Boundaries at work are crucial. Healthy boundaries are among the most powerful tools for taking charge of your time, attention, and energy and are a critical tool for internalizing your locus of control.
A boundary is a limit that promotes integrity and confidence to help you maintain balance and self-respect. Setting clear boundaries stops demands and intrusions from invading your space, manipulating and disempowering you.
Much like a property line, boundaries define where you end, and others begin. Personal boundaries also help you decide what types of communication, behavior, and interaction you accept from others. They create a sense of personal space between yourself and others to help you feel safe and avoid enmeshment with others.
Setting Strong Boundaries at Work
Think of a boundary as a non-negotiable standard, rule, or policy that you always follow. It’s like having a personal code of conduct grounded in your beliefs, values, and preferences. Boundaries help you say “no” to certain things and “yes” to the things that are really vital to your wellbeing, like working on meaningful projects or spending quality time with your family.
Not only do boundaries at work clear chaos and clutter from your inbox, calendar, and mind, they act like armor, protecting your attention from the millions of distractions that bombard you daily.
Creating boundaries helps you take the initiative to solve your own problems, rather than being passive. By creating proactive guidelines, you accept personal responsibility for bringing your goals and priorities to life instead of being manipulated by outside demands on your time and attention.
3 Steps For Setting Boundaries in the Workplace
1- Decide on the physical and/or emotional space you need and set clear limits.
Your limits should not only reflect your values and the vital parts of your life that you want to protect but should also be feasible and realistic given your personal circumstances. For example, you may choose not to check email after 6 pm. But if your job requires you to be on-call at all hours, you might instead create a boundary around not downloading games on your phone or keeping the TV off during dinner with your spouse.
2- Next, figure out whom in your life you need to communicate your mind shift and new boundary with, so they know what to expect.
After all, a boundary that is not communicated is a boundary that is not working. The people in your life need to understand what is important and acceptable to you, and what isn’t. You may need to explain and set the expectation that they will no longer be hearing back on work emails over the weekend, for example. They may need to know how to get in touch with you in the event that you are taking a digital sabbatical.
3- Communicate with them.
Once you’ve finished the exercise, go through the list of people that you need to contact and send them an email like the following:
It’s really important to me to [reason for your boundary], and for that reason, I’m going to be [instituting a new boundary]. I wanted to let you know that it’s not a surprise when [you stop behaving the way you used to]. [*] If you have any concerns about this change, I’d be happy to discuss it with you.
[*] For professional situations, you could also add a sentence here about what to do in an emergency or about how you’re going to make sure that the change won’t affect your responsibilities.
Here’s an example of how it would look filled out:
It’s really important to me to spend time with my children in the evenings after work, and for that reason, I’m no longer going to be responding to work emails after 6 PM. I wanted to let you know, so it’s not a surprise when you don’t get a reply from me in the evenings.
If anything urgent arises, you can always call me on my cell phone at [NUMBER], and I will also be sure to check my inbox once before going to bed to see if anything truly critical needs a response. And if you have any concerns about this change, I’d be happy to discuss it.
How you spend your time and invest your energy in is what grows. So it’s wise to guard your energy and attention. It’s the most important resource you have.