Managers can set off-work boundaries as a way to build office culture. Georg Reuter, partner at law firm Richards Buell Sutton LLP, and Jen Wetherow, senior director of workplace consulting and training firm Great Place to Work Canada, explain where to start


1. Walk the talk

walkVictoria ParkWetherow says Great Place to Work encourages its clients to model the behaviour they want to see. For instance, Elana Rosenfeld, CEO of Kicking Horse Coffee, publicly states that she doesn’t want anyone working more than 40 hours per week. “Management can’t extol the virtues of work-life balance if the entire management team is sitting at their desk on any given Tuesday night at seven,” Wetherow says. “They have to role model the behaviour they want to see, which is, ‘Get in, do your best, and go home.’”


2. Consider their level

levelVictoria ParkAn employee’s off-work responsibilities should vary according to their job level, Reuter explains. Some more senior employees might be expected to monitor their phone and emails when they are out of the office. “It’s important to let people know what your expectations are and if your expectation is for people to monitor their email and respond.” Employers often don’t realize that employees (except management and unionized workers) are entitled to claim overtime wages according to the Employment Standards Act.


3. Ink it

Ink itVictoria ParkReuter recommends having clear policies that make it easier to advise employees when certain conduct crosses the line. “This will inform decisions about the consequence,” such as how a worker should be disciplined and in some cases terminated for breaching the employer’s policy, he says. The four types of policies employers should consider putting on paper: social media conduct, mobile device use, overtime pay and intellectual property rights. The latter, especially crucial for the high-tech sector, should specify if inventive work outside office hours belongs to the person or employer. 


4. Get creative

creativeVictoria ParkSetting off-hours boundaries can be a way for employers to send a message about company culture. One company considered a great place to work is plant-based-nutrition specialist Vega, says Wetherow. There, management supports women in the workforce by empowering men to take an active parenting role. Parental leave top-up is available for mothers and fathers, as is flexible scheduling, allowing employees to come in early or work remotely. 


5. Let it go

Let it goVictoria ParkThe best workplaces don’t have stated policies around flexible work arrangements, Wetherow says. Rather, she argues, they create an atmosphere of mutual trust. This benefits both sides. “Managers who trust their employees allow them to be risk-takers and innovators, and allow ideas to bubble up from all levels of the company. In the best workplaces, we see organized management that really go to great lengths to ignite passion in their employees.”