Let’s talk about boundaries…specifically, boundaries at work.
I don’t know about you, but between working from home for the last year, virtual meetings, my cell phone, email, and messaging platforms – there seems to be little separation between work and home.
And, while you might think that being accessible 24/7 to clients, customers, and coworkers means you’re providing the best service possible – you’re not.
It’s just not healthy – for you, for them, or those around you.
Think about the last time that work reached a tipping point. What was happening? And when was it happening? And who was involved?
Were you troubleshooting after hours? Were you covering for a co-worker who should’ve been able to handle the issue but didn’t? Was it actually a problem that could have waited until the morning?
If you find yourself nodding yes to any or all of those things – then you need to set some boundaries at work.
“But Brenda…isn’t it too late for me to do that? After all, they just expect me to be available at all hours of the day.”
NO! It’s not too late!
In fact, it’s never too late…for anything – even establishing boundaries.
Boundaries can be physical, mental, or emotional
Know What Your Personal Boundaries Are
First things first, you need to know what your personal boundaries are. This requires a little self-reflection on your part. Do you want to spend time with your family from 6 p.m. - 9 p.m. without interruption? Do you need to be more present with your spouse? Do you need time to spend doing what you want to do to “fill your cup”? Figure out how you’re going to be able to do what you need to do personally, and then how the boundaries you establish with your job can help you.
Establish and Communicate Your Boundaries with Everyone
Now it’s time to put the rubber to the road and establish those boundaries. This could mean:
Shutting off your phone at 6 p.m.
Not responding to work emails once you leave work
Saying no to work that’s not in your job description
Taking a true vacation
Putting up a sign that says “Do Not Disturb”
Sharing an idea that you’ve had with your boss
And these are just a few of the boundaries you might create.
But coming up with them is easy.
Sharing them with all of the necessary people is hard.
You want to show that you can do it all.
There’s nobody else who can do it.
They need you.
You’re not sure that work will survive without you.
Yeah, I’ve heard these things before.
Heck, I’ve said these things before.
Don’t let these things be your drivers for becoming a stressed-out workaholic.
Instead, communicate clearly and honestly with EVERYONE what your boundaries are and why you need them. This could be your boss, your co-workers, or those clients and customers who call you because – well, because they’ve been able to.
Learn to Delegate
With the boundaries in place, you need to delegate when you can – especially if you’re managing a team and find yourself in the position of carrying the ball – well, for everyone. Make sure everyone is clear on their roles and responsibilities and give them the freedom to do what they need to do.
I feel like we hear this soooo often, but learning to say “No” is a POWERFUL tool - and one that women struggle with. We want to be Wonder Woman. But what we need to be is realistic. When your gut instinct says, “Hmmm...I think I should say no,” - then you want to say those words aloud. (And here’s a quick tip! If you struggle with that two-letter word, practice saying it with little things. When a coworker asks you to stay 30 minutes late to work on a project just because she is free at that moment - say, “No...we can finish it in the morning.” Or, if you’re asked to plan a birthday party for your boss when you just don’t have the time - you know what to do! Just say no! When you can easily say “No” to the small things, you’ll find yourself able to handle the big no’s, too.)
Take Time Off
Want to take a day off or a week of vacation? DO IT! That time is yours! You earned it! Work will be there when you get back. Emails can wait. Phone calls can be returned on Monday. And the more you take time off – true time off without the distractions of work – the easier it gets!
Keep It Professional
At all times, you want to keep it professional. From the moment you communicate your boundaries until the time when someone oversteps them (and it will happen – trust me!) – you want to always maintain your cool, calm, and collected manner.
Prepare for Boundary Breakers
Yes, it’s going to happen. There are going to be people who cross those boundaries you established – even though you clearly communicated everything to them. Be prepared. It may mean you need to remind them – and remind them again – of what you need. And that’s okay. It will sink in.
Establishing boundaries at work is beneficial in so many ways – emotionally, mentally, and physically. You’ll find that you have more energy. You’ll see that you and those around you are happier. You’ll experience less burnout. Your productivity will improve. You’ll bring that ever-illusive work-life balance back to a level that – while it may not be exactly balanced – is definitely trending in the right direction.
So who’s in? What boundaries do you need to put in place at work?