Dealing With a Workaholic Boss in a Virtual Environment

 


A workaholic is a term that means nearly the same thing in every country but carries different circumstances for each situation. It indicates someone who appears to be “living to work” instead of “working for a living.” Discovering the reasons are crucial to pinpointing a solution, lowering your stress, and managing to squeak out a life for yourself while your boss works around the clock.

Countries are looking at two things when it comes to the workplace. They’re looking at virtual work design and redefining what a workweek in 2020 and beyond really means.

USA Today breaks down the figures for 2020 traditional workweeks:

Denmark

• Average workweek (full-time employees): 37.2 hours

• Employees who worked over 50 hours/week: 2.3%

• Workforce that is part-time: 20.4%

France

• Average workweek (full-time employees): 38.9 hours

• Employees who worked over 50 hours/week: 7.7%

• Workforce that is part-time: 14%

Germany

• Average workweek (full-time employees): 39.5 hours

• Employees who worked over 50 hours/week: 4.3%

• Workforce that is part-time: 22.3%

Austria

• Average workweek (full-time employees): 40.2 hours

• Employees who worked over 50 hours/week: 6.7%

• Workforce that is part-time: 20.5%

United States

• Average workweek (full-time employees): 41.5 hours

• Employees who worked over 50 hours/week: 11.1%

• Workforce that is part-time: 12.7%

The world’s most overworked country goes to:

Colombia

• Average workweek (full-time employees): 49.8 hours

• Employees who worked over 50 hours/week: 26.6%

• Workforce that is part-time: 6.5%

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When looking across the transitional work landscape, none of those figures accounted for commuting to a brick and mortar workplace. Add another one to four hours to those average workweeks per day and times that by five. Now, with so many people “saving time” by skipping the car or bus ride, they’re putting that back into their work, employers are encouraging it in some cases, which is where the hours start to add up.

A reported 5 million employees (3.6% of the entire U.S. workforce) are working from home, and that number has grown by 173% since 2005. As digital technologies get faster and smarter, we’ll see this increase.

Our bosses, managers, leaders, and supervisors influence virtual workspace boundaries and encourage a healthy and supportive environment or encourage you to get on their schedule if they prefer to work non-stop.

Reasons

  1. Top-down pressures could mean that the person above you is pushed to working beyond their job scope, and this pressure gets passed down. In that case, this is a company culture issue.
  2. Personal pressure to advance or gain recognition may create an environment where a boss expects everyone to support their career journey as defined by them, forgetting others might also have ambitions and life responsibilities.
  3. Cultural norms and job-specific roles carry an expectation of long hours. A vice president might work 60-hours, whereas a receptionist is working 40-hours, but how about the person supporting the V.P.? Will they have to live by the VP-grind, will they be paid fairly, will it help them advance in their career, and support their personal and family goals?
  4. Work hobbyists do not distinguish between their life at home and work life. They might not have many responsibilities at home, by design, and work fills the void and makes them happy.

Survival Strategies

Exceptional Time Management — Be honest with yourself about the flow of your day and how long you spend on personal tasks, distracted. Working from home is a distraction time-bomb that goes off all the time. If you’re working smarter, maybe you’ll maximize your productivity inside of regular hours.

Time management also includes understanding the priorities and goals for the person you are working for, aligning with the flow of what’s important to them. This might help to reshape working expectations, cutting non-essential tasks. That said if what’s important to your boss is working, no matter how silly the task, around the clock, consider leaving.

Negotiate a Middle Ground — Ideally, you’ve worked out the hours and expectations before starting at a company, but this doesn’t always work out perfectly in a virtual environment. There is a lack of physical structure that makes people think there is more flexibility, and after the onboarding, you’re at the manager’s discretion.

Work during the critical period of your boss’s day, or work longer hours on some days and shorter hours on other days, leveling out to an average week. If you’ve been hired to work 40-hours a week and paid accordingly, and the hours start to drift upward, without being able to report them, ask your boss what hours they consider their critical working hours. This will let them know that you’re aware of the difference between your average workweek and what they ask of you. It will also force them to consider when they really need you if they decide to work 24–7.

*Please note, I am not saying, “Do not work extra unpaid hours.” If you think you’ll be rewarded in some other way — go for it.

Observe and Listen Before Speaking and Judging — Have you paid attention to your boss’s workflow, personality and picked up on any patterns? Are they really asking you to work, or are they working, but not expecting you to respond or jump in until working hours resume?

Do you understand the company structure and where your boss falls into that hierarchy? How did they get there and what do they need to do to maintain their position or grow?

If you understand the background and the dynamics of what makes up the company from your boss’s perspective, it might make it easier to find ways to best support them while balancing your work life.

Communicate — Communication doesn’t always work, and that’s unfortunate. Strategic communication that conveys the right message in the shortest amount of time without defensiveness works.

You must be able to communicate what is bothering you about the work arrangement. You can’t say “everything.” You can’t say “too many hours.” Drill down into the week and discover what is causing you trouble.

For example, If you are logging into the team platform at 6 AM every day, taking a lunch break while in a meeting, and your boss requires you to support their 1-hour 6 PM meeting, that’s being specific. In this situation, you can go back to the question of critical hours. Allow your boss to define what they feel are the essential hours for your role. Hopefully, some adjustments would take place with their support upon realizing you worked more than 12-hours a day from home at a pay rate of 40-hours a week, hardly at the 50% percentile of your industry/regional standard.


In a virtual environment, words matter even more because you don’t have physical feedback. New hires who never experienced life in the office are at the mercy of interpretations, and structured environments are essential to the onboarding transition, so flexibility is not mistranslated into rudeness and disregard.

Setting boundaries, being productive and honest will help to host an environment where team members stay longer, and real collaboration happens. And it takes strength and skill to speak up for yourself, but sometimes it’s necessary.