Show Notes

A recent proposed California law would make it illegal for employers to contact employees after hours, regardless of their contract (with certain exceptions). 

In this episode Samah and Michelle talk about why disconnecting can be a really good thing, how being contacted after hours can disproportionately affect some underrepresented groups, and their own thoughts on work/life balance.

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Michelle: Welcome to the underrepresented in tech podcast, where we talk about issues in underrepresentation and have difficult conversations. Underrepresented in tech is a free database with a goal of helping people find new opportunities in WordPress and tech.


Hi, Samah. How are you?


[00:00:22] Samah: I’m good. How are you?


[00:00:24] Michelle: I’m good. It’s the day after the eclipse, 2024, and sadly, even though I was in the path of totality, we had so many clouds that I couldn’t see the sun.


[00:00:37] Samah: Oh, I’m so sorry.


[00:00:39] Michelle: I was so disappointed. I mean, like, I didn’t cry, but I was so disappointed. It did get dark. It was very eerie. But yeah. Anyway, so, yeah, there’s another one in 2026, but you have to travel. It’s not in the United States. So I’m like, I have to find out where it is. Maybe WordCamp Europe or WordCamp Asia.


[00:00:57] Samah: That will be awesome. Planning. Like, where is it? Let’s go. Let’s make WordCamp Europe at that time. And that will be the activity of the day. You know, like, just like that.


[00:01:07] Michelle: We could have the group photo, like during the eclipse, with the eclipse, which, I mean, there’s opportunities. That’s all I’m saying.


[00:01:14] Samah: Yeah, definitely. If someone hears, please, think about it for 2026.


[00:01:19] Michelle: Yeah. Yes. I’m going to do a little more research because all I saw was the year, but I want to find out where it is and, like, if we can all make it a work trip to be there. That’s not a bad thing, right?


[00:01:29] Samah: Not at all. I totally love the idea.


[00:01:34] Michelle: Oh, moving on to today’s topic, I did send you this article yesterday, and I know you’ve done some research. I’ve looked at. I’ve put a lot of thought into it as well.


But here in the United States, in California, they are trying to pass a law that would make it illegal for your supervisor, your boss, your company to contact you outside of your contracted working hours. It would only apply to salaried employees because hourly employees are already covered by that. When they’re working, they’re working. When they’re not, they’re not. So that’s the thought. Anyway, in California, and it’s actually coming up with a lot of opposition from people like the, the Chamber of Commerce saying that it would harm startups and companies that are bootstrapping at the beginning and really trying to make things work by only allowing people to be contacted outside of certain hours, with the exception of emergencies, was one of the caveats, was emergencies. I can’t remember what the other one was, but there are very few times when your supervisor, your boss, your company, however they’ve worded it, would be allowed to reach out to you outside of your working hours. And I really have thought a lot about that because you and I discussed this, and I’ll let you talk for yourself, but I hate notifications. I have to clear them, right? Like, if I see little numbers on my phone or I see that little slack notification on my message or whatever that toolbar is on my phone, on my computer, I’m like, what is it? Who is it? What do they want? What do they need? And I have to open it and see. And so sometimes I’ll look at it and then forget to go back. So I take screenshots and I do now that I, so I won’t forget to respond to people. But I can understand from the perspective of somebody who is like me and wants to know what’s happening all the time and be responsive and was raised in a culture of when somebody needs something, you say yes, you do it, you find a way to do it, and it doesn’t matter what time it is because my father was a workaholic and there’s just a whole, I have a history of all of these things, but so I can see how that would be helpful in some respects. I do understand on the other side of things, like if you are a startup and you are a kind of company, that, I don’t know, it’s hard. It’s one of those hard things. But I also want to talk a little bit about boundary setting and especially, I think as underrepresented folks for especially women, I would say. We’re raised to respond and what that means to us to have off hours. So what are your thoughts? Just kick it off.


[00:04:24] Samah: First, I’m really happy and I hope it’s going to be a law, that nobody can call you after working hours in California and then hope it’s all around the world. I think it’s really important to respect boundaries. And of course there’s going to be force majeure. There’s going to be emergency that will be okay to reach out, but also it protects a lot of the employees from burn out and have this life work balance, and then they become more productive. But it’s so funny because in Europe, and I know in France, in Spain, in Italy and in Portugal, there will be a fine if your boss texts you or call you after working hours, and if it’s not force majeure, an emergency, it has to be a real, real emergency.


I must confess, I’m the same like you. I open my slack even before I go to bed. I just check slack if there’s something and check my emails.


But it’s so. It’s so crazy, because the culture also I’m coming from. We don’t say no. It’s forbidden to say no. Like someone knocking your door at 02:00 a.m. In the morning, ask for help. You will say yes. Your boss givse you extra tasks. You say yes. You don’t have this freedom to say, like, okay, no, my plate is full.


I want to focus on what’s my hand and I don’t want extra work. But also from underpresented group as women or as colored person. It’s so difficult to say no. Because you want to show your worth, yourself. You want to show that, okay, I deserve to be here. I’m smart and I can give more. And also at the same time, you, you’re scared to miss out a promotion or a chance to go grown in the company. And I understand most of the people coming out of Europe, like, they’re not european. All of us have the same issue, believe me. Like, we cannot say no. Like, if I need to work extra 2 hours today, yes, fine, I will be okay. And sometimes I look to my other colleagues, like maybe they work in force majeure suitation, but they respect the time. Me, like, okay, give me more tasks, give me more things. But I think it’s more social aspect and also the pressure that you want to show that you’re equal, that you deserve to be in this job, and then you can give more. And also the insecurity. But I mean by the insecurity that when you start working in a new country, a new culture, you feel that you are the ambassador of your own culture, of your own country, and you want to show the best, that you can work hard, that you can give more.. That you can see. In Underpresentative group, they always work hard. They have huge issues saying, no, I don’t want to work this extra task or no, this is my weekend, I want to have a full, relaxed weekend.


[00:07:24] Michelle: I think that’s true. I think there’s some information, like the wage gap that we have between women and men, between underrepresented folks across the board. It’s almost like, well, if I’m getting paid 30% or 20% more, less, I mean, I have to work 20% more to show that I’m valued at the same as somebody who, you know, a white man, for example, that has the same role. And so I think there’s some of that is, to show your value. If I’m only making $0.78 on the dollar as a woman here in the United States, do I have to work, you know, 22% more to show that I’m worth the full dollar kind of thing? I think that that has a lot to do with it. But I also think, you know, traditionally, as women, especially, the way that I was raised. I mean, I’m a lot older than you, but I was raised in a time where my guidance counselor told me not even to go to college, I should focus on finding a husband. And I was in the top 20% of my class when I graduated out of over 300 people, you know, so, like, there was no reason for me not to go to college and to learn a trade or a career that I would love, you know? And so, like, that’s. That’s how I was raised, you know, my father, when he got home from work at 5:30 pm, there better be dinner on the table, and my mother had better. Had made it from scratch, you know, those kinds of things. So I was raised in that environment that you didn’t say no. Like you said, there’s environments, there’s cultural expectations that you don’t say no to people who have authority over you, whether that’s a supervisor, a parent, an aunt, an uncle, a grandparent, whoever it is right that you don’t say no to that. But then also, like you said, maybe it’s an opportunity for advancement. If I show, if I do these things and I do them well, will I get the recognition that I feel I deserve it or that I’m hoping I deserve so that I can advance in my career? Also, there’s a lot of layers to the conversation, whether it’s just setting a boundary or not. And I think that that cultural aspect comes into play very much so.


[00:09:28] Samah: Definitely. Definitely. And I’m speaking as a woman. I don’t know if you heard the statistic. There was like, good article. I red long time ago that men apply 60% when they match the qualification of the job. We women, we need to match 98, 100%. And I feel most of the time that we have to take that extra mile to show that we are qualified to get the job. Of course, I find the salary gap is the ridiculous things that can happen in 2024. The people can do the same job. A lot of women raising kids, because that’s the argument. You go, that he’s responsible, he’s the breadwinner for the family, but there’s a lot of women are the breadwinners for their own family. And the pressure to put on yourself that you have to work extra, that you have to take from your own personal time and also your mental health and physical health to show that I’m here, I exist, I’m smart, and just notice me. I don’t want to miss the chance to get promoted or to move forward in my career. It’s a lot of pressure.


[00:10:41] Michelle: Yeah, it really is. Can I tell you one of the tools that I have created for myself. So I turned off the sounds and notifications for, like, slack and for work email. And then I have an iPhone. You know, you can have set up different screens on whatever smartphone.


All of my work apps are on the second page, so I don’t see the notifications.


And because I turned the sounds off and the screen. I have to want to see them. So if it’s my weekend, I can, and I’m not seeing a sign that there’s somebody’s messaged me, for example, I’m not seeing that there’s email there. And that’s helped me a lot. Now, do I sometimes get curious and go look anyway? Yeah, of course I do, because not just work slack, but, like, I have 20 different slacks, like, I’m sure most people do, because I’m involved with post status and I’m involved with, you know, you. I’m a guest on yoast, so you and I have conversations. And, like, all of the other projects that I’m involved with and the cities that I’ve spoken at and those are in my slack.


So sometimes I just go and look out of curiosity. Um, mostly boredom, if I’m being honest. Like, I’m watching a movie that’s not fun and I’m lazy. Let’s just agree that it takes three times the length of a movie to find a movie to watch. Like, you couldn’t be scrolling for an hour or more, you find the movie to watch. So I’m always, like, multitasking because I just can’t sit and watch. But anyway, one of my tips is to remove it from your line of vision. So if you can put it on the second page. So I discovered that or created that for myself when I was freelancing and I was on vacation and I didn’t want to be checking my phone, so I moved everything to another page on my phone so that I wasn’t getting those visual simulations to want to go and look at my email and want to go and look at slack and look at all of those different ways that people might notify me. So that was one of the ways that I started to create a boundary for myself. Now, do people still have my phone number to text me? Yes. Are there WhatsApp and all of these other places people can get in touch with me? Yes. But the people I’ve worked for in the past and currently don’t contact me that way. It’s all in slack. Unless there’s an emergency, unless somebody is wishing me well because I’m going on vacation or I’m, you know, having a surgery or whatever, they’re not messaging me directly, which is, which is a good thing, but not everybody has that.


[00:13:18] Samah: That will be awesome. I think even me, if I put it in the second or third page, I think it will scream to me emotionally, come see me. I went to vacation last year. I said, I’m gonna take three weeks vacation. I went with my husband to Tanzania. I did something. I was proud of myself. I deleted slack completely. After two days, I felt there’s something missing. I start checking my email.


[00:13:49] Michelle: Like, shaking. Where’s my slack notifications? I’m going through slack withdrawal. Yes, I understand.


[00:13:55] Samah: And it’s funny, while you’re saying, while you’re watching a movie, sometimes when I’m watching a movie, I open, like, my Mac. And then I start looking, is there something I can do at work? And then I try to hide it. Like, I don’t want to slack someone at 09:00 p.m. Because that’s like, it’s your time off, it’s your weekend.


[00:14:17] Samah: Let me check ten sentences in the polyglot team. Let’s read a review. Let me translate something to ease the brain, which is really like, yeah, I don’t know. It’s funny. I try now. I’m really proud of myself. I started to say a little bit no to a lot of things, like, if I’m overloaded, but also I’m still working, removing the guilt. If someone asked me to help them, I have to help them. I can’t. This is in me. And especially if I’m something passionate about it, I can just weekend at night, I don’t mind with it, but, yeah, I think I should take care a little bit more about My mental health. But that’s something, that’s something gonna take very long trying and a lot of inventing methods. I will see slack all the day. I use slack more than WhatsApp, more than x, more than anything.


[00:15:15] Michelle: So, yeah, I mean, I’m not gonna lie, I’ve added some slack channels for you so I can be able to communicate with you better. I didn’t I realized I was a guest on the yoast slack channel. Very limited. Right. I only have access to, some people and then contributor day because I come and help you with contributor day. But that, that’s when I realized after, I think it was last week where you said that, like, you slightly check your slack all the time and, you respond to that slack. I was like, I’ll go. I’ll put myself there. And it’s not like I’m going to bug you, but then I’ll know that you’ll see it when you get a chance, you know? But, um, so, that’s on my phone now, too.


[00:15:55] Samah: Same for me. This notification, you know, the voice, it gives me life. It gave me energy when I hear it, I’m just like, yes, yes, let m see this notification. I wil immediately start typing something. I don’t know. Also, sometimes I blame technology because we have access to our work from our phone. We don’t need our Macs or laptops or anything. Now, we’re talking about slack. We use a prgramme, helpscout, everything in your phone. And it’s  sometimes, so difficult to put the barrier between your personal life and your work because, it’s so easy to access information all the time there’s something online, you need to see it. What’s going on? Let me check this.


[00:16:42] Michelle: Of course there is a difference between you wanting to see it and your supervisor requiring you to.


I mean, we do have to create our own personal boundaries. But then also, what is the legality? Should a company or should a state or a country or whatever be able to make that law, you know, that you can’t contact somebody outside of working hours? And like I said, for hourly employees, it’s pretty cut and dry if they’re not on the clock, if you do message them, then you have to pay them for the time that you message them because.


[00:17:18] Samah: Definitely, right.


[00:17:19] Michelle: But for us that are salaried, and that’s a lot of us in the WordPress of the tech space, a lot of us are salaried people. And also, let’s put this too, right. We are a global community. So sometimes that message is coming from somebody in their workday, but it’s not in your workday. So finding that balance is sometimes difficult, for sure.


[00:17:42] Samah: Yeah. Flexibility. And I think sometimes, as you said, the time difference, it’s super crazy. If you imagine if you live in the states or somewhere in Asia, then this 10 to12 to 14 hours difference, and this can take very long. If you send an email, you need a quick reply. Of course, if your boss called you outside working hours you should get compensated, if you don’t want to pay the person, just compensate them the next working day. They can leave work earlier. Of course, I believe there always a force majeure. There’s something once in a while that you can work a little bit extra or to pick up work after working hours. But I think maybe some people abuse it, some managers or leaders that abuse it, that they expect everyone to answer, if it’s a small or big, they need to do it. But the law, I was reading it, there was going to be like a fine, $100 if they communicate. I think that would be interesting to see how people react to it.


[00:18:45] Michelle: Yeah.


[00:18:46] Samah: But I find it weird. How are you going to complain about your boss and then the next day you’re going to say, hi, boss. I found it challenging.


[00:18:56] Michelle: So that, like, employee rights are something have such a blurry line sometimes between what’s allowed and isn’t, which also, you know, you talk about emergency force majeure, what constitutes an emergency? Like, your boss might think it’s emergency, and you’re like, this could have waited till tomorrow. It could have waited. That kind of thing.


And, you know, for slack, for example, because we work all over the world and time zones are different, if somebody messages me in slack, I don’t see it as something that has to be done right away, unless they say it has to be done by a certain deadline or whatever. Right. Text messages is a little bit different. So, like, if somebody texts you or calls you or WhatsApp or whatever it is, well? How is this an emergency? Is it an emergency? All of those kinds of things have to come into play.


Slack is asynchronous. Most companies should think of slack as asynchronous, especially if they, cover multiple time zones. And I work in a global company that I think there’s somebody in any time zone. So it makes it a little bit more challenging sometimes. But also, how am I empowered to set those boundaries? And am I empowered? Where I work? I am 100% empowered. If somebody messages me at night, I’m allowed to say, I’ll check that tomorrow, you know, kind of thing.


And unless it’s like, the site is down, we need to know. Sometimes there are extenuating circumstances, of course not. To be fair, no sites at liquid web are ever my responsibility to fix. That’s not my love. We never have marketing emergencies, for example, but we can fix that tomorrow.


But there are times when something might be technically considered an emergency.


But it’s hard to think at a tech company what that emergency might actually be because it almost always could wait, you know?


[00:20:48] Samah: Yeah. That is the thing, what do you identify as emergency? Like, for me, I’m really passionate about what I do and everything for me, I consider it need to be done yesterday, need to finish it now. But if they can wait for 1 or 2 days, it’s fine. It’s not the end of the world. But I think sometimes also maybe the character of the manager, or the leader want you to prioritized the job. And I think maybe a little bit of pressure on people and the underpresentative group that the expectation that they have to prioritize their work over their personal life. But at the end, it’s always like, yeah. What is emergency like for me? I don’t know. I consider everything emergency.


That’s something else I should work on. Everything is emergency at work.


[00:21:46] Michelle: And for me, nothing is an emergency.


[00:21:51] Samah: Me, like I said, I’m gonna be a little bit crazy. I always ask for feedback if I don’t get it, I always tag people. I’m the naggy person. But I also make a joke, like, I know where you live. I can come by to ask for a feedback. I never did it. I promise I will never do it to anyone. But as a joke.


[00:22:11] Michelle: Yeah.


So I don’t know that there is a definitive answer, but I think It’s harder for us when you’re in an underrepresented group to assert your boundaries and your rights. It’s harder, you know, when you are a woman. I’m speaking from my perspective, right. I’m not a person of color, but a woman and a disabled person from my perspective, to say I can’t. I won’t do those things until tomorrow. And that’s, like I said, it’s cultural, it’s. That’s how my family was growing up, whether that was our culture or not. That was our culture. The boundaries are very much different in 2016. I don’t think you can see there’s right over the shoulder, the tiny little top of that little thing right there. That’s an award that I got up and coming businesswoman of the year here in Rochester, and I gave a speech, and I still have it to this day. I’ve never listened to it. I wrote it, and I have it on my phone, but I’ve never gone back and listened to it. So I’m going to put it out on my YouTube channel so that if anybody does want to hear, you can hear it. But in the speech, I talked about the fact it was about wage gap that year, the whole conference.


Excuse me. I talked about the fact that I was once hired for a job as registrar of a business school, a top 30 business school here in the United States.


And when I took the job, I. The fellow that was a man, a white man that had the job before me, when I took the job, he had left a lot of things in the cabinet. So in my first couple of weeks, I would, like, search through things in the cabinets, decide what I needed to keep, what I could throw away. And he had left his pay stub so I could see how much money he had been making in that job. And when I took the job, I successfully negotiated a salary that was actually higher than the man who held the job prior to me. And that is very unusual for women in our space at all, or even in education. Right? And so I talked about that. And so I have always had an attitude of, I can, I will, and not that I don’t hit roadblocks. There are brick walls everywhere for us, not just in technology, but in life. Right.


But if I can find a way to climb it or find a way to get over it, but I did talk about that in there and how we can do it. We can successfully negotiate for ourselves. We can show who we are and that we have the ability to set boundaries to accomplish, to be what that job description requires of us without having to break ourselves, to go above and beyond so much that now we actually aren’t earning that salary by an hourly standard because we’re working 60 hours. I’m knocking things down 60 hours instead of 40 or whatever so that your hourly rate, if you were to calculate it out, is still lower.. So even if you make a higher salary. So I guess the bottom line for me is if you can set those boundaries, you don’t have to be a bitch about it, if you will. You don’t have to be a negative, horrible person. Like, nope, I won’t. But you can do it in a way that actually, and that absolutely allows you to have personhood, allows you to have autonomy, and still sets a boundary in a positive way. And if you do that, you’re actually helping others, those around you to be able to do that too.


[00:25:58] Samah: Yeah. And I think it’s explaining also why you’re saying no. Like, of course you don’t have to give an explanation for everyone in your life, but, I’m busy, or I have another meeting, or it’s my weekend. I just want to add one thing. Also to tell people it’s okay to say no. It is like you already reaching a lot in your life, and especially people from the underrepresented group in WordPress and all around the world, it’s okay to say no. And that it’s never been, in the dictionary of anyone from underrepresented group. It’s never there. Like, it’s okay to say no. It’s okay to take care of yourself first and your mental health and physical health. And then you can do whatever you want.


[00:26:45] Michelle: Yeah. Yeah, I understand. And remember that the fear of being fired because you say no should be at the bottom of how you think about things because, no, if you’re doing a good job, nobody wants to have to go through the trouble of replacing you.


[00:27:02] Samah: Yeah.


[00:27:02] Michelle: You know, they really don’t. They don’t want to have to hire somebody new. They don’t want to have to train somebody new. They want to work with you to make sure that you’re happy so that you continue working and that you can work things out. So don’t let the fear of being fired make you answer those calls and not have boundaries.


Yeah. Anyway, that’s my two cents.


I have some ideas for future conversations, but we’ll discuss those offline. So if you’re listening, you’ll have to tune in again next week to see what we’ll be talking about. Anyway, thank you, Samah.


[00:27:38] Samah: Thank you. And have a lovely evening. Day, morning, anyone, anytime. Who are listening to us wherever you are. 


[00:27:47] Michelle: Very good. We’ll see you next week.


[00:27:49] Samah: Bye-bye. See you next week. Bye.


[00:27:53] Michelle: If you’re interested in using our database, joining us as a guest for an episode, or just want to say hi, go to underrepresented in See you next week.


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Michelle Frechette

Michelle Frechette


Samah Nasr

Samah Nasr