outside of work that may need their attention during work hours from time to time. I pause my Slack channel notifications when I’m not working and encourage my team to do the same. I also utilize the draft feature in Slack and the schedule-to-send feature in Gmail to not contact my team when they are off. 
 

I utilize the draft feature in Slack and the schedule-to-send feature in Gmail to not contact my team when they are off.” 

 

How do you address when an employee tells you they are feeling overworked? What’s the most important step you take to help that employee find balance?

First, I’d listen. Burnout doesn’t happen overnight. I’d ask about what has been happening to make them feel this way. Then we can look for data to see what insights we might find. For example, are they using all of their break time, or consistently working longer hours? We’d set clear boundaries between work time and non-work time that are specific and actionable. 

 

What perks does ezCater offer to support employees while working remotely?

At the beginning of the pandemic, our people team initiated ways to accommodate unplanned time away from work and adjusted shifts as much as possible. Everyone felt empowered to take the time needed to care for themselves or their families. We schedule periodic mental health days for everyone to rest and unwind and have an ezWellness team that hosts twice-weekly meditation and mindfulness sessions over Zoom. 

 

Alex Silvers
Manager, Customer Support • Skupos

As a manager in customer support for the data analytics company Skupos, Alex Silvers said it can sometimes feel like the pile of support tickets is never ending — a feeling that’s intensified since working remotely. By setting boundaries around her time and having open conversations with her team, she said she’s been able to overcome that feeling.

 

What examples do you set as a leader of remote workers to ensure employees feel empowered to create and uphold healthy work-life boundaries?

Setting the right example as a leader is crucial. As a manager, I believe it is important to speak openly about the struggle with overworking and the feeling of anxiety that a lot of employees face when wondering if they should put in that additional hour. I work to cultivate an open environment where employees feel safe enough to let myself or other leaders know when they are feeling burned-out without fear of feeling like they aren’t doing enough. By utilizing discretionary time off at Skupos, we have the ability to schedule out mental health days on our team. From the beginning of our remote work, I have made it a point to talk openly in our team meetings about setting boundaries and how it is crucial to your success as an employee to do so. Bringing down the stigma around “not working enough” is important; employees are at their best when they feel supported and rested.

I work to practice what I preach by having open conversations with my leadership about what I can and cannot do and by setting boundaries around my time.

 

How do you address when an employee tells you they are feeling overworked? What’s the most important step you take to help that employee find balance?

I open the floor to them, listen to why they are feeling burned-out and then begin to address what is driving it. If the employee needs time away from the computer, we look at their time off and see if there is the ability to schedule out a much-needed mental health or wellness day. If it is workload, we go back to the expectations that were set and make sure that it is a realistic and attainable goal. On my team, I find that a lot of burnout comes from wanting to go the extra mile. Setting clear expectations and performance metrics from the beginning is key to making employees feel like they are putting in enough effort and helping them feel empowered in their role.

Bringing down the stigma around not working enough is important.” 

 

What perks does Skupos offer to support employees while working remotely?

Skupos has been a great partner throughout this remote time and has scheduled multiple company-wide wellness days to ensure employees are taking a day to reset and recharge. Additionally, our people team has gone above and beyond providing managers with resources to help employees, adjusting our commute stipend to a wellness stipend, and inviting speakers, wellness coaches and trainers to lead us through mindfulness activities and events like yoga, game night and virtual cheers.

 

Paul Farnsworth

Paul Farnsworth, CTO at the career marketplaces developer DHI Group, noted how blurry the lines have become between personal and work time since going remote. To help define that time, he stressed how important it is for leaders to only reach out to their teammates during typical working hours. 

 

What examples do you set as a leader of remote workers to ensure employees feel empowered to create and uphold healthy work-life boundaries?

The challenge becomes when leaders want to overdeliver but don’t understand the full scope of workloads. For my team members, which are primarily technologists, we set sprint schedules and projects so that work is completed on an attainable deadline. Checking in with teams on bandwidth and ensuring that good processes are in place is more important than ever.

As a leader, you set the actions you want for your team by example. Therefore, you have to control the tendency to not reach out to team members outside of typical office hours and respect the line between work and home, despite how blurry it has become due to the pandemic. 

 

How do you address when an employee tells you they are feeling burned-out? What’s the most important step you take to help that employee find balance?

We have a lot of passionate, hardworking team members in our organization, many of which want to outperform and deliver best-in-class products to our customers. The challenge is often prioritizing the most important initiatives, but, as the leader of our technology organization, it’s my job to prioritize projects so that no one team member feels overburdened. 

If it does happen that our team members feel too stretched, we as a leadership team come together to discuss what’s the most important thing to accomplish now and what can wait. Flexibility and proper prioritization are keys to ensuring progress and work satisfaction.
 

As a leader, you set the actions you want for your team by example.” 
 

What perks does DHI Group offer to support employees while working remotely?

When we began our company-wide remote work policy, our team checked in with all 500-plus employees to understand what tech equipment they needed to effectively work from home. While there was a cost to the company to get our team members the resources they needed, in the long run, it set us up for success as there was little disruption to working when everyone had what they needed. Of course, there was no resource or equipment solution for the other remote work challenges, such as children, roommates and pets!

As a leadership team, we also offered summer Fridays to all employees, allowing everyone to end their Friday two hours early to refresh and enjoy down-time away from the computer. We received such positive feedback from our employees that we extended flexible Fridays through the end of the year.

 

Jillian Robinson
Manager, Customer Support • Name.com

To trigger the brain that the workday is over, Jillian Robinson recommended an end-of-work ritual, like packing the work laptop into a backpack. Robinson, a manager at domain registrar Name.com, shared other tips for managing workload while working remotely. 

 

What examples do you set as a leader of remote workers to ensure employees feel empowered to create and uphold healthy work-life boundaries?

We recognize when teammates go above and beyond to work extra hours to assist where needed, but we do not encourage this to be the expectation. We reiterate to hourly employees to always be clocked-in when they are working and to set boundaries with co-workers and friends and family outside of work to ensure they can be productive during working hours and productive in their home life during non-working hours. We regularly discuss in team meetings and in one-on-ones what tips and tricks you can use to separate your work time and space from your personal life. 

For example, one teammate packs her laptop in her backpack at the end of her shift. Although she is not leaving to transport her backpack, the habit of putting it in her bag triggers her mind to mentally end the work day and use her same desk for personal hobbies. We encourage everyone to be honest in how they are feeling and to make necessary adjustments to feel most comfortable in this work-life balance. If any adjustments fall outside of our purview, we notify HR to step in with specialized skills and additional resources that may further assist. 

 

How do you address when an employee tells you they are feeling overworked? What’s the most important step you take to help that employee find balance?

First, we allow the employee to speak about how they are feeling. This is important so you don’t assume what they are feeling overwhelmed about. After discussing specific details, we ask what steps the employee has taken for this situation. This encourages the employee to recognize what steps are in their control, what actions they are empowered to take and what additional help they need, while removing any incorrect assumptions the employer may have made about what steps were being taken. Next, we review the workload and adjust it. This can include discussing approaches to time management, resetting priorities for specific tasks and asking other teammates for assistance if needed. We collaborate together and discuss a plan that will relieve the employee while also achieving targeted deadlines. 
 

We recognize when teammates go above and beyond to work extra hours to assist where needed, but we do not encourage this to be the expectation.”

 

What perks does Name.com offer to support employees while working remotely?

We ensure that employees are working on company-provided devices instead of using their own computers, keyboards and headphones. Any additional items are reviewed to be compensated as well, including desks, chairs and ways to optimize internet connectivity and bandwidth.

Our company offers online company gatherings that have included the following: emotional intelligence (EQ) training from an outside consultant in recognizing your personal feelings and what perspectives can allow you to be happier when working with others in a team environment, yoga and stretching sessions led by an instructor, and coffee happy hours.

 

 

Jen Roberts
Sr. Sales Manager • Funding Circle

Working from home has made it harder for leadership to show their appreciation for their team members. Funding Circle, a platform connecting businesses with investors, has implemented several tactics, like sending gifts in the mail and food stipends, to help. Jen Roberts, a senior sales manager, walked Built In CO through how else the company has adjusted to support its employees.

 

What examples do you set as a leader of remote workers to ensure employees feel empowered to create and uphold healthy work-life boundaries?

The first step in empowering others is to hold yourself to the same standard. I believe in putting forth all my effort during my working hours, but I also believe in having the same dedication to other aspects of my life, like my family, friends and personal goals. Doing so requires focus and presence of mind. For me, that means making that transition in my day. Though I wait until after working hours to make personal phone calls, I also wait until the next day to answer a work Slack or email that isn’t urgent. 

I used to find turning work off hard to do, so now I have a routine that involves making the transition from work to life. Every day when I end work, I put my laptop away until the next morning, and I do a transition ritual that helps take my mind off of whatever stressful task I was focused on. Most days, I run my dog, and when I walk back into the house, I’m no longer in work mode. My team never receives an email from me after hours and it empowers them to do the same. 

 

How do you address when an employee tells you they are feeling overworked? What’s the most important step you take to help that employee find balance?

I think it’s important to understand why someone is feeling burned-out. Is it because they’ve blurred the lines between life and work? Is it because they are going through something stressful in their personal life? If it’s from working too much, I encourage them to disconnect by creating end-of-work habits similar to mine. Burnout often happens to employees that don’t make a pointed effort to take time off, which means the first step is to encourage them to do so. Once that’s done, it’s all about future maintenance and making sure they have a plan in place to make sure overwork doesn’t happen again. We perform better when we feel mentally sharp. Burnout shouldn’t be a cycle, but something that we take steps in proactively preventing altogether.
 

Burnout shouldn’t be a cycle, but something that we take steps in proactively preventing altogether.

 

What perks does Funding Circle offer to support employees while working remotely?

Some of the benefits we’ve provided include a budget for home office equipment, learning programs on how to succeed while working from home, a healthcare-provided mental assistance program, and a wellness program. We also show our appreciation through food stipends during remote work events and surprise gifts. We’ve slotted in fun and casual breaks into our work week, including a “say hi” session for those who miss seeing folks in our break area, a “day in the life” of a fellow Circler or a Friday game time. 

 

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