my boss expects me to be available 24/7 since we’re stuck at home

A reader writes:

I want to start by saying that I know I’m in a very privileged position right now: I have a stable job, which I’ve been doing remotely from the comfort of my apartment for the last two weeks. The issue I’m having is with setting boundaries.

Since we started working remotely, my workload has really ramped up. I’m generally happy to step up my game, keep the business moving, and help satisfy my company’s founder, who is (understandably) pretty stressed right now. What I’m finding difficult are the expectations that because we’re at home all the time anyway, we should be online and available at almost all times.

It’s gotten to the point where I’m eating every meal (breakfast, lunch, and some dinners) in front of my laptop, and I’m checking Slack on my phone while I make a coffee from my kitchen. I’m also being asked to do extra work during the evenings some nights – not exactly because of the crisis, but because everyone knows we’re all here anyway. Without the normal excuse of having plans, I’m finding it hard to say no.

I know it’s a difficult time right now but, just two weeks in, I can already feel myself and my colleagues getting seriously burnt out. How do I push back and set reasonable boundaries without looking like I’m not thankful for having a job or aren’t willing to go the extra mile during desperate times? Please help!

It’s one thing to ask employees to pitch in more during a crisis, but it’s not reasonable to treat you as if you’re on call 24/7 simply because your employer knows you’re stuck at home.

You’re allowed to do other things with your evenings and weekends! You’re allowed to watch movies, cook dinner, hang out with other people in your home, nap, stare out the window for hours recalling more carefree times… whatever you want. You haven’t given up your off-hours just because you’re working from home.

For that matter, you’re allowed to untether yourself from work for brief breaks during normal work hours too. If you were still working in an office, you’d wander to the kitchen, chat with colleagues, close your door so you could concentrate, and all sorts of other things that might make you temporarily unavailable to others. If you wouldn’t be nervously checking Slack while you made coffee at work, you don’t need to do that when you’re working from home either.

To effectively push back against this, the first thing to do is to examine how much of this is truly expected by your employer, and how much (if any) might be mistaken assumptions on your side. If your manager is explicitly asking you to do non-urgent work in the evenings or has directly told you that you’re expected to respond to things more quickly, that’s pretty clear. But sometimes work can make us feel like it expects constant access to us when in reality we could push back without repercussions.

For example, if you have a manager who emails you well into the evening, it can be easy to feel like you’re expected to respond right away. But in many cases, that manager just happens to like dealing with emails in her off hours but doesn’t expect anyone else to do the same. The same thing can be true of assignments that come in at the end of the day—you might assume you’re expected to tackle it right away, while your manager takes it for granted that you won’t deal with it until the next day or even later. Similarly, the fact that Slack messages are coming in at a far greater rate now might make you feel you need to be more responsive, even if your boss doesn’t actually expect that.

If you can’t point to anything more than the increase in communication, experiment with what happens if you just set different boundaries. You might find that you can take back your evenings and your coffee breaks and no one cares.

If these expectations are coming directly from your manager, you should still try setting boundaries and see what happens. If she asks you to do non-urgent work in the evening, try saying, “I’m not free to work on it tonight, but I’ll make it my first priority in the morning.” If she’s shameless enough to ask why you’re not available that night (and know that reasonable managers will definitely not do that), it’s OK to say, “I’ve got existing plans that I can’t move” or “I’ve booked that time with my family” (which you can say even if you live alone; it could be a scheduled group Zoom call, for all she knows) or so forth.

If needed, you can also address it head-on: “I’m finding that since we’ve been working at home, I’ve been feeling pressure to be available 24/7 and I’m concerned about burning out since we’re going to be doing this for a while. I’m trying to be disciplined about making sure I have time away from work where I can recharge, so I can continue to work at the same level.”

Don’t be afraid to talk to coworkers about this, too! You might find that when people see you setting healthy boundaries, they feel empowered to do it themselves. Sometimes these situations can become very “Emperor’s New Clothes,” where no one wants to be the first person who speaks up—but once one person does, other people feel comfortable joining in too.

First published on

{ 152 comments… read them below }

    1. Heidi*

      I love the expression on the face of the employee in the shower, but the boss’s giant bendy arm is freaking me out.

        1. Jane Gloriana Villanueva*

          Not only did you make me laugh, but I clapped my hands at this one. Well done!

    2. The IT Plebe*

      I really loved this one in particular. The showering person’s grumpy expression while covered in bubbles just really hit me the right way.

      1. Jojo*

        Ask your boss straight up how many hours you are expected to work, and if you are going to be paid overtime for being on call from 6 am until 10 pm since he is sending emails that require response late on the evening. And tell him you need to know in advance if you need to be available for this overtime because you also need to take care of your childs schooling and meal prep and such also.

  1. WorkIsADarkComedy*

    LW, you note that the company’s founder is feeling stressed, with perhaps the idea that the stress is giving rise to the communication/requests at all times.

    Maybe you all can provide some reassurance without actually having to be there 24/7. There are many ways to do that: communications up front, prompt response during your next scheduled working hours, an out of office message that explains that you will respond to messages as soon as you return, and, most important, making sure they know that you are on top of your work. Hopefully when that reassurance comes the stress will abate.

    1. valentine*

      Maybe you all can provide some reassurance
      This may not be necessary, especially since the owner has provided zero reassurance themselves, such as “I am working odd hours (feel free to do so), but I don’t expect you to work more hours overall than you did in the office,” and thinks the employees are doing it to keep busy.

    2. NGL*

      One of my co-workers has an out of office message that goes up promptly at 5 PM, explaining she needs to step away from the computer to preserve her well-being, but will be back refreshed and ready to tackle everything at 9 AM sharp. And she follows through! So those combined definitely help set expectations. It’s been going on for weeks, so I assume she hasn’t received push back from the higher-ups.

  2. Jennifer*

    I think this is going to happen a lot more. It happened during the last recession. Employers think they can treat their employees any kind of way in a recession because they know how thankful people are just to be employed.

    1. une autre Cassandra*

      Right? The whole “I must demonstrate that I am thankful to have a job” thing is so chilling. I mean, it’s TRUE and I absolutely am grateful that my position hasn’t been eliminated and can be done remotely, but the mindset that this can lead to—that workers owe their employers thankfulness and gratitude and anyone with a job is “lucky” to have it—is a recession-era thing I am really not looking forward to seeing make a comeback.

      1. Liz*

        I’m the same way; very fortunate to still have a job, and be able to work from home. Thankfully, our higher ups have told us flat out that we must take time for ourselves, and unless something absolutely needs to be done after hours, etc, we need to be mindful of not working more than we need to. Which is actually very nice, and makes being stuck at home, etc. a little more bearable.

    2. Lance*

      I think, adding to that, some of it is misplaced expectations. Because the home is now effectively the workplace for most given people, it means they have access to way more of work at home… and may see more of that work outside normal work hours. Some bosses, like OP’s, from what it seems, may see that as having greater access to their employees’ time… but they need to also remember that it’s still their time, and even if they’re still at the ‘workplace’, that doesn’t mean they’re still working.

    3. Amanda*

      I had a company treat me like this during a recession, and it was horrible, they flat out said whatever sh*tty thing they did was so I could keep having a job, and if I didn’t want it, bye bye. Well, I started looking for a job full on, and so did all my coworkers, and when hiring started again in the industry, we all jumped ship. Some didn’t even give notice. It was a small company, so losing 12 engineers, as well as other roles, at the same time translated to pretty much closing their doors. They closed permanently less than 6 months after we all quit.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        GOOD. I admit a large part of me was delighted by stories of employees just ghosting their jobs, after years of “you should be grateful for any job you get and welcome any kind of abuse with a smile.” Good for the goose, good for the gander.

      2. Pennalynn Lott*

        Same here. I was working for the world’s largest software company and my then-manager’s favorite thing to say to any kind of pushback (long hours, bad treatment, impossible quotas) was, “I’m sorry? I thought you were grateful to have a job right now. But, if not, there are certainly dozens of resumes on my desk of qualified people who would be thrilled to do your job.”

        I still have nightmares about that b*tch and that place, and it’s been almost 10 years since I worked there.

      3. SusanIvanova*

        I worked for a company that tried that after a merger, but what the VPs from the other company didn’t realize was that they were 500 miles away with a local job shortage, while *our* job market was booming. So when they pulled the “only you can protect your job” card when asked if they were concerned that people were leaving in a trickle, that trickle turned into a flood.

    4. BananaPants*

      Those of us whose jobs seem relatively stable/secure in the short term feel like we have to bust our tails to prove our value, lest we be easy layoff targets and lose our income and health insurance in what will be an abysmal job market.

      Regardless of what my manager and senior leadership SAY, I feel like I have to be as efficient and productive as possible while supervising the involuntary homeschooling of two children, and with my husband having to go to work every day at his essential job in healthcare. I know corporate leadership doesn’t give two shits about what the rank-and-file are dealing with, and I don’t even remotely trust them when they say it’s OK to put your family first.

      I’ve been a giant ball of non-stop stress for the last 3.5 weeks – if I lose my job, we will probably lose everything.

  3. GilaMonster*

    Is OP salaried? I also worry about unpaid time working if not. Great advice, there are definitely probably other employees feeling the same way.

    Why do we bow so much to our employers? It’s such a recurring theme and speaks to other off-topic issues.

    1. Works in IT*

      At this point in time, just having a job is a relief, so there’s the unconscious pressure to do whatever the employer needs to prevent them from deciding they can do without you to cut costs.

      I’m currently dealing with a manager who took my “hey, since you’re trying to use your 3d printer to print face masks for hospitals, do you want me to loan you my printer to increase your capacity?” to mean “I will print out face mask parts for you” and won’t stop asking me questions so he can find a supply of filament for me, and while I really, really am too exhausted from work stress right now to do this on top of work, I also don’t want to lose my job because he’s annoyed that I said no….

      1. Works in IT*

        note, he means volunteering to make masks outside of work hours, not as part of my job, if it was during work hours it would be much more doable.

      2. Perfectly Cromulent Name*

        Can you say no to having the printer loaned to you, but tell them you’ll send them the pattern or program or whatever so they can do it in their spare time? Masks can get made and it does not have to be your specific problem.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      The power dynamics and the fear of unknowns.

      Why do people stay in crappy relationships? Often because their abuser has gained power over them. They’re are often the ones who are going to make the choice if you have a roof over your head, food in your belly and clothes on your back.

      Many people see their employer more of a parental figure in the end, the same way you cower when your parents yell at you even as an adult when you could very much “fight” back. It’s all psychological. It also comes from the history of many “employers” literally owning you in the era of slaves and indentured servitude.

    3. Jellyfish*

      At least in the US, it’s because they can fire us for anything or nothing in most workplaces. For a lot of people, getting fired means losing access to health care and potentially losing their housing if they can’t find another job fast enough. Employers have a lot of power over our lives well beyond what happens during work hours.

      1. US Worker*

        That’s why we need to get rid of “at will” in the United States. It’s abusive and only benefits the employer, while keeping employees in a constant state of anxiety and paranoia over being fired.

        Other countries use employment contracts, why can’t the United States?

        1. Jedi Squirrel*

          Yet we are still expected to give two weeks notice in order to be considered professional. It really is a lob-sided exerience.

        2. Mediamaven*

          It does not only benefit the employer. Please do your research. It also means that an employee is not bound to staying in a job for any length of time for any reason.

          1. US Worker*

            Do your research, one positive doesn’t outweigh numberous negatives….

            Employees in the United States are constantly under threat of being abused by their employers. Just look at the number of employers whose employees are on government assistance and don’t make living wages.

            How many employers that embezzled employees retirement funds, closed jobs and outsourced to other countries for cheaper labor, endangered employees health and we’ll being by not providing appropriate safety equipment or training.

            So no, it doesn’t benefit employees.

          2. Phoenix Wright*

            I disagree, it provides no benefits at all to the employee. In my country, by law we need to give two weeks notice (even though it’s common for people to give less, or none at all), but on the other hand we can’t be fired at will. Without just cause, employees are entitled to a compensation according to the time worked. I’d gladly give my two weeks in exchange for having peace of mind and compensation, instead of being worried every day if I’ll keep my job the next one.

          3. Mid*

            And if you move on too fast, you are a job hopper. The system in the US is heavily biased towards employers with the barest minimum of protections for employees.

              1. Jedi Squirrel*

                But we also have to live with that perception. And most government protections are really difficult to enforce. And in order to leave a job, you have to have another lined up, which means you need to take time off from work to interview, generally.

                I get where you are coming from, but that is just not the reality for most of us.

              2. MC66*

                A “perception” that collective society largely buys into is not a perception. It’s a reality.

              3. Rainy*

                Lol. If employers have the perception that the market is tilted so heavily in their favour they may as well have a thumb on the scales, and decide to behave as though that perception is fact, and there are no laws to protect employees from employer actions, does it matter if it’s a “system” or a “perception”?

                Of such perceptions are systems of social control constructed.

                1. Mediamaven*

                  Stop. In good economies like we’ve had, many employees have bounced around like jumping jacks. That is job hopping And why not? Talent was hard to find, money and benefits were raining down, they are constantly being contacted by recruiters. Companies spent thousands on hiring and recruiting. It has been an employees market whether you believe it to be or not. The “system” which isn’t a system at all but a good economy, has been tilted toward employees period. But now, when the economy is poor, that dynamic will shift. That is true. That said there are many, many laws designed to protect workers.

          4. Gazebo Slayer*

            Oh man, are you me? The last couple of weeks I had a number of 7:30 am to 12:30 am days. My boss Slacked me at 11 pm to tell me I needed to be ready with a large delivery by 7:30 the next morning, then another day he told me at 7 am that I needed to be ready with lots of large boxes in my apartment lobby by 7:30 am and then got angry when I was 1 minute late. In both those cases, I’d worked till after midnight without even taking lunch or dinner.

            He had a long unexpected call with me at 9 pm on a Friday night, which mostly consisted of him trying to guess his forgotten password for the company laptop I’m using.

            I told him one day at 9 am that I’d have a telemedicine appointment from 10:30 to 11:30 that day. He called me at about 10:35. No, it wasn’t urgent.

            This week, I have been starting work at 11 am or later. Part of me feels bad about it, but part of me says “F*ck it. If I’m working till the middle of the night, I am sleeping till late morning. And I’m an independent contractor, who is paid a very low hourly rate and only bills 10 hours a day even if I work for 15. By law, I supposedly have control over my own working hours.”

            I am going to try to get back on a normal schedule, but right now I am just fed up and reverting to my natural night owl hours out of sleep deprivation.

          5. MC66*

            The opposite of “at-will” does not automatically mean employees are bound to a contract, though.

          6. No bees on Typhon*

            Employment contracts in other countries (generally) don’t tie employees to a job for a minimum length of time – it’s not indentured servitude! There may be exceptions in some industries, but for your average job that is just Not A Thing
            (source: have worked various jobs in the UK, signed contracts for most of them, was never bound to staying in a job for any length of time)

        3. James*

          Different cultures do things differently. The USA has a strong entrepreneurial tradition, which bleeds into employee behavior in ways that seem strange to folks from other cultures. It also doesn’t benefit only the employers, as discussed below.

          Also, let’s be honest: If a manager wants you fired, they will find a way to get you fired. A contract may make that slightly more difficult, but no more so than employment regulations that we have in the USA. I don’t say that as a bad thing–a manager’s responsibility is to manage their people, and part of that has always been eliminating toxic people. Toxic people are very, very good at hiding behind rules and regs.

            1. James*

              Sure we do: we vote with our feet. We walk away, leave the company. Or transfer to a new program/project.

              I’m not going to get dragged into a Class Warfare argument. I’ve never seen anyone who strongly buys into that paradigm provide any practical solutions to any problems; all I’ve seen is variants of “burn the rich”, which doesn’t help anyone.

              1. Gazebo Slayer*

                What… unemployment insurance, minimum wage laws, over time laws, child labor laws, and everything else the labor movement brought us isn’t a “practical solution”?

                I mean, maybe you’d prefer a world where large numbers of people work 14 hours a day in a factory with no safety rails, frequent accidents, and a locked door that means everyone will die if it catches fire. Of course, people who think like you always think they’d be on top in that world, not one of the folks on the factory floor…

                1. Analyst Editor*

                  I think James acknowledged the utility of existing employer protections in the US, in his comment with the statement that “A contract may make that slightly more difficult, but no more so than employment regulations that we have in the USA.” Indeed, employee protections do exist; we’re not in a “10-year olds in the coal mines” world in the US, even without contracts.

                2. James*

                  “I think James acknowledged the utility of existing employer protections in the US, in his comment with the statement that “A contract may make that slightly more difficult, but no more so than employment regulations that we have in the USA.” ”

                  Exactly. The USA handles worker protection differently than other countries. Which way is best? Not entirely sure–but I have experience enforcing safety regulations, and can say from that experience that the characterization of USA labor regulations typically given in these conversations is pure fiction.

                  And Gazebo Slayer’s comment demonstrates the futility of this type of discussion. Nothing I say is going to make a difference; folks will hear what they want to hear and argue against what they want to argue, regardless of what I may actually post. These are never conversations; each side merely uses the other as a target to attack.

              2. Jedi Squirrel*

                Oh lord, definitely don’t burn them.

                Medium-well with a light sear is all that’s required to make them delicious. I hear they taste like chicken.

                1. Bleh*

                  James – that comment was so full of dog whistles that it is difficult to take seriously. “Class warfare” – ahem. “Eat the rich” – good lord.

                  At any rate, protections of corporations (as [groups of] “humans” who can donate politically, but not individual humans who can go to jail when found wrongdoing) is a real thing in the USA. It’s not imaginary, nor exaggerated. It’s reality.

                  Denying similar protections to workers – groups of workers called unions are denied similar rights and many are not allowed to work together as a group (and remember corporations are groups amassing power via the numbers) at all – is also just the reality here.

                2. KoiFeeder*

                  Or compost them, or use them in shark reintroduction efforts. Less chance of prions in the latter. Not sure about the former, it might be safer than eating them, might not.

                3. James*

                  Bleh, thank you for adding another demonstration of the fact that these conversations are pointless. Your first paragraph is an attempt to shame me into silence because other people sometimes use similar language, and you’ve used that as an excuse to replace my arguments with theirs wholesale (the rhetorical use of “dog whistle”). You also attempt to substitute your refusal to read my arguments (ie, you not taking them seriously) for substantive criticism of my arguments.

                  I call it the Foundational Assumption of Argument: Each side gets to say what its arguments are. When you violate that foundational assumption, what you have isn’t an argument–it’s two conversations that happen to share the same space, but which do not relate to one another.

                  Regarding protections, my point–which you’ve missed–is that the USA protects workers different from those in Europe. Worker protection exists, to the point where (at least in my experience and a brief glance through this blog’s archives) it’s far more common for workers to be retained far after the point where they should have been fired than it is for managers to fire people for no reason. I’ve also enforced worker protections, in the form of various laws (OSHA, anti-discrimination, sexual harassment, and a few others). The idea that the USA doesn’t have them stems not from the absence of worker protection in the USA, but rather from the fact that we implement those protections differently.

        4. Analyst Editor*

          It’s a tradeoff. At will makes it easier to take a risk on an employee without references or work experience, because you can fire them easily, which benefits people without references, without solid English skills, etc. I think without employer-tied healthcare in the US, employees would find that at will works on their behalf more, because they too are not locked in.

    4. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      Even if they are salaried, they might want to do the math on whether the hours they’re currently keeping put them below their state’s minimum wage. A salary that is reasonable for a 40-hour week might be tolerable for a 50-hour workweek, but not close to being reasonable if they’re working 90 or 100 hours a week.

      That’s separate from the fact that those kind of hours are very hard for people, physically as well as mentally.

      1. Mediamaven*

        Come on now. 100 hour work week would mean 14 hours a day 7 days a week. No one is doing that.

        1. Massmatt*

          I beg to differ. Many health care workers are working very long hours, and even before the pandemic emergency room workers and residents would often work 12 hr plus days.

          There are other industries that also expect huge # of hours—law, consulting, advertising come to mind.

          Many start-up companies in the tech sector expect huge hours, often for mediocre pay, in exchange for stock options.

          100 hours/week is hopefully an outlier but there are lots of people working 70+hrs.

          And yes, this should definitely be part of the discussion at the time of hire, an 80k job may sound great but what if they expect 70 hours a week, and taking vacation time is impossible, or discouraged? IMO that’s pretty much the equivalent of 2 full time jobs.

            1. Satrca*

              I have worked 100 hour weeks for months at a times and was just recently as well. It’s ridiculous but it definitely happens.

        2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          That’s not quite the LW’s situation, but it’s similar: they’re eating breakfast, lunch, and some dinners while working, feel pressured not to walk away long enough to make a cup of coffee, and are being asked to work in the evenings and be available 24/7.

          That sort of demand makes it hard to watch a movie, have a real conversation with your family or friends, etc. Some people, in a variety of jobs, get paid extra for being on call shifts. Part of what professional firefighters are paid for is to be there, at the firehouse, so they can head to a fire immediately when needed. They aren’t, *and shouldn’t be*, paid based on how many fires are called in during their shift.

    5. James*

      The framing of this is entirely negative, and I don’t think that’s warranted, at least not in every case. Many times I’ve seen people put in unreasonable hours–and when I do it myself–it’s because they take personal responsibility for the projects and programs they’re working on. They take it personally if a deadline is missed or a metric isn’t met. If that means putting in extra hours, they put in extra hours. When I travel for work I often work fairly late into the evening–I’m in a hotel room and trying to send as much money as possible home, so it’s as good a way to kill a few hours as anything.

      Neither mentality is right or wrong; each works best for the individual. I HATE projects where I have to watch a clock. I demonstrably work significantly better when I work the job not the hours. Other people (and some very, very good workers and managers) are the exact opposite: 5 pm hits and they are pencils down and out the door. Fortunately we have enough flexibility to work how we work best.

      Also, remember that the manager may not expect employees to actually be available all the time. For example: Last week I started working at 4 am one day. The kids climbed into bed with me and my wife (they’re fairly young), and they were tossing and turning in their sleep. I couldn’t sleep with that may legs kicking me, so I opted to use this time to get some stuff done that required uninterrupted concentration. Doesn’t mean I expect anyone to respond to me at 4:30 am if I send an email; it merely means that that’s when it was convenient for me to send it. I’ve got a colleague that does the same thing, only at night–he works when the kids go to bed. He doesn’t expect anyone else to be available, he just sends his emails when he gets time to do so.

      With increased disruption to normal work conditions, I think it’s important to maintain lines of communication and for managers to manage expectations. That day one subcontractor complained to a colleague about me expecting people to be online at 4:30 am. Fortunately the folks I work with understand (we’re early birds, but considerate ones), and we were able to explain to him that sending an email does not create an obligation to immediately respond; I send when convenient, you respond when convenient. That sort of conversation needs to happen a lot more frequently these days.

      1. Mediamaven*

        Agreed. I had employees on the East Coast complain that they were still receiving emails from our West Coast team until late in the night. I explained that they weren’t asking them to respond to them, but that those of us on the West Coast are still on the clock and still working. They understood after that. Sometimes it’s as easy as just explaining expectations. And right now, things are crazy and everyone’s needing to be flexible, not just employers.

      2. Djuna*

        It really does.

        We’re getting regular all staff emails from our HR leadership telling everyone to be flexible, and then explaining that they mean working the hours that work for you even if they’re not your regular hours. They also ask for everyone to accept that other people will also be online at different times and repeat (in every mail!) that there’s no expectation that productivity will be anywhere near 100% because these are weird and scary times and we’re all doing our best. Our managers are also telling us to be sure to take breaks during the day and log the heck off when we’re done for the day.

        I’m not wrangling anything more difficult than a cranky cat and at-will Skype calls from my elderly mom, but I really appreciate those mails and my manager reinforcing them. I’m also maybe starting to suspect some of our leadership might be hanging out here!

        I hope OP’s company can get it together and send something similar to their staff too.

        1. Nerfmobile*

          Not quite the same format, but my company is also being really good at delivering this message consistently from the top down. That these are unusual times and we are all doing our best even if it doesn’t look like our best usually does. Work when you can even if it is at odd hours, use asynchronous tools to the best of our abilities, break when you need to, take care of yourselves and don’t burn out. Assume the best intentions from all and be kind.

          It helps us all when we see that the CEO has to use his phone to give a company-wide webinar because his internet crapped out, and then his 8 year old comes and waves Hi over his shoulder at the end. (And we are talking about a global company of many thousands of people here!)

        2. Burnt out*

          there’s no expectation that productivity will be anywhere near 100% because these are weird and scary times and we’re all doing our best

          I really, really wish someone would tell my manager this. His stance is more “now is the time to double our productivity so that we’re known as the team who knocked it out of the park when the pandemic was at its peak.”

          Consequently, my other duties are going to hell. My kid’s schooling? Undone, for the most part. Cooking and cleaning? Done by my spouse, for the most part. Exercise and self-care? Mmmm, not so much.

          The only non-work thing I’ve been doing, frankly, is crying every day. I seen to have time for that.

    6. Random IT person*

      Could it be USA centered – which to us foreigners here has the reputation that you can get fired because it`s Thursday, you`re wearing yellow, the boss didn`t get his coffee or tea in time this morning, or just because a manager didn`t like your smile….

      In an environment like that – people are quicker to bow to demands that in Europe would cause laughter and a reply “that`s cute, but no”.

      1. James*

        You COULD be fired because it’s Thursday. However, the ensuing lawsuit would likely bankrupt the company. Oh, and the manager would be fired almost immediately.

        The reality is that companies in the USA attempt to have minimum staff and maximum production, so any loss of staff is going to hurt the company. (If you have the minimum number of staff and someone leaves, you can’t complete all your obligations, after all.) Sometimes pain is necessary–such as if the company simply can’t afford to keep you on payroll–and sometimes it’s the lesser of two evils–if your presence is actually hurting the company–but it always hurts the company. There’s also the money involved–hiring isn’t free, onboarding takes time (and therefore money), and new workers aren’t as efficient as experienced staff. So managers are really hesitant to fire people, to the point where it’s far more common for managers to keep bad employees on the payroll far past the point where they should be fired. Good companies put a LOT of effort into preventing turnover.

        Then there are employee protection laws. Remember, we have more lawyers per capita than almost any other nation; we LOVE to sue each other, and if someone’s fired without cause there are lawyers waiting to snap up the case. If the person is a protected class–a woman, or a minority, or someone with a disability, or really anything other than a cisgendered white male between 25 and 55–the company has no chance, and will almost certainly settle out of court. This doesn’t happen every time, sure, but it’s common enough that companies worry about it.

        The image of the cruel boss that fires people on a whim is iconic, I’ll grant you–about as iconic as the John Wayne cowboy, and about as realistic. A manager like that would destroy their department within a year.

          1. James*

            Of course that’s what you got out of that post.

            I wasn’t saying that men have it harder than others, or anything of the sort. I was merely stating that if a company fired someone of a protected class (and there are a large number of protected classes) without cause, and the person opted to sue, the company would be unlikely to win the lawsuit. This functions–and is intended to function–as worker protection for those groups.

          2. RS*

            In the years that I’ve been with my company there was one person who attempted to sue the company after getting fired. The company settled with him for $20-30k. He was :drumroll: a cisgendered white male between 25 and 55. But I guess that doesn’t feed into the victim narrative that James presented above.

          3. Jojo*

            Ask your boss straight up how many hours you are expected to work, and if you are going to be paid overtime for being on call from 6 am until 10 pm since he is sending emails that require response late on the evening. And tell him you need to know in advance if you need to be available for this overtime because you also need to take care of your childs schooling and meal prep and such also.

  4. Sled dog mana*

    I had a situation like this a few weeks ago, we were trying to work out some work from home issues and things weren’t working at all. I finally got to the point where I had to text my boss, “I’m going for a run and will be back in 45 minutes” that break was all I needed to get back in and get things fixed but without it I would have just kept spinning me wheels.
    I work in a position where an “emergency” call means within 6 hours. Figuring out that definition of emergency gave me a great sense of freedom to realize that I could not answer at certain times and it would be ok.

  5. BeeKeen*

    Would simply logging out of the office email at 5 p.m. (or whenever the normal workday ends) be an option? Sounds like the LW’s boss’ anxiety is spilling over onto the employees.

    1. TimeTravlR*

      That’s what I do… log off at my regular time. My boss knows if she really really really needs me, she can call my personal cell. She has never called my personal cell. She has boundaries, thankfully!

      1. Bunny Girl*

        Also what I’ve been doing. I’ve kept my same office hours from 8-12 and 1-5. I have a Google Voice account set up for phone calls and emails. And at 5 I step away from my desk. If I’m on the computer later doing my own thing, I’ll occasionally glance back at my email to make a note of anything I need to do for the next day, just because I know my immediate supervisor is working from 9-6 most days. But that’s maybe once or twice a week. For the record, I’m hourly.

      2. Banker chick*

        I have been going to work but Dh has been working from home the past couple weeks, keeping his regular schedule. The boss was having daily meetings at 5pm, but Dh and several others didn’t attend for at least a week as they were logged out by then. Instead of them getting in trouble, the boss has just moved the meeting times to 3pm.

        It is entirely possible that the boss doesn’t expect anything extra and that the LW is reading too much into it. Let’s hope so.

        Oh, and I wanted to second Alison’s statement that the boss is possibly just sending requests when he/she thinks of them. My boss or grand boss will frequently send emails over the weekend or even the middle of the night. I don’t even have access to my work email during non-business hours, so there is no way they could expect me to address the issues then. They are just sending stuff while they are thinking about it.

      3. myswtghst*

        This is what I’ve been doing as well. Once my 8-ish hours are up, I log out and stop forwarding work calls to my cell. My boss and the couple of higher ups who might need something urgently know to text me (and have) when they have a quick question or something that needs to get done ASAP.

    2. Another name*

      I log out on time specifically so I don’t see all my boss’s frantic late in the day requests to do things that could easily (and pre-COVID did!) wait until morning.

      But if she catches me while I’m still online – harder to avoid. Then I do have to say it needs to wait.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I use Skype’s ‘appear away’ and ‘off work’ settings when it is close to my lunch and close to my leave time.
        I started this because I was working with people in different time zones and with different schedules. I post my own schedule in Skype and my Outlook calendar. I include 15-30 minutes to wrap up where I don’t open emails or answer the phone…no more last-minute non-crises that meant missing the cafeteria’s lunch hours or being late to pick up my daughter.
        It works for WFH too — the hard part is to discipline yourself to not send a response even if you know the answer. I have trained myself and them I’m really off work.

    3. Sparrow*

      Yep, I’ve been very deliberate about trying to keep this as close to my regular work routine as possible: I have a designated space for work, which is separate from places I lounge. I change clothes at the beginning and of my work day (I’m not putting on actual work clothes but you know, out of pjs into yoga pants and a top that will look fine on video if I throw a cardigan on). I might take a walk at lunch. I open and close my laptop for the day at the same time I did before.

      I always thought I’d hate working from home full time because I really need a clear mental division between the two, but by continuing to treat it as much like my normal routine as I can, I’ve been able to mostly maintain that mental division (and I get 2 hours of my day back because no commuting!!) If my boss started expecting me to be more present and check email after hours, I’d frame it as, “I’m finding work from home far more productive and successful for me when I treat it as much like my normal work routine as possible, so unless there’s a pressing issue, I’m going to go back to checking email only during my standard hours.”

      1. Asta*

        Yes! This is pretty much how I have been dealing with my work from home too. I have started to add in a morning and evening “commute” also. That is, I go for a short walk (15 min) before logging on, and a longer after logging off. This gives me a much clearer division between “at work” and “at home” now when the two are at the same location.

    4. sofar*

      Yep, keeping my regular office hours (9 a.m. to 6ish) has been key. I’ve got some Eastcoasters on my team who no longer have a long commute in the morning, so they just sign on at 7:30 (their time) so they can log off earlier. I am NOT an early morning person (plus, I have a daily meeting at 4 p.m. my time with another team in my local office), so I get on at 9 (central) as usual.

      I had to mute Slack in the early morning because they’re all on there chatting and @-ing me. I address these messages at 9 a.m. when I log on. Otherwise I’d be answering Slack from bed/while brushing my teeth.

      Likewise, when they all sign off at 4:30 pm their time (3:30 mine) I don’t expect them to answer me while they’re enjoying their evening/cooking dinner. I actually try to communicate only via emails at that time, rather than Slack.

      LW, just set your schedule, and don’t explain unless you are asked directly. It may even be that, by always being available, you are influencing this always-available culture.

    5. SometimesALurker*

      Agreed. If it’s possible to do without serious pushback from the boss, keeping to your normal boundaries as much as possible may be the way to go. I’m a writer (among other things), and one thing that a lot of writers talk about and face at some point in our careers is setting boundaries with family, friends, work, etc. because we spend many hours a week /busy with an important task/ but not everyone sees it as /having plans/. When you’re writing on a deadline, it’s often not possible to just do the work when you’re “free,” you have to schedule time with yourself.

      You might need to schedule time with yourself for non-work tasks, which ideally would be all the time that isn’t your normal work hours. It’s very useful to internalize the fact that you can be truly, genuinely unavailable even if you’re at home in front of your laptop, and to be able to tell other people you’re unavailable. It takes practice, and you’re not alone in finding it hard! Of course, part of what may be hard for you is not knowing how much you can push back in your situation, and my advice doesn’t necessarily help with that part.

  6. theelephantintheroom*

    I’d like a little more info about the boss. Do you FEEL as if they expect you to be available 24/7 or have they made comments saying you should be? Just curious because I know sometimes my boss will email/message me at weird times, just to give us both a reminder of some idea she wants to discuss (for example). But she doesn’t expect me to respond. (In fact, I responded once early on a Sunday morning and her response was, “Shit, I forgot you get phone notifications. Go back to bed!”)

    So I’d first ask yourself if this is a problem with your boss or a problem with your anxiety. If it’s the latter, maybe be mindful about stepping away. Try to do anxiety-relieving activities and clear your head. Working from home when you’re not used to it can be like that, so just try not to be too hard on yourself.

    Of course, if it’s the former, then your boss is in the wrong and boundaries need to be set.

    Good luck!

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Do you FEEL as if they expect you to be available 24/7 or have they made comments saying you should be?

      This is a very important distinction to make. If the boss says “You have to be available 24/7,” you have to, along with your co-workers, push back against that explicitly. If it’s your own sense of it, just don’t be available 24/7. Do what makes sense to you.

  7. LunaMei*

    I have been changing my chat status to “off work” or “do not disturb” when I am off work. Can the OP do something similar with Slack? Normal working hours for my university tend to be 7am-6pm, but we each work 8 hours within that window, so it varies from person to person. I work from 730am-430pm, so I’ve had some people message me at 5:45pm or after because my chat status still showed “available.” Making sure I change my status helps set the boundary.

    1. LunaMei*

      *I should add that I have our chat program (Microsoft Teams) installed on my phone, because I’m in IT and sometimes we do have after-hours emergencies, and it’s the easiest communication tool for my department if we have some emergency that involves a large number of people to fix. As other people have mentioned, you could also just log out completely of your computer if you don’t have anything attached to your phone.

  8. Potatoes gonna potate*

    My previous company’s boss is like this. Pre-COVID she expected people to be available nearly 24/7 and (in office) would frequently keep people from taking their lunch or keep them in meetings hours after the end time. Even though the deadline is extended, she’s ordered everyone to work even more hours (from 60 to 70) so that the workload is completed by 4/15 so they can lay off more staff. Hopefully this boss is more reasonable and supportive.

    1. Blueberry*

      what a spectacular glassbowl. You are well out of having to deal with her, I gather?

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        It’s a mixed blessing I guess. She’s an awful person in many ways.

    2. Roja*

      Work way more hours so we can lay you off quicker!

      Gosh, I can’t think of a more motivating prospect.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        If I was the one staying, I’d probably work as much as I could because I don’t want to leave a mess for the people left and leave a good name for myself. But, knowing how everyone is, any screw ups are attributed to the last person that left the company.

        That’s what leadership is counting on.

  9. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    Yes to everything Alison said. And don’t feel guilty about saying no. These are stressful times for everyone, even in the most ideal situations. Just because you’re at home and can’t really go anywhere, you need mental breaks from work. I’ve even said no to Zoom happy hours with my friends if it’s a work day with a lot of meetings, because while I want to chat with my friends, I have no desire to stare at a computer screen for another hour (or more) at night. You may even need to take some time off, even if it’s only to travel to your back yard, and that’s okay.

    1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      Yes- just because you’re home doesn’t mean you have nothing better to do after hours or on weekends.

  10. Jedi Squirrel*

    This is happening at my work as well. And people will eventually quit over it. I know I will. It’s always been an issue, but now it’s just getting worse. (FWIW, “we’re a family”. Uh‒no, we’re not.)

  11. Massmatt*

    It sounds as though the LW may be reporting directly to the founder/owner of the business. It’s common for an owner/entrepreneur of a business to spend every waking hour working on it, but it is not realistic to expect the same from employees (read non-owners).

    LW May be in a really tough position, depending on how hard this owner digs in on this expectation. Is this in character for him, or is this new? Do you have relationships with colleagues where you can talk to them and present a united front?

    This quarantine should NOT mean that everyone at home is expected to work around the clock “because they have nothing better to do”.

    There are industries where this is expected (IMO unless you really love the work, it’s still a terrible practice) but if it wasn’t expected before, it shouldn’t be an expectation now.

  12. Professor Ronny*

    Of course, if you are not exempt, you need to be paid for all these extra hours.

  13. Fikly*

    Yes, you are in a good position.

    On the other hand, your company is still benefiting from employing you due to the work you are producing. If you left now, there would be a hole for a while, both while they went through the hiring process, and also while the new person was trained and got up to speed.

    You are not the only one benefitting from your employment there. Don’t let them take advantage of you.

  14. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    I apologize if Alison said this and I missed it, but it can also be helpful to unilaterally set WFH hours. I’ve been remote for a month, now, and I noticed work was bleeding into all hours of the day. I told my colleagues I’ll be available and working M-F from [business hours here], and that they should text me for time sensitive requests. I have yet to receive a text, and it brought my burnout levels way down.

    1. LunaMei*

      My team has been following the same schedules we had before the pandemic, but it’s been helpful to post in our team chat “taking lunch now” or “I’m off for the day” just so everyone sees it and remembers, since they don’t have the visual reminder of me walking out of the office/saying goodbye for the day.

    2. Ranon*

      Agreed- I work with a lot of folks outside our organization and I’ve just straight up put my (complex, because I’m also doing childcare) hours in my signature. I think any clarity you can give to folks helps and also helps to establish a norm of not being available 24/7

    3. Kelly L.*

      Yep. I have my work stuff open on my computer the same hours I’d be in the office. That’s it.

      It *feels* like people are throwing more work at me, but I think that’s mostly because people are thinking of stuff at random hours, so emails pile up overnight in a way they didn’t really before.

    4. Ali G*

      Yeah i was trying to be flexible because so many people are working wonky hours, but I was getting multiple meeting requests a week for times after I finished work that day (8-4). I had to email a few people and say “hey! my working hours are visible in Outlook and I’d appreciate it if you stayed within them. If you really need me after 4 pm please contact me first.”
      Otherwise the day just never ends!

      1. Nina*

        You should also set your working hours in Google
        calendar, if your office uses those, so that people will at least get a reminder if they schedule you outside of those

    5. cncx*

      my boss actually enforced wfh office hours. this has helped me a lot too. i turn on an out of office on my email 30 minutes before my office hours end saying that i will pick up anything afterward the next business day, and it is set until 30 minutes after i officially start the next day.

      unfortunately i don’t share a boss with OP but office hours have kept my sanity.

  15. Kevin Sours*

    I’ve been running a distributed team for a *long* time (the weird thing for me about current events is how little they’ve changed my daily routine compared to the people around me). I’ve had to have a conversation with pretty much everybody along the lines of

    “I don’t know exactly what hours you work. I don’t want to know exactly what hours you work. But that means I may contact you outside of your working hours. Feel free to ignore me if it isn’t urgent. And if it doesn’t explicitly say so, it isn’t urgent.”

    The fact that the boss hasn’t made that clear is on the boss, but before we haul out the tar and feathers maybe reflect that everybody is making adjustments and managing from remote is it’s own skill set with it’s own pitfalls.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Yep – fully remote team lead here with people who work fully flexible hours, including nights and weekends. Another thing we’ve found useful is to distinguish in team meeting invites between “We need everyone to attend this meeting unless you’re on official PTO for the day, so please adjust your schedule for the day to include this window” and “If you’re clocked in at this time, please attend, but if not, don’t worry about it.”

  16. Uranus Wars*

    I agree with the suggestion that the OP look at where this expectation is coming from or if it is an assumption due to timing. With all that is going on, the manager may be shifting her work hours to accommodate home schooling or other things that have come up, or maybe she is taking advantage of working when she feels most productive. She might not expect employee to be on all the time.

    Maybe take a look at when assignments and communication are coming. Is there an influx in the morning and again in evening. Maybe she is batching emails or even her time.

    We have some people work work a few hours in the morning, take a big break during the day and pick back up again in the evening – could this be something like that. In our org (of about 3K) this has been at all levels that don’t require certain work coverage (like IT service desk, phone coverage, etc.)

    Now, if boss has said “you must be available 24/7” then I retract all of above.

  17. higheredrefugee*

    Also, don’t forget that your boss/others on the team may be communicating at odd hours as they balance childcare, home schooling, and even trying to use vulnerable population store hours. They truly may not expect you to answer or do anything, they’re just working when they can too.

  18. Willow*

    My boss called me at 9 pm a couple weeks ago expecting to have a long conversation about something and asked why I sounded so unhappy at the time (I thought that was pretty obvious, as I was in my PJs). Thankfully, she hasn’t called again, and I’ve been working normal business hours, for the most part. But I don’t doubt this will happen again. (Whether I pick up is another question.)

      1. Willow*

        I was probably too honest: “It’s 9 pm, I’m in my pajamas and I want to go to bed soon.”

  19. KR*

    Another consideration is what other responsibilities does your team have. Some of my direct reports are choosing to shift their work hours or work in random blocks throughout the day and evening because they have additional care responsibilities. For example, one staff member is caring for her grandchild so she works in the mornings, takes the afternoon off to spend with him, and will sometimes log back in after dinner to wrap up a few more things before the next day. Without knowing that context, an observer might conclude that she is working all day and night.

  20. Luke*

    Something worth exploring is just what the LW means by “desperate times”. If the business is on the knife edge of solvency because of the current economic picture, working around the clock may be a practical necessity. Getting context from the LWs boss will clarify if the extra workload is a matter of the company’s survival or just unreasonable expectations.

  21. LawLady*

    Oh man, I’m in the same position. My job has always had an “on call 24/7” sortof mentality. But it has really ramped up in absence of any events or commutes. On Saturday, I was on my fourth call that day with a partner when he wondered aloud why the comments we sent a few hours before hadn’t been responded to by the other side’s lawyers. I pointed out that it was a Saturday and he told me that in this environment where we’re all stuck at home, he doesn’t see any difference between Fridays and Saturdays.

    1. WellRed*

      OK, I realize law is its own animal, but I can think of so many responses to this, none of which he would have liked.

      1. LawLady*

        Ha, I was pretty flabbergasted. I told him that most of us are still clinging to the illusion of weekends.

        1. Coffee Bean*

          Weekends are not an illusion. They are a reality. Working from home does not mean that you have to surrender down time.

  22. Narvo Flieboppen*

    I am have been deemed critical to the company, and despite being shut down my boss expects us to work a full 40 hours. Normally, I process about 200 invoices per week. Last week, there were 40. I’ve been doing some projects and digital cleaning up of stuff, but the biggest projects I have going require being physically in the office which is a no-go. And the three projects I was assigned for this year which I could do, I was ordered not to work on the first two right now, and the last one is pending on upper management decisions which are in limbo for the foreseeable future. So, I’m getting paid for 40 hours and working about 15, while thumb-twiddling and desperately updating my inbox hoping for something constructive to show up.

    On the bright side, I am non-exempt, no overtime is allowed, and I immediately log out of work right at 5:00 PM. So I can immediately switch over to my online gaming. I am still, somewhat jealous of my non-business critical colleagues because the company is paying everyone their normally scheduled hours for the duration. Which means most of them are on a 6+ week paid staycation which doesn’t use vacation time. And I would really like enjoy that, being that staycation is pretty much my go-to relaxation method in the first place…

    1. WellRed*

      I hear this. The nature of my job means my workload hasn’t really lessened, while I know others have suddenly got some free time. At least util now. The three positions most likely to have more free time these days just got made part time. I’m safe from that, for now.

    2. Watry*

      I’m in exactly this situation minus the coworkers on staycation. I don’t even have any side projects to work on, because they require being physically in the office. And the other highest-risk person on my team and I aren’t even on the in-office rotation!

  23. I edit everything*

    It’s possible that emails and messages are coming in at all hours primarily because of the weird, disjointed days lots of people are having to work because of having kids at home with no childcare, and other in-home concerns. If OP is able to work a normal 8-hour day (or slightly extended, if needed, because of the heavier workload), then I think simply stating that is a good first step. “These are my hours. Anything that comes in outside of those hours will be handled the next time I ‘clock in,’ unless it’s truly urgent.” Then see what the response is from both manager/owner and colleagues.

    1. LawLady*

      That’s a really interesting perspective and I can see that being the case. If someone is trying to get in a normal workday and also taking care of kids, their usual 8-9 hours of work may be done from in bits throughout the day as they try to get work in while the kids are occupied.

      1. I edit everything*

        Yep. I broke for lunch and haven’t gone back to work because I need to make sure my kid gets his schoolwork done. No one will notice, since I’m a freelance editor who only has to worry about deadlines, not daily communication, but I’ll be submitting this edit and my invoice in the evening, most likely.

  24. IrishEm*

    I know it might not help everyone, but I had such a hard time with boundary setting in the past so now I just state categorically, “No, I can’t, I have plans.” And when pressed I just state “I made these plans a good while ago and I cannot rearrange them.”

    Nobody needs to know that my plans are washing my hair or binge watching on Netflix. I have this plan and cannot reschedule is my way around it for your lack of boundaries feels super freeing, to me.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      Me: “I’m sorry, I can’t. I have plans.”

      Boss: “But we’re quarantined. You can’t go out. What are these plans?”

      Me: “I’m updating my resume.”

    2. Actual Vampire*

      I am a grad student, and since we all have different classes/meetings, it has been very easy to say, “sorry, I can’t meet at that time because I have another meeting,” or “I can’t work on this right now because I am working on something else.” I wonder if OP can adopt this attitude for outside of work hours – just because you are home doesn’t mean you don’t have other scheduled commitments or obligations.

  25. Angelinha*

    This is me and my colleagues. We’re in government positions working from home for the first time ever. We’re not allowed to work a minute over 37.5 hours a week in theory. In practice, my boss and her boss want us immediately reachable even outside of traditional work hours and they panic if they can’t get a hold of us.

    1. Free Meerkats*

      Also a government worker, working from home as much as I can (some field work needs to be done, still.) With no kids, etc, I’m working mostly my normal hours. At quitting time, everything gets muted.

      If they panic because they can’t get a hold of you, let them panic. When the panic erupts in the morning when you log in, calmly say that you were off work, so you muted all work-related notifications and will continue to do so unless you’re on the clock. If they tell you you have to be on call, tell them they have to pay you, screen shot it, and every minute you put in after your 37.5 hours, put in for OT because that’s the law.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        Well, yes, unless you are exempt. But if that’s the case and that’s the expectation, you should know that and your managers should be communicating that.

      2. Angelinha*

        State workers are exempt from OT in my state but they would have to pay us comp time. You’re right, of course, we should just not respond until the next morning. They have us all using our personal phones too though (which is a whole other thing!) so it feels harder to ignore. I’m trying to balance being flexible with them, with respecting my own boundaries.

    2. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      Gov’t workers unite! I’ll be willing to bet that transitioning to remote work for your office has been a major culture shock, no?

      I am in a similar boat, HR in an agency deemed critical to the crisis (with a substantial workforce that cannot telecommute due to the nature of the work). It’s really just management (which I am) that’s expected to be on-call 24/7. I have no problem with this, generally, as I know it is a moment in time, but I do go to bed pretty early and have been keeping to that, and I have also been trying to carve out time during the day to (minimally) walk the dogs and exercise. In some ways, it actually helps that I am only really partly remote at this point. Every time I think I have a handle on our new normal I get a new/different assignment related to the crisis – I am sure I’ll look back on this as an exciting time for my career but right now it’s pretty crazy. Making sure I get enough sleep and some semblance of a self care routine is critical for my mental energy.

  26. Workfromhome*

    I’ve been dealing with this to a much lesser extent. My boss has made it clear he doesn’t expect 24 hour availability and the few times things have dragged on past normal hours as soon as he realizes he apologizes and cuts it off to be dealt with tomorrow. What is similar is how my boss is dealing with his own work working long into the night sending emails at all hours (but does not expect a response till next day. ). I’ve tried to help him change this for his own good but not much luck so far.

    I worked from home for many years and agree that much of the pressure people put on themselves is self generated. I f a I got an email at 10 PM and left it till next day I never heard a word about it. But some people assume if they get it they will be in trouble if they don’t respond.

    When my work day ends I disconnect the wifi from my work computer. If I get a call I let it go to voicemail. When Im free I may check it to ensure its not urgent but I’m not picking up during my dinner. When its lunch time I get up go upstairs away from computer and phone and eat lunch.

    Let someone tell you if something urgent and then you’ll know next time. Don’t turn your life upside down assuming its all urgent.

  27. LGC*

    This actually dovetails with LW1 from the short answers post – although they’re obviously two different situations! (And two different issues.)

    I think – and I’ve personally experienced – that the amount of pressure I feel from my company to do something doesn’t always match up to what they really expect. And the stakes of pushing back often feel really high – will they assume that LGC is just being demanding again? He’s always a bit of a diva, right? So, yeah, the first step might be to check your assumptions about what they need from you and…maybe take a step back.

    This isn’t to say that your boss isn’t expecting you to be available 24/7, but you won’t find out until you at least try to not be available 24/7.

    Also – your boss may just have terrible boundaries, and you have to be the one to enforce them. (This one is fun. I’ll just say that I have mastered the art of the delayed email because my boss will respond to anything no matter when I send it, and I might send emails at weird times if I’m working weekends or realize I need to ask her something.)

  28. Em*

    I didn’t get through all the comments so this might have been said already…but a lot of people are juggling work and childcare and may be working at strange times. You might be getting emails from people at 10pm because they’re spending the morning homeschooling their kids while their spouse works, and they switch roles in the evenings. That doesn’t mean they expect everyone else has shifted their hours too.

  29. Koala dreams*

    Plenty of people have plans nowadays. They might need to do schoolwork with their children, pick up medicine and groceries for family or neighbours, have skype calls with isolated family members and friends, walk the dog, feed the cats and other important things. You can still say that you have plans, without saying explicitly that your plans are to relax and eat food. If your employer acts surprised, you can point out that the current crisis means that many people have a lot more on their plates than usually. You would do your co-workers a favor, I’m sure at least some people at your company do have extra responsibilites because of the crisis.

    It’s also possible, as some of the commenters above have stated, that the boss is used to working all the time because they own the company and care a lot about it, and don’t expect immediate answers from employees. In that case, you can switch off your phone/work e-mail/messaging app and answer when you get back to work again. It’s common that the owner works more or other hours compared to regular employees.

  30. Social Missfit*

    Perhaps an out of office reply can be used. I’ve done it myself. I work 9 hour days but have been pushing 15 hour days. Many times it’s my anxiety of missing an email since we’re all working from home and not the actual expectation of the sender for me to reply.

    I’d try out of office messages for non-working hours. It’s been working for me and I’ve not been getting late night text messages.

  31. Zircon*

    I have worked from home for the last 2 1/2 years, so doing so is “normal” for me. My contract doesn’t require me to be at my desk between certain hours, so I often work in the evening and do other things during the day.
    My boss has said to all staff that she is happy if we work 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon – and she will consider that a full day!! My problem is that I am supporting frontline and essential workers who are needing a lot of input – there’s no way I am getting my work done in only 4 hours. But, it’s good to know that I am okay going away and doing something else, having a break, whatever.

  32. Anon for this*

    I work at a company that happens to be skyrocketing in business during this crisis. Not going to say what industry, but imagine being a face mask producer or video call provider.

    So it’s a lot of workload for the product-related teams to keep providing supply.

    But… I work in marketing, on advertising. It’s unnecessary since business is coming in without ads. So I was hoping to get a bit of a break during a difficult time like this.

    Unfortunately we’re in overdrive on other communications to the public, so executives are expecting crazy long days from everyone. I’m grateful for a job, but it can’t be a fire-drill emergency of urgency for weeks or months on end. We all need a break.

  33. Katniss Evergreen*

    I have had to continuously remind myself of something helpful I read online the other day –

    “You are not working from home. You are at home, during a crisis, trying to work.”

    That’s felt huge to me on the days where it feels hard just to get out of bed, much less maintain my level of productivity at work that I’m used to with my routine in place, dual monitors, relatively comfortable workspace, and happy things like good breakfast on site at work during normal times. It’s okay to set boundaries and say when you’re hitting your limits, even when you can’t possibly have plans.

  34. Amethystmoon*

    Can you turn off your cell phone, at least when you are sleeping? I do that myself. Also, some phones have a do not disturb feature, which you can put emergency family contacts in and screen others.

  35. boop the first*

    For some reason this gave me a flashback to a time my least-favorite restaurant manager (who was fired for theft soon after) asked me, in person, to stay later because a coworker was sick. But he’d waited until those precious last five minutes in my shift when my desire to leave was overpowering.
    True, I’d only worked a four-hour shift that day,
    True, I didn’t have major plans that night,
    but this dingus knew he had a no-show all day long, and instead of telling me upon arrival, thus letting me mentally prepare for a proper shift, he sprung it on me at the most psychologically difficult moment he could possibly have chosen. I had literally been counting down the minutes and thought I was free.
    So I said no. Can’t possibly stay.
    He was pissed, and kept prying for a reason that he could judge to be justified but I didn’t have one to offer. I just said no. Somehow, life went on.

    I am a HUGE pushover by the way, with a devastating guilt complex that employers use against me all the time. If I can say no to boss in person with zero (justified) reason, you can neglect to check your phone in the evenings after a full day of work. Just don’t look, just don’t look! :D

  36. Acm*

    My favorite phrasing is, “I’m finished for the day, but I’ll have a look first thing tomorrow morning” or whatever – “wrapped/wrapping up for the day” etc. It doesn’t include a negative statement or get all twisted up in availability or lack thereof (because…yeah, many of us are now technically always available), but it does take for granted the fact that every working day has an end in that breezy “of course that’s obvious to you as a reasonable person” way that AAM often recommends.

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