You Can Redraw Work Boundaries This Year—and Make Them Stick
Kanebridge News
Share Button

You Can Redraw Work Boundaries This Year—and Make Them Stick

The workday ballooned during the pandemic—but it’s possible to push back without jeopardising your career.

Tue, Jan 25, 2022 11:12amGrey Clock 4 min

Have we forgotten how to say no?

Our boundaries have been scrambled by two years of working through a crisis, often from the same place we do everything else. Managers know we’re home. Employees want to prove themselves in a world without face time. There’s a new, unspoken contract between bosses and workers: You can work where you want, but the flexibility comes at a personal cost. You’re always on.

“The employer feels like, you’re lucky enough to be at home. You’re kind of at my beck and call,” says Ellen Ernst Kossek, a management professor at Purdue University who studies work-life boundaries, and their dissolution.

I’ve heard about it from both sides. A funeral-home manager in Georgia was surprised when his team confronted him about his frequent Saturday night text messages about sales quotas. A pharmaceutical company employee back in her Boston office was cornered in the kitchen by a colleague demanding to know why she hadn’t responded to his email yet. It was 8:30 a.m. He’d sent it at 6:30 a.m.

Returning to the office doesn’t appear to have reset the equilibrium for some people. In a way, it can be the worst of both worlds: You lost the freedom of logging on from home, but you still have the back-to-back Zooms and lunchtime meetings.

“You’ve learned to work a way that was kind of crazy,” Dr. Kossek says.

Restoring some of the walls between our jobs and our lives requires pushing back, graciously and smartly. Dr. Kossek suggests setting a timer to go off at 10 minutes before the hour to signal to your videoconference compatriots that it’s time for you to move on to something else, whether it’s cooking dinner or writing a report.

Consider whether you and a colleague can pair up and cover each other in meetings if family responsibilities, like a daycare closure or a kid’s soccer game, creep into the workday, Dr. Kossek says. And talk to your team about how fast you’re expected to respond to internal and client emails. Is the pace reasonable? If not, prep with co-workers on what better expectations would look like and broach the topic with your manager together.

“If you’re the only one, you’re going to get stigmatized,” Dr. Kossek says.

There are risks. Say no too often and you’ll miss out on big projects, alienate your colleagues or even jeopardize your career. And yet, saying yes and then missing a deadline can be just as detrimental, says Karen Shafrir Vladeck, a partner at an Austin, Texas, law firm.

Learn to read your boss and understand when something is really an emergency that necessitates cancelling your plans, or not, she says. (Of course, to some bosses, everything is an emergency.)

And perfect the art of saying no without it sounding like a no. “I’m so slammed right now, I’ll be available on Monday,” or “I’m so busy, but I know Jennifer has time to help,” Ms. Vladeck suggests. “There’s nothing worse than someone just saying no and then walking away and leaving it,” she says.

A few years ago, Christina Heath, a single parent in Lutz, Fla., started feeling burned out. Her work as a project manager felt like it was taking over her life, and also seemed oddly robotic and drained of humanity. So she started speaking up. She told her boss that she couldn’t juggle more than four projects at a time without the quality slipping. Instead of tackling after-hours emails, she’d respond that she’d get to them in the morning.

“It doesn’t feel good. It’s actually really scary,” she says of setting boundaries. But eventually it became liberating. After about six months, her colleagues stopped sending the late emails. Her project load got lighter. Yet everyone remained happy with her work, she says.

The key is to be respectful but resolute. No one will believe your boundaries if you don’t seem confident in them yourself, she says.

How to figure out where the lines should be? Max Yoder, chief executive of Lessonly, an Indianapolis company that provides employee-training software, sorts everything from business lunches to time with his daughter into five categories. The buckets range from “I’m committed,” to “I’m trying” to “I don’t care.”

“It’s a way for me to take two competing things and saying, which one do I care about more?” he says. He recently passed on a trip to San Diego for a company board meeting—Zooming in instead—so he could spend time with his parents and friends visiting from out of town. Before the pandemic, he was more likely to give priority to work over life.

“I don’t want to be that anymore,” he says.

Of course, it’s easier to say no and deal with the consequences when you’re more senior and have more job security. If you’re nervous you might lose out on would-be clients or irritate your boss, remember that boundaries can come with some wiggle room, says Elizabeth Knox, principal of MatchPace, a Washington, D.C.-based organizational-effectiveness firm. Check your calendar: 85% of the time, you should be sticking to your limits, like not taking calls after 6 p.m. The remainder, you compromise.

Some people are finding their pandemic habits are hard to break. Communications executive Carrie Schum spent 250 more hours on client work—an extra third—from April 2020 to April 2021, as compared with the year prior. Without her commute and evening gym routine, she found it hard to log off. Even when she returned to her D.C. office twice a week last spring, she still found herself hunkering down with writing projects and flipping through email after hours.

She tried leaving her phone in her home office starting at 6 p.m. (Self-grade on that experiment: C+.) She tried banishing her phone from the bedroom at night. (Her husband bought her a clock to use as an alarm instead; she went months without plugging it in.)

One thing finally brought some relief: She joined two soccer leagues, which have 7 p.m. games that last a few hours. Playing requires being fully present, and has helped break the hold that being on around the clock had on her.

“You start to figure it out,” she says. “That’s just not life.”


This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

Related Stories
Retro Kitchens Are Everywhere—and the Ultimate Rejection of the Sterile Luxury Trend
By TRACY KALER 22/04/2024
Millennials Are Coming for Your Golf Communities
By JESSICA FLINT 21/04/2024
The Longevity Vacation: Poolside Lounging With an IV Drip
By ALEX JANIN 16/04/2024
Retro Kitchens Are Everywhere—and the Ultimate Rejection of the Sterile Luxury Trend

Playful 1950s style spotlights details like coloured cabinets, checkerboard and mosaic tile patterns, vintage lighting, and SMEG appliances

Mon, Apr 22, 2024 6 min

The 1950s spawned society’s view of kitchens as the heart of the home, a hub for gathering, cooking, eating and socializing. Thus, it makes perfect sense that the same decade could inspire today’s luxury kitchens.

“The deliberate playfulness and genius of the era’s designers have enabled the mid-century style to remain a classic design and one that still sparks joy,” said James Yarosh, an interior designer and gallerist in New Jersey.

That playful style spotlights details like coloured cabinets, checkerboard and mosaic tile patterns, vintage lighting, and SMEG appliances—all of which are a conspicuous rejection of the sterile, monochrome kitchens that have defined luxury home design for years. One of the hottest brands to incorporate into retro-style kitchens, SMEG is turning up more these days. But the question is: How do you infuse a colourful refrigerator and other elements from this nostalgic era without creating a kitschy room?

“The key to a modern, fresh look in your kitchen is to reference, not imitate, signature looks of the 1950s,” said New York-based designer Andrew Suvalsky, who often laces retro style throughout the rooms he designs. He said using the period as inspiration will steer you away from imagining a garish space.

“When it comes to incorporating that retro-esque look, it’s a fine dance between looking beautiful and looking kitschy,” added Lisa Gilmore, a designer in Tampa, Florida. Gilmore suggested balancing contemporary pieces with vintage touches. That balance forges a functional yet attractive design that’s easy to live with while evoking a homey atmosphere––and ultimately, a room everyone wants to be in.

Colour Reigns Supreme

Suvalsky said one way to avoid a kitschy appearance is to mingle woods and colours, such as lacquered base cabinets and walnut wall cabinets, as he did in his Montclair, New Jersey, kitchen.

“Mixing colours into your kitchen is most effective when it’s done by colour-blocking––using a single colour across large areas of a space––in this case, zones of cabinetry,” he explained. He tends to lean toward “Easter egg colours,” such as baby chick yellow and pale tangerine. These soft pastels can suggest a starting point for the design while lending that retro vibe. But other hues can spark a vintage feel as well.

A mid-century-inspired kitchen by Blythe Interiors.
Natalia Robert

“Shades of green and blue are a timeless base foundation that work for a 1950s vintage look,” said designer Jennifer Verruto of Blythe Interiors in San Diego. But wood isn’t off the table for her, either. “To embrace the character of a mid-century home, we like a Kodiak stain to enhance the gorgeous walnut grain,” she said. “This mid-tone wood is perfect for contrasting other lighter finishes in the kitchen for a Mid-Century Modern feel.”

Since colour is subjective, a kitchen lined with white cabinetry can assume a retro aesthetic through accoutrements and other materials, emanating that ’50s vibe.

“The fun of retro designs is that you can embrace colour and create something that feels individual to the house and its homeowner, reflecting their tastes and personality,” Yaosh said. He recommended wallpaper as an option to transform a kitchen but suggested marrying the pattern with the bones of the house. “Wallpaper can create a mid-century or retro look with colours and hand-blocked craftsmanship,” he said. “Mauny wallpapers at Zuber are a particular favourite of mine.”

Suvalsky suggested Scalamandre wallpapers, for their 1950s patterns, and grass cloth, a textile that was often used during that decade. He also likes House of Hackney, a brand that “does a great job reinventing vintage prints in luscious colours,” he noted. “Many of their colourways invert the typical relationship between light and dark, with botanical prints in dark jewel tones set over light, more playful colours.”

Materials Matter

Beyond wall covering, flooring, countertops and backsplashes can all contribute to the 1950s theme. Manufactured laminate countertops, specifically Formica, were all the rage during the decade. But today’s high-end kitchens call for more luxurious materials and finishes.

“That’s a situation where going the quartz route is appropriate,” Gilmore said. “There are quartzes that are a through-body colour and simple if someone is doing colorued cabinetry. A simplified white without veining will go a long way.” She also recommended Pompei quartz Sunny Pearl, which has a speckled appearance.

A kitchen designed by James Yarosh that incorporates pops of yellow.
Patricia Burke

But for those who welcome vibrant colour schemes, countertops can make a bold statement in a vintage kitchen. Gilmore said solid surface materials from the era were often a colour, and quartz can replicate the look.

“Some brands have coloured quartz, like red,” she said. But keeping countertops neutral allows you to get creative with the backsplash. “I‘d pull in a terrazzo backsplash or a bold colour like a subway tile in a beautiful shade of green or blush,” Gilmore said. “Make the backsplash a piece of art.”

Suvalsky also leans toward bright and daring––such as checkerboards––for the backsplash. But depending on the kitchen’s design, he’ll go quieter with a double white herringbone [tile] pattern. “Either version works, but it must complement other choices, bold or simple, in the design,” he explained.

Neutral countertops with a bold backsplash, designed by Lisa Gilmore.
Native House Photography

Likewise, his flooring choice almost always draws attention. “My tendency is more toward very bold, such as a heavily veined marble or a pattern with highly contrasting tones,” he noted. Yarosh suggested slate and terrazzo as flooring, as these materials can make an excellent backdrop for layering.

Forge a Statement With Vintage Appliances 

As consequential as a kitchen’s foundation is, so are the appliances and accoutrements. While stainless steel complements contemporary kitchens, homeowners can push the design envelope with companies like SMEG when making appliance selections for a retro-style kitchen. Although Suvalsky has yet to specify a SMEG fridge, he is looking forward to the project when he can.

“I think they work best when the selected colour is referenced in other parts of the kitchen, which helps to integrate these otherwise ‘look at me’ pieces into the broader design,” he noted. “They are like sculptures unto themselves.”

“For our mid-century-inspired projects, we’ve opted for Big Chill and the GE Cafe Series to bring a vintage look,” Verruto added. Similar to SMEG, Big Chill and GE offer a vintage vibe in a wide selection of colours and finishes, alongside 21st-century performance.

Can’t commit to a full-size appliance? Sometimes, a splash is enough. Gilmore tends to dust her retro kitchens with a coloured kettle or toaster since her clients are likelier to add a tinge with a countertop appliance or two. “Mint green accessories make it pop, and if in five years they are over it, it’s not a commitment,” she said. “It’s a great way to infuse fun and colour without taking a major risk.”

Deck out the Breakfast Nook

Kitchen dining areas present the opportunity to introduce retro lighting, furniture, and accessories to complete the look. Flea markets and antique markets are excellent places to hunt for accompaniments.

“Dome pendants and Sputnik chandeliers are iconic styles that will infuse vintage charm into your kitchen while also easily complementing a variety of other styles,” Verruto said.

A retro breakfast nook desinged by Andrew Suvalsky.
DLux Editions

Suspend a vintage light fixture over the classic Saarinen table, and you can’t go wrong.

“Saarinen Tulip Tables are almost always guaranteed to deliver a home run in nearly any interior, especially a 1950s-themed kitchen,” Suvalsky said. “The simplicity of its form, especially in white, makes it nearly impossible to clash with.”

To really channel the vibe of this era, Verruto suggested local vintage stores and brands such as Drexel Heritage and Lexington. Dressing the windows counts, too. “Cafe curtains in a chintz pattern will make for a fabulous finishing touch,” she said.

Meanwhile, Yarosh delights in selecting tabletop items, including novelty stemware and other trappings ubiquitous in the 1950s. “Mid-century kitchens also need to have pedestal cake plates and maybe a cloche to keep a cake,” he mused. “I love the opportunity to curate these details down to the correct fork and serving pieces.”


Consumers are going to gravitate toward applications powered by the buzzy new technology, analyst Michael Wolf predicts


This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

Related Stories
From Singapore to Porto: Why turning his life upside down was Gabriel Tan’s best move
By Robyn Willis 24/03/2024
Australian Homeowners Stay Put: New Report Highlights Suburbs With the Longest Tenure
By Bronwyn Allen 23/10/2023
They Were About to Move In When the Ocean Almost Washed Away Their New Home
By E.B. SOLOMONT 23/02/2024
    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop