One of the wonderful things about self-directed services is that you can employ people you know and trust to take care of yourself or your loved one. This includes family members, friends and neighbors. Since the work is typically being done in your home it creates a fairly informal work environment. While there are many benefits to this, there are some challenges too. One of those challenges can be establishing good working boundaries between you and your employees.

Workplace boundaries may be hard to define because they are intangible. According to experts at the University of California San Francisco, the definition of a professional boundary is “ your ability to understand where you end and another person begins.” This includes understanding people’s needs for space, setting limits, determining acceptable workplace behavior and creating a sense of autonomy.

We’ve put together a list of five ways as a manager you can establish good working boundaries with your employees.

  1. Make sure people understand their job responsibilities in detail. This helps employees know their role and when they may be stepping outside those boundaries. It also helps you measure their job performance. Providing employees with a written job description is a good way to clearly define their roles and responsibilities. Our organization has sample job descriptions and templates that we can provide to make writing these easier for you.
  2. Let your employees know what type of work behavior is unacceptable. In addition to our organization’s policies and procedures, you may have your own workplace rules and conduct expectations. Examples of unacceptable behavior may include the use of cell phones during work hours, offensive language, gossiping about other employees and/or other topics of conversation. Make sure you communicate the consequences for engaging in unacceptable behavior. As a new employer, you may not realize behavior that is unacceptable until you witness it. The best thing you can do is to stop the behavior immediately and let your know employee know what they did was wrong and to not do it again.
  3. Treat all employees the same, regardless of your personal relationship. You may be tempted to treat family members or close friends differently or favorably because you know and care about them. It’s vital that all employees are treated equally. This applies whether you’re setting pay rates and work schedules or providing performance feedback. While you may think it’s okay to for your sister (who is your employee) to bring her children to work, this can quickly turn into an issue with other employees if they feel they are not being awarded the same benefits. On the other hand, don’t take advantage of employed family or friends. For example, you may often be tempted to call your neighbor across the street to fill in last minute.
  4. Have a conversation. For employees with whom you do have a personal relationship, you may find that having an open and honest conversation to set expectations at the beginning of their employment will go a long way in preventing boundary issues. Because they know you personally, they may have information you’d rather not be shared with your other employees. Ask them to refrain from talking about personal information at work, especially in front of other employees. A simple example might be asking them not to call you by your nickname at work.
  5. Lead by example. You may find it difficult to be entirely professional while working in your own home managing your family members and friends. Try to set the tone by avoiding conversations about non-work or personal matters when employees are “on the clock”. Finally, remember that the rules you set for your employees should apply to you as well. Leading by example is one of the best ways to reinforce desired behavior within your care team.

Setting boundaries right from the start will help establish your role as an employer and your expectations for your employees. Clear boundaries help people to work more efficiently and productively, and contribute to a happier and healthier workplace.

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