Recently I suggested in one of our blog posts that office hours need to die, and it might be wiser to distribute work in a different, more flexible manner. A small debate ensued and one of our followers raised an important concern – flexibility in where you do your work might lead to a situation wherein employers start cutting into your private time.

The trouble is, people sometimes assume that doing work from home – or especially – working from a home office means you’re always available. It’s a dangerous assumption that, unless handled properly and timely, may lead to additional (and unnecessary) stress. There always has to be a line between your work life and personal life.

It takes two parties to enforce a border effectively. Flexible working arrangements must not evolve into 24/7 work – and to prevent that, both employees and employers have to take concrete steps.

So, I’d propose the following two part solution:

1. Employees – box out your private time

It’s OK to go the extra mile and work more than whatever your agreements state – nothing wrong with that as long as it’s not wearing you out. But at the end of the day, you have to pick out time you want just for yourself, and stick to it. Figure out how much time you need (and when you need it) and box that time out of your schedule. That box is your safe zone.

Also, be assertive about when you are available and when you’re not. When somebody does manage to get through to you with a request during your private time, tell them you’ll do it on your next availability hour. You’re not James Bond – England won’t fall if you keep your phone away a few hours every day (if you are James Bond – disregard and get back to work).

2. Employers – respect the box

Short point – you don’t need burned out/stressed employees. Entrepreneurs might (and probably should) take their work-life balance as a very subjective concept, but you cannot necessarily expect the same from people working for you. Or rather – you can, but be clear about your expectations and their level of commitment before starting a working relationship.

Ultimately, a lot of it boils down to employee satisfaction. Happy people do good work. To be happy they need time to pursue their hobbies, or just take a much-needed break. Take software developers, for example. Great developers don’t just work on one thing – because for them, coding is more than just work. Giving them freedom to pursue their interests keeps them inspired and is, ultimately, in your best interests.

Has work time begun a global offensive on our privacy? Share your experience in the comments below.

We all need a break – tell your friends to just box out their private time on Twitter.