Can my boss expect me to answer calls and texts outside of work hours?
The following Q&A featuring Julie Labrie was originally published by the Globe and Mail
on Monday September 27, 2021.
I started a new job six months ago and my boss expects me to answer texts and calls at all hours of the day. I went along with it at first because I was new and wanted to show that I was eager and the right person for the job. But she has become really demanding after hours and gets upset when I don’t pick up or text back right away. I feel like I can’t ever unplug. Being “on-call” like this wasn’t included in the job description. What should I do?
THE FIRST ANSWER
Julie Labrie, president, BlueSky Personnel Solutions, Toronto
You should definitely have a discussion with your boss. First, collect verifiable evidence (e.g. e-mails or text examples) of instances when you’ve been expected to be on-call after hours, and note the frequency of such requests. This will allow you to better communicate with facts instead of tackling perception.
Use your employment agreement and job description as the foundation of your conversation. What working hours were outlined for your position? Confirm how the employment agreement and job description don’t stipulate that this role requires continuing availability after hours. Then reconfirm with your boss the working hours that you are expected to fulfill each day. Come to an agreement that beyond that, if something urgent arises, you will make yourself available.
To make your discussion as productive as possible, be intentional in your approach. A win-win would be for both of you to gain a clearer mutual understanding and establish some reasonable expectations of healthy boundaries. Share your objectives with your manager, while reiterating your commitment to the success of your role. We all need time to unplug from our jobs to recharge. That’s how we bring our best selves to work each day.
Unfortunately, some employers do take advantage of their employees, expecting them to always be on-call. Ultimately, if the dynamic with your boss doesn’t change, you may need to consider whether this job is right for you, or whether you should look for a different opportunity.
To read the second answer by Yvonne Ruke Akpoveta, change management strategist and adviser, OliveBlue, please see the Globe and Mail’s Nine to Five article here (subscription required).