Is the stress of your job overflowing into your personal life? Does your boss contact you outside of work hours, interrupting much-needed downtime or family time? Do you say “yes” to requests that are beyond your bandwidth?
If any of this sounds familiar, you are not alone.
Unfortunately, many of us struggle with setting boundaries at work. It can be a daunting task to have difficult conversations with our managers, especially when we have to say “no.” But there are strategies that can help you feel confident taking the first steps toward reclaiming your time and sense of peace.
Studies show that work causes the majority of stress in American adults. And because remote jobs allow us to work from anywhere at any time, work boundaries are blurrier than ever.
In an article published in Forbes, Caroline Castrillon (founder of Corporate Escape Artist) offers tips for setting healthy boundaries at the office:
- Conduct an audit. Write down all people and situations that cause you stress at work. If something you write down brings up feelings of anxiety, resentment, or guilt, it may be a sign that a boundary needs to be set.
- Set limits. Are there certain times of day when you really don’t want to think about work? You have every right to communicate your limits to your manager and colleagues. For example, you may state that you will not be checking emails or answering phone calls after 6:00 PM. Remember: setting limits is not something you need to apologize for.
- Communicate clearly. Your colleagues are not mind-readers. While it may seem obvious to you that work-related calls on a Sunday are a violation of boundaries, it may not be to your associates. While it’s not always easy to be direct, it is the best way to make your preferences known. .
- Take time to respond. A subtle but effective way to keep yourself from saying “yes” to everything is to pause. When receiving emails, we may get the urge to respond right away — either to check it off the to-do list or to prove that you are responsive and dedicated . But taking a beat offers us the opportunity to check in with ourselves and assess other obligations and/or limitations. If you feel the need to respond right away, buy some time by saying, “That might work. Let me check my schedule and get back to you.”
- Prepare for pushback. While receiving pushback can feel discouraging, it often validates the need for a boundary . Receiving pushback doesn’t reflect on you as a person or employee. And while you can’t control people’s reactions, you can prepare for them. Try imagining how you would respond if a boundary was crossed in the workplace. What would you say? Preparing for such interactions allows us to use our logical brain rather than our emotional brain when conflicts arise.
Self-worth is another critical component that fuels our ability to set boundaries at work. In her book Making Space: How to Live Happier by Setting Boundaries That Work for You, Jayne Hardy writes:
“If we never feel as though we’re enough, we can throw ourselves into our work to try and ascertain enough-ness from our output, usefulness and indispensability.”
When considering workplace boundaries, reflect on what role self-worth may be playing. Are you someone who seeks approval from others often? Do you define your worth by how much you are publicly praised? If so, you may be looking for external validation of your worth. As Hardy expresses, we cannot obtain our “enough-ness” from our professional life. The sooner we embrace this, the sooner we can set boundaries that allow us to thrive as professionals…and as human beings.
If you’d like to schedule a discovery call to discuss how I can help you establish healthy boundaries in the workplace, click here.