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Professional boundaries – Workers
One of Suitsme’s values is human connection. We believe that support works best when you have a strong, meaningful relationship with the clients you work with, as well as with their family, carers and any other people who are important to them.
There are many different types of relationships; friendship, romantic, transactional, collegial to name a few. We need all of them to live a full, rich life but we need the right relationships with the right people.
For example, you may have a great romantic relationship with your spouse, but it would be confusing if you also had that relationship with a colleague or your doctor (up to you though – you know what works for you).
Suitsme expects you to have a professional relationship with clients. Due to the nature of the work we do, this can be challenging, for instance:
- We care about our clients and want the best for them.
- We are caring people who go the extra mile to help someone.
- Some clients are socially isolated and push you towards a personal relationship.
Unfortunately, this can sometimes blur the line between a professional relationship and a personal one. To help keep your relationship professional, it is important to establish and maintain boundaries with the clients you work with.
When boundaries are not maintained it can lead to problems for both workers and clients such as:
- Increasing/unreasonable demands and expectations from clients/families.
- Stress and burnout.
- Difficulty setting limits and dealing with behaviour.
- Being put into unsafe situations which you are not equipped to manage.
- Loss of independence and increasing dependence on staff.
- Grief and loss when a worker leaves.
- Loss of motivation to seek a natural support network.
- Not seeking proper professional support.
Here are some rules which will help you maintain professional boundaries:
You are a paid support for the client, you are not their friend. Friends don’t accept money in return for spending time with someone.
You must never:
- Give your personal information to clients e.g. address or email.
- You can give clients your phone number, but if you do you must give them clear boundaries about when they can call you (i.e. within 1 hour of a shift or if they are cancelling a shift). It is your responsibility to enforce these boundaries by not answering your phone outside this time. Clients should not text you, any text-based communication should be done through the app.
- Encourage or allow a client to think that you are friends.
- Introduce clients to your own family, friends or support network.
- Socialise with clients outside of work hours.
- Visit a client outside of a scheduled shift.
- Have any intimate or sexual dealings with a client.
Communicating with clients outside of sessions
How should I communicate with clients?
- Through the in app messaging function.
- You should not text with clients, any text-based communication should be done through the app.
- You can give clients your phone number. Some clients don’t use the app or prefer phone calls. You will be able to see the client’s phone number in the app so you can call them. If you don’t want to have your number then you can set your phone to a private number prior to calling them
- You must give clients clear boundaries about communication outside of sessions.
How do I set boundaries?
- When you start with a client you should have an open discussion about boundaries. Set some rules:
- Contact outside sessions should only be for arranging logistics (e.g. bring running shoes or meet me at the café)
- Set the time periods in which you will respond to messages (e.g. 30 mins before sessions with her). Tell them that you will always respond to their messages, but only within those times. Then, don’t even open their messages unless it’s within those times.
Why do I need to set these boundaries?
- You take on a significant risk by communicating with clients out of hours. Worst case scenario, a client discloses suicidal intent to you at a time when Suitsme management is not available and then duty of care rests with you.
- You do not get paid for the time you spend supporting clients outside a scheduled session
What do I do if client’s insist on contacting me outside of sessions?
- If a client contacts you and discloses some that concerns you (e.g. intent to harm themselves or others) report this as an incident in the app immediately.
- If a client requires phone support, then they should book sessions with you in the app and agree with you that those sessions will be done over the phone.
- Contact Suitsme via email@example.com and and we can help you resolve this with the client.
Workers working with their own family members or friends
You must not work with members of your own family or people with whom you have pre-existing, personal relationships. If a family member or someone you have a pre-existing personal relationship with requests a shift with you, do not accept it. Contact Suitsme and we’ll help you manage this.
Suitsme fosters a social media community which both clients and workers are encouraged to join and contribute to. You can maintain professional boundaries on social media by:
- Not adding clients as friends
- Not accepting or initiating requests for Direct or Private Messages with clients
- Only communicating with clients via the Suitsme Community Group.
You must never:
- Purchase or consume alcohol, drugs or other illegal substances while in the company of clients.
- Smoke in front of clients or with clients.
- Talk about your personal, financial or other life problems with clients.
- Allow a client to drive your vehicle.
- Give advice outside of your skills and role (such as financial or medical advice). If a client needs this sort of advice, help them find a professional who can advise them.
- Talk about clients with your family or friends.
- Criticise, complain about or discuss issues relating to Suitsme with clients or their family. If you have an issue with Suitsme, follow the Disputes and Grievances section of the Performance document.
Maintaining boundaries is part of looking after your safety. You have a responsibility to maintain professional boundaries in order to keep yourself safe.
As boundaries can slowly blur over time, it’s good to periodically ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I becoming overly involved or attached to a client?
- Do I do things for this client what I wouldn’t do for other clients?
- Do my work and home life seem blurred?
- Have I disclosed personal information to the client?
- Do I consider the client a friend?
- Do I allow the client to consider me a friend?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, there is probably a boundaries’ issue. If you identify a boundary issue and are not sure what to do, contact Suitsme and we’ll work it out together.