How Do I Set Professional Boundaries?

Published On: June 17, 2024|Categories: Employees|
man reclining on his chair in cubicle with EXIT sign above

Setting boundaries can be a challenging topic for many people. Why are they necessary, and how do you do it? Do you even need to set them? Is there a benefit?

The truth is that setting boundaries in the workplace allows you to feel a sense of ownership over your time and energy; it protects you from burnout and overwork. When your coworkers interact with you at work, it can alert them to what is appropriate and what is not. 

Setting boundaries can be difficult, but with practice, they become easier to maintain. You may also notice your productivity and focus improving when firm boundaries are established.

Should I have boundaries at work?

You should. 

Setting boundaries at work can reduce your stress, foster a sense of work/life balance and increase your productivity. Additionally, these boundaries can be a key to preventing burnout, where you feel so overworked and out of control of the situation that you experience symptoms like exhaustion, lack of motivation and even anxiety from and hatred of your job.

It is important to create boundaries for yourself to prevent this from happening and reduce your chances of becoming irritable with your coworkers.

What are examples of professional boundaries?

Setting boundaries at work can be challenging if you are unsure where to begin. Consider the following suggestions to help you start.

Don’t answer work-related calls, texts or emails outside of work hours 

If you look at and respond to emails and texts outside of work, or answer phone calls from your coworkers or supervisors, it sets a precedent that you can be reached wherever, whenever. While it might initially feel good to be available and show how dedicated you are to your work, it will ultimately leave you feeling like you have little to no privacy.

Disconnecting from work by not responding to texts, emails, and calls after you have clocked out or left the building is important to help create needed space between work and home. It fosters a work/life balance and gives you the mental break you need. 

Have a designated space for working if you work remotely 

While it can be hard to feel a sense of work/life balance if you work remotely, consider designating a certain room or area of your home for work. This will help you keep the rest of your home a place of relaxation and prevent your mind from confusing “workspace” with “rest space.” 

Set emotional boundaries 

While it may sound strange, setting emotional boundaries at work is vital. These include avoiding unnecessary workplace drama and conflict, being open with your manager about how they can help you excel and choosing to mentally separate work stress from life at home. 

Establish physical boundaries

Setting physical boundaries can help you be more productive and feel more comfortable where you work. You can keep things professional by shaking hands instead of going in for a hug, or you might wear headphones while working to indicate to others that you do not want to be disturbed. 

Physical boundaries also include setting work hours and being comfortable with home on time. Additionally, you may choose to go on lunches or take breaks alone to reset away from coworkers. Avoid viewing this as rude; it is simply a means of protecting your peace.

Be comfortable with “no”

We all struggle with it, but saying no is important at work. If you have too much on your plate and someone asks you to take on more, protect your sanity and say no. If you are asked to do something overwhelming or out of your wheelhouse and you do not have the time to learn, explain to them why you are not the best option for the task. 

Saying no gives you control and protects you from becoming overwhelmed and overly stressed.

Be conscious of overtime commitments

There is nothing wrong with a bit of overtime here or there, but be careful taking on too much overtime. The more time you spend at work, the less time you have to be restful at home and do the things you enjoy. This can lead to burnout over time and a lack of productivity if you do not refresh yourself. 

Delegate if you can 

Sometimes, we just have too much to complete, and the only way it will get done is with the help of others. Delegating your workload when appropriate and if others are capable of helping is a crucial way to set boundaries. It does not reflect poorly on you but rather shows that you understand your limits and know when to ask for help. 

Need more workplace assistance?

If you, as an employee or as an employer looking to add additional staff support, seek more support in the workplace, Mazzitti & Sullivan EAP is here to help. Our EAPs are designed to help all company members excel in their jobs and enjoy their work. 

To learn more, contact Mazzitti & Sullivan EAP online.  

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