Setting boundaries is an essential skill in life, but it is not always easy, especially at work. When it comes to careers, many of us want to excel and be an example of diligence and hard work. While working to the best of our abilities is a positive thing, sometimes the fear of saying no and creating healthy boundaries can turn ambition into burnout. Setting boundaries doesn’t mean you won’t be a team player or work your hardest; rather, what it does mean is that you have enough self-respect to balance your work life with your overall well-being. Today, let’s explore some ways to establish your boundaries at work.
1. Practice Saying No: You’ve probably heard the saying a million times: practice makes perfect. The more we do something, the easier it becomes. It is human nature to enjoy being comfortable, but sometimes this comfort can impede personal growth. If the idea of saying no evokes fear, try saying no to smaller things first. For instance, if taking on extra projects causes you to miss your lunch break, start small. Tell your team you will be taking 15 minutes to eat before you are able to help. Also, it’s important to stick to the established boundary because otherwise, people may not think you mean it. After a while, everyone will get the picture and just like that, a boundary is set.
Before long, saying no and instilling your boundaries will become easier. People generally respect when others have specific clarifications on what they will or will not do, and it is your job to make your personal limits clear. Practicing smaller instances of saying no and drawing the line will build your confidence and eventually give you the comfort to do so in bigger areas of your life and career.
2. Be a Team Player: Setting boundaries doesn’t mean saying no to everything and isolating yourself. It is okay to help when and where you can. Encouraging your team members and fostering a sense of community in the workspace creates harmony. While it isn’t a guarantee, helping others and building relationships often fosters an atmosphere of reciprocity. “As a teacher, life can be very hectic,” says John. “It’s a career where boundary setting is very important, or you’ll constantly be overworked and overloaded with tasks. Therefore, I help my team members out when I am in the place to do so, and they do the same for me.”
Being a team player can often help in the long run, especially when you do need to say no to something. People will most likely understand that when you say no, you mean it, especially when you help others when you can. It’s important to take on as much as you can handle without sacrificing your work ethic, performance, and mental well-being.
3. Ask for Help: As mentioned above, it’s okay to outsource assistance. Some of us prefer to work on projects solo or feel that we don’t want to burden others. However, part of being on a team is knowing that it’s okay to ask for help or guidance. You must trust that others are responsible for their own boundaries, and if they aren’t able to help, it’s okay. Hopefully, there are more people on your team you can turn to, and if not, it’s okay to speak to your manager about alternative solutions.
“I am the only member in my department,” says Lisa, a content specialist. “I don’t have other people to help out with my tasks, but I do make it a point to tell my manager if I need an extension or more time to balance extra busy months.” A big reason we don’t get what we want is because simply, we don’t ask or express our needs. The worst thing that can happen is being told no. If receiving assistance is rarely an option, then you can reassess your job and figure out where you want to go from there. But first, ask and see what solutions are possible.
4. Remember Your Hours: Most of us work for a set number of hours. It’s okay to put in extra time or stay later to finish a project, but if guilt starts creeping in, it’s important to remember your work hours. Many of us are plagued by guilt, feelings of inadequacy and the lingering thought that we could have done more. There will always be more to do, and even if you stay hours late, you’ll still have more tasks the next day. You and your manager agreed upon a set number of hours for your job. While it can be hard to turn off our work brains, it’s also highly important. Otherwise, burnout is likely to happen, and running on empty creates more stress and fatigue.
“I used to stay late every night, missing dinner with my family,” says Jennie, a therapist. “I was booking extra clients, hoping to make more money so my kids could have a wonderful life, but in doing so, I was actually missing precious time with them.” Remember, it is okay to leave work on time. Simultaneously, it’s okay to stay late, but if it starts to interfere with your life, it’s time to make a change.
5. Leave Work at Work: This can be hard, especially depending on your job. Sometimes the stress of work follows us home and into our personal lives. We stay awake ruminating about different aspects of our work life, which occupies our free time. Try your best to leave work at work. Some people practice this by turning off email notifications, or even stating to coworkers in conversation that emails are not checked after work hours. Others put their phone in airplane mode for a while, so no work calls or texts can interfere with their relaxation. Most of us spend a good chunk of our lives at work, so it’s important to have a plan in place to truly be free during off hours.
If you feel the need to work a bit on weekends, set a boundary with yourself such as: I will only work for one hour on Saturdays and Sundays. Setting timers and reminders is also a great way to set this boundary. Furthermore, indulging in your hobbies and interests can help take your mind off work. If you’re fully involved in something you enjoy, you won’t be thinking about the projects, deadlines, and tasks at work. Whatever you choose to do, it can be life changing to practice presence. While at work, do your best, and when the day is done, stay present in your life outside the office or job.
For many of us, setting boundaries and saying no does not come naturally. We want to do our best and contribute to our jobs. This is okay until it starts to have a negative effect on our lives and wellbeing. Setting boundaries is an important life skill that prevents burnout and being taken advantage of, and it is our job to implement those boundaries. Start small, help others when you can, remember that your work hours end for a reason, and ask for help when you need. These simple steps not only lead to a healthier lifestyle, but they might just change your life for the better!