As assistants and administrative professionals, creating the perfect work-life balance can be tricky. We often support those with a 24/7 mindset, are required to have a cell phone and use other forms of technology to stay on top of happenings during off hours. However, the type of balance we are hoping to establish isn’t one-size-fits-all; what each of us is seeking out varies tremendously.
Some assistants like to keep clear boundaries, which puts them into the segmenter category. According to an article by the Eblin Group, when a segmenter is at the office, they are all in. When they are not at the office, they make a cognizant effort to fully switch off. Assistants can accomplish this in several ways, such as not answering emails during off time, having a separate work cell phone as well as keeping separate calendars for their work and personal lives.
On the other hand, some assistants like to combine the two, which puts them into the integrator category. The same article by the Eblin Group defines an integrator as someone who blends their work life with their home life by staying connected to the information flow of work. Assistants in this category might carry this out by having a second desk set up at home, spending time during off hours with coworkers discussing work-related items and using their personal cell phone for work calls.
I recently took a poll as I was curious how many assistants fall into each category and was surprised by the results as there is a decent variety. Here are the final figures:
Do you prefer keeping your work life separate from your home life, or do you like blending the two?
If you use a cell phone for your job: Do you have a separate dedicated work cell phone or do you use your personal cell phone?
*Details from the response marked as “other”: On rare occasions
Do you answer work calls, texts or use your phone for any other work-related correspondence (chat apps, etc.) during off hours?
Do you check emails during off hours?
Do you keep your personal schedule in a separate calendar from your work calendar?
*Details from the responses marked as “other”: (1) I have separate Google calendars, but can view them both together, along with my executive’s calendar; (2) I use color coding; different calendars displayed and merged into one calendar
For those who do not have a purely virtual role: Do you have a desk set up at home for work?
*Details from the response marked as “other”: Not applicable
Do you socialize with coworkers outside of work?
*Details from the responses marked as “other”: (1) I don’t have coworkers; (2) Minimal
Are there any other details regarding your work-life balance you would like to add?
There is a lot of flexibility in both directions in my job – personal time/work time – change and bend as life and work require.
Depending on the demands of the role and your personality, it is sometimes necessary to set clear boundaries. I have found I can blend work and personal but set boundaries for myself. I am not tempted to divert my attention during working hours but, if need be, respond after hours. However, I have always had an established cut-off time to allow me to recharge and spend time with my family, friends and participate in my community.
Working from home and/or in the office is the same to me. Same work ethic. Personal life is not part of my workday.
Sometimes work on tasks not finished during the day at home at night.
Creating Your Preferred Balance
It was interesting to find out the variety of preferences and ways in which boundaries are being carried out. Since I noticed some responses seem to imply a desire for a change (ex: only socializing with coworkers outside of work because of feeling pressured to do so), I will share a few tips to help create the balance you are hoping for.
Determine if you are more of a segmenter or an integrator. Sometimes having a bird’s eye view helps to know the general structure of what you are seeking out.
Narrow down each aspect of your job that influences your preferred work-life balance. Get granular here. If you know exactly which things will (or possibly will) come up, then you can properly prepare yourself for all possible imbalances.
Know how much downtime your body needs and include that in the list mentioned in the bullet above. Allowing the time your body needs to decompress not only will help you to feel physically recharged, but mentally as well, which benefits all areas of your life. Be The Dream Assistant recently wrote a fantastic article that gives some fabulous tips for accomplishing this (you can check out the article here).
Begin establishing your preferred boundaries at the start of your job. Once you have been in a role for a long period of time you can adjust boundaries, however it is immensely easier if they are established to your liking at the get go.
Practice assertively communicating your boundaries. I know this can be hard and it can sometimes take a great deal of practice, but it is necessary. Practically Perfect PA perfectly defines assertiveness as being “that nice place in the middle where the two communication styles [of not being overly aggressive or too passive] live happily together.” Practice confidently verbalizing your boundaries in a polite tone. Furthermore, be mindful of your body language so it is just as composed as your words.
Overall, the perfect work-life balance differs for each assistant. Being cognizant of the type of boundaries you prefer and learning how to communicate those can help to create the balance you are looking for. Establishing your ideal work-life balance will help you to feel fulfilled as an assistant and in all other aspects of your life as well.