Drawing the line between personal and office space

Family pictures are definitely good for keeping the love and all the blissful personal and family memories, but should they replace the out and inbox tray at one’s desk? One ought to ensure their children are well taken care off, but must they talk for long on phone to the nanny as a long queue of clients or colleagues wait to be attended to?

Esther Namale, the human resource administrator with Cure Children Hospital, Mbale, says one should draw a line between personal and office duties. “I will not tell you what people should do but what I do,” says Namale.

“If I am busy attending to a particular office assignment, I do not pick personal calls, for I do not know what the person on the line is going to tell me. It could be that I answer my call and because of the information relied to me, I fail to finish that particular task yet I am employed and paid to do that piece of work. I finish the task and call them back.”

Namale says it is for this reason that some organisations do not allow their employees pick calls during working hours but during tea or lunch break. This is common with telecommunication companies in departments such as call centres.

In an earlier interview, Doris Akol, the Uganda Revenue Authority Commissioner General, said sometimes it is not easy to find a perfect balance between work and personal duties but says one has to establish boundaries. “When it is family time, there has got to be no work. No work appointment on Sundays or Saturday afternoons, for example. Then when it is work, there is no family business. For instance, my family members do not just come into my office unless it is an emergency,” says Akol.

Then think about this: holding a family meeting in the company’s boardroom because your kin came from home with a family matter and you choose to meet them at your office. “This is very unprofessional,” states Namale. “Personal meetings should not be held in office. Maybe at the reception, but even there, it should be very brief.”

Rather than breach work rules, Namale aises, one should formally ask for a break from work to attend to personal matters or organise personal meetings outside official work days and time. One can as well utilise the official work break to attend to personal matters. The employment Act provides for at least one hour break in a day.

Flavia Lwanga Ntambi, the director human resource at Airtel Uganda, recommends good planning. “There will always be personal and work issues,” she says. “If you ignore personal issues, your work will be affected so will your personal life be if you ignore work. What is therefore important is good planning. This should not be a rule but something to guide you. If you have a plan of deliverables, say, for a week, if personal issues come up, you will know how to handle them.”

Personal etiquette, Ntambi says ,is also important, for one ought to know what and what not to do in an office, whether it is your office or not. She aises employees to follow company rules and ethics and managers to support their employees in handling personal and official work.

Tips on keeping work boundaries
• Tune out all distractions to increase your productivity at work.
• Avoid checking your personal email, text messages and home voice mail while working. These activities steal time away from your productivity and, in many cases, can be taken care of after work hours.
• Limit the time you spend online. Avoid surfing the Internet, checking social networking sites or posting on discussion forums related to personal matters.
• Save private conversations with coworkers for lunchtime and other breaks.
• Practise efficiency. Copy the effective work habits of the productive coworkers and managers in your workplace. This will help you accomplish more work in less time.
• Overcome procrastination. Break down large tasks into smaller, more manageable pieces. Use timers, electronic alerts and planners to keep you on task.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor


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