Stop Apologizing for Having a Life Outside of Work

February 2022


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An article in The Atlantic recently had people talking about a byproduct of working remotely: unreasonable accessibility. The author wanted workers to stop apologizing for not quickly responding to emails, texts or chats.

Micromanagers and time-challenged coworkers need everyone to keep in touch while on the clock. That’s fair. But what is not is the quiet disdain for those who don’t respond to a request quickly enough. That was the point of The Atlantic piece: When everyone is asking for your attention at the same time, someone’s going to have to wait. And we shouldn’t need to defend such a delay.

Here are tips on how to strike that balance and not feel compelled to apologize for achieving it.

Audit your time

Before you can figure out how to have better work-life integration, you need to know how you spend your time. Keeping track of every minute for a couple of weeks typically is revealing. You may find you spend as much time communicating about a project as actually completing it. On the flipside, you may find your kids get less of your attention than friends in social media feeds.

Segment your weeks and days

If you have multiple jobs, clients or projects, devote days to specific tasks, rather than spread yourself thin. Try to bundle meetings on one or two days so the other two or three can be spent doing deep work.

With clients, commit to working on campaigns or content creation during specific hours or days, and then protect that time by walking away from all distractions. You may find more than your productivity improves. Your mood and work quality will too.

Let your availability be known

You must let people know your availability. They won’t remember what you tell them, so put it in your email signature or an out-of-office reply. Change your voice message to reflect when you’re around and when you aren’t.

Here’s the hard part: Don’t check your email or voice messages during those hours or days. We’re now wired to constantly check messages on our phones, but the moment you respond on a planned day off, you’ve violated your own contract. Colleagues and clients now will too.

There will be occasions when you need to work while officially “off,” but let them be rare.

Work with deadlines, not around them

If you already work four-day workweeks, be sure to establish deadlines that don’t fall on days off. If you can’t control those dates, then be sure to finish ahead of time. And let the recipient know you’re turning in your work early because you are off the day it’s due.

Stop apologizing

If you need a reason for a delayed response, don’t open with “I’m sorry.” Instead, just answer the request and perhaps acknowledge the lag with “Thanks for your patience.”  Unless you’re chronically late or truly letting someone down, there’s no need to assume guilt.

If you’d like more advice on how to handle work hours, clients, and precious time away, be sure to read our series on all of these subjects in our Knowledge Center.

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