Setting Workplace Boundaries: Getting Out of the Office on Time

by stacie on January 5, 2021

As a working mom, I know the challenges.

When my first daughter was young, I was working in an office for someone else. With my second child, I’m a freelancer that ended up renting office space because working at my house became increasingly challenging the more mobile the baby became.

Still, I face the challenge of getting out of the office on time to pick my oldest up at school and relieve the nanny of her duties at 3.

And I don’t even have a boss or other coworkers to answer to! You know what I’m talking about, right?

You’re rushing out the door and one coworker asks a question while another says, “Oh, wait, I have something you’ll need for tomorrow.” Meanwhile, you don’t want to be rude and just walk out, but you know your kids are waiting on you … and frankly, you’re ready for a quiet 20 minute commute and some super-excited hugs and kisses that only your kiddos can provide.

Sound familiar?

Hopefully we can cure that … or at least some of it. How do you get out of the office on-time without ruffling any feathers? Here are some tips.

Start Leaving 30 Minutes Before You Actually Plan on Departing

I know this sounds a little crazy, but it does work. And I don’t mean put on your coat kind of leave; I mean start putting stuff you know you’re taking home into your bag. The next time you walk past the office kitchen, grab your lunch tote out of the fridge and refill your water bottle. Walking past the coat closet? Grab your coat and hang it on the back of your chair.

Announce That You’re Leaving—Loudly

Unless you’re trying to sneak out, it’s a good idea to let people know that you’re leaving. This falls in line with starting your “leaving routine” just a tad earlier than you normally would. Check in with coworkers that you are managing projects with—do they have any last-minute things they need to know or tell you? Doing this is as easy as saying, “Hey Suzy, I’m headed out … are we all set for the day with the ABC project?”

Cut Off Communication

Stop taking phone calls and don’t look at your emails. If you have to, set your phone to go straight to voicemail. Feel weird about not immediately replying to emails? Set an auto-responder that takes effect every day exactly 30 minutes before you’re set to leave. Make the message short and sweet: “Thanks for your email. I’m currently not at my desk but will reply to your inquiry by 10am tomorrow morning.” The caveat, of course, is that you need to make sure these are emails that you address first thing the next morning.

Spend 15 Minutes Organizing Your Papers and Your Files

Getting your desk organized will help flag your memory of any phone messages to be returned, give you an opportunity to file away any papers that you are no longer using, find work that can be delegated to someone else and help you feel more relaxed about leaving for the day. There’s nothing worse than knowing you’re walking into a disorganized pit in the morning.

Spend the Last 10-Minutes Going Through Your Calendar

This serves two purposes. It allows you to cross off completed tasks and gives you a sense of accomplishment as well as helps you feel more prepared for the following day. It also gives you a chance to think about something other than the papers that are left on your desk. By now most things should be put away and if your computer is still open/on, it’s not doing anything productive anyway. I mean, seriously? How much real work do you get done at 10 minutes before 5? I’m just curious. Because I know what my answer is: pretty much nothing.

Say Your Goodbyes and Walk Out the Door

It’s 5. It’s time to leave. If you’ve followed the plan of preparing to leave 30 minutes before your actual departure, you should be feeling ready to walk out the door. And if you’ve already checked in with your coworkers, you can legitimately say, “I really have to run to grab the kids. Let’s chat tomorrow morning,” to anyone that approaches you.

What do you do to leave the office on time? 

photo credit: freestockphotography

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Penny W. January 5, 2021 at 11:01 am

What a smart post! And while I work from home often, I also find that setting my smartphone alarm for ten minutes before I have to leave can really help when you are caught up in the groove of your work and arn’t aware of the time flying by. This can break your focus and get you started closing up shop for the day so you will be there in time for that school bell.

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