Data analyst John (not his real name) is looking for a new job to break free from a boss who makes him work on his Sunday rest day to submit reports on Monday. The work environment has gotten so toxic, he gets panic attacks.
The weekend grind has caused the 25-year-old to miss weekend meals with the family. During weekdays, John said he would get triggered everytime his supervisor would call three hours past his clock out.
“Minsan kahit habang kumakain ng dinner, tinatawagan ako ng boss ko para lang utusan. Nakakapagod din minsan kasi parang wala nang katapusan yung work,” John told reportr.
“Work from home kami pero kahit nasa bahay ka lang, wala pa ring time magpahinga dahil may mga utos pa rin naman kahit tapos na ang work hours,” he added.
John’s predicament reflects the struggle of millions of Filipinos who find it difficult to draw the line between work and rest under the pandemic-induced work-from-home setup. Although this allows employees to work remotely, many are still at the beck and call of their bosses at any time of the day, depriving them of full, uninterrupted rest.
“Rest gives us the opportunity to rejuvenate, to regain our energy. So if nai-interrupt yung rest period natin, nai-interrupt yung pag-regain natin ng energy,” senior human resources manager Michelle Morales told reportr.
“Kung walang rest ang mga employees, naco-compromise yung work output mismo. Kailangan natin ipahinga yung mind at katawan natin para ready tayo in delivering quality output the next day,” she added.
Why work-life balance matters
Blurred lines between work and rest take a toll on employees, especially thouse who are juggling office tasks and household chores.
"Just imagine that our working environment and our venue to relax nasa iisang lugar, yung effort mo as an employee to really draw the line, times two,” Morales said.
A lack of balance between work and rest could also affect one’s personality and create friction among members of the household, psychologist Jojo Tandoc said. Spouses and siblings could fight over limited spaces in the home that are conducive for work.
“It impacts the productivity of the individual kapag hindi maayos ang relationships niya or may issues siya with resources. Kapag disturbed siya with the people around the household, hindi magkakaroon ng maayos na output,” he told reportr.
Blurred boundaries take a toll on mental health
Bosses constantly contacting employees to assign tasks during rest hours only exacerbates the difficulties in a work-from-home setup, disrupting what would have been the time to recharge after a long day at work.
When the late-night calls become more frequent, they could trigger an array of mental health problems among employees, Tandoc, the psychologist, said.
“Siyempre kapag tumatawag ang boss mo, the natural tendency is to answer it. But there is anxiousness because at the back of your mind, ‘Bakit tumatawag ang boss ko?’” he said.
“If there is a prolonged continuous anxiety attack, magco-cause na ng panic in your end. Doon na nagsisimula yung panic attack. Kapag na-prolong din yung panic attack to a point na yung empleyado will experience depression na kasi hindi na siya masaya sa ginagawa niya,” he added.
Some people even experience dreaming about their work, which happens when they are bombarded with texts and calls from their managers during off hours, Morales said.
“Doon na nagkakaroon ng feeling na pilit na pilit akong pumasok, pilit na pilit akong gumising. Yun yung epekto ng ganung klaseng norm sa mga employees,” she added.
What to do when your boss asks you to work during off hours?
To help employees strike a balance between work and rest, Sen. Francis Tolentino filed a bill that penalizes bosses who require employees to work beyond the normal eight-hour period unless with consent, or even contact them for work during their off hours.
Employees who refuse to open or answer communications received during rest hours can't be penalized by their employers, the bill said.
But for those who may be struggling with a boss who frequently calls during rest hours, Morales and Tandoc gave these pieces of advice:
Focus on your area of control
While you can’t prevent your boss from contacting you, you can choose not to respond to his emails and calls unless you know it’s very urgent and it can’t wait for the following day, Morales said. This will give you the well-deserved peace of mind during your rest hours.
“The moment we respond, it's not only that we answer the email, but we also send the message that we can be disturbed even beyond working hours. So focus on your area of control,” she said.
You can also turn off work-related notifications when it’s time for you to rest. “Napakasimple niyan pero highly-impactful,” Morales said.
Talk to your boss about it
Morales underscored the importance of normalizing conversations about your right to rest, so your boss will understand that you also need some time for yourself.
“Be open and respectfully communicate with your manager that you are not comfortable if you are receiving calls or emails beyond working hours,” she said.
Sometimes, bosses are not mindful of their behavior at work, so it’s best that you be honest that their constant calling has been affecting you negatively, Tandoc said.
“Tell your boss that you have been encountering these issues and facing mental health issues because of his behavior. I think the boss will understand,” he added.
Set your boundaries
Tell your boss that you can only respond to his calls during the regular working hours, so that when you don’t answer his late-night calls, he will not take it against you, Tandoc said.
It’s also best to have a “team charter” where there would be a common understanding that working beyond work hours is only allowed if it’s really urgent, Morales said.
For managers, Morales and Tandoc advised to be committed in providing a healthy and productive work environment.
“At the end of the day, it will not only help the employee developing work-life balance but also yung work output ni employee, nagre-reflect sa performance ni manager, nagre-reflect sa performance ng team,” Morales said.
Michelle Morales is a psychometrician, human resources manager, and co-founder of Leading with Success, an eLearning company which aims to infuse positivity in the workplace.
Clinical psychologist and human resources professional Jojo Tandoc is one of GrayMatters Psychological and Consultancy's licensed consultants for organizational development, capacity and culture building, and coaching and mentoring programs.