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How to Set Boundaries at Work

Photo Credit: Leon Venter via Unsplash

If the past two and a half years have made us realize anything, it is that the work culture that most of us were a part of prior to the pandemic does not work. It was not supportive of our overall health. For those of us that work, our jobs and careers are a big part of our identity. We spend most of our time throughout the week tending to our never ending work to-do lists and giving energy to our work responsibilities. And for many, work can be a major source of the stress that they experience. Having healthy boundaries with work is now more important than ever, especially with the economy, societal discussions of "silent quitting," "working your wage," "silent firing," and the push to go back into the office. We are in a world that is constantly changing around us and it is important that we are doing what we can to protect and support our mental health.

It can feel difficult for many to advocate for themselves in the office or set boundaries. Toxic workplace culture can have us feeling as though we are never enough and can also elicit trauma responses such as people pleasing. Sometimes, our relationships with management can even mirror certain aspects of the relationships that we had with our primary caregivers when we were young. It can especially feel difficult to advocate for ourselves in the workplace when we are in financial need. It isn't always realistic to walk away from your job, especially if you are living paycheck to paycheck. This is why boundaries with work are so important. Boundaries not only help us to establish a better work/life balance, but also help to prevent and cope with burnout. If you are someone that is having a hard time establishing boundaries with work, here is how you can get started:

Mental Boundaries

These types of boundaries are so important to have, because they are protective of your mental health.

  • Be sure that you stick to working within your scheduled hours

  • Avoid workplace gossip

  • Set an away message when you are out of the office

  • If you are unable to complete all of your work tasks during a given time, ask your manager which tasks need to be prioritized

  • Delegate tasks

  • Silence your phone while on your breaks

  • Do not complete others' work

  • Know when to say "no"

Emotional Boundaries

Having emotional boundaries help us to develop our sense of self, prevent us from taking on the emotional burden of others, and take care of our feelings.

  • Communicate with your boss or supervisor how you prefer to receive feedback

  • Avoid connecting with your colleagues on social media if you are uncomfortable with that

  • Create a structured schedule during the week that has time for self-care

  • Connect with colleagues that are supportive

  • Keep your work relationships professional

  • Use your time off

Physical Boundaries

Physical boundaries help our bodies to feel more comfortable and safe in the spaces that we are in.

  • If you need time to de-compress, take your lunch break solo

  • Don't work on weekends

  • Be mindful of how often you participate in evening "work events"

  • Give handshakes instead of hugs

  • Get fresh air outside throughout your work day

Now that you know of a few boundaries that you can implement, it is important to also know how to maintain them. When maintaining boundaries, it is important that you are regularly checking in with yourself. Check in with your emotions, pay attention to how you feel around certain colleagues, and be honest with yourself when you are beginning to feel overwhelmed. Boundaries can always be re-assessed and more can be added on if need be.

What boundaries will you be setting at work that prioritizes your overall wellness?

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