July 14, 2022
The last few years have tested our resilience and patience as we adjust to the global changes from the pandemic. Now more than ever, especially with technology, flexible work, and ever-changing workplaces, it is important to set and enforce personal and professional boundaries. Work boundaries help conserve our time, energy, purpose, and fulfillment during and after work. Clear boundaries encourage us to have focused, dedicated work time and personal time to recharge.
Below, you will find several ways to implement boundaries at work:
Physical Boundaries (basic physical needs and work environment)
- Choose and stick to a consistent work schedule
- Set limits around how often you check your email and work phone
- Close your door or block your availability (if permissible) on your work calendar to concentrate
- Take your sick days and mental health days
Emotional and Mental Boundaries (feelings, thoughts, and ideas)
- Practice healthy detachment from personal and professional worries and criticism
- Encourage your own curiosity and open-mindedness when new ideas are presented in a meeting
- Clearly communicate personal topics you would like to keep private with colleagues
- Do not engage in anything that can be perceived as gossip, especially about others in the workplace
Communication Boundaries (when and how to communicate)
- Notify your colleagues and manager of your preferred communication style (instant message, email, text, call, etc.)
- Set expectations with your team regarding outreach outside of work hours, when it is acceptable and when it is not for you
- Take time to respond; pause before you respond and take on a new project or give yourself time to consider the additional responsibility and if conflicts with your priorities or schedule
- When you make an exception to a boundary, restate your boundary; it is okay to be flexible with your boundaries when you need to be, but restating the boundary will communicate this flexibility is an exception
Priority and Workload Boundaries (priorities and responsibilities)
- Communicate upfront on how you would to give and receive feedback specifically for daily tasks and bigger projects
- Create structure for project and time management by utilizing an agenda or to-do list
- Practice saying no or negotiating deadlines to keep your limitations in mind and manage expectations
- Delegate work when appropriate
After establishing your boundaries, you should prepare for pushback or overstepping as it is inevitable. You may receive negative reactions to your boundaries, but this is a sign that the boundary is necessary and it is working effectively. When boundaries are breached you should do your best to respond and restate your boundary. You do not need to over-justify your boundary reasons and you can offer alternatives to still honor your boundary, but show your colleague your willingness to collaborate at another time.
Setting boundaries at work might feel a little scary at first, but strong boundaries are not selfish, they will actually help you perform at your best. Better boundaries benefit everyone, because you can show up for the rest of your team and work toward your common goals!
About the author: Bre Orlando has been with CHE since August 2020. She is the HR Specialist for the HR Department. She obtained her aPHR (Associate Professional in Human Resources) certificate in 2020 and is currently studying to obtain her Master’s of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Bre currently resides in Bucks County, PA with her partner Nick and two cats (aka officemates) Tomo and Fox.