Throughout my life, I’ve struggled with work life balance. My work was my life. I had no idea how to set boundaries Learning about setting healthy boundaries was not something I hadn’t learned growing up, and now it was costing me at work.
My boss would call me to ask questions during my off-site lunch break regularly and late at night on a weekly basis. He asked me to do things that were unethical. I didn’t know how to say no to things I didn’t have the capacity to do. I had no work life balance. I loathed delegating, and half the time I didn’t know who I actually reported to
Oh, and this was just the beginning.
Let’s just say you get to hit the reset button. You’re going into a new job or starting a new career, and you’re ready to set healthy boundaries at work with your boss and your colleagues.
Where do you start?
First, let’s talk about what boundaries are.
Boundaries are guidelines or rules that define what us is and what is not us. They tell us what our responsibility is and what is not our responsibility.
At work, boundaries are incredibly important.
Now, let’s jump into setting healthy boundaries at the office.
Have (and set) clear expectations about your job responsibilities.
Before you sign any contracts, you and your soon-to-be boss should work through your roles and responsibility. This helps establish accountability and set boundaries, leaving little room for confusion.
Before signing on the dotted line, you should have clearly defined answers to the following questions:
- What does your day-to-day job look like from a practical level?
- Who do you report to?
- Who decides what you should be working on?
- Who assigns you work?
- What do your work hours look like? Will you be expected to work outside these regular hours?
Once you have an understanding of this, you can begin setting boundaries effectively.
For example, some of my boundaries at work have included asking people not to call or email me outside of work hours, and saying no to projects that are not within my outlined job responsibilities or that I am unable to take on due to a full workload.
Begin setting boundaries with coworkers, and be clear and consistent about communicating them effectively.
You’re around you colleagues the most, so you gotta start drawing lines in the sand as to what you will allow and won’t allow. This may look like limiting what I am willing to talk about with colleagues. For example, I won’t discuss anything having to do with politics with colleagues, because it usually breeds resentment, anger, and misunderstanding.
I also am careful what I share about my personal life. You don’t tell everyone everything. While it’s tempting to use our personal life as leverage to quickly develop connection and rapport to our coworkers, this can also be used against you or go south quickly. My rule of thumb is that people who haven’t built trust with me don’t get to know the details of my personal life.
When it comes to actual task-related boundaries with coworkers, I’m very cautious about what additional work I’ll allow to be passed onto me. This is going to vary depending on what job you have, but the goal is to make sure you don’t allow yourself to be taken advantage of because you lack boundaries.
A really important note here is that you have to be consistent in maintaining and communicating your boundaries. You’ll break trust with your coworkers if you flop back and forth on your boundaries like a fish out of water. You will also risk your boundaries being violated more often if you uphold them only part of the time.
Create work life balance.
Babe! You are not made to be born, learn to work, work for 40 years, and then die. Nah, you are made for more. Work life balance for women is critical. Leave your work laptop at home. Limit access to workplace communications (email, phone, text, etc) when you’re not at work. Use your sick days. Go on vacation and leave your work behind. Overtime is tempting. Get some, but don’t overdo it. Step up when you want to but don’t burn yourself out.
More Examples of Work Boundaries
You are worth setting boundaries at work. That being said, setting boundaries at the office can be easier if you have some examples of healthy boundaries. Here’s just a few…
- Say no to working on weekends.
- Commit to your personal life and personal time before and work hours by not checking your work phone or email.
- Give yourself permission to say no to work or job opportunities that don’t serve you.
- Utilize your paid time off. You earned it.
- Turn down tasks that aren’t in your job description.
- Close your office door when you need some quiet time or alone time.
- You’re not responsible for everything.
- Keep it professional with colleagues.
- Take your sick days when you need them.
- Limit work conversations to certain topics.
- Say no to additional projects when you have a full workload.
Remember that you report to yourself and to your manager and/or boss. You don’t report to everyone at the office.