How to set healthy boundaries at work

Dec 21, 2022

Work can be fascinating. After all, our jobs are an essential aspect of our lives and make us feel like we’re part of something bigger. On the flip side, that essentiality can make us take on more work, stay at the job for longer hours. Before you know it, your calendar has no space to breathe.

A lot of mental and physical pressure at work comes from a lack of boundaries. The B-word have a pretty murky reputation, calling to mind barbed-wire fences and "keep out" signs. But real-life boundaries are a lot more subtle. And, as subtle things tend to be, boundaries can be life-changing.

Healthy boundaries = clarity, respect, and freedom

Setting boundaries at work gives you a sense of agency over your time, body, emotions and pace. They communicate your limits clearly so that others are less likely to cross an invisible line.

Your boundaries might vary based on how much work you have and what kind of relationships you’re willing to establish with your team. But here's our mini guide to walk you through developing simple yet effective boundaries at work.

Prioritise your values

Understanding your values is the first step to knowing where and how to draw boundaries at work. These values can be what you believe in, want to embody or expect from work.

We'd highly recommend taking some time to jot down your values. During these moments, remind yourself that having a good work ethic and loving your job doesn't equal being available 24/7. Ease the pressure on yourself to perform beyond your capacity and allow yourself some downtime.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

The world would be a lot easier if we had mind-reading abilities. But we don't, so the next best thing is direct communication. Expecting your team members to respect your work boundaries can be challenging if you don't communicate them directly.

We'd recommend having an open conversation with your team about your boundaries to avoid uncertainties. Ask them about their boundaries and collectively decide to honour each other's pace and space. Being clear and concise also helps with building integrity — your colleagues will know that when you say something, those words accurately represent your thoughts.

Establish deep work hours

Deep work hours are designated hours in your workday when you do the most crucial work without distractions or interruptions. They're a form of healthy boundaries because they're corralling your time to think and problem-solve without distractions. They're also making it known to your team that you'll be available for discussions and collaborations at other points in the day.

However, blocking off a couple of hours to get into a flow state also requires communication. We'd highly recommend establishing rules that apply in a workplace emergency so your team knows when and when not to message or email you.

Know till what extent you're able to compromise

Work environments are dynamic. There will be moments when you may have to compromise on your boundaries. But we'd recommend understanding to what extent you're able to compromise. This is to make sure you're doing this most respectfully and without compromising on your mental health. Saying no will reiterate the limit to which you’re flexible on your boundaries!

Plan a response for boundary-crossing

It’s very likely that at some point, someone will cross the threshold of your boundaries into an area you can't tolerate. Having a way to respond when your limit is crossed will clearly show the other person that your boundaries are to be respected. It'll save you from being caught off-guard and reacting in a way that you might regret or might jeopardise your safety.

Maintaining boundaries is a long-term process, but knowing how to respond when a violation occurs will only make these boundaries clearer!

The final word

Healthy boundaries help you determine how much of yourself you give to your career. Setting them (and enforcing them) takes time and practice. But they're a positive step forward in the road towards avoiding burnout and maintaining work-life-play balance!

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