How To Affirm Healthy Work boundaries?
Boundaries are essential everywhere, relationships, family, parent-child, and even the workplace. Learning the types of work boundaries especially is way more important. Else, it will be a chaotic world! Let me begin with a real experience to make you understand why creating work boundaries is essential.
Three years back, I was interning at a prestigious firm. Holding the fear that if I didn’t do well and did not cooperate, I would not get a good letter of recommendation for the job. Hence, I agreed to every work they threw at me, even on weekends. When most people in cooperate were partying or resting during their weekends, I was working till late at night. The result, you ask? Burnout. I was constantly tired, irritated, and frustrated, and it started reflecting on my relationships, family time, self-growth, and work. And that’s when I understood the importance of work boundaries.
What are Work Boundaries?
Like me, you don’t need to become a victim of burnout. To avoid that, work boundaries are essential to install. Boundaries are simply drawing an imaginary line where you feel it’s necessary to keep yourself and your mental health, time at peace. It helps limit the extra burden you might feel if you say yes to anything and everything or stay quiet for too long.
Setting boundaries at work will improvise not only your personal self but also your relationship with your colleagues or team members. It keeps the stress at bay, you are able to manage your time and relationships better, and you can focus on your personal growth simultaneously. Setting work boundaries also ensure that you inform others about these guidelines and they understand how to interact with you to keep a healthy atmosphere.
Why are Work Boundaries Important for you?
It is natural for all humans to prioritize themselves and their needs above others. They have their own burdens, pressures, and problems, like you. Hence, work boundaries are essential for each individual. Despite all the loud music in the clubs, workplaces are known to have the most chaotic, busy, and stressful environments.
Creating boundaries means you are setting limits on what you will or won’t accept. While we all have suffered with higher authorities ringing our phones on weekends or asking us to overtime, it is still possible to set work boundaries. Don’t see it as a risk. Look at it as an investment in the future self and your present mental health. I agree the process isn’t as easy and mellow as it sounds, but it is.
If you prioritize others over yourself, you will lose all the skills you possess, including being a leader. That’s a huge hindrance to your growth, hence, leading to your downfall sooner or later. But if you set work boundaries, you use the most effective ways to be productive, directing the mutual growth of you and your company.
Work boundaries will help you learn to work on your own terms and not dance on someone’s rules. You will spend less time doing what others want. You will focus better on what’s right at the moment. I personally feel work boundaries help us reach our goals. Of course, it is a far-off picture. But setting boundaries is the path you have to take at some point to fulfill your dreams. Think about it.
6 Types of Work Boundaries
Work boundaries are of several types depending upon the overall requirements to build a safer and more productive work environment.
Physical work boundaries include how you let other people interact with you and vice versa. The word ‘physical’ here relates to maintaining distance, space, and touch boundaries. Unlike how you are with your friends and family, there are proper workplace etiquettes one must follow irrespective of their position in the company.
For example, it is inappropriate to hug or touch someone without their permission. But in a workplace, only a handshake or nodding is preferred. If someone is standing too close to you or accessing your personal/assigned computer without your permission. All this shows that they are invading your space.
There are proper rules/guidelines that narrate the importance of physical boundaries in the workplace. Let your colleagues learn about your personal space politely and that they must respect it. Sensitive matters like assault or harassment lead to immediate termination. Hence, it is vital to follow work boundaries strictly.
“This is how the corporate world is. Don’t take anything to your heart.” Haven’t we all workaholics heard it? Getting work on weekends, doing overtime, canceling personal plans, exhausting yourself, working during your lunch hour, hearing you do nothing from your boss/manager, late salary, leave cancellation, working on festivals or vacations, fewer sick leaves, no maternity leave for the fathers, etc. The list is longer than where I stopped.
It is a proven fact that employees perform better when they feel valued and don’t engage in a monotonous cycle of toxic corporate culture. Mental work boundaries typically reflect your thoughts, personal opinions, and values at work.
To establish mental boundaries, set specific hours of work and give yourself enough breaks to recharge and refresh. This includes taking off on weekends and important occasions. If you disagree with me here, wait till you experience burnout by doing the opposite. Employees and employers could also set specific hours of contact, not engage in office gossip, and, best of all, learn to say NO!
Emotions have the ability to explode at any point like a ticking bomb! Hence, it is important to manage them wisely before you lose your temper at your workplace and things go southways. Emotional work boundaries help you process your emotional actions and reactions at work. It helps you separate your feelings at work by making sure you don’t mix your personal and professional life.
Emotional boundaries ensure you don’t engage with your colleague’s bad mood or entertain an unpaid therapy session. They draw the line between feeling empathized and engaging in someone’s negative feelings. You could establish emotional boundaries by something as small as refusing to engage in gossip or something important like letting your manager know how you prefer to receive the feedback.
Time is precious; it never returns. I am listing time separately because I have wasted a lot of it without work boundaries. And hence, it deserves a special spot to ensure you don’t lose another second wasting it over something insignificant.
Setting time boundaries at work can help you manage your and your team’s time better. You can set specific hours for meetings, presentations, or work instead of compromising your lunch break or personal time. However, it also includes respecting others’ time by arriving timely during your work hours and meetings. This helps maintain a healthy relationship between you and your colleagues and also manages time. So, devote your time to work only during your work hours.
Communication Work Boundaries
Although we make friends even at our workplace, there are certain conversations/topics that are better had outside of work. For example, if you feel uncomfortable about a certain topic, let the other person know politely. Don’t engage in any conversation that is not suitable for the workplace or otherwise. Communication work boundaries also include not taking calls or answering messages outside of work. Believe me, this is a healthy thing to do. However, inform about the same beforehand not to appear rude.
Priority and Workload Boundaries
Whether you are leading a team or you are an intern, learn to prioritize and divide the workload. If you take all the load thinking you can do a better job, your team will never learn, and you will exhaust yourself. This will minimize your skills with time, and you will have to say goodbye to many personal skills from your resume. Priority and workload boundaries eliminate the chances of workplace stress. Prioritize and complete your work timely. If you are a manager or boss, allow breaks for refreshments. Overloading the water bucket will waste water, and one will have extra work to clean the overflow.
10 Ways to Establish Healthy Work Boundaries
Now that you have soaked in the importance of work boundaries and their types, it’s time to establish some at your workplace. Is it as easy as it sounds? Does it require a lot of patience? Are there too many steps you have no time to follow? Yes, no, and no! If you are 100% confident, it’s absolutely effortless and forbearing. Plus, with time, you definitely learn and apply work boundaries.
Communicate Clearly about the Boundaries you are Setting
First, decide which work boundaries you want to prioritize and then set them. Once you have set work boundaries, make sure to communicate them politely. Communicating right is the key to establishing healthy boundaries without offending the other person.
For example, if you don’t want your colleagues or manager to call apart from work days, tell them exactly when you will be able to work. If they ask you to work on weekends, you could tell them you will positively complete it when you come back to work on Monday. During your vacations, if you don’t intend to be contacted, you could drop a polite message to your team regarding the same stating you won’t be able to respond until it’s an emergency.
Analyze before you Respond
It isn’t uncommon that unplanned business trips fall on your schedule or a client meeting gets pushed past your work hours. Before hopping onto that impressive opportunity for extra credits, maybe, think and analyze the time, effort, and brains you will have to put in. This will buy you some time to think if it will fit your existing schedule or not. If you are okay with it, then go ahead, of course. Yet, do not commit until and unless you are completely sure. Setting this work boundary will help you respond better to such offers.
Practice Saying NO
Invading space, taking your personal belongings, counting you in without your permission – we have all met people like that. If you agree to everything your colleagues demand, or your manager asks you to do, you will find yourself in a troubled situation. One leg in one place and the other in another one! No one wants that. Hence, once you analyze the situation, if you have to say no, just say it. Give professional reasoning or indicate in advance how you prefer certain things. “I am afraid I cannot do it at the moment. But I’ll make sure to get it done first on Monday morning.” Saying no is a great way of setting hard work boundaries.
Develop a System and Create a Structure
Work boundaries also require a system and structure to be executed consistently. Creating a list is known to be the best way to get work done right. You could develop a system that includes the dos and don’ts and a list consisting of the same, along with what work to defer or delegate. This way, you will know exactly what to prioritize for the day and can convey the same to others.
You could create your own structure also. Maybe instead of having long meetings once a week, or your boss popping in with new work in your cabin every day, you could have short 15-minute meetings every day. You could also discuss the work priority list with your authority to let them know you already have enough on your plate.
Be Clear and Straightforward
Your body language should match your words. This is actually a rule in the corporate world. If you say something and your body language says otherwise, you will not be taken seriously. Hence, it is important to communicate effectively, clearly, and straightforwardly. If you go around gossiping or spreading negative talk, it will kick you back someday.
When we communicate clearly about our boundaries, we leave no details or loopholes behind. If you need to convey appropriate contact hours, be straightforward instead of apologizing. It has to be crisp and clear to the other party what your preferences are.
Being a leader is hard, but being a fresher is harder at times with the amount of workload they are handed over. However, when you feel that expectations are more than what you can fulfill, be realistic and say no or ask for extra time. You cannot finish a 20-day assignment in 5 days. It’s neither healthy nor practical. Learn to negotiate these kinds of expectations. If you are not growing, your project won’t excel either. There is no point in fulfilling all these unrealistic expectations just to make your bosses happy.
Additionally, when you begin working at any firm, they mention the job description beforehand. Many companies try to get their work done, which is not even mentioned in the job description, and do not pay you extra for that. It will divert you from the actual work you are hired to do and may jeopardize your relationship with others. If anyone asks you to do some other department’s work or additional work, politely refuse or ask them what extra perks you could gain from this work. Extra money, wink wink!
Identify your Non-negotiables
Overtime, extra work, work on weekends, it’s never-ending, right? You need to understand where you cannot negotiate. Yes, your boss might offer you extra credits for working more, but you will lose time with your loved ones and may break a few promises as well. Understand what you are saying “yes” to and also what you are saying “no” to.
Plan a Response to Boundary Crossing
Once you set boundaries, some may respect them; others may not encourage them. However, you need to be prepared with a gentle response to stay consistent with your work boundaries. You have to patiently let the other person know you have certain limits set. However, if they don’t understand, it’s better to discuss this issue with your supervisor to ensure a healthy work atmosphere.
And while explaining your work boundaries, you could justify them with reasons to set a bold example for others to incorporate the same.
Stick to your Work Boundaries
You have to stick to work boundaries once you set them. If you fail to do so, you will return back to square one- exhausted, frustrated, and lacking skills. Anytime you feel pressured, think about why you set these boundaries and how they have helped you so far. Examining them will help you stick to them before you think of quitting. You can always upgrade your work boundaries as per your convenience. However, never forget to communicate them.