How HR can communicate the importance of time boundaries

Karen Meager and John McLachlan MSc share their strategies for HR to encourage employees to manage time effectively

When an employee first enters your business, it is common that they will want to do everything they can to make the best first impression possible. This can also occur when someone wants to show off their skills for a potential promotion so will take on as much work, across all areas, as possible. Whilst this can demonstrate their commitment to the business and their role, it can create some very unhealthy working patterns and place unrealistic expectations upon other individuals in the workplace. It is important from the off that HR professionals are creating a working environment that ensures individuals are able to encourage individuals to communicate their time boundaries and work within these. There may be instances such as a tight deadline or big project that may require some extra hours, but this should always be the exception, not the rule and employee wellbeing should be the priority.

Encourage individuals to communicate their own time boundaries

When lots of individuals come together in the workplace it can be difficult to establish a working environment that is ‘right’ for everyone. Of course for efficiency and organisation there needs to be some rules around expectations for the amount of work completed; however this is not to say that everyone needs to be working the same pattern of hours in the same place or on the same days. Consider why it is so important for individuals to be in the office for particular hours. We all have differing life commitments and different time boundaries and it is important that HR is encouraging individuals to be vocal in these. It is important to reiterate that a ‘no’ on some occasions does not automatically mean someone is not committed to the business and may, in fact reflect healthy time boundaries as they recognise that they have other important tasks that require attention or they are at full capacity.

Show employees the way

For the importance of time boundaries to really take hold, both HR and leaders need to be clearly demonstrating how they adhere to their own boundaries and role-model expected behaviours. If HR are trying to promote well-being and downtime by discouraging employees from regularly working past their contracted hours, these same leaders should not then be seen always staying late or regularly sending emails late at night or early in the morning – actions speak much louder than words. Employees will feel much more comfortable communicating if a proposed task goes outside their time boundaries if they can see that HR and the senior leaders have respected each other’s time boundaries previously – thereby promoting healthy working patterns.

Create meaningful relationships and happy employees

Encouraging employees to vocalise their time boundaries brings with it many benefits beyond time management. These open and honest lines of communication create meaningful relationships that are built upon mutual respect for what one another needs as everyone knows where they stand with each other and clearly see what is acceptable. For example, the quality of decisions made will increase as these will be based upon the individual’s own knowledge and expertise, not guided by what they think other people want to happen. Similarly, they will feel more motivated to pursue choices that closely aligns with what is important to them.

These boundaries also hold great importance for relationships. It is common for us to say ‘yes’ to clients and ‘no’ to colleagues when the pressure is on however this is detrimental across both sets of relationships. The most effective working relationships with clients are the ones where you are both respectful of each others boundaries; such as not demanding work after typical working hours or with unreasonable deadlines. Not saying yes to everything means that you best recognise where your skills lie and can allocate your time to the most important tasks, or maintaining the best relationships possible with your colleagues.

It is essential that everyone in the workplace feels comfortable voicing their time boundaries and HR can help to create a conducive environment to do so. This helps everyone to forge meaningful relationships built upon mutual respect and creates psychological safety within the organisation where leaders signpost healthy working process.


About the authors

Karen Meager and John McLachlan MSc set up Monkey Puzzle Training and Consulting to support leaders and teams in their professional and personal growth through training, coaching and business strategy events. They take the latest scientific and academic thinking and make it accessible and usable in peoples’ work and everyday life.

Monkey Puzzle teach people to understand their thought processes and why they (and others) behave in the way they do. These skills enable individuals to choose how they want to behave to get the results they want, which leads to a less stressful, more fulfilling life. You can access the first chapter of their book Time Mastery here.