8 Healthy Tips for Setting Boundaries at Work

Never underestimate the importance of setting boundaries at work. How well boundaries are managed can affect the productivity, efficiency, and overall dynamic of a work environment. Healthy boundaries help keep you and the people around you sane. Boundaries create the space you need to be productive, do your best work, navigate the workplace, avoid being taken advantage of or the potential for a toxic work environment to develop, and ultimately, burn out. What boundaries you establish with colleagues can be the difference between a great job and an average or even dreadful one. Here are 8 healthy tips to help you set your boundaries:

1. Communicate Effectively

Communication is the prime way to assert and establish your professional and personal boundaries. Learning to communicate clearly and directly with your coworkers, managers and supervisors leave no uncertainty on your part in what you are asking or saying to a colleague nor will it instill confusion or misinterpretation to those with whom you are speaking. It’s okay to politely, but directly, get to the point. 

2. Asserting Boundaries

Obviously, asserting boundaries at work varies depending on the person, their position, and that which is being conveyed. That said, if you are confused about a task or expectation, ask for clarity. If a deadline is approaching, ask for an extension. You can let your team members know that when you leave for the day you won’t be answering emails or texts unless it’s an emergency. Be sure to define what an emergency entails. Add a signature to your email that you’re logged in during specific hours of the day. Such methods are effective ways to assert your boundaries in direct, honest communication.  

3. Setting Limits

Asserting boundaries on the job may be easier said than done. It is, after all, about setting limits as to what you do, when, and with whom. Certainly, it’s not a good strategy to make a list of demands and hand it to your supervisor. However, it is a good idea to write down what boundaries you want to establish before you communicate them. Writing down your expectations provides clarity and gives you the opportunity to think about what limits need to be set. Looking for inspiration? Approach someone you trust—a supervisor, team leader, or coworker—and ask them about how they set boundaries in the office. At the very least, it opens a conversation on the subject with your colleagues and it just may give you further insight into ways of creating your own boundaries.

4. Manage Your Work Relationships

In any work environment, it’s natural and necessary for coworkers to develop a rapport with the people around them. It’s also likely that, among some people, that rapport will develop into a closer relationship and friendship. That’s not a bad thing, but having a close friend or an at-work confidante may, on some occasions, compromise work boundaries. As much as work relationships can vary, they can also get tricky. Never cross physical boundaries. By and large, if you wish to maintain healthy boundaries and respect among colleagues, it is best to keep your work relationships balanced and professional. As a general rule, keep your friends separate from your immediate coworkers.

5. Prioritize Your Workload

Managing your workload by setting priorities can help create healthy boundaries. From how you manage your day to how your day passes, establishing priorities can help you avoid stress and burnout on the job. Make a schedule of your workload that lists from top to bottom the tasks and assignments that need to be done that day or over the course of the week. Listing your top priorities allows you to allocate your time and energy efficiently to ensure your days are productive ones that leave you with a sense of fulfillment. It is also a way to work toward and achieve your short-term, intermediate or long-term goals. When scheduling your workweek, keep in mind to pencil in any non-work-related commitments or activities with friends, family or colleagues. Prioritizing allows for a sense of accomplishment without overextending yourself. 

6. Learning to Say, “No”

After you have established your priorities, learning to say, “No,” when merited, is another meaningful way to set boundaries at work. Be okay to decline invitations for an early or late lunch if it cuts into your schedule. Unless required, take on extra work only if it helps you directly in achieving your goals. Learning to say, “No” is a means to keep your priorities intact and your goals a priority. 

7. Respond in the Moment

If a boundary is crossed on the job, respond in real-time the moment it occurs. Give feedback specific to the interaction, whether it is incidental, accidental or intentional. If your response does not establish, it will reaffirm or remind those of that boundary and how you want future interactions to go. It will also build professional trust between you and your colleagues. 

8. Re-Energize

Plan time off. It is a physical boundary that needs to be regularly observed. Planning time off ensures that you will take it. Scheduling a break from your responsibilities, be it a vacation or a few mental health days, can help re-energize and avoid burnout. If you are looking to change careers in a way that aligns with your core values and brings you joy, then Core Themes might be able to help. Learn more about our proven career development program or contact us today for a free consultation.