How to Set Boundaries at Work

For many, the lines between work-life and home-life are becoming increasingly blurred. We partly have the pandemic to thank for that, but ever-advancing technology has meant that work is accessible right at our fingertips, at any point in the day.

That’s why setting boundaries is an important way to protect your time both in and out of work. Why is this so crucial? Well, having boundaries in place can improve your energy levels and lead to a greater sense of purpose and fulfillment in your day-to-day.

It goes without saying that having clear boundaries does not mean you won’t think about work outside of work hours or completely avoid personal matters during work time. However, it allows you to experience a clearer mind shift. You may also experience the weight of the day lifting and a sense of relief that you are ready to unwind.

Boundaries look different for everyone but here are a few useful ways to start establishing your own ground rules and how to stick to them.

Know Your Worth

Many of us have experienced the dreaded imposter syndrome – the feeling of not quite being enough, which can be accompanied by a desperation to prove oneself. As a result of this, you might throw yourself into work and try to establish ‘enough-ness’ in a bid to prove your worth.

Everyone is brimming with value, whether you see it or not. And your value will struggle to shine if you are overworking yourself and crossing personal boundaries. Understanding your worth means you appreciate what you can offer, and you can feel assured in putting boundaries in place to perform to the best of your ability.

Communicate Clearly

As with anything, communication is key. Be sure to articulate your boundaries to your colleagues in a clear and respectful manner and express your needs and expectations openly and honestly. This will also help establish a sense of respect between you and your colleagues.

Manage Your Time

Ensure you schedule work time, breaks, and personal time to recharge – and be disciplined in adhering to your schedule. Try to avoid overcommitting or taking on tasks that exceed your capacity, and learn to be comfortable with saying ‘no’.

Top tip: Try blocking out time in your work calendar and make it available for colleagues to see. This will help if you feel uncomfortable having a conversation about your boundaries and will help you to visualise the structure of your day.

Identify Your Non-negotiables

Most jobs require occasions when you have to make compromises. Whether that’s working later than planned, starting earlier or having to attend a meeting through your lunch break – it happens to us all. Remember, you can’t be in two places at once.

It’s helpful to have a non-negotiables list written so you can assess what the consequences of saying ‘yes’ to additional work may be. By identifying these things, it may help you to discover what’s important to you and how to apply your boundaries to support these priorities.

Be Consistent

Setting boundaries is one thing, staying on top of them is another. Once you have defined your boundaries, be sure to enforce them. Practice being assertive when necessary, reinforcing your boundaries when they are challenged or disregarded.

Remember, setting boundaries is an ongoing process that requires consistency and self-advocacy. Learn to be okay with what might make you feel a little uncomfortable.

Being able to define your boundaries is essential for maintaining a healthy work-life balance. It can help eliminate feelings of stress and burnout and is a positive step for your wellbeing. It’s a process of adjustment and occasional re-evaluation as circumstance change but it’s important to keep on top of it to ensure you are working to live – not the other way around.

Remember to seek support if you need it. If you are struggling with where to start or are facing resistance in the workplace, consider speaking to a colleague or line manager for guidance and advice.

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