Personal Space: Creating the Space Workers Need to Thrive


Control over time is one of an employee's most important weapons in a happy work environment.

Could increased personal space help your team thrive and improve your own career as an HR leader? In "Hiding in the Bathroom: An Introvert's Roadmap to Getting Out There (When You'd Rather Stay Home)," author Morra Aarons-Mele explores the importance of taking control of time management, your career path and your day-to-day work environment to give you the space you need to succeed.

In this series on must-read books for HR leaders, we're taking a closer look at how business leaders can learn from these techniques and help their teams succeed.

1. Embrace the Power of Setting Boundaries

Pay attention to feelings of discomfort and resentment to know when important boundaries are being broached. Aarons-Mele writes, "Both of these emotions are common signals that your personal boundaries are being threatened, but they are also emotions we are taught to suppress and question. When an interaction or situation triggers either emotion, examine the interaction or expectation, and ask why." Create more space by using specific boundaries to help you push back on things that are causing you stress or discomfort. Boundaries might include:

-Limiting technology and social media, such as how often you check digital communication channels.

-Exploring where other people's expectations — including those of your partner and family — may be negatively affecting your ability to set boundaries at work. For example, is your partner's expectations of a high salary causing you to take on more at work than you want to?

-Establishing limits with bosses, clients and colleagues regarding when you'll be available inside and outside the office. This can be challenging, but it helps create and enforce a culture that prioritizes healthy work-life balance and improves both engagement and employee satisfaction.

Setting boundaries can help you in your career. As an HR leader, creating opportunities for your team to think about their own boundaries — and a culture that encourages workers to express them, within reason — can have a significant long-term payoff.

2. Think Creatively About Time

Aarons-Mele notes that control over time is one of an employee's most important weapons in a happy work environment. In fact, Entrepreneur suggests that 34 percent of the population — and rising — are freelance for that very reason. She advises that if you discover your schedule is making you anxious and you need to pare down, it's important to start by thinking about what you need: What do your ideal schedule and job look like? Second, come up with a concrete plan. How will you work remotely for part of the time or reduce your hours in the office? Does it involve letting go of parts of your job, or changing your office hours?

Often, reclaiming personal time involves changing the way you work. As an HR leader, if you're adapting how your own career unfolds, it's important to have a clear vision and a plan. Within your organization, think about the different ways flexible work options could help you accommodate a wider range of employees who may be dealing with life transitions (such as having kids, caring for aging parents or facing health challenges) or simply shifting their perspective on boundaries and time.

3. Take Control of Your Day-to-Day Experience

Creating more time in your life isn't just about the big picture; it's also important to streamline your day-to-day work plans. Aarons-Mele notes, "If you like your daily work schedule, you'll enjoy your life more. Yes, a radical four-hour workweek level of control is not realistic. But if your default is hiding in the bathroom, taking control of your schedule to better fit your energy levels and moods can really help."

Even if you're not hiding in the bathroom, thinking strategically about your schedule can provide a greater sense of control. For example:

Can you chunk your days?

For example, some individuals will only schedule meetings in the afternoon. At the organizational level, some firms declare certain days "off meetings" for deeper and more creative work. On a slightly smaller scale, it may be beneficial to only check your email at certain times of day.

Can you align your schedule with your energy levels?

Is early morning the best time for you to do revenue-generating work such as data analysis or writing? Alternately, if you're best later in the day, that could be the ideal time for you to meet with clients. To whatever extent possible, suggest and schedule your day in a way that aligns with your energy levels.

Can you balance your level of busy?

For each person, there's a balance between "too many events" and "too few events" — or projects, clients, commitments, etc. Be realistic about your balance and find ways to make your workflow reflect it.

Claiming personal space can improve your outlook and productivity. HR leaders can use this to shape their own careers and to create a blueprint for the work culture they envision. By taking a deeper look at daily schedules, time and boundaries, it's possible to work within the requirements of your organization and develop a schedule that's optimized for you.