Working Evenings, Weekends, and Vacations and Setting Boundaries


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Hi everybody! It’s Elizabeth Gilbert, creator of, and this is my first live Facebook post so I’m very excited to be on today. And I hope a few of you get some good value out of this. So what I wanted to talk with you today about was working evening, weekends and vacations. I hear a lot of admin tell me that they do these things. So I wanted to talk with you guys about that. Just to kinda cover some of your bases in case that’s not what you really wanted to do.

The first thing we’re going to cover of course is evenings. Now, for me personally, if I’m sitting at home just chilling, hanging out, watching tv, it doesn’t bother me to do a task in the evening. But again, I’m usually just watching tv. I’m not really all that engaged in doing really important things. And so if I get a text from one of our agents or if I get an email, I’ll check email every now and then, but I typically don’t do a whole lot of work in the evenings. Instead what I do is I pretty much shut off my email. If you’re too engaged in the evenings, you’re really not getting time to relax. And if you’re taking work home with you, if you are answering texts, if you are answering emails, especially from clients, gosh, that’s just so hard. So we’re going to talk a little bit about how to train those people to wait for you until you’re back in the office.

So weekends…do you make yourself available on the weekends. Again are you responding to clients, responding to the agents, are you getting involved with them that way? I would say, again, it kinda depends on what I’m doing. If I’m really busy then I’m not going to respond to texts and emails and stuff from the clients and agents. If I happen to be “unbusy,” then yeah. I will take a moment, take some time and respond to one of those. But to me, it’s really not “working”. And so, instead on weekends, what we like to do on our team is institute what we call “right of first refusal”. And the reason why we do that is because, as we all know, sometimes the agents don’t really do a good job of writing contracts. And so if we get hit up on the weekends, they have the opportunity to call or text either myself or my transaction coordinator and say, “Hey I need some help. Are you available?” We can always say no. We have that right. And especially on the weekends to say, “Well you know I’m really busy right now; you’re kinda on your own.” All of our agents know how to write contracts. And I’m talking in DotLoop, whether it’s paper or electronic, they know how to get them and write them and do them. If we “refuse” to do something on the weekend, we understand that whatever the agent did over the weekend might not come back perfect. And so we get it! As the admin, we go, “Oh gosh, well, I’m just going to have to clean that up on Monday. It’s fine. I’d rather be with my family, my friends, go shopping, whatever it is that you do on the weekends…as you should! Then do that first. And if you happen to be at your computer or you happen to be in a place that on your phone you can get something done and you want to, then sure! Do that. If that makes you happy and you don’t want to come in to a messy contract on Monday, absolutely, you should just go for it.

So vacations…are you working on your vacations? Do you take a laptop with you on your vacation and get stuff done while you are out of town? I hope not! And so here’s what I would suggest. If you are going to be away on vacation, and as an assistant, as an admin, you are afraid that it’s going to get jacked up while you are gone, here’s what you have to understand. It’s going to get jacked up while you’re gone! You’re just not going to be able to control all of that. And so a suggestion that I have for vacation…I have four thing that I want to cover with you.

First is, the agents should be able to do it themselves. The agents were around before you, well your lead agent at least, right? And they know what to do. They can muddle through. Yeah you’re going to have a lot of contract cleanup when you get back, but let them handle it. Let them see how valuable you are, for one. And appreciate. “Oh gosh, she was gone all week. Don’t ever do that again!” And it’s not like they really mean that, but they have a better understanding of what it is that you do and a more solid appreciation if they don’t already.

Now, if you as the admin are going to be gone for an extended amount of time, see if your market center has an in-house transaction coordinator or someone that can do piecemeal work. Our market center just hired someone to do all of that. And so there could be someone available for you who will do a one-off transaction or just sort of get things going while you’re on vacation that week. Especially if it’s extended, like at least a week.

I’ve seen some transaction coordinator in California, I don’t know why. If you know something special about that, let me know. But it seems like most agents in California don’t hire their own personal transaction coordinator, they all use a service which I think is super cool! That might be an option in your area as well. Is there a transaction coordination service that can do that for you?

And then, worst case scenario, you’re…and I say worst case. It might not be. But, perhaps you and another admin on another team from your office could get together and say, “Hey if I’m on vacation, and my agent needs something, will you cover?” And then vice versa. So when she is on vacation, you cover her. Actually, this might be ideal. You’ll have to play with how people get paid. Is it only after hours that you’re allowed to work on other files. Work out a sort of work exchange with another admin. And I think you’ll get some mileage out of that. Again, especially if you tend to take longer vacations and are out of the office for a while. Or at least go to another admin in your office and say, “Hey is it ok if my agent comes to you and asks you some specific questions if he needs to submit a file to the office or if he needs help in DotLoop. Can he come to you, because normally he’d come to me for that stuff and we just need coverage in that area.

So see if you can figure out one of those four ways to get some coverage while you are on vacation. And at the very minimum, turn off your email, put your vacation responder on. I’ve seen admin do this for evenings and weekends too. Put on your vacation responder that just says, “I’m gone for the evening, but I’ll respond to all emails after 8 AM” or whenever you get in the office. And then again on the weekends. If it’s Friday afternoon, like it is about to be here, say, “Sorry I’m out of the office for the weekend, but I’ll be back on Monday. That way if people don’t realize you don’t work evenings and weekends, they’ll get a response to their email that says that you’re not available.

And really, one of the hardest parts of this is getting your agent to tell the clients and the co-op agents that they might not get a response from you, but that you will get back to them when you’re back in the office. So for us, our lead agent Ron, will say to a co-op agent, “Courtney doesn’t work weekends and I know that your inspection notice will come in over the weekend, she’ll get to that on Monday.” You’ll be surprised how many agents and clients are like, “Oh sure, no problem.” They don’t expect everyone to work all the time like your lead agent! (And hopefully your lead agent is taking some vacations as well and not working every single day.)

So that’s just some ideas about how to handle evenings, weekends, and vacations. And then how do you set up boundaries for that? One of the things you’re going to have to do is have a hard conversation if you are currently allowing yourself to be interrupted in your evenings and your weekends and your vacations. And if you don’t want to do that anymore, or your family’s getting mad at you because you stop and take texts from the boss. I know my husband got mad at me quite a few times on weekends when I would be typing away on my computer and he’s going, “What are you doing? Are you working?” “No, no, I’m not working!” Wink, wink, nudge, nudge! So if that’s happening to you, and you want to stop that, you gotta set some boundaries with your agent. And that’s quite simply, it might be a hard conversation if you’ve been allowing that to go on for a while. To say, “Hey can I have a quick conversation with you about working on the weekends? See, I need to spend more time with my family, so what can we do to make sure that you’re covered while I’m not in the office? What do you need to know in order to get by until Monday without me?” And then help your agent through that. If they need to learn DotLoop, you have to teach them. If they need to learn the contracts. Typically if it’s just responding to clients, they’re ok with that, but if an offer comes in and you’re usually the one who puts together an offer summary, teach them how you do that. What is it that goes into that? Give them your templated emails. Maybe they’re sending out those templated emails instead of you. But you’re definitely the one that has to say I’m going to put up this boundary. (And you don’t have to say it that way.) But create boundaries for yourself to say, ok after six pm, I’m done. I’m not going to check my email. I’m not going to pick up my phone. Or same for weekends and vacations. I would really like to see you take some time for yourself and relax.

And so the final thing I would like to cover with you is if you’re taking work home with you, that is a sign that you need to hire someone. If you spend your evenings at home working, if you’re taking stuff home, working on it after dinner, up late at night, you’re cheating the system. The system is, the admin works eight hour days, takes lunches, takes breaks, and the work gets done. Now I’m not saying all of the work gets done. And here’s why. It will never be done. Your plate is only so big, but there’s an abundance of things that can go on the plate once you start cleaning stuff off. So if you are taking work home, you’re staying late at the office, you are cheating the system. And if you’re cheating, it’s time to hire. You have to have support, you have to get someone in your office who can take some of that off your plate because you’re just getting overwhelmed and overworked and that’s how people get burned out in this business.

So I hope this has been helpful for you. If you have any questions be sure to ask them in the comments below! I’m curious to know about you…will you typically do work in the evenings or on weekends, or are you an admin that has no problem setting boundaries on that stuff and stick to that? Be sure to leave a comment!

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  1. Pingback: How an Executive Assistant Can Benefit from a Vacation | The Assistant Files by Elizabeth Gilbert

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