Let’s talk about a topic that’s been on my mind lately: the boundaries between work and personal life. I’ve been thinking about what this means both as an employee and as a consultant. I know from my own experience that setting boundaries – in either position – has its own challenges.  

As an employee  

The standard working week usually involves 7.5 or 8 hours a day, but what happens once that clock strikes the end of the day? Who really owns your time outside of those working hours? Should your organisation have a say in what you do in your personal life? Or how ‘interruptable’ you should be when away from work. And, more importantly, why does it sometimes seem like there are different rules for different people? 

In today’s connected world, the lines between work and personal life can blur, especially with remote working becoming more prevalent. While it’s essential to be dedicated and responsible in our jobs, it’s equally crucial to maintain a healthy work-life balance.  

Here are a few thoughts on this matter for those working as employees: 

  • Boundaries are key: Setting clear boundaries between work and personal time is vital for our well-being. It allows us to recharge, focus on personal pursuits, and maintain a healthy work/life balance. 
  • Personal Freedom: Outside of your contractual hours, your time should generally be yours to use as you see fit. Your organisation should respect your autonomy and personal life choices. 
  • Exceptions exist: Some roles and industries may require employees to be on-call or have specific commitments outside of regular hours. However, these expectations should be clearly communicated and fairly applied. 
  • Equality matters: The perception of different rules for different people can erode trust and morale. It’s important for organisations to be consistent in their policies and treat all employees fairly. 
  • Open dialogue: If you feel your personal time is being encroached upon unjustly, don’t hesitate to discuss it with your employer or HR. Constructive dialogue can lead to better understanding and potential solutions. 

The balance between work and personal life is a shared responsibility. As professionals, we should prioritise our well-being and set boundaries when needed. Organisations, in turn, should respect those boundaries and maintain fairness in their policies and expectations. 

As a consultant 

Consultants are often sought after for their specialised knowledge and insights. Clients rely on us to provide solutions, strategies, and recommendations based on our expertise. But does this mean we’re also expected to work beyond the scope of our contracts, perhaps without extra remuneration?  

There is a fine line between expertise and expectations, especially when it comes to going the extra mile without compensation. 

Here are a few considerations: 

  • Expertise vs Execution: Consultants are typically hired for their expertise and guidance. While we provide valuable recommendations, the responsibility for executing those recommendations often lies with the client’s team. 
  • Define the scope of work: It’s essential to define clear project scopes and expectations from the beginning to avoid ‘scope creep’, where additional work is piled on without any additional payment. 
  • Value vs. Free Labour: There’s another fine line between demonstrating value by going the extra mile and providing free labour. It’s crucial to assess whether the extra work aligns with your contract and is fair to both parties. 
  • Effective Communication: Open and transparent communication with clients is key. Discuss any additional work or changes in scope and agree on terms before proceeding. 
  • Value Proposition: Consultants should focus on delivering value. Sometimes, going above and beyond is necessary to achieve the desired outcomes and build long-term client relationships. 

Remember, your time and knowledge are valuable assets, and it’s okay to negotiate fair terms that benefit both you and your client. Don’t forget that being dedicated to your job doesn’t mean placing it above all other priorities, or feeling obliged to do extra things when you shouldn’t have been asked to do them.  

What about you? 

What are your thoughts and experiences regarding the expectations placed on either employees or consultants? The two positions are different, but the struggle to maintain your work/life balance can be the same! Have you encountered situations where you had to navigate this delicate balance?  What was effective at helping you to strike that balance? Let’s continue the conversation!