'How Do I Disconnect When I'm Away From My Office?' | Working Mother

'How Do I Disconnect When I'm Away From My Office?'

A mom's new workplace insists on communicating during off-hours. Experts weigh in on what she should do.

Woman checking phone

If your boss buzzes after hours, must you reply?

Photo: Tony Tallec/Alamy

Q: "I recently started at a new company where the entire team communicates on Slack, sending instant messages over weekends and even on holidays. I like to unplug when I’m away from the office and enjoy quality time with my family. Can I go incommunicado without being a bad co-worker?"

A: The first thing you should do: Casually chat with your new co-workers to see if they feel obligated to be online every day or if they do it voluntarily, says Lucy English, Ph.D., a human resources consultant.

If they confirm that it’s an unspoken (or stated!) rule of the office, then discuss your dilemma with your manager. “Tell her that in the past you’ve found your time off to be important and restorative, and that you’d like to better understand the expectations,” says Dr. English. It might be necessary for you to have some availability on your days off. If that’s the case, then clearly lay out when you can and can’t be reached for whatever reason, adds Kori Renn, head of coaching and student services for the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.

Still, Denise Dudley, author of Work It! Get In, Get Noticed, Get Promoted, suggests adding one other vital message, about your availability in emergencies. Make clear that “you realize there might be extenuating circumstances that make it necessary for you to be contacted on your time off and that you’ll be right there, as a valued and reliable member of the team,” she says.

But use the tech to your advantage. For example, Slack allows users to create separate channels for different purposes. Suggest creating an urgent channel for messages that absolutely need to be answered over the weekend—and save the Game of Thrones recaps for another channel.


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