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It’s OK to set boundaries (and out-of-office notifications)

Jun 30, 2021

By now most of our clients and people regularly in our inboxes are used to seeing the little addition to our signatures that appears right around Memorial Day and disappears just after Labor Day. It reads …

Summer Fridays at P&G:

It's summer in Michigan, and we believe in the importance of prioritizing things outside of work that feed our souls. Which takes time. We will be taking "Summer Fridays" at Piper & Gold and our office will close at 1 p.m. on Fridays. To ensure our clients continue to be cared for, one team member will be on-call each week, and weekly out-of-office signatures will indicate who you should contact on Friday afternoons if you have an emergency. Otherwise, we'll resume business as usual on Monday mornings. Thanks for supporting and rewarding the hard work and tireless efforts that go into this exhausting work we do, and your understanding in needing space to be inspired and refreshed.

This is our third — maybe fourth?!? — summer Friday-ing after being inspired by our frenemies over at Martin Waymire. In the ensuing years, we’ve noticed we’re not alone. Lots of our agency peers around the country have similar signatures or OOO messages on Friday afternoons.

It may not be novel, but here IS a novel concept: It shouldn’t be necessary.

WTAF does that even mean?

My first inclination while writing this was to type, “It may not be novel, but it’s necessary.” And sheesh … that just made me feel like crap. If people are so stressed out and miserable at work that Friday afternoons off are necessary, then I’m doing something wrong as a leader. 

I don’t want Summer Fridays to feel necessary. I just want people to have a little motivational push to take advantage of the flex time we’ve ALWAYS had in place. Hell, any member of our team could take a summer Friday any week of the year, or every week of the year. We’ve had an established flex time policy for as long as P&G has been a thing, and people are empowered to own their schedules as long as they own their shit and do their jobs. 

But even when you’re given freedom and flexibility, sometimes you need a little nudge to actually use it. Summer Fridays are a collective nudge.

People also need to see their CEOs leading by example. I know I’m not perfect, but I sure as shit try. And one area I try REALLY hard to model sustainable habits is my schedule. Even as an owner, I genuinely strive to not work more than I want to and, realistically, as an avid gardener, bibliophile, wife, mom of a small human, friend, daughter and all those other things, I don’t want to work more than eight-ish hours a day. I’m tired. I haven’t slept well since at least March of 2020. I want to have enough energy at the end of a day to do those things I just listed up there ^^^.

I recognize schedule flexibility is a reflection of privilege, and we must work to normalize boundaries for those of us in a position to set them, and continue to change the systems that make boundary-setting impossible for others.

At the beginning of the pandemic, like many, I found myself forced to model flexibility in my schedule, rather than doing so by choice. 

In the early days, every day was an “I don’t know what my schedule will be today please forgive me while I try to parent and work” crapshoot. But as we gradually figured out this season of life, my family made changes and I gained confidence in setting boundaries with the people I love — including our clients and my team. 

My husband and I rotated days of who was “responsible” for helping our small human navigate online learning, and I blocked those days off as unavailable for meetings. I made it clear I was unlikely to put in a “full” day those days. Later, I shifted to a 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. schedule so I could pick said kiddo up from school when COVID altered normal pick-up times. Then, another change to 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. when the tiny human started hiding from me at pickup because he didn’t have enough time to play after class, LOL. And now I’m slowly working my way back toward 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. because I just liked being done earlier.

I’m grateful to have a team, clients and a community who understand the importance of having ownership over our schedules and value the integration of work and everything else. Yes, I still struggle with guilt surrounding ending my day at 4 p.m. (Note: It’s currently 4:44 p.m. See the “not perfect” reference.) But I’ll do my damndest to tamp that guilt shit down, be present in the moment, and normalize that more isn’t always better when it comes to work. 

When I have the time to connect to the things I care about — including myself — I’m faster, smarter, more innovative, more fun and having more fun. So while I hope Friday afternoons off don’t feel necessary, I embrace that boundaries are. And they can be good for us — during the summer and year-round.

So let’s go ahead and do our best work when we can, let go of the guilt when we can’t, and set our boundaries — and our out-of-office notifications.

Tags: Summer Fridays

Kate Snyder, APR

Kate Snyder, APR

Kate Snyder focuses her head and heart on creating communication that makes our world better for everyone. She is dedicated to uplifting women in business, she’s a passionate advocate for the arts, and she makes it her mission to stand alongside those blocked from the microphone to make our voices heard.

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